Category Archives: CPCD

CPCD #8 – Low Hanging Fruit in the Tetons, Wyoming

Too easy

If you’re unsure what a CPCD actually is, read this.

This crappy phone image isn’t from THE Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park, but it’s certainly close enough (actually, it’s better). Still, it’s easy, unoriginal, trite, unimaginative, and uber-conventional. It didn’t require working the scene very hard nor any extraordinary vision on my part. Some might argue that it required no vision at all, in fact. You could also make the assertion that I didn’t expend any hard work or energy here, that I simply reached for the low hanging fruit. Okay, fair enough. But the low hanging variety can often be just as sweet as the reward waiting at the top of the tree too.

This was captured this morning with my workshop group in the Tetons. It was fun, the light was sublime, and I was honored to share the moment with some awesome photographers with whom I’m spending this week. I really doesn’t get much better.

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CPCD #7 – Out of Africa…Almost

This is the cheapest, most thoughtless CPCD ever: an iPhone capture of my camera LCD after an evening shoot a few days ago.

After a short flight from Windhoek, Namibia to Johannesburg, South Africa, Ian and I are now in the middle of an eight-hour layover before our flight to Washington DC. As much as I’m looking forward to getting home, I’d rather scale a giant mountain of hot, steaming rhino dung than to jump aboard another long flight right now. But I guess there’s no good alternative.

There’s lots to say about the previous two weeks but I’ll simply make it short and sweet: Namibia rocks!

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CPCD #6 – Lago Pehoe, Chile


Here are a couple CPCDs from Hosteria Lago Pehoe, our home base in Patagonian Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. By now, everyone should know what a CPCD is. If not, here’s your explanation.

The first CPCD is from the hotel itself while the second is from above looking down on it and the island upon which it sits. To say this location has a great view is to do an injustice to the very phrase. It’s impossibly beautiful.

Now as many of you may know, I’ve been in Patagonia for the past couple of weeks, this time with my new friends from Sydney, Australia: Lucie, Ian, and Sue. They have hired me to guide them to the best locations for 10 days as a mere warm up for the next 19 days they’ll be spending on a photography cruise to Antarctica – the lucky bastards. You see, I’ve also learned a few things from them as well. For example, bastard is a term of endearment in Australia, as well as the universally-recognized insult. Who knew? I personally love the ambiguity of the dual meanings.

I also learned about seppos, bogans, dunnies and other colorful Australian lingo unique to the land Down Under. Then there’s the quirky linguistic tradition of rhyming slang as in, “I think I’ll head to the rubbity tonight to get meself bloody pissed.” Rubbity is short for rub a dub dub three men in a tub which rhymes with pub. Yeah I know, I don’t get it either, but it was great fun having them try to explain it to me.

On the last day of the tour, I recalled something they told me earlier in the week, that if anything happened to one of them – illness, severe injury, death – that I should take their place on the subsequent Antarctic cruise. At that very moment, Ian was negotiating some awfully sketchy rocks above Salto Grande, a powerful waterfall not far from Lago Pehoe. Now I wasn’t wishing any unfortunate luck on him at that moment since a few missteps and fall could have meant a not-too-pleasant death. Still, I would have taken his place on the cruise nonetheless. Sure, I would have felt bad about it and I would explore the magic of Antarctica with a few tears and a heavy heart. But it would have been the right thing to do. After all, he’s a real photographer through and through and I know the bastard would have wanted it that way.

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It’s still not too late to join us on your annual Ultimate Patagonia Workshop and Tour on March 18-27.

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CPCD #5 – Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

This is Crappy Phone Cam Dispatch (CPCD) #5, this time from Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina. Don’t know what a crappy phone cam dispatch is? Get an explanation right here.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is a 20-mile river of ice that is perpetually fed by the huge Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This glacier is one of many in the area that is not receding, but instead is expanding and pushing its way into Lago Argentino. To give some sense of perspective here, the height of the glacier’s face is 250 feet. It’s a damned impressive sight to say the least. It’s also quite a meditative experience to sit and listen to the hulking ice beast creak and groan as it creeps down the valley at – well,  a glacial pace, finally giving way to gravity as slabs calve away and crash into the water.

By the way, this is only one of the many locations we visit on our Ultimate Patagonia Photo Workshop, March 18-27.

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CPCD #4 – Are You Insane?

CPCD (Crappy Phone Cam Dispatch) #4: Preparing for a long night hike in northern Iceland

Once or twice a week in an email, I’m asked to give advice on how to become a professional nature or travel photographer. Should I go to school to study photography? Should I fully commit and quit my job to “follow my dream?” How do I even get started?

My response is usually none at all or I say that I really don’t know how to answer the question. Aside from my discomfort with giving anyone advice on what they should do with their life, the overriding reason is that I just don’t know. What is this person’s strengths and weaknesses? What drives them? Are they even driven at all?

I’m an extremely driven person and it would be unfair to assume that their drive and intensity matched mine. What worked for me, as well as the lessons I gleaned from my own experience, might not work for someone else – particularly a total stranger. I concluded that my advice would be unhelpful at best, or possibly even harmful.

Then my conscience got the better of me. I felt awful that I wasn’t even trying to be helpful. I could offer platitudes: work hard, stay focused, dream big, etc. but platitudes are hollow and empty. I might as well say nothing.

So I’ve had a lot of time alone up here in Iceland and a lot of time to think. This question, and my lack of a response, has been weighing on me and I believe I’ve finally come up with something helpful. The answer can be found in the form of two questions.

1) How passionate are you?

I’m not talking about every day, garden-variety passion here. I’m talking passion bordering on insanity. I think you have to be a little insane to make it in this business, I really do. This is hard work, despite the mythicized fantasy that persists. I’m not saying photography is hard work, although to do this seriously, it ought to be. What I’m saying is that making a living as a photographer is hard and incredibly difficult.

So why is passion important? I personally believe that passion is important in every aspect of life and that includes your work and career. If you do work that you love and are passionate about, you’re going to be happy and happiness is important.

But beyond that, having passion for what you do is what allows you to persevere when things get difficult. While the casual practitioner simply quits when the going gets tough, the insanely passionate pushes on because he or she doesn’t have any choice. If you’re not sure which category describes you, the former or latter, you just don’t have it. Sorry to be so blunt.

2) What are you willing to sacrifice?

If the answer isn’t everything (with the exception of your core principles, your family, and your health) don’t even bother. Seriously. You have to be willing to give up everything in your life that you hold dear. You like golf, you say? Give it up, all hobbies for that matter. Financial security, middle or upper class lifestyle, house, car, personal life, friends, vacations, sanity; all to be completely sacrificed if need be. You need to know this in advance, before you even begin.

None of this might even be necessary, but If you’re not prepared to give up everything to be a success (or if you even have to think about it) save yourself the time and trouble and keep your photography as a nice diversion from the rest of your comfortable life. You’re not going to make it.

If you are one of the insane, congratulations. You have an amazing adventure ahead of you. But you really didn’t even need to ask, did you? In your heart, you already knew.

If you’re not, congratulations to you as well. I just saved you from making a huge mistake, and an expensive one at that. You still have photography as an incredibly meaningful hobby and refuge from stresses of modern life that we all have to endure. But you shouldn’t give up on being one of the insane either. Find exactly what it is that you’re insanely passionate about and go all in. When that happens, you will never be the same again.

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