Travel Photography with Dan Bailey
Dan Bailey has been a full time adventure, travel and location photographer since 1996. Before turning pro, he worked as a photo editor for a Boston stock agency, which gave him a solid understanding of how to communicate with art directors and produce the kind of stunning, high quality imagery that today’s highly visual world demands.
He strives to create dynamic imagery that shows the power and mystery of the greater scene. His photographic style can be defined as a cross between the raw immersion of first person photojournalism and the focused creativity of high-end commercial photography.
He leads photography workshops and teaches online through The Compelling Image. He’s also the author of a number of photography eBooks and two print books that were published in 2015.
Dan is an official Fujifilm X Photographer, a Photoflex Pro Showcase Photographer, and he also flies a little yellow taildragger and have an endless fascination for guitars.
Read more about his experience as a travel photographer in the interview below.
Interviewer: Why did you choose travel photography as your focus?
Dan: I’ve always loved travel photography, but I wouldn’t say that I ever intended to make it my focus. My drive has always been to photograph subjects, activities and experiences I’m passionate about and go wherever my eyes and interests take me. As an outdoor photographer, this encompasses a huge variety of subject matter, including sports, adventure, landscapes and travel. Of course, travel photography evokes such a timeless adventurous connotation, and whenever I’m shooting in a faraway land, I can’t help but revel in the fact that I’m following in the footsteps of the legendary National Geographic photographers I’ve always revered.
From a creative standpoint, I love the process of moving through a location and keeping my eyes open for those iconic and characteristic elements that define a place and then looking for a way to capture them in a unique way, or line them up with a display of spectacular light. With a limitless amount of potential subject matter, it’s always a fun and satisfying challenge to craft a visual narrative that reflects my own ideas and excitement about the place I’m visiting.
Interviewer: What has been your favourite destination so far and why?
Dan: That’s always a tough question to answer. I can’t say that I have a favorite, since I have memorable photos and unforgettable memories from just about every place I’ve visited. That’s the thing, if I’ve been drawn to a place, it’s because there are some really special qualities about the location that have really sparked my imagination. There are a few places that definitely stand out, though: my two trips to the Himalayas I made back in the 90s and my 2001 mountain bike tour in Ladakh, India. Those regions are so exotic and remote, it’s hard not to fall in love with places like that. Spain, Italy and Transylvania for the culture, Scotland and the American West for the landscapes, and of course, I live in Alaska, which is an amazing photography destination on its own. Denali National Park and the Chugach Mountains are two of my favorite locations up here.
Interviewer: How do you feel that travel photography enriches our world?
Dan: From the photographer’s standpoint, anytime you’re getting out of your comfort zone and visiting a new place away from home, you’re exposing yourself to new cultures and ideas. This opens our own minds up and allows us to recognize that people are pretty much the same everywhere, even if we dress and do things a little differently. Fundamentally, we’re all driven by the same instincts and for the most part, we all strive to exist in harmony with our surroundings. Bringing our pictures back and telling visual stores about the places we visit around the world can help expand the curiosity of other people about the world and inspire them to travel as well, or at least understand what else is out there.
Compelling landscape and wildlife photography, on the other hand, can inspire people about the importance of preserving natural places. Travel and landscape photography and conservation have always been inexorably linked.
Interviewer: What does it take to be successful in travel photography in this day and age when there are a lot of photographers online trying to solicit their business?
Dan: Success in any kind of creative endeavor or career these days requires a great deal of motivation, perseverance, constantly coming up with new ideas about how to improve and expand your imagery, as well as how to find new clients and promote yourself in the marketplace. It’s true that there are so many photographers all competing in the same spaces these days, but it’s important not to dwell too much on the competition part. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Yes, pay attrition, but spend most of your energies coming up with new ideas that will improve your own craft and your own business.
Above all, do what you love and put yourself wholeheartedly into the process. Imagery alone won’t cut it these days. You’ll find that the most successful shooters intertwine their personalities and their photography in ways that support their work.
Interviewer: What was your inspiration for your Pictureline – Salt Lake City presentation and why do you think it’s taken off like it has? What were the ingredients to making it a success and fulfilling a need in the marketplace?
Dan: My recent workshop at Pictureline was a Fujifilm sponsored event. I do a number of those around the country each year. As a Fujifilm X-Photographer Ambassador, I teach classes to help people bet the most from their X Series camera gear and I share my overall passion for photography with other uses. I think I’ve been a successful when I present at these kinds of events because I have an infectious love for photography, a very youthful personality and an adventurous style that revolves around having fun with creativity, picture taking and travel.
I see a lot of people who get a little too caught up with the gear and fall into this notion that photography has to be this serious activity. I also see this trend where everybody is going to the same places and shooting the same subjects. Thanks largely to Instagram, that’s a large part of what travel photography has become lately. My mission with teaching these days is to encourage people to have fun with their photography and inspire them to seek to their own magical places in the world that aren’t necessarily the places that everyone else goes. There are beautiful and amazing things to photograph everywhere
Interviewer: What are your top three pieces of career advice?
Dan: Never stop exploring and finding creative ways to share your ideas about the world. Be you. Have fun.