Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Photographer wraps up a busy year visiting many of North America's natural wonders

One year ago we posted the initial 'field report' from Canadian nature photographer Ethan Meleg as he launched his dream photography trip -- as a full-time nature and wildlife photographer. Ethan explains how it all started. "Two years ago I was sitting in my living room planning to buy an expensive leather couch when it struck me... what was the couch going to contribute to the quality of my life? There was nothing wrong with the one I already had. That money could be put to better use... an epic photo trip!

"Most normal people would have been satisfied to keep the old couch and do a short trip, but I craved more. So I sold my house and most of my possessions (camera gear excluded), bought a VW camper van and took off in October of last year for a year of wanderlust travel to some of our continent's best photo locations.

"The trip ended last week after a full year of living on the road. You know what's interesting? The one thing I missed the most during the trip was a comfortable couch to sit on. Go figure!

"Over the course of the past year, I logged 49,000 miles of driving and 700 miles trekking on foot with my camera gear. The winter months were spent roaming around the American southwest and west coast, the spring bird migrations drew me to Texas and Ontario, and then I moved east through Canada's Atlantic provinces during the past summer before racing back to catch fall colors in Ontario at the end of the trip.

"I visited some extraordinary landscape and wildlife photography spots, but a few experiences stand out in my mind: Enduring the painfully rugged drive to the Racetrack in Death Valley National Park. Finding compositions among the otherworldly trees and boulders in Joshua Tree National Park. Frigid nights camping in the Alabama Hills to catch alpenglow on the Sierra Nevada. The warm hospitality and hearty fish dinners that can only be found on the spectacular coast of Newfoundland.

"But nothing beat the giant redwoods of northern California. After days shooting the towering trees in drenching rain and fog, the sun finally broke through for a few moments -- illuminating the forest with magical beams of light. It was was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life.

"Photographing every day in a wide range of conditions and in places I might never get to again, I relied heavily on my gear -- especially filters. Almost every landscape photo I shot was using a Singh-Ray polarizer -- either an LB Warming Polarizer, LB ColorCombo or the Gold-n-Blue. If there was a horizon in the photo, I handheld one or more of my 4x6" Singh-Ray ND Grads in front of the lens to balance the exposure range and contrast.

"Thought you might be interested in a few more basic trip stats from the year:
- 87,000 photos taken
- $16,500 spent on van repairs/maintenance
- 433 bird species seen
- favorite place: giant redwood forests of northern California
- 19,000 different visitors to my blog

If you've been following my blog, you'll be pleased to know that I did not break my 6 day record of wearing the same t-shirt. And I only ate 3 bags of Oreos during the entire trip!

"So what's next? I've parted ways with "Turtle", my VW Westfalia van/home for the past year. Why the name 'Turtle,' you ask? It was my shell, providing refuge from intense desert sun, frigid nights and coastal downpours during my travels. And like most VW Westy vans, it was very slow... especially on hills! Turtle and I had a love/hate relationship, exploring incredible landscapes but also stopping frequently to share my life savings with repair shops. A young couple bought the van recently to begin their own journey southwest. Lucky for them, most of the major repairs have been completed!

"With some extra cash in my pocket from selling the van, I've just bought the new Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens. There have been some great reports about this lens from other photographers (FYI, I never buy a piece of camera gear as soon as it's released... I wait for several months until its been tested by others). I'm now back living on the Bruce Peninsula - renting a big house with a comfortable couch! When I'm not editing and marketing the thousands of photos I shot this past year, I'll be out shooting more pictures and preparing for the next big trip."

We can all be sure that Ethan's photographic travels and workshop activities will continue for years to come, and we can all follow along by visiting his website and very instructive blog.

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