Road WaRRioR: Traveling with Camera, Lights & Passport

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I had not been back in over a decade. Unfortunately my return was being tarnished because I was under the Tokyo police...for taking a picture. Although I had made the same image years before, where I was now standing was illegal. In the world of a Road WaRRioR this happens more often than is necessary.

Periodically I get phone calls from colleagues, students, soccer moms, strangers asking for advice about a dream or an assignment that will take them to a foreign latitudes & longitudes. Some have just a general desire to strike out & photograph exotic locales but others have a specific destination. One is thinking about a potential way-of-life & the other just hoping to reduce the myriad of obstacles in their way for a one time job.

To be precise there are travel photographers & then there are Road WaRRioRs. For the former, the destination is usually the point. A photographer goes to illuminate a place, a people, a resort or an experience & make it appear attractive & appealing. Road WaRRioRs, however, are in motion to document a point-of-view. The issues may be positive or negative & performed for the highest bidder. Road WaRRioRs travel to photograph; travel photographers vice versa.

Foolishly I had walked into the ambush on purpose. I planned it for years. My translator & I hired a taxi covered with gaffertape letters (PRENSA, TV, PRESS) “loudly” announcing our intent. The guerrilla forces threw us into a stockade & stripped me of all my money & cameras. I was working for a CODEL (CONgressional DELegation) during the wars in Central America. Eventually we convinced the Salvadoran commandante to let us photograph his band of rebels while behind combat lines. I always bragged my mother raised no fools but I was well beyond that designation on this assignment.

Since Road WaRRioRs spend so much time on the road, both domestic & international, it is very important to adapt unique habits & techniques that are not part of the non traveler’s regimen. Handling visas, managing language, organizing transportation & protocol have to become second nature. Equipment, health, money, metadata are matters of life & death or, at least, survival. You have to learn to love uncertainty & like isolation.

Clients rely on your expertise in navigating the maps & restrictions everyone encounters when crossing borders. Only experience makes circumnavigation easier if not simpler. A tremendous amount of self confidence is necessary to sustain exploring the most remote corners of the world. Virtually anyone can get there. It is the ones who return with pictures who get all the credit.

There are frontiers I have visited that are so remote that my sole presence alters the population statistics. On other adventures I find myself in such crowded places that I am cheek-to-jowl with strangers who are hostile to my very existence. Pure air versus asthmatic smog. Sunrise versus gloaming. Epicurean delights versus open campfire grub. Snails v. chocolate. Every step is tenuous. But the aggregate takes you to Shangri-La.

PHOTO DISTRICT NEWS invited me to give a seminar Road WaRRioR: Traveling with Camera, Lights & Passport about this way of life at PHOTO PLUS EXPO 2016. My staff & I offered a melange of the things we have to consider to fulfill the many kinds of assignments we undertake. Whether it is editorial, corporate, documentary or art, we have to approach the process systematically so as to leave little to chance but allow for an abundance of spontaneity & discovery.

Photodemy videotaped the entire lecture & makes it accessible at It is split up into five digestible parts. Photodemy is a subscription service so you have to sign up for it. Once subcribed you get access to all the amazing Instructors available on the site. Photographers like Bobbi Lane, Brian Smith, Elia Locardi, Joel Grimes, Greg Heisler, Michael Grecco and many many more. Also to supplement that lecture we created an ebook titled RoadWaRRior. You can access that by signing up for my newsletter here on the blog. Chapter by chapter we deal with clothing, marketing, funding, security, etc.

These two teaching aids combined with a book I wrote a while back titled travel+Photography: Off the Charts which can still sometimes be found on Amazon will get you started. The learning curve is steep & long. These three aids are compiled to help you shorten the path & lengthen the journey.


Kept Light December 14, 2016 at 8:29 PM  

Lou, I am not sure if you are energizing your photographs or they are energizing you! The energy in the work and the worker are quite evident. The last photograph reminded me of Christo's The Gates.

Thank you for your work and sharing.


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About This Blog

blog (blŏg, bläg) n. 1. short for Weblog 2. online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer 3. diary that is posted on the Internet 4. an experiment to verbalize my observations about the status of photography. It will be eclectic & deal with philosophy & practice of this universal art form. It will strive for periodic commentary about issues many photographers face, like ownership and the economy. It will also talk about pictures and what makes good ones and how to get them. No hardware. No software. No recycled clichés. No whining.