Becoming a Pro Photographer
How traveling the world changed my life
‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’
Explore. Dream. Discover.
To those of us looking for a chance to pursue our passion, explore the world, and live a rewarding life, look no further than Mark Twain’s call to action for your inspiration.
I know the feeling.
On January 31, 2004, I left the safety and comfort of a rewarding career with an environmental non-profit in the Washington, DC area to catch a one-way flight to Manila to take an assignment at a marine biology lab with the U.S. Peace Corps in the Philippines. I had no idea what the future might hold - maybe I would get sick, go broke, or not be able to handle the challenge of living abroad in a developing country.
At the time I had no clue that this decision would lead me to my dream job - to be a travel and adventure photographer, having the chance to meet, learn from, and collaborate with some of the most incredible people and stories in the world.
I'm not trying to pretend that I knew exactly what I was doing when I made the decision to ‘cast off the bowlines’, but I know I always enjoyed reading about how others took a chance to follow their dream when I was working up the courage to do it myself.
My path has been difficult, sometimes dangerous, often uncertain, but as Robert Frost famously observed about the decision to take the road less traveled, ‘that has made all the difference.’
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this far, check out the full story below if you want to learn more about my journey to becoming a full-time photographer and writer, exploring some of the most beautiful places on earth and sharing some of the world’s most interesting stories.
Here’s a short timeline of the path that got me here - if you’d like to learn more, just keep reading below:
- May 1998: Graduate from the University of Virginia with a degree in Environmental Science
- June 1998: Teach Fly Fishing as the youngest instructor ever at the legendary Orvis Fly Fishing School at the headquarters in Manchester, Vermont
- September 1999 - December 2004: Join the marketing / fundraising team at Trout Unlimited to protect wild populations of trout and salmon in North America. Within two years was promoted from the Marketing Assistant to the Marketing Director, responsible for raising millions of dollars to fund TU’s projects nationwide
- January 2004: One-way flight from San Francisco to Manila to join Peace Corps Philippines batch 263 with 42 other volunteers
- April 2004: Arrived in Dumaguete, my Peace Corps site and home for the next 27 months of service as a Coastal Resource Management volunteer working with the marine biologists at the Silliman University Marine Laboratory
- April 2004 - June 2006: Peace Corps service in the Philippines. I had the opportunity to help the fishing community on Apo Island to develop alternative livelihoods, helped work on an environmental education center, and join the SUML team in the field for marine biology surveys. Outside of work at the lab, I started a band with a group of amazing Filipino musicians, playing our music in the Dumaguete community and beyond - two of our original song recordings were played regularly on the provincial radio station. I also had the opportunity to further develop my skills as a photographer and writer, contributing to publications by National Geographic, Patagonia, Philippine Airlines, and more
- June 2006 - October 2006: Post-Peace Corps trip through Nepal, India, and Thailand. This would be the first time the lessons I learned in the Philippines about extended travel, adapting to other cultures, and the challenges of adventure photography would be put into action
- December 2006: First trip home since January 2004. The perspective gained from the time abroad made me look at life in America with new appreciation and understanding
- September 2007: One-way flight from Los Angeles to Dumaguete to launch my freelance career as a photographer and writer
- November 2007 - February 2009: Invited to collaborate on the Photovoices International project based in Bali and sponsored by National Geographic
- March 2009 - present: Based abroad as an international freelance travel, adventure, and action sports photographer & writer, working with clients from the USA, Europe, Asia / Pacific region and beyond.