How Gary Arndt Does Everything, Everywhere
If you’re a longtime follower of our blog, the name Gary Arndt may ring a bell. We featured him in 2010 and he inspired many of us to follow our dreams, explore the horizon and take more photos. Gary’s still traveling the world and taking photos from all corners of the planet. As you’re dreaming of faraway lands and maybe even planning your annual vacation, here are a few tips Gary shared about how to efficiently pack, travel and share all the photos you take when you’re not at home.
Photos by Everything, Everywhere
How did you get your start as a full-time travel blogger?
I made the decision to travel around the world in October 2005 and began my blog one year later in October 2006. I sold my home in March 2007 and have been traveling around the world ever since.
My blog began as a way to document my trip for my friends and family and sort of just grew into something more over time. I made a decision in late 2007 to take it seriously and to see if I could turn it into a business, which I now have.
How many places do you visit in an average year?
The number of places I’ll visit in an average year can vary and it also depends on how you define a place. 2013 has been very busy for me. So far this year I’ve been to 17 countries and I’ll probably be in around 35 by the time the year is over. I’m currently at the beginning of a 3-month trip to visit all the countries and territories in the Lesser Antilles.
This is a dream most of us consider at some point in our lives, but you’ve found success. How did you do it?
I promote my site whatever way I can. I do many interviews online and off. I’ve had my work appear online on sites like OutsideOnline.com, The Today Show and FourHourWorkWeek.com. Mostly people discover me via social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
Most people are fascinated by my lifestyle before they ever see one of my images or read one of my articles. Simply having traveled for so long and having been to so many places is the biggest hook for people.
As far as recognition, I’ve won many mainstream travel journalism awards for my photography and for blogging. I won a Lowell Thomas Award last year for Photo Illustration of Travel (placing behind the New York Times), a Northern Lights Award for Photography of Canada (placing behind National Geographic) as well as many North American Travel Journalist Association awards and recently a SMITTY Award for my use of social media by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
Tip time: What’s in the travel blogger’s survival kit?
The bare minimum for me is my SRL, laptop and an iPhone. The iPhone give me the ability to post images while I’m out and about. The SLR and laptop should be pretty obvious.
I also have an iPad, Kindle Paperwhite, and 2 USB hard drives. Over the last 6 years it has actually gotten easier from a technical standpoint. Many of the devices I used to carry with me have all been condensed into my iPhone ( GPS, video camera, point and shoot camera, wifi detector, audio recorder, microphone, etc)
How do you manage files on the road? For example, what storage systems/archiving tools do you use ?
People often assume that I back everything up in the cloud. This isn’t true. I can easily shoot several gigabytes of images a day and uploading that much data from remote places around the world is next to impossible. It is difficult to do even when I’m in the US. I have almost 2TB of images now and I’m not in one place long enough to do that sort of upload.
I have 2, 2TB USB hard drives that I carry with me. I keep them in two separate bags in case one should get lost or stolen. I keep a copy of everything on each drive.
I also have several hard drives at my mothers house. When I visit her, which I do about 2-3 times per year, I copy everything to those drives as well so I have copies in at least 2 locations.
By the time I outgrow my 2TB drives, there should be portable 3, 4 or 5 TB drives available. I upload only my edited jpegs to SmugMug. Those I consider my finished product. I obviously worry about my original RAW images, but so long as my finished jpegs are there, the world won’t come to an end.
I don’t think my system is fool proof or the best possible, but it has worked for me so far. I hope the day isn’t too far away when global bandwidth is big enough and cloud storage is cheap enough that it would be viable for what I do.
Do you shoot at the full resolution of your camera or do you use one of the lower ones to save space? Do you take your photos with the intent to sell big prints?
I shoot everything in RAW. When I began traveling I shot in jpeg and it was a horrible decision. Storage has gotten so cheap that I can not see the point in shooting in anything less than full resolution. I don’t shoot with the intent of selling prints, but I do always have that option by shooting in RAW.
Have you lost any images over the years?
Amazingly enough, I don’t know of any images that I’ve lost. I’ve been very careful about my data storage. When I started traveling, I was backing up my photos to DVD and an old iPod that I had. It was a horrible solution. I remember spending 2 days in Melbourne burning dozens of DVD’s and having to send them back to the US in a big box. I am amazed I haven’t lost anything from my early travels.
How do you deal with needing internet access in remote locations?
I seldom have a problem finding internet. As I am writing this, I’m on one of the lesser populated outer islands in the Bahamas, and the bandwidth here is fine. I’ve spent thousands of nights in hotels now and I’ve become an expert in maximizing my connection. Where in the room I can get the best signal, when to go down to the lobby or when I have to head to Starbucks or McDonald’s. I also have a global Boingo account which lets me log on to wifi hotspots all around the world.
What are your essential photo editing tools?
I currently have a 15″ MacBook Pro Retina and use Lightroom 5.0, and occasionally Photoshop CS6. I also sometimes use SilverFX Pro and Photomatix.
Since you’ve been on the road for 6 years, has your camera changed much?
I began with a Nikon D200 and a 18-200mm lens. Today I use the exact same lens and have upgraded the body to a Nikon D300s.
The Nikon 18-200mm VR lens is far and away the most versatile lens on the market. I can take it out for the day without knowing what I’ll be shooting and be reasonably covered for both wide angle and close-up shots. It isn’t the ‘best’ lens on the market, but it is usually the only thing I need when I leave my hotel room.
I’ve stuck with a crop sensor camera for reasons of weight. The crop sensor lenses are smaller and lighter than full frame lenses. Size and weight is very important to me as I have to carry all my equipment with me all the time.
In addition to the 18-200mm lens, I also carry a 12-24mm lens and a 50mm f/1.4. I probably use those lenses for less than 5% of my shots. I have also rented lenses on occasions. During my trip to South Georgia Island and Antarctica last year, I rented a 500mm lens which was a fantastic decision.
I also have a lightweight carbon fiber tripod from Oben and my camera bag is from Timbuk2. I also use a BlackRapid shoulder strap.
Does your safety (or safety of equipment) ever affect your workflow, what you bring, or how you work?
Not really. I have never had anything stolen and I don’t worry too much about theft. I take common sense precautions and usually never leave anything expensive in my room when I am not around. I keep a minimal amount of gear with me, so I’m not as worried as some people might be if they were on a big photo shoot. I have older camera bodies, lenses and laptops at my mother’s house should I ever need a backup.
So, tell us Can you outline your workflow, start to finish?
1) I take the image.
2) Copy images from the camera to my laptop.
3) Copy images from laptop to my 2 backup hard drives.
4) Edit the images on my laptop.
5) Upload the edited images to SmugMug.
6) Delete edited images on laptop.
That last step is sort of controversial. Basically, images on my laptop are my to do list. As I finish images, I remove them to clear up space. I don’t have a permanent catalog for Lightroom like some people do. This system I developed years ago when my laptop hard drive space was scarce. I also don’t want to have to bring my USB hard drive out every single time I edit photos, as I often do it when I can find time in cafes or on airplanes.
Again, I’m not saying this is the best system, but it is the one that I use.
We hope that all of you – everywhere, anywhere – find a little inspiration to capture and share the moments of your life. Safe travels, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our Photography Perspectives series!