The Van Of­fice For the No­madic Pho­tog­ra­pher

Gripped - - OFF THE WALL - Story by Kyle Smith Kyle Smith is a B.C.-based climber and pho­tog­ra­pher. Follow him @kyle­smith­foto

So you want to live in your van, climb all the time and shoot pho­tos as much as pos­si­ble to live that dirt­bag climb­ing dream, but climb­ing lo­ca­tions are less than ideal for work­ing pho­tog­ra­phers to run their busi­ness. Gen­er­ally, climb­ing lo­ca­tions are in wilder­ness en­vi­ron­ments far away from cafés and shop­ping cen­tres where there is ac­cess to free wifi. You have many de­vices that need to be charged, such as cam­era bat­ter­ies, lights, lap­tops and head­lamps.

Once back from your climb­ing ad­ven­ture, you will need some­where to go to up­load your images and send off emails to mag­a­zines and on­line blogs. The most com­mon method would be to go into a cof­fee shop, how­ever, you have to buy some­thing first be­fore you can sit down for three hours and get some work done. Th­ese are prob­lems no­madic pho­tog­ra­phers face. Through trial and er­ror, I have built a sys­tem that works well for my needs and maybe they will work for you as well.

I’ve never been a fan of lap­tops. They’re ex­pen­sive for their size and per­for­mance com­pared to a desk­top. Not to men­tion lap­top screens are small. There is noth­ing bet­ter than be­ing able to edit your images on a big screen in full size to re­ally see what is go­ing on. Sure, desk­tops are not por­ta­ble, but when liv­ing in a van, you are. You can go any­where and your per­for­mance-driven desk­top can be with you all the time. Con­sider a desk­top and mon­i­tor combo ver­sus a lap­top, they have more per­for­mance for half the price.

You have hun­dreds of images to edit and many emails to send off and that re­quires a few hours to com­plete. Sure, cof­fee shops will let you use their wifi for a while but you will need to con­tin­u­ously buy cof­fees or snacks to jus­tify sit­ting in their shop for hours. All that spend­ing adds up. The an­swer is a desk­top wire­less adapter. It al­lows you to grab wifi from lo­cal cof­fee shops and shop­ping cen­tres from inside your van. It is su­per stealthy. You can now take your sweet time get­ting your work done from the com­fort of your own home with no dis­trac­tions. The cost of a desk­top wire­less adapter is about $ 50. It is a bit of an in­vest­ment at the start but if you add up all those cof­fees and tasty treats, you will be well over the $ 50 in no time.

Prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant as­pect of this highly ef­fi­cient and por­ta­ble of­fice is power. So­lar is clearly the top choice for peo­ple liv­ing on the road in their vans. If you plan on climb­ing all the time, you are most likely go­ing to follow good sunny weather as rain is not con­ducive to good climb­ing con­di­tions. Where I live in Canada, it rains a lot, and yet there is still enough power to keep my sys­tem work­ing smoothly. Ques­tion: How much power do I need? Well, ev­ery­one’s needs are dif­fer­ent and in sum­mary you need to cal­cu­late how much wattage is re­quired to work all de­vices that draws power in your van. Add up all the out­put wattages listed on the back of all de­vices. For ex­am­ple, your to­tal wattage is 400. The goal is to ob­tain a sys­tem that can han­dle at least that cal­cu­lated to­tal wattage even though you will likely not use all de­vices all at once. This will al­low you to be off the grid for days at a time be­fore your sys­tem re­quires charg­ing via the sun’s en­ergy.

If you plan on mak­ing the jump to a no­madic life on the road, climb­ing and shoot­ing full-time, hav­ing an off-the-grid of­fice that will follow you along on all your climb­ing ad­ven­tures is re­ally game-chang­ing. It will al­low you to live sim­ply and run a freelance busi­ness with­out those in­con­ve­nient is­sues that liv­ing on the road can present. I hope th­ese tips help any­one try­ing to make that jump from part-time pho­tog­ra­pher to a full-time no­madic pho­tog­ra­pher.

Kyle Smith in his van of­fice

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