The Van Office For the Nomadic Photographer
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