The Joys of Coming Home

Picture: Rainbow over the “Meat & Potatoes Palace”, near Hat Creek, California (A play off Galen Rowell’s famous photo, Rainbow over the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.)

I love coming home after being on the road for more than a few days. Returning home to my wife and kids is always it’s own reward, as is the comfort of the house and getting to sleep in my own bed.

But on just about every trip I take, I meet someone who says they’d love to be doing what I do, and how lucky I am running around all over the place and taking pictures. Most of the time I give them a sincere nod of appreciation and token acknowledgement. But under my breath, it’s about all I can do to keep from saying, “if you only knew…”. What I want to tell them is to imagine themselves in my shoes:

My last trip found me zig-zagging and looping around a good chunk of northern California, turning 1413 miles in about six days while working on my current book project. When I leave, I always take some work with me that I hope to get done. None of it ever does get done. Most of the time I sleep in my truck, with maybe only one or two nights in a hotel in any given week. My cell phone alarm usually goes off at least an hour before sunrise. Breakfast usually follows after a few hours of shooting in the morning, and is almost always Peets Coffee & instant oatmeal. Lunch usually gets missed due to driving or shooting, and maybe as minimal as a couple plain tortillas, crackers & cheese, or a quick fast food stop. After a day filled with trying to get as many book locations in as possible, I usually opt to find some deserted road or empty campground to park the truck. Dinner a la backpacker stove is usually a can of Chunky soup, canned pasta, or Salami & Cheese.

This is the life they want, what they wish they can be doing? So often is the misconception brought on by fancy magazines that the travel or nature photographer’s life must be glamorous and full of adventure. Adventure, yes. Glamour, hardly. It’s certainly not all 5-star resorts and filet mignon dinners, though those do dot the landscape on occasion. My good fortune is that I’m just as happy sleeping in my truck and eating canned soup as I am spending a few nights at the Hotel del Coronado. But no matter where I go or how I travel, I’m always happiest when I’m coming home.

See the photo larger at my image archive.

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8 Comments on “The Joys of Coming Home”

  1. Patrick Smith Says:

    I think that the reason they dream of doing what you do, is because they may be stuck in a 6×6 cube in a thankless and direction-less job working for bosses who steal their ideas and pass them off as their own while making sure that there is no future advancement or reward for all the hard work that they do!

    I don’t think that they believe that your life is all glitz and glamor. Perhaps they just want a solid connection to the natural world, which is what you have when you go on these road trips.

    Or maybe I’m wrong….


  2. Ethan Meleg Says:

    No doubt about it Gary, most people don’t realize how much work it is to be successful as an outdoor photographer. It’s the huge amount of office time stuck at a computer that pains me!

  3. James Fowler Says:

    When you look at the finished product, in National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, etc it is difficult nothing more than the glamourous life of the photographer. I am one of those right now confined to a 6 x 6 cube with a 24-7 job. I soon will be retiring with plans to consult (engineer) part time. I enjoy photography and enjoy it to much to try and make a living at it.

    You have a great life doing what you do and yes I am envious of your end results, but getting it can be difficult at the least. Enjoy your time at home with your family and keep up the great work.

  4. Tony Says:

    Actually, I would love to be a photo bum

  5. Richard Says:

    Another aspect to running around shooting kamikaze style is that it is often lonely work. It’s fun perhaps for a few days but after a week it can become a drag. Traveling with others is much more fun though less productive particularly if they are not as crazy of a shooter as you are. Particularly in nature photography, you have to really enjoy being alone to be prolific at it in my opinion otherwise you can go insane.

  6. Doug Eng Says:

    Aw, comon’ Gary, you wouldn’t trade your lifestyle for anything. Your work and adventures are inspiring for all of us who wish we could let go of our creature comforts to live life so vicariously. You love what you do and it shows. Welcome home!

  7. QT Luong Says:

    On those trips, I rarely eat when I am not driving. When I sleep in motels, I tend to go to bed too late after doing the family Ichat and checking email so camping works better. But that’s a fine life. The problem is to run the business when at home.

  8. Gary Crabbe / Enlightened Images » Blog Archive » Chasing the Rainbow Says:

    […] long after returning from this trip, I posted an image that showed the other end of this rainbow coming out of a nearby farmhouse. However, looking at this other side, I felt I’d never been so close to the end of a rainbow […]

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