I have been in love with photography since my grandmother handed me a camera when I was 6 years old. But I never imagined that something I loved so much could turn into a career, allowing me to travel all over the world and see my images in magazines, newspapers, and websites across the globe.
“Do you need an assistant?” I get this question all the time, once people learn I am a travel photographer who regularly visits exotic locations and earns an income doing it. But why be an assistant when you can travel the world and take pictures yourself? Getting paid for your photos is easy if you know how.
As a travel photographer, I stayed for free in a vacation rental, a charming little authentic cottage tucked away in the lush green countryside. I photographed the cottage and interesting things one might see and do, both in the immediate area of County Limerick and as far away as Dublin, for the same publication.
It’s been a long time now since I transitioned from a traditional job to a footloose and fancy-free photographer but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Location independent income has become a mandatory part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If someone told my younger self that one day my photographs would rescue me from the daily grind…allow me to spend more time with my family…afford me the opportunity to travel the world…and foot the bill to boot…I would have told them they were cuckoo. But photography has led me to climb volcanoes in Hawaii…go dog-sledding on Alaskan glaciers…drive game safaris in South Africa…and chase storms across the globe! Thirty-two countries have stamped my passport…and that is just the beginning!
Shaking as much from the cold as from my barely contained excitement, I set up my tripod on the edge of the pier and pointed my camera towards the sky. The Northern Lights were silently dancing, dressed in green and purple silk above Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Moments like these are what make me pursue my passion…traveling around the world and capturing the beauty of different environments and cultures through my lens. I had always been told that following a passion or a hobby and making money online was difficult. I had to be a responsible person and have a good job, which in my case, was in the human resources department in a big company in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
With relatively little effort, I’ve earned hundreds of dollars a month, selling photos from my European vacations at art festivals…private school fundraising events…and art gallery shows. I’ve sold my photos through corporate art consultants…and even at a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania. These are simply photos that people want to hang on the wall. I began taking photos during vacations while I was still in a job…sometimes I even took photos when I was commuting. I always carry my camera with me and these days I make a living from it.
In 2003 at the age of 45, I left my legal career. Since then I have traveled to exotic destinations like Morocco…Turkey…Thailand…and India, as well as closer-to-home locations like the Colorado Rockies, Utah’s great national parks, and the Grand Canyon. The common theme throughout my travels has been photography. I make money from my pictures and it gives me the flexibility to pick travel destinations that suit my passions. Because of my love of history and architecture—for example—a couple of years ago I embarked on a trip to Northumberland, England, an area known for its coastal castles.
Over the past 11 years I have worked on quite a number of photo assignments, ranging from a simple shot of a cup of hot cocoa, to a rodeo clown, to a six-week assignment for a Frommer’s travel guide about Puerto Rico. There are many reasons I love doing assignments. For starters, you’re sure to get paid for your efforts. Magazine assignments typically pay about $500 per day plus expenses, though this will vary depending on a variety of factors.
England is a magical place. The weather is unpredictable and this day was no different. The mists were heavy. The morning hours were marked by drizzling rain. The land around us was barren, exposed to the elements. Filled with stories of Merlin and the Giants of Mount Killaraus arranging stones on the open vista, we made our way to one of the medieval wonders of the world…Stonehenge. Overcome by the majesty of the sight before us, everything else seemed miniscule.
When my husband and I wanted to escape the rainy Seattle winter weather in 2012, we planned a trip to South East Asia and spent a month on assignment exploring luxury resorts and spas in Bali, Indonesia. Last summer we relaxed on a luxury barge floating down the Burgundy canal, sipping French wines, visiting local villages and eating fine food along the way. And we did some other business while we were in the neighborhood—in Paris, London, and Wales (nice neighborhood!).
My former attorney colleagues and I used to joke that there were three kinds of closing arguments you could make to a jury: the one you carefully prepared, the one you actually delivered, and the one you wish you had given. Few things ever happen as planned. Nevertheless my “life” plan (the one I carefully prepared) was to practice law until I retired at 65; then I would pursue photography and maybe make a little money on the side.
In 1971, I spent seven months traveling around Latin America…from Mexico to Argentina and Brazil. At some point, pressed among a crowd of Indians at the back of a dilapidated bus, I was traveling from Ayacucho to Cuzco, in the Peruvian Andes…an endless two-day ride. Holes and stones in the dirt road shook the bus…
Shooting sunrise…snapping the guys catching the early waves…close-ups of the waves…boats on the water…and the beautiful landscape.
School children wave from their front porch as you glide through the watery neighborhoods of Bangkok, the “Venice of the East,” on your wooden boat.
I happen to be a pretty lucky guy. I get an income doing something I would happily pay money to be allowed to do. It’s true. If I wasn’t paid to do it, I would do it for nothing.
My friend had some shocking advice about Thailand: “Spend as little time as you can in Bangkok,” he said. “It is just another dirty big city with nothing to offer but noise, pollution, and endless crowds.” I knew I wouldn’t take his advice because my research had told me otherwise. Bangkok is loaded with fascinating temples, palaces, historical locations and exotic things to see.
In South Africa last month I spent more than 26 hours on safari, took more than 700 pictures and gained 10 pounds. I’ve always liked photography as a hobby because it’s active.
I practiced law for almost 20 years. I always had an interest in photography and had been published a few times, but I never thought it could be my main source of income.
Everybody has heard of the Great Wall of China. It was built some 2,000 years ago to protect China from Mongol raiders and at 3,700-miles in length, it’s the longest man-made structure on earth. But while this ancient wonder is familiar to many, most people know little about it.
Formed 5,000 feet above sea level in the western highlands of Guatemala, the 11-mile long Lago de Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America. It plunges to depths of over 1,000 feet. Three volcanoes dominate its southern fringe—Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro; the latter two emerging from the lakeside. The lake itself changes as wistful breezes or surly gales whip up its sleek, glassy surface. The ever-shifting light reflecting off its belly…
Puerto Rico at Christmas time also gives me an opportunity to photograph beach scenes, rainforest landscapes and holiday decorations all in one trip. As an extra bonus, the weather is warm and I get to enjoy some of the best seafood found anywhere.
As soon as the mercury heads south, most photographers head inside. After all, who wants to photograph in cold, snowy conditions when you could be enjoying a hot drink in front of a roaring fire? Successful photographers who know the money-making tricks, that’s who.
In the part of Tuscany, Italy, known as the Val de Cecina, (“Valley of The Sea”), an hour’s drive southeast of Florence, there’s a privately owned Villa where I’ve taken some of my best and most saleable photographs of Tuscany. The early spring light held me captive there, for five days, one April a few years back.
The ancient Romans painstakingly carved out some 250,000 miles of road across Europe, every inch of which led to their home city. So the phrase, “All roads lead to Rome” was actually true. These days, though, you’ll probably arrive in the “Eternal City” via the airport.
I’ve photographed in over 40 countries but on a recent trip to China, I found what I believe may be the most picturesque place on earth. I was on an extended trip to Asia with my camera, hoping to photograph some of the Mysterious East’s beauty spots. What I found stands firmly in my mind as one of the most exotic and incredible landscapes I have ever seen.
I’ve visited a bunch of times but I can’t remember ever being in Mexico on a rainy day. On my last visit, the sun was shining on the busy mercado (market) while women made tortillas. Brightly-colored parrots chattered with each other from cage to cage like a women’s coffee hour.
“It will just take me a moment,” I say quietly, as I inch past my fellow photographers poised at the edge of the cliff. Their cameras and tripods are already set up. My equipment is still on my back. When I signed up for this trip to see the Yuan Yang Rice Terraces, I envisioned the rice paddies of Bali, built on gentle rolling hills. Now, I’m edging toward a drop-off that freezes me in my tracks.
Vietnam might not be on most people’s list of ultimate travel destinations, but if my trip to the Southeast Asian nation was anything to go by—it should be. Amazingly friendly people…deep, colorful history…tropical climate, great value for your dollar—and there is an endless list of exotic things to see and do. One of my favorite stop-offs was the city of Hue (pronounced Way).
With a train ticket and a point-and-shoot camera, I left the gloom of a late summer storm in Paris, France. When I arrived at my destination, I emerged from the depths of the train station into the colors of a brilliant sun just going down on the turquoise Mediterranean waters off Marseille. I was enchanted. I set my suitcase down right there, took out my camera and started snapping away.
Nobody gets in the way of the Carnival celebrations in Panama. This party is country-wide and a full week long. Businesses close, Panama City is abandoned, and music is everywhere as what sounds like the world’s largest collection of speaker systems comes together to blast pop, reggae, and pop music to the masses.
The travel bug runs rampant in my family. That’s why, when I was headed to France for work, my mom and I decided to turn it into a girls’ getaway adventure. My mom flew into Paris the day after my work ended and our adventure began.
On the morning of my birthday this year, I woke up to the view of the Caribbean Sea. It wasn’t just a pretty view from an average resort – I was looking at the Belize Barrier Reef. If I got out of bed, walked downstairs and stood on the beach, the Reef would be a stone’s throw away.
During a recent stay in Panama, I took a trip to the country’s under-explored Caribbean side in the hope of getting some photos I might sell. My destination was a little town called Portobello. Christopher Columbus landed here back in 1502, naming it “Puerto Bello” or “Beautiful Port.” It later became a key strategic asset of the colonial Spanish, to export gold and silver.
Pucón is wedged between a beautiful lake and a spectacular volcano. Its extreme location combined with its stable weather, have helped make it Chile’s adventure tourism capital. Water skiing…snow skiing…backpacking…white water rafting…kayaking…horseback riding…zip line rides…natural hot springs…if it involves excitement and the outdoors, it happens in Pucón.
Taking a trip is wonderful in-and-of-itself, but it becomes even more satisfying when you can turn that trip into a lucrative adventure. I make money from my trips by taking photos and selling them online. What is really special about my job is that I can take pictures from anywhere in the world I like and still make money. I can shoot anything that strikes my interest, whether it’s a luxurious spa…
In one week, I saw more of Taiwan than anyone would as a tourist. That’s because the trip was planned and paid for by the Taiwan Tourism Board. I heard the Tourism Board was looking for people to come and photograph and write about their country, so I decided to apply.
If I stand in my living room and look out over Panama’s Pacific coastline early in the morning, I can see the local boats of the Gorgona fishing fleet heading east toward their favorite fishing spots. Later in the day, I hear the purr of outboard motors as the fleet returns home to Gorgona beach. Some boats travel far out to sea while others stay just off shore.
I squeeze the brakes of my handlebars and skid to a stop at the edge of the plateau overlooking Peru’s Sacred Valley. More than 2,000 feet below us is the Urubamba River. A small town nestled on its banks was our destination for the evening. My wife and I were at the start of six weeks of unpaid leave from our jobs to travel in South America. That brief moment in time epitomized what we were seeking.
It’s 8.00 a.m. on a Friday morning and I’m in Gouyave, on the west coast of Grenada. The beach is crowded with fishermen at work. Some are fixing their nets and sharing stories. Others are already out in the water in their canoes.