Photography: More Than a Portable Income With Great Travel Perks

It’s difficult to imagine having a better life than the one I am enjoying now.

I’m living in the colonial city of Cuenca, high in Ecuador‘s breathtaking Andes, and earning an income as a freelance photographer. In almost five years of life in this Latin American gem, I’ve reaped the many rewards of taking part in the local community and traveled all over this beautiful country. But I would have to say that my visits to the Galápagos—photographing the rich and diverse wildlife native to these volcanic isles—have been among the most memorable.

On my first visit, I made a point of getting to know the locals on Santa Cruz—the second largest of the Galápagos Islands. I stayed at a great guesthouse, La K-Leta. The owner Yogo and his girlfriend Ainoa could not have been nicer, and invited me to join them for lunch one afternoon. She cooked tuna that was so fresh it had literally just come off the dock.

During my stay, I booked a water taxi help me explore the islands. The driver, Victor, treated me like an old friend. He took me out of the harbor to the other side of the island and pointed out dozens of photos opportunities I would have missed on my own…including a baby sea lion and an iguana casually hanging out on the back of a boat.

That night he and his family joined me for cafecito (a Cuban espresso) and ice cream. One result of the trip was the sale of many photos. Even while I was still on the trip, I was posting photos for sale on my website every day. Before I had even left the Galápagos, I had an order for 18 large prints. This, and the sale of other photos since, covered the cost of my trip.

Fast forward to December, when I was invited to attend a wedding in the Galápagos. When I contacted Yogo about accommodations, he made me the best possible offer I could ask for: free accommodation in return for the use of some of my images from the previous trip. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

While on Santa Cruz, I paid a visit to Victor and his wife, who invited me to their home for lunch. She prepared a delicious meal of langosta encocado (lobster in coconut sauce). Afterward, they joined me for a trip to the El Chato Reserve, where I snapped some shots of the island’s famous giant tortoises roaming free.

Moment’s like these are what make life as an expat photographer worthwhile. It’s not always about getting that “winning shot.” Thanks to my photography, I’ve gotten to know some incredible people, started some amazing friendships, and explored one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife spotting. The income from my photo sales is a bonus.

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