When browsing through the social media feeds, it is a rare image that not only halts an impatient scrolling thumb but makes you pause and wonder and reflect. Such are the captures of Nick Zupancich, a freelance outdoor photographer about to embark on a mission to reveal the beauty and power of the wilderness from a newly-converted Sprinter van. We, at Bundle Beds, love his spirit of adventure and his aim to inspire - as well as his jaw-dropping night shots!
We caught up with Nick, just before he leaves with his girlfriend Maggie and new puppy Pushkin...
Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m a self-taught outdoor adventure photographer about to hit the road in a Sprinter van turned tiny-home with my girlfriend, Maggie, and our pup, Pushkin, to capture the beauty and importance of our natural lands with my camera and to share what inspiration I find! I’m coming off of 7 years working as an environmental scientist and Geologist before turning my attention to photography, which became a passion for me after I had spent many nights solo camping in the mountains of Colorado. I decided that what I was witnessing was too beautiful for me to keep for myself. In July 2014, I bought my first camera. Diving deep into nature and sharing what I find with the world has been a consistent compulsion ever since.
I believe that there is an incredible amount of power in regularly guiding the vision of the masses to our wild lands and natural wonders. The more we have the environment on our minds, the more likely we will focus our time and effort to protecting, preserving and restoring it.
My goal is to show people just how powerfully good nature and wilderness areas are for the human spirit and I hope to inspire more people to experience the natural world (responsibly).
What is the motivation, or inspiration, behind your decision to embark on life on the road this summer? How long has it been in the planning?
It’s always been a dream of mine to live an adventurous life in the outdoors. I grew up in a beach town so I’ve always appreciated living amongst a beautiful landscape. I’ve also noticed how those places, no matter how beautiful, begin to lose their luster after a while and we begin to take them for granted. That’s why living in a hyper-mobile home felt like the perfect solution to that “problem.” The other problem we had to figure out before we could make this dream a reality was how we are going to fund such a lifestyle. Luckily, we live in a day and age where there is work available that is 100% remote, as long as you have a wifi connection. Since we can access wifi in our upcoming new rig, as well as at coffee shops around towns, libraries, etc, we are now able to make an income and live a nomadic life chasing beautiful, ever-changing horizons, that will continue to inspire us at every turn. I’m hoping I’ll also be using my camera not only for capturing beautiful vistas, but also continue shooting for the random photo gig here and there. That’s the plan at least…
What are you most excited about? Anything you think you'll miss about living within four walls?
I’m excited for the freedom to get up and go anywhere without ever having to pack or unpack my car… I’m also excited about all the unexpected parts of the journey that will surely unfold, both good and bad. It's not an adventure until something goes wrong, right?
I honestly don't foresee myself missing too much about living within four walls... maybe a washer and dryer for laundry. I feel at home in the outdoors so this feels like a natural transition for me.
How will you decide where to go?
Things like chasing dark night sky areas during new moon-phases during 'Milkyway season’, northern lights and frosty lighthouses in the winter, color changes in the fall, wildflower super blooms in the spring and simply choosing a climate we want to enjoy will help steer us in whichever direction we decide to go. We know we want to spend a good amount of time in Canada as well as the PNW but we aren’t trying to pack our schedule too tightly as to allow room for impulsivity.
You take stunning night shots. Where is the most beautiful place you have spent the night or photographed?
I love night photography! My camera and lens are able to show me more of our natural universe than I would be able to detect with my normal senses. This, in turn, allows me to really enjoy the night sky on a deeper level than I used to before I started taking photos at night. I grew up stargazing at the end of my childhood driveway with my dad in an area with moderate light pollution and yet I was amazed every time at what I saw. When I saw the Milky Way for the first time with my naked eye while camping in Colorado, that love of stargazing became a passion. For those who may not have experienced it, stargazing in the wilderness far from light pollution on a moonless night for the first time is mind-blowing, and for me, life changing. How could I not try to capture those inspiring views to always remember them by? Lake San Cristobal in Colorado jumps out to me right away as one of my favorite night sky areas but there are just too many to name. Anywhere far from light pollution is ok with me.
And finally, we absolutely love your outdoor photography. What are your top three tips for aspiring photographers looking to improve their outdoor captures?
- When you get to the location you want to photograph, walk around and walk some more. I like to take mental notes as to where the best vantage points are, then mentally compare the best ones I find, then head to my favorite spot to compose my shot.
- To help find your composition in the dark, crank up your ISO as high as you can so that you can get a good idea of what is in your frame without waiting for a super long exposure. After you have found your composition and focus, bring back down your ISO to help reduce noise in your image and adjust your aperture and shutter speed appropriately.
- Don't let yourself get discouraged. Photography is difficult to master and is a lifelong learning experience. Practice at home and get to know your equipment before you take it into the field. You will want to know exactly where all your cameras functions, buttons, and dials are and be able to react to rapidly changing light and weather, which will be impossible and frustrating if you don't put the work in ahead of time.