One of my favorite things about blogging is when I actually get to meet someone in person who I met through the blogging and social media world. Last month, I finally got to meet Dan Bailey, a professional adventure and outdoor photographer who I’ve been following online for years. Dan was traveling through Minneapolis and we were able to get together for lunch. It was fantastic to meet him in person and to learn more about his inspiring career and life in Alaska. His work is absolutely breathtaking and while we were talking I finally learned how he captured some of his most stunning masterpieces from the open window of a tiny yellow 1947 Cessna 120 flying over the mountains of Alaska. Dan also runs a photography website at www.danbaileyphoto.com filled with amazing tips and resources on how to learn and improve your photography.
Here is my exclusive interview with Dan. Hope you enjoy it!
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? What did you study in school and when did you first learn photography?
I was born in Colorado and lived there until I was five. Then I moved around quite bit, east coast, Kansas City, Cincinnati, boarding school in Maine, high school in Lawrence, Kansas, then Boston for college, and then back to Colorado for a few years before moving to Alaska.
I was a pretty rambunctious kid who was always running around, riding my bike and playing outside. I got into guitar when I was 15, and then I bought my first camera in 1990 when I was 22. I studied recording engineer and music production at Berklee College of Music, but by the time I graduated, the photography seed had already matured into a true love for cameras and photography.
You got a degree in music in college but ended up pursuing photography as a career. What was the defining moment that made you follow your dreams and go on an your epic trip to Nepal?
After I was done with college, photography kept growing on me and I begun to realize that I might be better suited to career that has me running around outside than sitting in windowless recording studios. Guess I didn’t quite think that one through… 😉 I had started taking some photography trips and became aware of Galen Rowell, who was preeminent outdoor adventure photographer of our time. He’s without a doubt my biggest influence.
At the time, I was still living in Boston while trying to figure out how to make a living by traveling and taking pictures. Then, one day, I saw an ad for a Photo Workshop trip to Mustang, Nepal with Galen Rowell in the back of Outdoor Photographer Magazine. This was 1993, and the region of Mustang had only just been opened up to outsiders the year before. To me, this was a dream trip, so I called right away, reserved my spot, maxed out all my credit cards and it was a done deal.
I figured what better way to get track to becoming a pro adventure travel photographer than taking a workshop with the guy who invented the profession. It really was the beginning for me, and certainly the biggest thing I’d ever done. I consider my 1993 Nepal trip, and my 1994 trip to Pakistan to be the defining events in my profession journey.
What did you learn about photography and yourself during your trips to Nepal and Pakistan?
More than anything else, those two experiences reaffirmed my love for wilderness, exploration and travel. I knew that I wanted more. With photography, it was simply an opportunity to shoot in some of the most amazing locations on the planet and coming away with powerful imagery. And, of course, refining my technique and my creative eye, that process never ends. Looking back, I’m still very proud of the photos I shot on those two trips.
When did you decide to become a professional photographer? How did you move from photography as a hobby to a career?