Photography has become more accessible to the public than ever before with the ability to carry cameras in our pockets. Thanks to digital photography, the art form is experiencing a golden age.
Taking beautiful images has never been more popular with the ease of photo taking coupled with the popularity of instantly sharing these images with friends and audiences. For some, photo taking is motivated by garnering attention and recognition on outlets like Instagram. But for others, like photographer and cinematographer Dave Pavlina, the art of the photo is in the journey, the exploration, and perfect timing.
About Dave Pavlina
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Dave latched onto photography at a young age. He enjoyed snapping candid shots of his friends as they skated and rollerbladed around the city.
Today, Dave’s photography style is still inspired by the movement of extreme sports. Along the way, he has developed a love for integrating natural backdrops and sweeping vistas into his work. While studying as a photography major at Columbia College in downtown Chicago, Dave escaped the chaos of the city by visiting his best friend attending school in the mountains of Arkansas. It was here, in the Ozarks, that Dave discovered the awe and serenity behind hunting for the perfect shot.
Since then, Dave has taken every opportunity to hike and camp. It’s in the peace of the great outdoors that he feels at home. Now, after moving into a 1965 Airstream Overlander, the great outdoors is where he calls “home.”
Why live on the road in an Airstream?
A 4-month-long cross-country road trip in 2014 planted the seed for a life on the road. Having just grazed the surface of what there was to see in the continental U.S., Dave longed to travel slower and experience places more thoughtfully.
Since that trip four years ago, his desire to explore is still just as intense. After establishing himself as a freelance photographer—and growing a healthy list of ongoing clientele—he began looking for the perfect home on wheels.
After much research, he settled on an Airstream—in large part because of their rigidity, sturdy structure and reputation to last. But also because the timing was right when he stumbled upon a refurbished Airstream at a great price located just a few hours from his home base in Central Florida.
“It was remodeled like a log cabin,” Dave says. It had all of the amenities of a home and the space he knew he needed in order to feel comfortable to create.
What an average day looks like
“There isn’t necessarily an average day,” Dave says. “Some days are full of gigs and I’m away from the Airstream.”
Other days, Dave says, “I might just be hanging around the campsite … going hiking or biking and shooting [photos] for myself.”
The benefit of having a home on wheels is that your front and back porch is ever-changing. Dave stays motivated by striking a healthy balance between shooting for clients while still exploring and seeking out personal inspiration from nature while on the road.
The best part about living in an Airstream?
“The diversity in places and people,” Dave says. “At this point in our current society, I think that interacting with people from all walks of life—especially ones that are much different from your—is important.”
Dave enjoys getting to know different characters along his travels, which inspires an intimacy in his portrait work that reads in each subject, but he also finds inspiration in breaking from routine. Before life in the Airstream, he says, he found it fatiguing to wake up to the same scene over and over again. The variety in road life on a day-to-day basis keeps Dave thinking in new ways.
He seeks out smaller parks that aren’t widely talked about or photographed and, as his life in the Airstream is just beginning, he says he intends to explore similar “little gems” that are just as beautiful but don’t get as much attention. He also hopes to find inspiration in collaboration, with other creatives living in various cities or on the road.
How do you photograph the outdoors?
“You have to hunt for it…” Dave says about the challenge of capturing a unique outdoor shot. “It’s never there sitting for you. You have to constantly be out exploring, searching for it.”
Dave says he finds photographing the outdoors fascinating because it’s ever changing.
“Nature has a different face at all times of day,” he says. There’s never the exact same light, or clouds, or wind, or foliage.
“To a certain degree, you cannot plan [for a shot],” Dave explains. The last minute decision making at the moment of the shot makes each photo unique. Whether it’s a landscape or an environmental portrait that you are scouting for, having the outdoors as a backdrop adds the unpredictable aspect of time.
When asked what he wants viewers to take away from his photos, he answers, “I want people to go to these places.”
With that in mind, he seeks out scenes with movement, be it with water or light, so that his still images feel as immersive and tangible as possible.
What has been the greatest value you gather from the outdoors?
“Slowing down,” Dave says, sans hesitation.
Today’s social climate has us constantly barraged with media begging for our attention, be it through social media, ads, or television. But Dave finds respite from the madness in the wilderness.
“In nature, nothing’s really changing that quickly,” Dave explains. As he spends time in the wilderness, he absorbs the slow, natural pace of the outdoors. At this rate, he finds himself feeling calmer, less irritable, more reflective, and with a quieter head to think creatively.
“In nature, when something happens, it’s a chain reaction—which reflects in life,” he says. “It’s important to look at events as a series of choices that are all complex in their own way.”
What suggestion do you have for people who want to get outdoors more and capture it?
“Just go,” Dave says. “Most parks are free or under $5 to enter. Walk around, have a picnic, engage, experience … and do it at different times.” The opportunities for shots are limitless against the ever-changing muse of nature.
As the legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams once said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
It’s clear that Dave’s philosophy behind capturing striking images of the outdoors is similar to his philosophy of life on the road—it’s about the journey and being in the moment.