Travel Photographer Dave Williams: 'Once in a Lifetime' As Often As You Can
With Dave Williams
We are so thrilled to have one of our favorite travel photographers, Dave Williams, featured today! We decided it was far time we featured Dave since so many of our amazing landscape and travel shots you see on our social channels come from his travels all over the world. Thanks to Dave Williams, we’ve all seen the power of Platypod Ultra to get all kinds of shots on every kind of terrain all over the globe. Dave definitely owns one of the most-traveled Platypods on the planet (see here!) earning him the spot as this week’s Feature Friday Photographer. Go follow him and his photography journey on his Instagram page @capturewithdave!
Describe yourself in one sentence.
As far as I know, I’m a nice enough guy with a pretty huge thirst for travel and photography, and a passion for sharing all that I can.
Describe yourself in one picture.
I took this selfie just out of town near Longyearbyen, Svalbard. It kind of encompasses a few things about me in one: my love of cold places, my passion for the aurora, and my inexplicable desire to take selfies!
What are your top 3 fave pictures from your 2018 travels?
#1: Portland Head Light; Portland, Maine
This shot brings back memories for me. After Photoshop World 2018, having spent my time surrounded by creatives, I found myself all alone in New England with plans to explore and shoot. With so much to choose from, I had to use my time wisely, making the list of every sunrise and sunset, and this is my favourite of the trip. Taken with my Platypod Ultra as support, this shot is the result of a 4 am alarm call, a drive, and a walk through flat ground to reach treacherous cliffs until I finally found the right spot.
#2: Southeast Iceland
Iceland is easily my favourite place on earth, and 2018 was the first year that I visited during the summer. This shot was taken at 1 am when the sun dipped, very briefly, below the horizon. Of course the horizon for me wasn’t the true horizon, rather a gap in the mountains, so I experienced a nuance in the land of the midnight sun, the land of fire and ice. This mountain, with an expanse of meltwater in front of it, honestly looked a lot better in person, but this image I made takes my mind back there and for that reason, I love it.
#3: Highland Cow on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
I really can’t explain why, but I’d wanted to shoot highland cattle at every opportunity. I guess I’m just captivated by their character and charm, and equally baffled at how they can see! This year, I rode up to the Isle of Skye, both for professional and personal reasons, and on the trip I got absolutely soaked to the skin and cold to the core owing to bad weather. Just before what I can only describe as a MacMonsoon hit, I saw the highland cows I’d sought and the moment this one appeared over the small crest and spotted me is one of my favourites. It made my trip worth it, even through the cold!
How did you get into photography?
I was interested in the natural world from a young age and I wanted to document it like I’d seen in books and in magazines. For my 14th birthday, my parents got me a camera — a Nikon F40 SLR. I played with that for years, trying to figure out what all the dials did and what the numbers meant. I read books and practiced hard until I got to where I am now where it all became auto-pilot. Along the way, I have a lot of people to thank but highest on the list are Peter Treadway for providing the competitive element that sped up my development, and Scott Kelby for affording me the opportunities to learn and share.
How do you find yourself traveling all over the world for these amazing pictures?
It started as a mission of personal growth. I wanted to see more of the world with my own eyes, and so after a disaster of a series of events (I YOLO’d even before YOLO was a thing!) I booked cheap flights, cheap hotels, cheap rental cars, and set out to raise the number of countries to higher than my age.
I was 28 at the time and had visited 14 countries. Although I wasn’t able to hit ‘30 countries by 30,’ I am now 33 and pleased to say that my number is 39. The problem with achieving that number is the cost, however where there’s a will, there’s a way! I have a tattoo on my upper-left arm which says ‘aut viam inveniam aut faciam nihil obstat’ which translates roughly from Latin as, ‘either find a way or make one and let nothing stand in the way.’
I had to fund this idea of mine, and still do! I’m very lucky that I now make a profit from every trip through a huge variety of methods, from sponsorship to stock and pretty much everything in between. Let’s not forget that in saying I’m lucky, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I work hard to prepare for the opportunities I have to ensure that I can continue to take selfies the world over.
What has been one big life lesson you have learned from traveling all over the globe?
That’s a very difficult question. If I were to choose just one life lesson, it would be a close call between embracing cultural differences and adapting to your environment — the world is both a very big place and a very small place. I’m high above the alps right now with no signal, and it’s the only time that happens. In a world where we’re constantly connected, it makes everything small but the sheer scale of our planet is pretty phenomenal. There are so many things to see and experience. We all get the exact same amount of time here — we get a lifetime. Use it wisely, make the most of it, and ‘once in a lifetime’ as often as you can.
What is one big 'photography' lesson you have learned through your travels?
Easy. Always check and double check! I’m not talking about anything specific, I’m talking in very general terms. Sometimes you only get one shot, so make sure you can get it in you prep by running your checklist — batteries, card, lens, lens cloth, tripod etc. Make sure retrospectively as well by checking your preview on the back of your camera. I can’t even begin to explain how many times I messed up and forgot something or forgot to check something, particularly in the early days. Put it this way: I don’t want to wake up hours before the break of dawn, hike to a beautiful waterfall, up a challenging mountain, then get set-up and realise only then that I don’t have a battery.
We see that you use your Platypod quite a lot. Why is it your go-to choice for a tripod?
Well, the short answer is that I love it! I guess the true explanation is along these lines: There are many times where stability improves photography, and saving weight and space by offloading a cumbersome tripod allows options such as extra glass, bottles of water, or just absence of anything to save energy. The Platypod requires just a ball head to work, and it’s so lightweight and small that it can go anywhere, even in my pocket. I often find myself walking around with my camera slung around me, and a Platypod still attached. You’ll see from my shots that it’s incredibly versatile and effective, and I’ve yet to find a situation where it hasn’t proved it’s worth.
What are your photography plans for 2019?
Well I need to tick off more countries, of course, but my big personal goal is to share more of the knowledge I’ve picked up on my journey. I’m pleased that I’ve begun to do this already, with a KelbyOne class out soon and live presentations coming up. I really do love to share, and my background in training in the RAF Air Cadets is testament to this. People should help others to grow, and keeping secrets doesn’t achieve this, so I really want to share.
Name a place you really want to shoot this year that you haven’t explored yet.
I’d say that a destination very high on that list is the Canadian Rockies toward the end of winter, with epic landscapes in a blanket of snow. With Iceland and Norway being so attractive to me, I’m certain I’d enjoy shooting there, too.
Who inspires you in photography?
I’m mesmerised by the incredible wildlife shots created by Paul Nicklen and David Yarrow; I’m intrigued by the combination of business acumen with adventure shown by Chris Burkard; and I’m inspired to work hard and push my limits by Scott Kelby. On a more grounded kind of level, my best friend Peter Treadway has been by my side throughout this journey. In fact, we’ve been friends for 10 years now, and he’s always been the juxtaposition to inspiration; he’s been the force that pushes me and gives the ‘why not?’ to my ‘why?’