Learn How This American Travel Photographer Prepares and Packs for Work All over the World

Michael Marquand Photography

I am Michael Marquand. I’m a photographer from Seattle, Washington and I’ve been living and working in New York City for a little over 10 years now. Currently living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. My work includes a strong focus on Travel, people, food and culture.

How and why did you get into traveling?

I traveled a bit as a kid. Growing up in Washington state my parents would take us on trips to California or sometimes Hawaii. They were very into sitting on the beach and relaxing on vacation, which was fine for what it was but not the type of trip I like to take now. The first real trip I took as an adult was to Costa Rica. I think it was the first time I’d traveled that far south and the first time I’d been in a third world country. The landscape was so green and lush, and the buildings were so colorful and everything had this totally different aesthetic from what I was used to. It was such an interesting place to photograph. It made me really want to travel more.

Then a little over a year later I took a trip to India, which was an even more extreme departure than everything I’d ever experienced. There was so much color there and the people were so unique and I was able to get so many interesting portraits. I think that was the trip that really got me hooked.

Michael Marquand Photography

How do you prepare for your travels?

If I’m shooting a job the organization of the trip is somewhat of a collaboration between myself and the client/whatever resources they’ve given me. If I’m just planning a trip on my own, I like to plan as little as possible. I’ll start with a general idea of what I want to see in a given country and maybe I’ll book a place to stay for the first night or two. If I’m traveling in a place that’s not overrun with tourism and it’s not hard to get a last minute hotel/train ticket, etc. Then I prefer to figure it out as I go so I can stay someplace shorter or longer depending on how much there is to explore.

At home in New York, I’m an avid cyclist and I also do my fair share of hiking, running, snowboarding, and whatever else I can find. So when I’m traveling, I don’t generally need to worry about being in good enough shape for a long hike or bike ride or whatever it is I’m doing. A few years ago, I went to Patagonia and did some extra training ahead of time just because I knew the hikes would be so intense. Aside from that trip, I don’t generally do anything extra beyond my normal routine.

Michael Marquand Photography

How do you finance your travels?

I work as a photographer. Sometimes I get assignments that involve travel. Other times I’ll book a trip and contact certain clients who I know might need photography from the areas I’m going to. I’ve also started writing a bit so that I can sell complete travel articles to certain publications. I also shoot a lot of stock photography for Lonely Planet, Panoramic images and Getty images. Generally, after I’ve exhausted all my options publication-wise, I’ll send my travel work to my stock agencies and that work will continue to generate income.

In general, I travel as cheaply as possible. I don’t mind staying in a really cheap hotel or a hostel or camping outside. That obviously helps everything even out financially and I always figure I’m there to see the place and not to stay in a fancy room.

Why is traveling important for you?

I’m not sure I have a good answer for this other than I love it. And the most interesting place to photograph is a place I’ve never been.

Michael Marquand Photography

How do you bring your things with you?

I generally use one big backpack. If you’re constantly going from place to place, you spend a lot of time carrying your luggage and you’re better off packing as light as possible and using one big pack that fits well.

My current pack is an Osprey bag. I like the simplicity of it and it’s comfortable. I also have a smaller camera bag that I pack inside of the big one and bring out for day trips.

How do you organize things in your bags?

At the start of every trip I always pack well. I tend to get lazier as time goes on and just start stuffing things in. The one thing I wish my pack had was more small pockets. I do have a waterproof cover that goes over my bag. I carry a lot of camera gear and if I get stuck in the rain, I need something to protect it.

Michael Marquand Photography

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

As far as clothes, I always bring as little as possible. I have a bunch of moisture wicking stuff from REI that’s meant for hiking/traveling so you can wear it over and over again without it getting too gross. I basically never pack more than a week’s worth of stuff because if I’m gone longer than a week, I’ll just wash it.

Photo gear is another story. I often need vastly different things depending on what I’m shooting/what type of trip I’m taking. I often wish I had gear that I didn’t bring and other times find myself lugging around gear that I don’t end up using. There’s no way to plan it perfectly since you don’t totally know what you need till you’re there. If I know I’m going to be driving/living out of a car, I tend to be a little more liberal with what I bring since I don’t have to carry it around so much and it’s nice to have options. If I know I’m going to be hiking a lot then I’m a lot more sparse.

Michael Marquand Photography

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

REI sells this travel soap called, “Wash Super concentrated” by Sea to Summit for 7 bucks. It’s a biodegradable body soap, shampoo, laundry detergent and dish washing detergent in one and it’s super concentrated so one tiny bottle will last you at least a month and it’ll lighten your pack quite a bit so I take it on every trip.

I’m also in love with my MeFOTO tripod (It’s actually bit more than $100) but it folds up to a fraction of the size and weight of my normal tripod and it works great.

Michael Marquand Photography

What kind of photos do you prefer to shoot?

My favorite photos to shoot and to look at are travel portraits in an interesting location. Photos where the location is as much of a subject as the person being photographed. Some of my favorite photographers are Steve McCurry, Michael Ackerman and Sally Mann. All three have very different styles but I’ve realized they all have this thing in common. When I look at their work I feel like I’m getting a strong sense of the place and the person and I aspire to the same in my own work.

What is your best advice for other travelers?

In general, my advice would be that international travel is easier and safer and cheaper than most people think. In the United States (where I live), people seem to think that you have to spend a ton of money to travel internationally and so they think of it as something they’ll do eventually, not realizing that they’re spending more money on their yearly beach trip to Florida than they would if they took a trip to Central America or Southeast Asia.

People also have a tendency to think that everything outside of the U.S. is dangerous. In some cases that’s true depending on where you go. But in general the world is much safer and less crime ridden than most people realize. I’m typing this a week after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. That’s a danger I would not have to worry about if I were traveling in Asia or South America. So my general advice is to just go and have the experience you want because the thing that’s holding you back is probably in your head.

Michael Marquand Portrait
Michael Marquand Portrait

What will the future bring?

I’m planning a big trip to Asia this winter. Two weeks backpacking through Vietnam with some friends, then going to Bhutan for a month to shoot for a travel company I worked for a couple years ago. They’re having me back to photograph the southern districts. Then I’m going to go to India for a couple weeks before heading home.

Visit Michael Marquand on his website and follow him on Instagram


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