Last week I shared the story of Andy and Jess Wickstrom and the DesignEgg. Continuing with the theme of creatives who travel full-time for their work, brings me to the husband and wife photography team of HagePhoto.
Along with their pet cactus named “Goldy,” Matt and Agnes Hage travel with an Airstream trailer and shoot lifestyle, adventure, and travel imagery. They have been going at it since 2007, including road trips and extended overseas projects. Matt is the photographer and handles marketing, while Agnes serves as the producer, handling shoot prep and financials.
I reached out to Matt and Agnes to learn more about how they’ve been successful in making a sustainable living out of traveling for their photography work. One of the first things they learned about this lifestyle was just how demanding the traveling aspect can be.
We quickly learned that traveling to new places can be a full time job in itself. There’s a lot to figure out, which is half the fun of travel. We’ve learned to lower our expectations on what can be done in a day while on the road.
The notion of spending longer periods of time on the road only evolved after many days spent simply packing, traveling, unpacking, shooting, packing, and flying back home.
Packing for a month on the road doesn’t take that much more than (packing for) a week on the road. So we’d shoot a project, take a week to process and deliver that job, shoot something else and squeeze in some time to play before returning to Alaska.
A skill some people might not consider when taking on this kind of adventure is making themselves tech savvy on the organizational side of things. The Hage's told me that managing computers and their business while being constantly on the go has meant that they had to become very knowledgeable when it comes to things like syncing calendars, mail, and documents; there isn’t always time to research and learn how to do IT management when traveling.
It’s a basic, simple thing, but learning how to sync all your computers and devices is crucial to managing your business while traveling. The more you know about IT, the better work life will be out there.
With time at a premium, Matt and Agnes don't have time to time hustle their work, or spend countless hours researching and contacting new prospects. After working for years though, they have been able to maintain a regular flow of work from past clients. And over time new clients still seem to find them.
We’re fortunate to have built relationships with a healthy roster of clients that continue to depend on us for fresh work. So there’s always a conversation going between us and them. That’s better than always to be ‘beating the streets.’
It’s always a challenge to find balance in this kind of lifestyle. It’s important to recharge your own creative batteries on a regular basis so you can produce your best work.
With a modest home back in Anchorage, Alaska, the Hages still make time to go home to unwind and relax after spending months on the road. And Alaska doesn’t make for too bad of a shoot location when the need arises.
Alaska is a huge place and the landscape is fairly diverse. From our home in Anchorage, we can access the Pacific Ocean, temperate rainforests, rivers, and mountains.
Life on the road isn’t all epic sunsets and and fun adventures though– it’s work. All of the planning, setup, and then pressure that comes with an important shoot for a client really make you focus on the task. The Hages told me that when they are in a location and it’s for the shoot, it’s like they are on a mission, and can’t really slow down to experience the area and the people while in "working mode."
Not until we’ve got the work in the bag can we really slow down and take in where we’re at. If you travel to New Zealand to shoot a week-long assignment in the Southern Alps and then fly home, that’s not our idea of traveling. We enjoy getting to know places and the people that live there. And traveling like that is a big reason we got into this business in the first place.
Disconnecting from network access doesn’t happen as often as you might think with life on the road– besides using public libraries, friends homes, and coffee shops, the Hages can get access wherever their smartphone can get a signal.
Our Airstream is equipped with a wifi hot spot so anywhere we get cell service, we get good internet. We take care of emails and social media with our iPhones while in the backcountry. And if we have to sign off for a week, so be it. Don’t worry about it. It’s good for you to disconnect sometimes.
Staying juiced up while on the road is crucial to being able to get work done, so HagePhoto collaborated with GoalZero to equip their Airstream with a solar power system.
Matt and Agnes didn't always work like this though– having a fully-equipped Airstream and staying for extended periods in the lower 48 only happened over time. The more they traveled and the more they experienced, the more they refined how they managed their travel and work.
So we got to the point where we were renting vehicles for a month at a time. Then we got tired of rentals and decided to get rig somewhere in the ‘states’. Having a good four wheel drive SUV and being able deck it out with gear was a big help. Packing started to get easier and we were able to leave some things down state-side. Then we started to tire of always setting up in coffee shops, hotels and campgrounds. Last year we invested in an Airstream trailer that is now our mobile home and office.