A story on how Photographer and UBCO Ambassador Andy Best uses his 2x2 to balance work and family in wild places.
How do you live and work full-time on the road with a family? A question I get asked in probably every grocery store parking lot we stop at. It’s a great question to be honest, because we ask ourselves that all the time. Let’s just say, I have a lot of experience and I’m extremely OCD. Starting back in 2012, before kids, I started experimenting on vehicle builds with only one goal in mind. Get farther and stay longer in order to get the best work possible. Slowly the system revealed itself over time, I really had no idea what I was doing.
Therefore, I learned early on to build a three phase system. The first phase has always been the vehicle of some sort, be it a roof-top tent, a tow-behind camper, or where we are now in the FourWheel pop-up camper. This is basecamp. The second phase typically includes a backpack camp setup to create a secondary basecamp to get further into the wild. Then finally, the third phase is me launching out of the second basecamp to explore even farther, to plan and study to get the best imagery possible.
Now introduce a family where timing is everything. I’m not as free to disappear into the nothing like I used to be. Everything has to be in its place, resources ready, and a solid plan in order for me to get away and even then, I can’t be away too long. Enter the UBCO 2x2 into my equation. Now I can get in and out much faster in order to help with the family without sacrificing the ability to get deep into the wilderness. I can rip out, scout, plan, organize my thoughts and be back in time to make dinner. That’s where the logistics come in. So, how do you live and work full-time on the road with a family? I’m dialed.
I’ll run you through a scenario. Okay, we soon will arrive in the location where I plan to shoot. How can we make this run smoothly where everyone will enjoy it and I’ll be able to get a bunch of work done? First, button up the camper and all its resources; groceries, water, and propane. I typically wash the truck, camper, and bike too after every mission so we always start at square one when I arrive at a new location. Second, and one of the more crucial parts of the process, setup the camper, make sure the family is comfy and fed, then drop the UBCO to begin more of the pre-production process. This is where I ride everywhere to look at angles, watch the light, use my phone to check milky/sun/moon position, and then back to camp in time to make dinner and make my plan. Following dinner, I’ll prep my equipment and build a clear schedule for the images I’m after in the coming days. Now it’s up to the weather while all the gear is ready and on standby. The time in-between shooting is where I run around with the family and enjoy where we are, but when it gets close to game time, I start loading up the bike with all my gear and prepare for a smooth production thanks to all the planning and preparation. I kiss the girls goodnight, knowing I likely won't be back until super late or sometimes after sunrise, and then I get rolling.
When executed properly and with the right planning, this routine typically goes over really well. Even though I have to be a lot less spontaneous, with proper planning and the right equipment, I’m able to achieve the same goals as I used to, but now with a happy family in tow.
This project was no exception. We had a route in mind starting in southern Oregon, following we’d drive a big loop through the Siskiyou National Forest to the coast, dipping into the Redwoods, then blasting towards the Nevada desert. Little did we know we’d get all the way to southern Arizona. I planned for a few days in each location due mostly to knowing along the way that there are always uncontrollable situations. Which brings me to my final, but very important reality check that we have to be cognisant of out here. Production and all nuts and bolts aside, there’s another equation I’m constantly formulating and reworking in my mind. Where can we exist?
Having a small slide-in truck camper means that we have to exist outside 90% of every day, or at least I do. This means that with kids, we ended up being a pretty fair weather family. Meaning, I’m constantly on a few different apps along the route dodging weather. Is it too cold or too hot? We love following the terrain, but at the end of the day we truly navigate by weather. I once drove 85 miles just to get to an open Library to escape rain. There was also a time where I drove halfway across the state of South Dakota to the border of Nebraska to run from a storm. The following day I drove back towards the storm and through it to the otherside in order to get back to my shooting location, but also trying to keep the family happy and dry. If the kids and family are happy, I’m happy and can work. There are days though, that we have to call it an inside day no matter what and that usually means walking through stores, libraries, or just plain ol driving all day.
We love this lifestyle. It definitely comes with a lot of work, as does everything, but we’re together. We are experiencing life and making long lasting memories. Therefore, for me it truly has been about creating a dialed system and staying on top of it. More importantly, having the right tools and equipment necessary to allow us to spend more time with one another and out there, rather than constantly battling ourselves in an unorganized system. If you take away anything from this, let my experience, failures, and dumb luck guide you. Create a three phase system, do your planning, stay organized, and you’ll have all the time in the world to enjoy what you set out to experience in the first place.