photographing van life

Photographing Van Life

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My wife Tera and I have been on the road, living in our Sprinter van with our two pups, Milly and Patsy, for about 3 weeks now. About a year ago we saved up and bought a 2016 Mercedes Sprinter van and started building it into a camper van. After months of hard work, a lot of learning, and an equal amount of frustration, we are finally on the road. Our plan is to spend a year traveling the western U.S., exploring and doing the things we love.

Being a photographer and being able to live on the road, doing and shooting what I enjoy most, is definitely a dream come true. As a Jans photographer I try to capture the lifestyle and the moments in time that make people want to get out and enjoy being outdoors.

Of course living in Park City is also a dream come true for anybody who loves the outdoors. While Tera and I could spend a lifetime biking, fishing, and skiing around Park City and be more than happy, it’s the love of these activities that have inspired us to go visit new places around the world and create experiences that we will never forget. My wife and I aren’t much of sight-seers so when we go to a new place we usually go to experience things we love, such as biking and rock climbing.

Bouldering on the beach with dogs
Beach bouldering in northern California. Photographer: Mike Schirf

Our first stop of the trip was Gold Bluffs, in northern California. It was a great place to get our feet wet and figure out the van. Tera had heard from some friends of some beach bouldering in the area, so of course we wanted to check it out. We found a sweet little place that we may never have come across if we didn’t love rock climbing. I don’t shoot a ton of rock climbing, but in such an uncommon setting I brought the camera with and just tried to capture a unique sense of place.

Beach bouldering
Showcasing a unique sense of place in Gold Bluffs, CA. Photographer: Mike Schirf

After a quick few days in California, we started north to Oakridge, OR. We had heard a lot about the biking there and I was really excited to do some riding. So much so that I mostly left the camera in the van. I’m a firm believer that as an outdoor/lifestyle photographer it’s important to love the things we do first, and take the time to enjoy them – otherwise, what’s the point?

Well, the hype around Oakridge is well-deserved. We found some amazing single track, awesome camping, and again, it was a place that our love of biking brought us to.

I did get a new little gimbal for my GoPro that I played around with on the Oakridge trails. It gives you a really cool first-person perspective. I had watched a few YouTube videos of riders wearing one and it made me excited to get my own and share the excitement. I feel like that is what Jans does so well. While they are Experts in all they represent, they really get people excited to go out and try new things, or just to do what they already love.

Scenic cliffs over the ocean
Cracks waiting to be climbed, above the Deschutes River. Photographer: Mike Schirf

Currently we are in Trout Creek, OR, camping along the Deschutes River. Most people come here to fish, but we actually came here to climb. Up on one of the bluffs, there are some beautiful basalt columns with perfect cracks going up them. It’s actually very similar to climbing in the southern Utah desert. Since my wife is my main model and you need two people to rock climb, I wasn’t able to get any action shots, so I focused on the lifestyle side of things instead. A lot of the time I focus so much on getting the great action, but it’s the lifestyle that brings it all together.

Oregon Rock Climbing Lifestyle
Capturing a rock climbing lifestyle moment in Trout Creek, OR. Photographer: Mike Schirf

Being a photographer for Jans over the past few years has really helped me learn to capture and appreciate the unique moments in the outdoors that we all know and love. I am really excited to put those lessons to good use over the next year, capturing new adventures with my wife and our two pups.

Vanlife. Hanging out by the camper with dogs
Mike, Tera, Milly, and Patsy enjoying van life. Photographer: Mike Schirf

Mike Schirf, Photographer,