When chasing his dreams, Steve Yocom figured out he can catch them with a set of wheels.
Professional photographer Steve Yocom lives a life of passion and adventure across the country. Living by his life motto, “Collect memories not stuff,” and with not much more than his camera and truck, he travels to some of this world’s most beautiful places, creating stunning photos for us to drool over.
He’s about to take on a whole new adventure, but this time, with bigger wheels. Yocom, his
Q&A with Steve Yocom
BRO: Tell us more about your motto: “Collect memories, not stuff.”
YOCOM: Travel is a big chunk of my spending budget, so t’s kind of made me take a second look at everything else and re-prioritize. There are many things in this world trying to make us think we need more stuff. When really I think that most of us have everything we need, I know the trips I go on I’m going to value and remember a whole lot longer than say a fancy new electronic or a closet full of clothes I never wear.
BRO: What was the first photo you took seriously that started you on the path to becoming a photographer?
YOCOM: A brewery reached out saying they needed some help with some photos, and in return, they would pay me $2,000. My day job at the time was starting to shift into a not so great situation. It definitely got the wheels spinning.
BRO: What were the highs and lows of truck life?
YOCOM: The highs consisted of some of the happiest times in my entire life. Sunrise hikes with the pups and coffee, and then it was back to the truck for a big breakfast. I’d edit a bit and catch up on “work” stuff. Then we were off to explore mountains, waterfalls, beaches, the desert or whatever was at our back door that particular day. Doing that in all the places I’ve always dreamed about, and then getting to photograph them, was truly special.
I do remember some low times, however. At one point I had friends ride along with me back to back for almost 2 months. After they left, I got to the most beautiful beach in Oregon, and I remember wanting to turn around and scream, “Isn’t this amazing!” I think happiness is always better when shared, but there is also something incredibly powerful about solo travel too.
I will say even though I love Oregon, I almost went mad after getting rained on for 3 solid weeks.
BRO: Any concerns about bus life?
YOCOM: I’m actually really looking forward to it, after a year traveling around in my truck I kind of figure a bus will feel like a palace. I guess one worry is driving that thing. Jordan said I did great but it’s definitely going to take some getting used to driving a 36ft vehicle on these mountain roads!
BRO: How did you decide to switch from truck life to bus life?
YOCOM: My girlfriend and I were looking at houses, and it just didn’t feel right. We don’t make a ton of money so we definitely didn’t want to get in over our heads or have to stress about mortgage payments.
I love getting to make photos for a living, I can’t imagine having to give that up and do something I hate in order to pay for a roof over my head. In this life, we are all going to have some sort of a home, transportation, clothes on our backs, and food on our plates…some just fancier than others. I think it’s what you do every day that matters a whole lot more than what you have. Another big factor is I don’t ever want to feel stuck. Now I can go anywhere I want, and be right at home.
I’m sure it also helps that my other half has a 3 and a half year in the making Pinterest collection on school bus conversions.
BRO: How does this way of life tie into your photography? Why is it important to you?
YOCOM: I tell people photography is easy. It’s just being there at the right time is the hard part. I lived in Haywood County for a while, so a large majority of my best work is there. With the ability to stay at locations comfortably, and have more time to truly get to know them I feel like I’d make better art. Along with getting to stick around until the right conditions take place is key too.
BRO: What does the future hold?
YOCOM:We will probably stick around here for a bit, we hope to buy some land or find a place that can be our home base so to speak. Once we are finished up with projects here I’d love to try and make a plan with my clients like last time where we set up product shoots all around the country. I had products to photograph and clients could sign up for “x” amount of locations to have pictures of it in for “x” amount of dollars. At one point we would love to spend a summer in Alaska and then maybe a winter down on the Baja of Mexico. I have dreams of hosting photography workshops all around the country along the way too. Most of mine have been local but after taking some students to Havasu Canyon last fall I definitely want to offer trips to some of my other favorite places too.
BRO: What are you sacrificing by living out of a vehicle and or transitioning from a truck to a bus?
YOCOM: “Trucklife” was difficult at times. I couldn’t afford an awning, so there were times I’d have to cook in the rain. In busy areas, it’s sometimes hard to find a place to camp for free. Boiling water to add to your shower tank on a cold day is tough, and sometimes there’s the desire to just be on a couch in a warm house watching Netflix or being able to spread out and stay dry.
But I think if the difference between going and not going are a few cold showers and a little discomfort, I’d do it again a million times over.
The bus, on the other hand, is going to have pretty much everything a normal home has. I have friends in New York City whose apartments are actually smaller. We may be sacrificing some space compared to most, but I’m a firm believer in minimalism and living a green life so I’m excited about it.
BRO: What were your top things to bring with you to live on the road?
YOCOM’S TOP GEAR PICKS:
- Yakima Rooftop tent – spacious, comfy and easy to set up
- Wool layers are an absolute favorite – it stays dry and doesn’t hold body odor
- A Dometic CFX Cooler – keep all your food/beers cold with minimal energy
- Dual battery system with inverter – keeps all your gear charged and camp needs
- Sony photography gear
- Sierra designs down blankets/bags
- UCO lanterns – They have LED and Candle versions I loved using the candles ones for light, felt like I had a mini fireplace.
- Campchef grill – has a burner for coffee and a griddle for cooking on.
- Spotify and some good tunes for the road!
BRO: What (so far) has been the adventure of your life?
YOCOM: The Year in the Wild project was definitely a best yet. It’s going to be hard to top but I’m definitely planning on trying.
I do not have it completely finalized yet, but basically, it will be a book documenting what a year living outside could look like, from some of the most beautiful places in the US… to some not so great times. It will be a blend of images / paired with journal entries from the time period to give a raw and honest take on it all. My biggest goal for it is to inspire people to get out and travel more, maybe live a little simpler in trade for a life a bit more full of experience and travel!
BRO: Any interests outside of photography?
YOCOM: My biggest are fly fishing, music, mountain biking, cooking, and just spending time with Jordan and the pups.
BRO: Bus Goals? Life Goals? Photo Goals?
Bus goals – We hope to have our bus finished by May, I’ll be posting updates on IG, and more in-depth ones on my website if you want to follow along. We are also bribing helpers with beers and pizza ;P
Life goals – I’d like to make some longer trips internationally take place, maybe a Patagonia and back trip in our home on wheels or something one day. I’d also like to become better on the business side of things. Taking pictures comes easy, but the rest of it can be difficult for me at times.
Photo goals – I’d really like to keep growing. I have dreams of being an ambassador for Sony or getting to go on assignment for Nat Geo one day. For now, I’m just excited about working with the Appalachian Adventure company this year. We guide folks on trips and document them too so folks can have some professional grade memories to hold onto. We are also hoping to host more cleanups, “how to” meetups, and more for 2019.
This year I’ve gotten a lot more traction with travel work and I’d like to keep heading in that direction too.
BRO: Any advice on vehicle life?
YOCOM: Stay simple. Have only what you need with you or it can be overwhelming at times. I remember sending a giant box back to my friends on my third week. Learn about BLM and national forest rules. Most people don’t realize you can camp for free in many places. Try to make plans and do your research on what to do, but also leave plenty of time to explore. Try a locals’ spot or stay longer if you absolutely love it. And most of all stay conscious of why you are doing it. Maybe it’s to travel, maybe it’s to save up for a home. Keep your goals written down somewhere you can see them every day and it’ll make that not so great times a little better.
All photos courtesy of Steve Yocom.
For more of his work visit his website here: http://steveyocomphotography.com/