With fellow photographer Dan Denardo
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The World in 365
Lately, I’ve been in and out of darkness, traversing through land, sea, and air—catapulting myself across oceans in every direction—back and forth. I’m tired, drained of emotions, exhausted beyond comprehension.
During the last two months, I’ve traveled to over sixteen countries, four continents, and six different time zones. I’ve seen night for day and day for night. I’ve been to the ends of the earth and back—from the toughest terrains to the wrenching heartache of rubble and despair. From the Himalaya’s of northern India to the depths of desperation in earthquake torn Haiti. The world just seems so much smaller than it used to be.
Sometimes, amidst my travels, I’d find time and space for myself—alone and desolate, just me and my thoughts—I’d sit there wondering where else I’d rather be. Dust and dirt littered my hair, the stench of body odor of days past permeated through my pores, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better or worse, it always does—one way or another. But at the end of each day when I’d lay my head to rest, I’d look up into the abyss and stare into complete darkness—close my eyes—and gently smile to myself as I reflected upon what I had done. And at that very moment, I knew that this was my place and time, my calling—and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Most recently, I’ve just returned from an assignment in Haiti with my good friend and fellow award-winning photographer Dan Denardo. It was harder than most assignments—because this time, I went in without a camera and dared myself to simply write about my experience and turned the challenge of shooting photo’s over to Dan. Words cannot describe how hard it was for me to give up my tools, but I knew that there was no photog out there better than Dan. His work is world class.
Robbed naked of my cameras, I walked the beat of a journalist—writing and etching my thoughts on paper as the sound of Dan’s shutter echoed just inches away from my ears. From one tent city to another, one mound of rubble to the next, we ventured into some of the most sordid environments known to man. But in the midst of darkness and despair prevailed an underlying truth that most media outlets do not talk about—and that truth, is HOPE. There is more to Haiti than broken homes and shattered dreams, carnage and desperation—there’s more, a lot more.
Through Dan’s stunning photography and my words, I hope to bring to you stories that will touch you, reach deep into the depths of your heart and instill within you a profound understanding of our world—in all her glory—and suffering—and at the end of it all, you and I, and all those we reach--shall be changed.
Living life on foreign assignment is no ordinary task. It takes planning—lots of planning! So much so that it ultimately takes priority over many facets of my life. The more I plan, the better I am prepared for the unknown.
In 2009, I traveled to 17 countries within twelve months. 279 days of my life was spent traveling. In total, I circumvented the globe 4 times. A few readers have asked several times how I do it. How do I jump from one country to another and stay safe, healthy, and organized? Today, I reveal to you how I prepare for each and every assignment—and how I manage to adapt to the many facets that shape my life, and my career.
The War Room:
Tucked deep in my unfinished basement is an area where I call “The War Room.”
I know it sounds cliché, but believe me, I approach a lot of my scenarios the same way a soldier would in the field. Maybe it’s because I’ve been trained by the military—or maybe it’s simply the fact that I have a lot of respect for the men and women that defend our nation. It’s both. They know how to get things done—and they’re good at it!
Organization is key. After spending hours of research about a country or geography, I’d make a mental note of what I need to bring, how I’m going to survive, and what challenges I might face. Then, I head downstairs to the war room. In it, is a collection of gear that I’ve purchased in bulk and kept in stock for quick access and replenishing. From clothing to first-aid, personal care items to knives, toothbrushes to flashlights, I have everything labeled and neatly categorized. Sometimes, my assignments are back-to-back with only quick pit-stops at home before heading out again to another country—so being organized and well stocked with supplies saves me time from having to go shopping and allows me to rest in between assignments. For instance, I never have to worry if I’ve got enough toothpaste or power bars in between my assignments from India to Haiti. I’d rather rest and get my bearings in the 48 hours I have before heading out again.
Hot and Cold
On the right side of the room is Cold Gear. On the left is Hot Gear. Doing this allows me to quickly identify what clothing and equipment I need--depending on the destination I am going to and the temperatures I’ll be facing. Socks and underwear, base layers, mids, and outer shells are all separated for specific weather conditions. Footwear, rain gear, sleeping bags, tents and even cooking supplies are all taken into consideration with weather. It’s an important element that I constantly keep in mind.
For those that know me, know that I am one of those guys who buy fours of everything I own. Sometimes even five or six of everything. This allows me to pre-pack before going on assignments back-to-back.
Sometimes, I’d have three to four backpacks fully stuffed and ready to go before leaving for my first destination. When I return for my pit stop, I simply grab the next backpack in line and take off again.
I spend a lot of time making sure my first aid kit is always up to date. I’m a big fan of assembling my own first aid kit and avoid buying pre-packed kits. Most of the kits you see on the camping store shelf is designed to look like you’re getting a lot for your money, when in actuality, most of the things in there will never be used. My kit is basic and kept simple for 1 reason: In an emergency situation, I need to know where everything is and what it’s used for.
When preparing for any foreign assignment, I put together two kits: 1 for trauma and 1 for basic cuts and bruises that I carry with me at all times. The kits include the following:
2x C-A-T Combat Application Tourniquets (For arterial bleeds)
2x Latex Gloves
2x QuickClot Gauze and Hemostatic Bandage
2x Emergency Trauma Dressing (4inch).
1x Roll of medical tape
Planning Makes Perfect
Again, I can’t reiterate enough about the importance of planning in what I do. If you intend to do this type of work/travel for a living, learn to keep yourself organized and stay ontop of your game by being prepared.
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me or message me on Facebook.
Blogger Note: I'm currently working out logistics on when I will be dispatched to Haiti in the next few weeks. Please stay tuned.
The view from Media One at night--following an Olympic Torch Bearer.
The view from Media One during the day time following an Olympic Torch Bearer. Crowds line the streets.
The view from inside Media One as we follow an Olympic Torch Bearer running with the flame. Photo: Chris Bolin/Canadian Press
Media One from the outside. Photo: Chris Bolin/CP
Posing with Olympic Torch Bearer Marie-Josee Raincourt and producer extraordinaire Jonathan Moser. Photo: Chris Bolin/CPInterviewing Olympic Torch Bearer George Pietersma.