Story and photography by Ethan Meleg
Being an outdoor photographer is rugged and badass. We’re not sissy office workers who sip on lattes, wear designer shirts and own manicured poodles. Our lifestyle is exactly how you imagine it: we spend our days scaling mountains, stalking Grizzly Bears and paddling our kayaks through wilderness areas where nobody has ever been before. We forage on pinecones for lunch and save children from the jaws of carnivorous animals. It’s a hardcore way of life, but someone has to do it.
Based on this lifestyle, you might expect me to drive a Land Rover, Hummer or Russian military truck built in Siberia during the cold war. You know… the kind of vehicle that can easily drive over a fallen redwood trunk, cross a raging river and then catapult itself over an avalanche.
The truth is, I drive a minivan – I mean “manly van.” Oh sure, on the surface it may not appear to be as hardy as a Hummer, but don’t be fooled by the soccer mom styling. My manly van is plenty hardcore with a super-sized side dish of practicality. It’s the dream vehicle for an outdoor photographer!
First off, nobody looks at my van and says, “Let’s see if there’s anything in there worth stealing.” There’s no indication that the van is actually full of expensive camera gear, which is exactly how I like it. Along the same lines, animals do not find it threatening. Some of my best wildlife photos, shot out of the window of the van, are of animals snickering at me.
The ads for minivans describe the cargo space as “roomy.” This is the greatest understatement ever made since one of your friends said, “I think digital photography may take off” back in the mid-’90s. My minivan is basically a storage unit on wheels. I can load up every piece of photography gear I own, plus tents, bikes, a canoe and kayak…. and still have room to pick up a full-sized fridge. The stow-and-go seat compartments could have been designed specifically with photographers in mind. They are perfect for hiding camera gear completely out of sight.
Now let’s not forget about versatility. When the seats are folded down, I roll out a sleeping bag and the van instantly transforms into a stealthy RV. I can park it just about anywhere and catch a few ZZZZs before my next photo shoot. I’ve probably slept in your driveway before and you had no idea.
The next time you’re in the market for a new vehicle, or are simply admiring the latest television ad featuring an SUV driving over a mountain, don’t get fished in by the hype. Any self-respecting outdoor photographer who’s able to say, “I don’t give a crap what people think about my vehicle” knows that a minivan, I mean manly van, is the perfect set of wheels!
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