Seth Freedman: We have Forrest Smith with us today calling from a small little cafe in Salem, Oregon. Forrest, thanks for coming on the show.
Forrest: Thank you for having me.
I’m looking at your page right now. You have amazing outdoor photography….some really great shots. Is that what inspired you to get into travel?
Actually, I think the travel came first. That’s really what inspired me to get into photography. Basically, I’ve just got an appreciation for the outdoors and that’s what I decided I wanted to take pictures of when I started.
Let me ask you….when you went on your first trip….the first one that really stuck out….where did you go and how were you feeling on that trip?
It was pretty terrifying. I think a lot of travelers sort of step out of their comfort zones on their first trip. It was the same for me. I went on a road trip with my girlfriend about 3 years ago through a lot of western America. We went to Yosemite and basically car camped the whole time. We didn’t really have plans for it. It was a kind of transformative experience. We were on the road for about 15 days. It was a really good experience. My first time really getting into photography was on the road as well.
What type of camera do you use?
Currently, I use a Cannon 5….(?) Back then I was shooting on a Cannon….(?) They’re both great cameras.
Everybody’s a different type of traveler. Maybe photographer is the type of traveler you are. What type of traveler would you say you are?
I really like staying in one spot and getting to experience it as much as possible. I travel with a lot of people that like to go places and see as much as they can. I like to spend as much as much time as possible at one lake or one particular campsite and just kind of getting a sense for the area and the terrain. For the most part, I spend a lot of time on the road, road tripping.
I see a lot of log cabins in your pictures. Do you spend a lot of time outdoors when you’re traveling around? I mean, whose log cabins were these? Did you guys just find these? Are they your friends?
For the most part, they belong to people I know. Friends. I grew up in a small town in Colorado with about 1,500 people tucked away up in the mountains. A lot of people actually just live in these cabins in the woods. I just like the culture out there. A lot of my friends just have these little getaways and whatnot tucked away in the woods. It’s always been something that really attracts me.
You have beautiful photos. So right now with the American media, there is there’s so much bad stuff happening everywhere. How has that affected you as a traveler? Do you feel less safe when you travel or has it not affected you at all?
I don’t know how much it’s actually affected my mindset when I go out and travel. What was really interesting was earlier this year when I went to Puru, I was basically out of cell reception for 19 days. Then getting back to the states and just hearing about all this political stuff going on….it was really interesting because I’d gone dark for almost 20 days. Travel has almost been an escape from the American media, which is good and bad. It takes my mind off things. I really don’t have time to think about what’s going on. I don’t necessarily feel more unsafe now.
Have you ever had any serious hardships while traveling anywhere? Are there any experiences you had where you were scammed while traveling?
Yeah, I have been scammed. I think you just have to have your wits about you as much as possible when you’re traveling. Whenever you’re in an area where you don’t know the people as much or how to get around, you just have to understand that you’re out of your element and kind of approach situations with a different mind state than you normally would. Peru was definitely a big wake up call for me in that regard. Getting into the city in Lima is kind of scary. We had a sketchy taxi driver but that’s pretty much the worst that’s happened so far.
And then there’s always some good experiences. I’m sure there’s been some on your trips. What are some good experiences you’ve had? Is there a place that just sticks out in your mind above anything else?
Forrest: Yeah. It’s kind of a cliche you see a lot on social media these days, but Yosemite is a place that always blows my mind every time I go back. I see things in a new way or get on a new trail that I’ve never been on before. It’s just absolutely mind-blowing. I love the valley out there. It’s just insane.
I’m sure the sunsets are pretty unreal there too.
Yeah it’s great. I recommend it.
Do you like to travel alone for the most part?
It’s on and off. The last road trip I went on, I drove up from Colorado through Wyoming and Montana and around Washington. I did it by myself. Aside from that, I go with my girlfriend a lot and just friends and family.
That was going to be my next question: If you have a girlfriend. What percentage of the time do you guys travel together?
We travel together a lot, actually. She’s really into biology so being on site is great for both of us. She sees things completely differently than I do. She’s out there looking at plants and I’m looking at compositions and mountains and whatnot. So we both get something out of it.
Do you guys have anything you do on trips together, like romantic routine or like something you do at every place together to create a memory?
We used to collect things. We have little stones from the Olympic Peninsula and just small twigs from the Yosemite Valley, just little things. We keep these things all together to remind us of places we’ve been. I guess it’s romantic but being on the road together can be tough as well because you’re in a tight space. But it’s almost always worth it.
How do you afford your travels? Do you do work and then travel? Are you a full-time traveler?
For the most part, I work a lot and then travel. At this point, I’m trying to make photography trips and get sponsors and go epic places. But when I travel I’m pretty much on a shoestring. I’ll be eating a can of beans for dinner. It’s pretty low-budget.
What else do you do to save money?
I budget as much as possible when I’m not traveling. I eat cheap. My rent’s cheap. I just try to spend as little money as possible. I think that’s a good way to do it.
Now if you had to recommend a must-see a place….you said Yosemite already, which is amazing….is there anywhere else that you would recommend?
Yeah, I would recommend the Redwoods up in northern California. It’s absolutely insane out there. I think the best part is that there aren’t as many people as there are in Yosemite and places like that. My mind is blown every time I go out there. Those trees are so big. It’s one of my favorite spots to go back to time and time again.
Cool. For anybody that’s trying do an outdoors landscape photography traveler lifestyle, what’s some advice that you would give them to get going?
Looking back on my own journey through this whole thing, I would say just go out and have epic experiences. You can’t stage that in a photograph. Sometimes the storytelling element gets lost in a lot of photographs these days….you know, going out and getting the same compositions, recreating things. At the end of the day, finding a story is more important than composition. I think just getting outside and putting yourself in epip situations that are really radical and capturing those moments as you go.
Besides your cameras, is there a must-have that you don’t go anywhere without?
I bring my laptop almost everywhere so I can edit photos on the go. And coffee. I need my coffee. That’s about it.
Everybody needs their coffee. So this question is a little bit morbid but I like to ask everybody that’s on the show. If you woke up tomorrow and only had two months to live, after spending time with your loved ones, what would you do? Where would you go and what would you do?
I think I would probably go somewhere I’d never been before. I don’t know if I’d set out with much of a plan but certainly South America. My time in Peru was so insane, I’d probably go explore it more. Colombia is absolutely unreal. I don’t know if I’d bring my camera. I think I would just kind of try to get out in the mountains.
Where were you off to next?
I’m actually headed to Boston this weekend. My good friend Jacob is building a cabin so I’m going to be there documenting the whole process of raising the walls and putting the roof on. I’m really excited to see it. He’s absolutely a master at this type of stuff. It just blows my mind.
I mean, the cabins that you have on your Instagram are beautiful so I can imagine this one’s going to be just as beautiful. We’re just going to wrap this up now. I just want to give the audience a little piece of you that they might not know from your social media or your website. Is there something you want to tell us that’s fun, interesting, exciting, embarrassing, a little piece of Forrest?
Yes. I think what most people don’t know about me is that I’m a full-time college student. I go to school at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. I’m just wrapping up my senior year. I like good jokes so if you see me and you have a good joke, feel free to tell it to me.
Can you tell us a joke?
I’ve got a really bad joke, if you want.
Okay. Why do they call seagulls seagulls?
Because if they flew over the bay, they’d be called bagels.
Okay, that’s kind of funny. isn’t it. Well, I really appreciate you coming on the show. You’re just full of life you’re a funny guy and an amazing photographer. Check out Forrest on Instagram. @lostintheforrest or on his website at forrestwinants.com. I appreciate you coming on!