FINDING ADVENTURE AT HOME
AFTER NEARLY SIX YEARS ON THE ROAD, ALEX AND ANDREA RETURN HOME TO MONTANA
To Alex Strohl (@AlexStrohl) and Andrea Dabene (@andreadabene), "home" has a particularly profound meaning. Travel is integral to their livelihood as outdoor and adventure photographers. So when it came to choosing a place that they could return to again and again, not just anywhere would do. Home had to be a place with roots, somewhere with a history, somewhere that they felt drawn to after each exhilarating assignment. It had to be a place where they could still go on adventures, get lost in nature. It also had to be a place with enough space for them to reflect on all that they had seen and done.
Alex and Andrea show us their home in Montana
It had to be Montana.
In the 1960s Alex’s father moved to Missoula in search of somewhere a little bit more wild than his native France. Alex grew up examining shiny Polaroids of snow-capped peaks and hearing his father’s stories about backcountry skiing in untouched wilderness. To this day, “Every time I hear the word ‘Montana’ I feel a rush of excitement,” says Alex.
Andrea, who has lived all over the world, fell in love with Montana’s long, quiet winters and bucolic beauty. Her best work, she says, is revealed when she’s photographing the natural world. Even though the adage is that your true self is revealed in travel, Andrea believes that having time for reflection is how you learn the most.
“Home is underrated,” she says. “When you come back from your travels to reflect on where you’ve been, that’s when you really find yourself.” Alex agrees: “At home you’re lazy, then you’re hard on yourself. You find a routine, and then you break it. It’s very revealing of who you are,” he adds.
“When you come back from your travels to reflect on where you’ve been, that’s when you really find yourself.”
With the help of the Discovery Sport, Alex and Andrea satisfy their curious personalities and hone their creative energy by exploring their home in unusual ways. Recently Alex and a small crew of Montana natives canoed down the North Fork of the Flathead River, a popular activity during the long summer days. But in the middle of winter, they had the whole river to themselves. It was a new experience even for those who had lived in Montana their whole lives.
On another local excursion, they ended up driving 4 hours overnight in a snowstorm to get to a backcountry ski resort. (“The roads weren't plowed and we were very glad we had the Discovery Sport,” Alex says.) They had planned to camp on the way, but the campground had been completely snowed in. So they kept going until they made it to the parking lot around 2 am and pitched their tents there. The next morning the resort was closed, so they had that all to themselves as well. “Ungroomed, ankle-deep powder turns all day...” recalls Alex with a grin.
Sometimes, it’s staying put that allows the photographers to see their home in a different light. While most others are sleeping, Alex uses the night sky as a backdrop. Shooting the night sky during the cold winter months not only yields beautiful images, it reveals new sensations. “I feel very vulnerable, like a real outsider when I’m alone at night,” he says. The feeling fuels his creativity. “I look for clear, moonless nights so we can photograph the Milky Way, or I like to find a body of water in the foreground so the stars reflect on the surface.”
When Montana thawed, Alex and Andrea resumed their nomadic ways. They headed to France in the spring to climb in the Pyrenees, bike the Alps and surf in the Basque Country. (“And to see our families and eat a lot of cheese,” Alex confirms.) They return to Montana each summer, ready to hit the road again.
Both seasons have aspects the photographers relish. Summer offers endless possibilities, but winter brings a slower pace to their home. It's then that they are thankful for how cold temperatures draw people together for warmth and conversation. They revel in driving the Discovery Sport down familiar roads rendered mysterious by a fresh layer of snow. And they discover, once again, the desire to begin the next adventure.
Alex’s tips for taking beautiful night-time photographs
- You need a DSLR camera, a tripod and a willingness to burn the midnight oil.
- Bring friends who share your interest in photography. It’s more fun to experiment together. And you can get creative using them as subjects.
- Set a 10-second timer on your camera so the vibration from your hand is dissipated once the long exposure begins.
- Bring a few batteries. They drain fast when doing 30-second exposures.
- The images in the LCD screen of the camera will look bright enough. However, this is an illusion. You’ll have to learn to read the curves in your camera instead.
“At home, you find a routine, and then you break it.”
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