Here at Passion Passport, we love hearing stories about people that turn their passions into a full time career. Tim Martin is someone who realized he wasn’t suited for a traditional 9-5 life and opted instead for the opportunity to travel the world and make it his job. Now based in Bangkok, we got a chance to catch up with him and hear how he got started and get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a travel photographer. As an added bonus, he shares below an epic behind the scenes video documenting a year of travel to 28 countries!
How did you begin your career as a photographer?
I’m from the States, but live in Bangkok now. I grew up in an airline family, so flying was always a part of my life. I went to university for Aerospace Engineering before deciding that spending life in a cubicle was not for me. I think the realization came about when I spent a semester coding minesweeper with a visual interface using FORTRAN 90/95, which is the language used for a lot of aerospace applications. While streamlining airfoils and winglets is super cool, the methods to do that involve thousands of hours crouched over a keyboard staring at a screen and trying to solve the seemingly endless errors that come with each new line of code. Since then I have been photographing.
How did growing up in an airline family influence your passion for travel?
It was just life for me. My dad would be gone half of the time, off to somewhere far away place. I always looked on a globe to see where he was at and had a big bag of coins from all over the world from places he would fly to. As I got older, I started flying a lot more where it became a big part of my life spending weekends in California, Florida or somewhere in the States. Then in university and afterwards it was almost all international travel.
For the last 8 years I’ve lived abroad, and can’t imagine moving back to the States anymore. Living overseas changes how you think and broadens the mind so much that thoughts like moving from Bangkok to Buenos Aires is not some crazy far fetched idea.
What’s your favorite part of being a travel photographer?
My favorite part of being a travel photographer is being able to see the world. Being a photographer has enabled me to experience everything from the deserts of Central Asia to a container ship in the Indian Ocean. I cannot imagine any other job that would bring you to so many places and create so many amazing memories and experiences.
Having a chance to experience the world firsthand is another favorite part of this job. This is everything from seeing the sights to hearing the sounds, tasting the delicacies and meeting locals. Talking to locals gives such a different perspective to things and allows me to shoot more like a local than a tourist. Even in a five minute conversation with a bartender or a waiter they will be happy to tell you about their favorite spot, or the coolest place in town that only locals know about. You’d never be able to find information about any of these places using Google. Talking with the locals also inspires me to try new things that I probably wouldn’t have done before. Everyone knows the phrase “When in Rome…” but the only real way to know what to do in Rome is to spend time with Romans. Being able to do this kind of travel instead of living vicariously through others is an incredible thing.
As a commercial photographer, what type of work do you shoot?
I mainly shoot travel features, but also do advertising campaigns and editorials. Some of the coolest travel stories i’ve shot involved driving around Iceland for a month, where I got to see what looked like Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings, hike through glacial fields and see what a waterfall looks like from behind the water. For the ad shoot side of the business, I’ve had the pleasure to photograph iron mines in Western Australia, CEOs in Korea and spend a day on a yacht in the Mediterranean.
For editorial shoots, it’s a mixed bag. Sometimes I have a clean slate and am able to shoot whatever looks best, or is the most unique or interesting thing in any given city/region. Other times there is a specific list of places, with specific layouts to shoot for. It really depends on the feature though. Photo essays are the most enjoyable and give the most freedom for me as a photographer.
How would you describe your visual style?
I shoot what I feel and try to incorporate that into my images. It is more about bringing a viewer into the image and conveying emotions, feelings, anything that can conjure up more than “oh that’s nice.” I shoot mostly with Zeiss prime lenses also, which have stunning color, contrast and bokeh. They can be a bit fickle sometimes, but to bring a viewer into a scene, they work perfectly for me.
This behind the scenes video is amazing! What was your inspiration behind creating it?
Thanks! The concept behind the video was to give art buyers and creatives a better idea about who I was without physically flying halfway across the world to meet them. I figured that showing them what a year in my life was like would be a great way to let them see who I am.
What was the timespan of the video and what were all the countries you visited?
The video started in January 2014 and ended at the end of 2014, so overall about one year. Countries visited in 2014 include in no particular order: Australia, Austria, Cambodia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Northern Cyprus, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, U.K., USA, Vatican City and Vietnam. I’d say that about half of the countries were for work and the other half for pleasure.
What did you use to shoot the video for the selfie parts and timelapses?
I used a couple of Canon 5D Mark II cameras with an assortment of lenses. For the selfie parts, I used a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 L and the timelapse elements used the same Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L, Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L, Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 and a Zeiss 85mm f/1.4. For the selfie aspects, I just held the shutter release down and pointed the camera at myself. Burst mode had about 10-20 shots in each sequence before the camera slowed down to write to the cards. For the time lapse elements, I plugged in a YongNuo intervalometer, set the settings, put the camera on a tripod and just let it run. The stop motion elements were mostly just from holding the shutter release down while in burst mode. Handheld, trying to not move the camera too often. The stop motion sequence of the camera bag getting packed was set up on a tripod. I would put one thing into the bag, then take a picture. Put another thing in, take another picture, and so forth.
By far the most difficult part of this video was keeping up with the shooting. Just doing it, remembering to take extra timelapses and extra selfies. I do not enjoy taking selfies because every time I see someone using a selfie stick, I see a person who is completely ignoring the amazing world around them. They seem to care more about themselves than anyone else, and I don’t want to be “that guy.”
The editing of this must have taken forever! What was your workflow and how long did it take?
Editing took a solid week to get done using a combination of Lightroom and Premiere Pro. I would batch process sequences in Lightroom then export them out with custom filenames and a numbered sequence, then import those into Premiere Pro as a sequence. Once in Premiere Pro, I would adjust the speed of the sequences until they looked normal. Sequencing the sequences took a couple of days to do also. Just moving the scenes around until they matched and complimented the ones before and after each other, making sure to have a good mixture of selfies and timelapses. The counters at the corner were just for fun (and yes, I do drink an excessive amount of coffee and wine).