Traveling immerses us in the world, but sometimes in the less eventful moments in between destinations, we just need to escape. “The Layover” is a weekly roundup of books, music, podcasts, and other forms of entertainment brought to you by your favorite world travelers.
This week, we reached out to Dennis Stever, a travel and landscape photographer based in Vancouver, Canada. Over the last 10 years, Dennis has traveled to 50 countries, working with national tourism campaigns, hotel brands, airlines, and consumer brands to share stories and dream destinations. Today, he discusses the entertainment he turns to during travel’s quieter moments.
“Veriditas” by Helios
My passion for travel and landscape photography is based in curiosity — an itch to see the world and discover some of its most unique and intriguing places. In order to bolster the atmosphere of discovery, I often turn to ambient music to create a full symphony for the senses. For reference, a quick Google search for “ambient music” leaves us with the following: “Ambient music is a genre of music that puts an emphasis on tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm.” In my opinion, these words truly capture the essence of this genre: the connection between music and photography. One such artist who personifies this type of music and stimulates the visual side of my mind while I’m discovering new places is Helios.
Helios has been a staple in my music library for some time now, from their 2004 release of “Unomia” to “Veriditas” in 2018. I continually find comfort in the relaxing and dreamy scores created by composer Keith Kenniff. Most recently, while hosting a Northern Lights workshop in Finland, I found myself listening to his latest album on repeat.
Between the subzero temperatures and the late nights spent in anticipation, photographing the Aurora Borealis can be a challenge. On this trip in particular, the odds of seeing the Northern Lights were low due to forecasted clouds. After hours of waiting, I lay in bed, succumbing to exhaustion. When the final song, “Mulier,” came to a close, the sudden silence jolted me out of my sleepy daze. It was close to 4 a.m., but before I packed away my belongings and truly turned in for the night, I thought I would have one more look toward the skies. In disbelief, I could see a faint green wisp through the thin clouds. I threw on the warmest clothes I could find and braced myself for the -20℉ (-30℃) weather outside. I ended up shooting for an hour, replaying “Veriditas” as the cold dark night above the Arctic Circle made the perfect backdrop to the mesmerizing sounds.
Although I might be biased here, “Sickboy” has been the most important podcast in my library since its inception in September 2015. Founded by my twin brother, Brian Stever, and our two best friends, Jeremie Saunders and Taylor MacGillivary, the show aims to destigmatize the conversation about illness using humor and laughter. The topics range from Achalasia to X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Syndrome, and everything in between. Exploring each guest’s personal experience with their disease or illness, the weekly podcast encompasses a range of subjects and emotions. To put it simply: I never miss an episode. While I’m on the road, “Sickboy” allows me to stay connected with family and friends, regardless of where in the world I find myself.
That being said, I would still be an avid fan of this podcast even if I didn’t have familial ties to one of the hosts. As an introvert, I believe in skipping the small talk and diving into deep and meaningful conversation, and this podcast does exactly that. It encourages us to connect on a deeper level. While traveling, it’s important to find common ground with individuals from all backgrounds, religions, and cultures, so I find it especially applicable in my life and work. Whether you’re in Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, or Kenya, we all share a commonality — the human experience — and I believe it’s important to recognize that.
“The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition” by Caroline Alexander
I picked up “the Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition” after it was recommended to me by a close friend and mentor a few years ago. At the time, I had been living in Dubai for three or four years and found escape in dreaming of colder destinations. He, too, had been based in Dubai and suggested downloading the audiobook and listening to it with the air conditioning on full blast (which is exactly what I did). It was just what I needed. In fact, this tale of challenge, exploration, and adventure inspired me to visit places like Norway, Iceland, and Finland — and it’s put Antarctica at the top of my bucket list.
Not only has Ernest Shackleton’s mission to explore the Antarctic encouraged me to visit one of the most uninhabited locations on earth, the sheer scale of his attempt is inspirational. For those who aren’t familiar, (spoiler alert) Shackleton and his crew were stranded in the ice pack and left with a glorified lifeboat and frigid waters to contend with. He eventually sailed more than 800 miles (1300 kilometers) through treacherous seas, only to be greeted by a mountain range and glacial field separating him from the intended whaling station outpost. Ultimately, Shackleton completed his journey and returned to rescue 22 of his men who were still stuck on the rocky outcrop known as Elephant Island.
After listening to this story, I realized that a lot of the challenges I face as a travel photographer are relatively insignificant. Whether it’s waking up at 2 a.m. to catch the sunrise from the top of a mountain or missing out on sleep to capture the midnight sun, nothing really compares to the challenges faced by early explorers. Nevertheless, my admiration for these pioneers has challenged me to look past my comfort zone. When considering new locations, I’ve been inspired to appreciate the journey, embrace discomfort, and seek the unknown.
For more entertainment recommendations, sift through our Layover archives here!