Skyler Greene is a photographer, designer, and traveler from northern California. He’s been traveling since secondary school, after joining TEAM, a wilderness exploration program which was comprised of backpacking, experiential learning, and group cohesion. It is there where he learned how to survive with what could fit in a rucksack in extreme elements, under the guidance of his mentors.
“Traveling as a creator is really about balancing one’s desire to capture, and one’s desire to be present.”
Hi Skyler, how are you doing?
Hey there! Feeling fresh and rejuvenated at the moment, thanks for asking.
Where does your travel bug come from?
It started in high school when I studied under Chuck Ford, who studied under Ansel Adams himself and it continued in college; I studied in three European universities: Italy, Sweden, and Germany, acquiring the vernacular language and making friends with whom I’ve shared some of my greatest memories. Much of my college education occurred outside lecture halls and on buses, trains, and in pubs around rural and urban Europe. Nevertheless, I completed my bachelor’s degree in 4 years. Later, in July 2013, I graduated the School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, Germany. From there I set out to explore more of my home country, on a road trip from New York to Los Angeles that would last 55 days and cover over 12,000 miles. This adventure sparked my love for the American landscape and laid the foundation for my future travel endeavors. Since then, I’ve been creating, designing, and freelancing around Los Angeles using my skills to support myself in the entertainment metropolis. Currently, I’m growing my two design projects, Candy Mountain Collective and SkyFish. And, that about brings you up to speed!
Do you travel for your pictures or travel with your camera?
Both I suppose. Sometimes putting together small road trips with friends with the intention of going out and making photos can be the greatest. Together you seek unique destinations, high peaks, and undiscovered trails which yield amazing photographs in the company of people whom you care for and respect. Often, the best moments come when you aren’t expecting them, but something happens candidly and you’re lucky enough to catch it. While other times, it’s important to know when to put the camera down and be present in the moment. Traveling as a creator is really about balancing one’s desire to capture, and one’s desire to be present. Life is a string of ephemeral moments, choosing how and which moments are captured is entirely up to the photographer.
When you travel, what gives you the most satisfaction?
When you can say aloud, “WOW!”, even if you’re by yourself. For example, hiking up a rocky hill to overlook a beautiful lake and a snow covered mountain in front of you. With film, you risk something you didn’t plan for, effecting your image – which can be both beautiful and devastating. The lapsing time between exposure and development can be so anxious. Then comes the magical moment when you view the developed negatives for the first time and you find that one frame that triggers the exact feelings, smells, and tastes you had while exposing it. Even better is being able to share those moments with your friends and audience. Be that as it may, you can get this same satisfaction from digital photography, the gratification is just premature. Regardless, a good photograph brings you back to the time of exposure, no matter how many years have elapsed.
A lot of your pictures show road trips and adventures, how do you manage to be on the road so often?
It really takes a strong passion and clear vision to travel so often. One can easily loose oneself, never staying in one place long enough to dig in roots and create an identity. You gotta have a strong mind, I think in Mexico they call it “duramente”.
A couple of things have enabled my travel, firstly, my eagerness to leave the city I live in, and my ability to thrive in foreign places. The grasping desire to see enchanting places keeps me moving, and a body in motion, stays in motion. I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve found ways to make a living off of travel. One of my recent positions was managing social media for WeWood Watches who paid for me to take pictures of their watches everywhere I went.
How do you support yourself in between trips or on the road? (I know this is a bit nosy, but we’re trying to inspire people to pack their bags.)
Since college, photography and creative design have been my sole source of income. I don’t know anything else. Many of my opportunities to support myself include travel, and I’ve selected my clientele thusly. My main gig at the moment is photographing music festivals, many of which require travel outside my city, outside my state, and sometimes outside my country. A 9-5 job just never allowed me the creative freedom to do exactly what I was passionate about, so I created my own career. Now I’m working a lot more than 40 hours a week and loving it.
Shooting music festivals for has put me in the same arena with many wonderful and talented photographers, all of whom I respect, many of whom I look up to, and a select group of whom I call my friends – namely, the Insomniac photo team.
I wanted a travel filled life, and luckily, I found people who believed in me and gave me the confidence to continue on my pathway. The longer I chase this passion, the more inspiring people I meet. The most important thing is to surround yourself with people who inspire you. A wise man once told me: “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
How do you decide where your next trip will lead to?
How does the wind decide what direction to blow? How does a bear decide which stream to forage? How does a bee decide which flower to dance on? – But in all seriousness, it really depends on budget, how much time I have, what time of year it is, and where my gut is telling me to go.
If you could pick any spot on planet Earth to visit, where would it be and why?
There are 3 places I really want to see in the next 5 years: Borneo – to see the wild orangutans; Cuba – to travel back in time and live like i’m in the 1950’s; Burma – to wake up in a magical land where jungle temples sweep the horizon.
Who do you like to have with you on the road?
People who are conscious and awakened. The kind of people with whom you can discuss endless facets of philosophy, introspection, and can speak candidly without any walls or boundaries. My lover. My homies. My friends. Maybe one day a Staffordshire Terrier named Hawking.
You’re a part of Candy Mountain Collective and Skyfish, what can you tell us about that?
These are my babies – projects that began from big ideas and close friendships.
Candy Mountain Collective is a group of creative professionals who all came together because we love traveling and wanted to find ways we could work with small artisanal brands we love, take them on the road with us, and return with rich beautiful imagery. The team consists of photographers, film makers, illustrators, brand liaisons, and social media marketing gurus. Our most recent projects were producing a video for a wilderness perfuming company, Juniper Ridge, in the Sierra Buttes; and creating look book imagery for a Portland based apparel brand, Bridge & Burn. We’re still growing into our potential. I’m excited for the future of CMC and for the opportunity to create along side more craft brands who share our lust to be outside and in the wild.
SkyFish is my experiential, academic, and groovy sound project. The aim for the project is to combine music, people, and human interaction…guiding participants through a sonic story of lecture audio, deep techno beats, and ambient psychoacoustic sounds which harmonize with the environment and context we are in. It’s me and my co-creator, James Fish, an extremely talented designer, and bright well-rounded human being. We met while at the D-School in Germany where we began to create music experiences. James is one of those people I like to have with me on the road. In fact, this summer we’re taking SkyFish to Iceland, Italy, Germany, and Turkey. So far we’ve put together a handful of amazing events, including a desert retreat in Joshua Tree, a Nordic temple experience aboard an old Icelandic cargo ship, and later this year we’re aiming to bring participants back in time, to our homo sapiens roots on a special mountain, a location known for it’s natural healing properties. It’s pretty far out.
Feel free to dig deeper on these projects: candymountaincollective.com and weareskyfish.com
What can you tell us about your upcoming trips?
On the horizon is: my European trip, Burning Man, and a specialized event for our participants on sacred space, which I mentioned above, with SkyFish. Also coming up is: a stunning video Candy Mountain Collective is currently working on, which focuses on the hands of craftsmans in the High Sierra chaparral, and some great photo content from a camping trip in Ojai, California. In between all that, I’ll be traveling with Insomniac… Las Vegas for Electric Daisy Carnival, Michigan for Electric Forest, and with the Insomniac photo team for a little excursion to Detroit. I have another exciting personal project, which is under wraps right now… all I can say is that it has to do with psychedelic rock music in the 60’s and commemorates some of the greatest musicians of the hippy generation.
How do you hope to grow as a photographer?
By helping those around me to grow with me. Creating a team where I am inspired by my co creators, having fun creating what we love to create, and getting paid for it. I want to stay invigorated and activated by the wonder and beauty of Mother Nature and mankind. While I won’t ever stop making photos, I see myself growing into creative directing roles, guiding a larger vision alongside groups and teams of fellow creatives.
If there was a phrase that you think best sums up your approach to a life of travel, what might it be?
“Happiness only real when shared.” –Christopher McCandless
When you’re traveling, what is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Drink water! If you’re traveling you’re expending energy, it’s important to stay hydrated and healthy. Listen to your body, it’s probably telling you something right now that you’re ignoring.
What is the most beautiful thing you experienced on the road?
How do you like your toast?
Lightly toasted with cashew butter, avocado, and a dash of sea salt. Thanks!
w. skygreenephoto.com i. @skygreene
Interview by Vicky Schilperoort firstname.lastname@example.org
photographs by Sky Greene