Get to Know Vanguard Professional Pete Heck
We are proud to introduce award-winning travel photographer and Vanguard Professional Pete Heck.
Pete Heck is the main photographer behind Hecktic Travels. He and his wife have been traveling the globe since 2009 and in 2014 the couple were named one of The National Geographic Travelers of the Year. Completely self-taught in photography, the world has been Pete’s classroom and canvas. After traveling to over 40 countries he much prefers mountains and cold climates. You can find his work at photography.hecktictravels.com.
Pete uses an Alta Pro 254CT carbon fiber tripod, a BBH-300 ball head, and an Adaptor 46 backpack.
Read on to learn about his gear, his philosophy of travel, and his best advice to aspiring photographers!
How did you first fall in love with photography?
I really wish it came sooner but my full-on passion came during our first year of traveling. I’ve always enjoyed taking photos as a hobby, but being in unfamiliar countries and landscapes and wanting to recreate a photo exactly as I saw it is what started the passion.
Describe your photographic process - from conceptualizing a shot through to post-processing.
I’m a bit unorthodox when it comes to process. Most of the time when I arrive into a new location I’ll go for a long distance run and GPS track my run. It’s here that I’ll find the shots and spots where I want to shoot and mark them on a map. Also, I check out postcard stands. These give me an idea of some of the main attractions that I don’t want to miss.
Then I make note of the light, time of day and estimate what time of day I should return. I also rarely go out without my gear on me. You never know when you’ll need a tripod, a filter, or a specific lens. It puts a strain on my back carrying everything, but I feel that I won’t miss out because of lack of gear.
For post-processing, I download my photos everyday to make sure that I don’t lose any images. I carry two mirrored harddrives backed up with the files. For processing I mainly use the Adobe Suite starting in Bridge, into Lightroom for RAW editing and ending in Photoshop.
What's in your gear bag?
I shoot with a Canon 6D and a Fuji x30. For glass I carry the 24-105mm f/4, 16-35 f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4, 40mm f/2.8, Vanguard Alta Pro 254CT tripod with a BBH-300 head. For filters I carry a 10 stop ND, 6 stop ND, graduated ND, CPL, and UV. Non-camera gear include a dry bag, rain covers, a lens cleaning kit and a tool kit (you never know when you need tools). And I pack it all up in my Vanguard Adaptor 46 backpack.
Which photo(s) of yours, at this moment, are you most proud of?
My proudest photo was one of my earliest photos I took. It was winter time in Slovenia. My wife Dalene and I had ventured to Lake Bled to see the famous cathedral on the island, except when we arrived a thick blanket of fog was not allowing us to see anything. I decided I would hike around the lake and perhaps get lucky with a sighting and Dalene went off to grab a coffee. I was about to lose all hope when suddenly there it was. Frantically I snapped a few photos and hoped they would turn out. It’s a unique image compared to most at this setting and I’m sure happy I gave it a shot.
What is it about travel that fulfills you? How does photography play into your sense of purpose?
Exploring the unknown and unchartered territory is the buzz that travel gives me. Trying to capture that moment by recreating the scene in a photograph is how photography plays into that sense of purpose.
You tend to stay in each place longer than your average nomad. What do you hope to accomplish during each extended stay?
Staying longer and traveling slower allows us to live like locals. We do a lot of housesitting or tend to stay in apartment rentals, and usually these are outside of the tourist zones. This gives us a true flavour of what the place is about. We feel our stories are more intimate along with the photos we are able to capture, as we’re able to meet more of the locals and experience their daily life.
With the proliferation of travel blogs and of travel photography, how do you seek to make your blog & photography different?
Since the start, our blog has always been about our personal story with the destinations we visit playing a supporting role and offering us new experiences. We don’t often give tips or advice or lists of things to do or not to do. It is a pure reflection upon our experiences along the way. Not many other bloggers have traveled as long as we have, nor do they (over)share as much as we do.
You and your wife just won a National Geographic Travelers of the Year Award for 2014. How have things changed since then?
It’s been a roller coaster of a ride. We found out six months before the announcement and we were so grateful for that time. We overhauled our website and prepared for a media blitz, but also thought about what we really wanted to get out of having the title. We know previous winners who have gotten book deals and more, but what we realized after some deep thought is that we really wanted nothing to change. We love the life we were living. And so we are able to continue on as we are, but now with a tremendous award to be proud of.
What is your dream destination or adventure?
For me it’s Nepal. I want to hike the Anna Purna circuit, as well as hike to Everest base camp. The scenery there looks incredible. And I want to be able to take my time, to soak it all in and take a few (thousand) photos along the way.
What’s your best advice to aspiring photographers?
- Learn to shoot in manual or Aperture mode and get out of Auto. I personally think they should not even have these settings on DSLR’s. One should never rely on the smart settings of a camera to capture a scene.
- Make sure to shoot in RAW so that you capture as much information as possible.
- Have a sturdy, reliable tripod that you can carry with you at all times. You never know when you’ll need it.