Photography, Raising Awareness, Van adventure: Jackson Berger

My name is Jackson Berger. I'm a professional photographer with an addiction to documenting remote locations across the globe. Being a photographer has given me numerous opportunities to push beyond my comfort zone and explore further than I ever thought was possible. There's something really special about being completely immersed in the wilderness away from the fast paced real world that lights a fire within me and drives me to continue exploring this beautiful planet.

My most recent expedition was something out of a dream that took our crew across the country to the pristine mountains of Idaho. This particular trip is part of a series called Fight to SOAR (Save our American Rivers) in which we travel the country raising awareness for some of America's suffering rivers and environments. Our goal is to capture the beauty of each area to inform our audience about the delicate state of our environment and more importantly to be mindful of keeping it pristine. A secondary goal of ours is to inspire people to get outside and find their own adventure, todays society is so caught up in technology that some people forget there's a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. 

Getting back to the Idaho expedition. This trip started out for me in Jacksonville Beach, Florida in my 2005 Ford E-350. I had spent the previous month retrofitting the van so that we would be able to comfortably live out of it for a month. We hit the road and drove through the night for what felt like an eternity through the corn fields and desert planes of the mid west and finally ended up in Salt Lake City, Utah where we attended Outdoor Retailer, the biggest trade show for the outdoor industry. Our plan there was to meet up with like-minded companies that wanted to help us achieve our goals of raising awareness for the environment. After about a week of way too much networking for my taste we were finally headed to Idaho where we would be off the grid in the Sawtooth Mountains for 7-10 days depending on how our bodies held up in the high altitude.

This expedition through the Sawtooth Mountains was also a special trip because it would be the first time that a paddle board would be traversed through the area and used on the many alpine lakes in the region. As great as this sounds, carrying an inflatable paddle board strapped to your pack is something out of a nightmare. Backpacking with a full load for 10 days is hard enough as it is, and then add the weight of this board and you have a recipe for disaster. Our legs started giving out on us after the first few steps and that night at camp we questioned why we were even out there attempting something of this magnitude. After a few days our bodies began to become accustomed to the weight of the packs and even though it was potentially the most pain I have ever been in, being out in the middle of nowhere is the best feeling in the world. On the final day we limped out of the woods and the sight of the van parked in the distance was our final indicator the we had completed the expedition and we were all in one piece (for the most part.)

Although this part of the trip was over, we still had another week on the road, taking us through Vegas and down the bottom half of the country all the way back to Florida. It was interesting to change environments so rapidly, from the remote mountains of Idaho to the madness of the Las Vegas strip. As we sat in traffic on the strip, I wondered why so many people were drawn to this chaos. I thought to myself, what if all of these people were to go and spend 7 days off the grid as we had just done, would it change their perspective on the world? I'm not sure of the answer, but I do know this, Vegas is not for me. After a few days in the desert we headed east for Florida, driving through the night stopping at a few iconic stops along the way including Horse Shoe Bend in Arizona, Cadillac Ranch in Texas and Duck Dynasty's HQ in Louisiana.

After 3 weeks on the road living out of the van, I thought I would be relieved to come back to my real life. But upon returning my eyes had been opened to so many possibilities and opportunities that lay beyond my normal 10 mile radius of Jacksonville Beach, Florida. I am still trying to adjust to sleeping in one spot every night and sticking to the same weekly routine. Van life is really the good life!