Landscape and adventure photography often involves the pursuit of images far away from paved roads. Those of us who are afflicted with chasing the light in locations deep in the backcountry have a certain set of needs – a rugged and reliable vehicle to get us where we’re going, shelter for those all-too-short nights, secure storage for our expensive gear, a way to charge batteries where wall sockets don’t exist and a convenient food storage and preparation system. In this post I’ll introduce the concept of the “Ultimate Off-Road Vehicle for Outdoor Photography” and discuss how I plan to build such a beast using my 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser as the guinea pig.
What I’m not doing is building a rock crawler. Yes, the final vehicle will be capable of running tough four wheel drive trails like Black Bear Pass, Lockhart Basin or the Rubicon but it will also be comfortable on long stretches of two lane tarmac or high speed highway. It’s my daily driver. I need to be able to run to the grocery store without rattling loose a few fillings. The Ultimate Off-Road Vehicle for Outdoor Photography will essentially be built for overlanding – with the specific needs of photographers in mind. If all goes as planned, the build will be finished by the spring of 2013, at which time I’ll do a few shakedown trips in the Desert Southwest to dial everything in.
I’m detailing the whole build right here on my blog. I’ll periodically post updates on the build process, including the logic behind every piece of equipment added to the FJ. Photographers have some unique needs when it comes to building an off-road vehicle. As a working landscape and adventure photographer with over 15 years of experience in off-road driving, I’m in a perfect position to build a vehicle that meets the needs of active outdoor photographers. It’ll be a fun project and I hope that by sharing my experience I’ll be able to help other outdoor photographers go farther and safer in their own 4×4’s.
The image above is my FJ Cruiser in its current state. As you can see, it isn’t bone stock. Even before the new car smell wore off I installed a 2.5″ Old Man Emu suspension lift and a set of 285/70/17 off-road tires. I’ll discuss tire and lift options in a later blog post. The other obvious addition is a roof top tent – that big white thing on the roof rack. Again, I’ll cover roof top tents in another blog post. Obviously, I didn’t order the FJ direct from the factory with a Bret Edge Photography wrap pre-installed but the rest of the truck is essentially in stock form.
I created a new blog category, Ultimate Photo 4×4, where all posts related to the build will be housed. My new website will also have an entire page dedicated to the project. Look for the new site to launch in early November.
Finally, I’d like to welcome my first project sponsor: Expedition One. You won’t find a company that produces a more attractive, better built bumper for your off-road rig. And, every one of their products are made right here in Utah. Look for a blog post in about a month explaining why I chose Expedition One and why you want solid, off-road bumpers on your own rig.
Project FJ Update: Suspension and Tires
Got a question about the Ultimate Off-Road Vehicle for Outdoor Photography build? Leave it in the comments section and I’ll respond as soon as I can!