A Q&A with Thomas Woodson

The filmmaker and van lifer sits down with the folks at The Field to chat about going after your passion
June 2, 2016Words by Graham Hiemstra

If you missed our first dispatch from the folks at The Field, then be sure to check it out after you read this latest interview with Thomas Woodson – photographer, filmmaker, a ultimate #vanlife-er. Head on over to The Field to get the full story.

It was through a friend that we met Thomas Woodson, a budding designer, photographer, and filmmaker. And within minutes of doing so, we could tell that Woodson is a rare breed, the type that can see the larger picture in life much easier than the rest of us. It’s because of this that Woodson is currently living out of a van, traveling the country with his girlfriend and their pooch.

After one particularly enlightening adventure, he sold it all and leaned into his passion to become a full-time adventure photographer and filmmaker.

But it wasn’t always this way – Woodson started life post-college in Boulder, Colorado working as a designer. There, he learned to ski with the big boys, bike, and climb. He even co-founded his own agency, Human Design. But his camera and a yearning for exploration in the outdoors were pulling him to new places. So after one particularly enlightening adventure, he sold it all and leaned into his passion to become a full-time adventure photographer and filmmaker.

We recently caught up with Woodson, who spoke to us over the phone from inside his custom 2015 Ram Promaster van, the interior of which he designed and built himself. Of course.

Was there an “aha” moment that lead you to leave your professional career in design? To think, I’m going to be an adventure photographer no matter what?

In 2013 I went to 5Point Film Festival to see Joey Schusler’s film, The Bus: A Journey Up North. When he was on stage speaking about his work, I immediately knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. The next year of work was draining on me. I went from feeling like I achieved my childhood goal of having a design office in a city that I could bike or walk to, and only accepting socially conscious work. That was no longer enough and I desperately wanted to inspire people with adventure films, so that they could feel the feeling I got when I moved west and started biking, climbing, and skiing. Joey invited me on a trip to Peru a few months later, and before I knew it I was standing onstage introducing our film at 5Point the next year.

You say, “Sure!” when you really mean, “I have absolutely no idea if that’s possible.” Then you fight and fight until you pull off some magic.

What single moment from your recent travels feels like a metaphor for your choice to follow your passion?

Summiting and skiing Pico de Orizaba (18,491’) on a weekend trip felt a lot like many of the other work projects I’ve thrown myself into. You always have to get in over your head with the vision that everything will work out. No matter the outcome, you’ll learn so freaking much and it will influence everything that follows. I think we all do this in our careers though. A client calls up and asks, “Hey, can you make this?” You say, “Sure!” when you really mean, “I have absolutely no idea if that’s possible.” Then you fight and fight until you pull off some magic. [H]

Head over to The Field to find out more about Woodson's biggest fears, his favorite camera setup, and how long it's been since he took a shower.

 

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