Jason Fitzgibbon is an explorer and a true nature lover! His passion for the outdoors started when he was a child and it continues to this day. His interest in the natural world led him to become a wildlife biologist in the field. Jason is motivated to go on adventures and takes advantage of hours of observation to capture landscapes through his camera. Recently on a trip in Iceland, Vuarnet took the opportunity to interview Jason and ask him about his vision of a Vuarnet Day.
When did you love of travel and photography begin?
I purchased my first digital camera when I was 17 years old, mainly as a means to document an upcoming mountain bike trip across the southwestern United States. It was after that trip, as I was going through my photos and playing around with them in Photoshop (on my Dad's computer) that I realized how much I enjoyed being able to relive my travels through photography. From that trip on, I've been traveling camera-in-hand, trying to find and compose the fondest memories from my travels.
Can you describe a typical day on the field?
As a wildlife biologist, the vast majority of my time at work is spent outside. The variety of my day to day activities as a biologist can run the gamut; from surveying large chunks of land for threatened or endangered plant and animal species, to mapping vegetation communities, to monitoring water and habitat quality in streams and rivers, or even to hanging out all night in an abandoned mine, using specialized equipment to detect and monitor local bat populations.
What drew you to this profession and lifestyle?
Thanks to my father, my childhood was constantly entwined with outdoor activities; like mountain biking, surfing, camping and fishing. That relentless exposure to the outdoors, coupled with my Dad's inquisitive and scientific parenting tactics, really laid a framework for me to pursue a career in the natural sciences. Once I had found out that being a biologist was actually a real-life job, I knew it was something that I needed to do.
For this set of pictures you were in Iceland, what can you say about this special place?
Iceland is surreal. It's a place steeped with rich biological, geological and archaeological histories, and one of the few places I've visited that still seems so rugged and raw and empty. Sure, it has its touristy spots, but a five, or ten, or twenty mile hike in any direction from the main road will treat you to expansive, empty landscapes, for as far as the eye can see.
How did you plan/organize your trip?
A with all of our trips, we simply order up topographic hiking maps for the regions we plan to visit, then plot some areas and trails we'd like to hike (usually as far from popular spots as we can get). Once we've got a decent collection of potential hikes plotted, we embark on our trips with an open schedule and fit in as much as we see fit. We've found, that without a concrete schedule, it's far easier to adapt to the weather and conditions once you're there, and optimize your hikes accordingly.
What is your favorite companion on the road?
My favorite companion on the road is my wife, hands down. We go everywhere together and we've been through our fair share of tough situations; raging river crossings in Scandinavia, violent drunken farmers with machetes in Central America, millions of midges in Scotland, and more close encounters with lightning that we can count. Things always seem to go smoother than they should when she's around, and it's always awesome getting to share those experiences with my best friend.
You define yourself as a professional wildlife biologist, can you tell us more about it?
I've worked as a wildlife biologist/ecologist for over five years now in Southern and Central California. I spend the fair share of my time hiking through the remaining open spaces of our crowded state, documenting the plants and animals that still reside here. More often than not, my work revolves around threatened or endangered plant and animal species, and ensuring their protection under the purview of state and federal laws. It's fun stuff!
Why is nature important for you?
Nature is both humbling and beautiful- without it the world seems smaller and our role in it bigger. In other words, I love nature for its ability to make me feel insignificant.
What is your favorite travel experience so far?
Thus far, my favorite travel experience has to have been crossing a swollen glacial river in Iceland's interior, at one in the morning after a near thirty mile day of hiking. Being that the current was deep and strong enough to easily dislodge my wife's footing (she's really small), I ended up crossing the river five times. Once with my pack, then back, then again with her pack, then back, then again with her. Each time was sketchier than the previous as my legs and feet became more and more numbed by the frigid, glacial water. Once we and all of our gear had safely made it across, the feeling of accomplishment was insurmountable. I love that stuff.
Which advice would you give for an aspiring adventurer?
Just do it. Stop talking about things and make them happen! I'm always amazed at how often I hear people talk about dream trips and ideas that never come to fruition. If you're really into doing something, I guarantee there's a way to see it through.
Can you describe your work in 3 words?
Animals, plants, outside. Haha!
Finally, what is your definition of a Vuarnet Day?
A sunny, clear day up in the mountains, on the water, or enjoying trails. Preferably a day that ends with a tasty beer!