By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas

KAT CARNEYKat Carney is the focus of the fifth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas. She is an outdoor photographer who brings a unique awareness to the places, people, and brands that she shoots. It’s as if Kat understands how to make the viewer experience motivation through her use of light and framing.

Kat is based in San Diego and, along with her boyfriend Craig, spends many days and nights on the road. Travelling from one amazing locale to the next.

A former collegiate volleyball player, Kat has transitioned her focus to the outdoor industry. She has been regarded by Backpacker Magazine as one of The Coolest Outdoor Women on Instagram and as an ambassador for #outdoorwomen by Adventure-Journal.

Her distinguished client list includes Thermarest, Lifestraw, Outdoor Research, Backpacker, Organifi, Fitlife TV, Moosejaw, Clymb, Awake Chocolate, Hyundai, Yoga Mantra, ENO Hammocks, and She Explores, with surely many to follow.

You can view her work though her Instagram feed or on her website http://www.katcarneyphotography.com , and her adventure wedding work at www.swellandstone.com.

We spoke to Kat about living and working on the road. She is a great reminder that the best way to find your own voice in this world is simply by being you.

What do you consider to be your place of work? 

The great outdoors

Year, Make, Model of your office? 

2002 Z71 4×4 Chevy Suburban

Did you name your vehicle? What do you call it? 


When and how did you get it? 

Last December, from a dealer we found on Craigslist in San Diego

What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought? 

We considered even smaller vehicles, like a Mitsubishi Montero, Land Cruiser etc… but ultimately we decided on a Suburban because of its off-road capability AND space. My boyfriend is 6’2″ and the bed we built in the back is 6’6″. And there is still 1.5 feet in between the bed and the front seats. So luxurious!

Have you made any upgrades or changes to it? 

Custom sleeping platform+storage cabinets+lockbox drawer, 200w solar, 12v fridge, 1.5″ rear coil spacer, 2.5″ torsion key lift, Bilstein 5100s, 255/75r17 Cooper AT/3

What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle? What is your least favorite part about it? 

My favorite part is all the sunrises and sunsets we get to see, along with the Milky Way overlooking incredible views, and seeing all the other amazing views along the way. I also really enjoy being outside and living life in motion every single day! My least favorite part is the lack of warm showers.

How many miles have you put on your truck for work? 

8,000 miles

What is the best place you have taken it? Is there just one? I can’t choose just one! 

Maybe the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. We drove it from Lake City to Ouray via Engineer Pass.

Favorite road you ridden? 

Hole in the Rock Road in Escalante, because of the density of incredible slot canyons in the area. I love having a 4×4 because it gets me places I want to go, I don’t really drive for sport, but I appreciate its ability to get me into the wilderness.

In one word, what describes your approach to life? 


If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living and working out of a vehicle what would you tell them? 

Eat like you’re at home! We have a fridge and a two-burner stove top, and having fresh fruits and vegetables is crucial to us feeling like we can take on the day and push through whatever adventure we have planned. Also, find time to slow down and not only get your work done, but also, take care of things like laundry and cleaning the truck.

It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?

I think when I moved to Lake Powell in between years of college and realized how much I love being outside and shooting people living life outside. I thought if I could find a way to live outside forever I would be happy. I’ve stuck with that and managed to make it happen, no matter how unconventional and strange some may find it. A lot of nights my boyfriend, Craig, and I look at each other and we just say, “This is the life!” 

You have found a strong place in the community of outdoor photographers. Being originally from the Midwest, what values do you think your home instilled in you that you, which you take on the road and bring to your work?

I guess the typical Midwestern value of hard work, and the knowledge that nothing will be handed to you in life. I worked my way through college and struggled through my early 20’s during the Recession. I’ve always had to live super cheap and use my skills creatively to get by. That is no different from what I’m doing now, and I’m constantly amazed at the opportunities that open up to me because I don’t need to live in a house or apartment with a ton of space and own a lot of things.

I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourself as somebody who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened? 

I see myself as both. I’m used to making very calculated risks, and I felt a little like I was jumping off the deep end when I moved into the truck. Every month I spend in it things become a little easier and I settle in a bit more. However, this move was somewhat inevitable for me. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and eventually found a way to make it work, so it just seemed like the right thing to do at this time.

Where do you want to go next? (Geographically and career wise) 

We are headed to Baja to surf for a month and then we are chasing snow in December! Career wise I would like to keep shooting for the outdoor brands and publications that I love and expand to doing video along with stills.

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