Hello, my name is Dailyn Matthews and I am a travel/adventure photographer.
I bought for my first camera, a Nikon EM, at age 18. Most of my life, people saw in me what I did not see . . . until recently. I was encouraged to be a photographer, for I saw the world differently than most.
The desire to share was immense. Being self-taught, I feel I am always learning, always seeking more knowledge.
I have earned my living for the past 19 years as a stuntwoman in films, television and commercials. Challenges are my forte and I fear little except losing my passion for photography if forced to do it as a money-making venture. So I have previously kept it in my back pocket where it has been safe from judgement.
One year ago, I bravely set out on a journey to see the world, capture it and send it back to my father who is losing his eyesight. I walked away from my life and started the adventure.
Traveling at an ambitious rate, I globe-trotted through 11 countries over the course of three months.
Chasing the Aurora Borealis through Iceland and Norway; discovering distant relatives I did not know in Germany; canyoneering a river in Croatia; hiking through the tropical rainforest of La Gomera; shooting self-portraits in a reflective pool in Valencia, Spain; crossing the Scottish countryside after miraculously avoiding a near-death head-on collision; to being locked in the Amsterdam train station… my escapades were vast.
When I had outstayed my welcome in Schengen territory, I made the choice to fly back across the pond, with the intent of seeking out mentorships. I wanted to grow.
An incredible opportunity to participate in a workshop in Puerto Rico with a NatGeo Master set me on a new path, with clearer eyes. Go create your art. The rest will follow.
I wasn’t back in the states but for a minute before an invitation to Nepal was dropped in my lap.
I changed everything up in an effort to become a “backpacker” overnight.
Photographers are not known for traveling light. I purchased a mirrorless body and stored my cumbersome professional camera, bought an Osprey Ariel AG 75L backpack (not exactly light) and was on a plane within two weeks jetting across the world.
In Nepal, my tolerance level for discomfort increased… dramatically. I rode stinky, dirty buses for 6-8 hours at a time, slept in $4.50/night hostels, trekked the Himalayas, toured the jungle with elephants and rhinos, became enamored with the Nepalese people and cannot wait to visit again.
Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong all held their own types of treasures.
When I flew back to the states in May, I began work on a photojournalistic narrative about my father, thus giving me an opportunity to ground myself. As much as I still crave getting on a flight to run away, sometimes you have to sit still long enough for people to see your art.
Presently based in Atlanta, I am set to start traveling again in October. East Coast first and then shows in California, Oregon and Washington.
The “Barbie Camper” needs a road trip; some astrophotography in Joshua Tree or Death Valley may play a part.
My pretty, shiny things are not diamonds but camera gear. I am a hardcore loyalist when I find a brand I love and it is reflected in my choice of equipment. Researching through trusted reviews and interviewing fellow photographers can influence my purchases. However, nothing beats hands-on experience.
I don’t live a disposable lifestyle so my decisions are made for the long haul. Investing in good glass first and foremost, and then bodies that are consistent performers in imagery, durability, and weather-resistance.
My gear must be able to withstand the rigors of travel and extreme climates.
My first choice in camera bodies is my Nikon D4S. Perhaps a dinosaur to some, but I love the way it feels in my hand and the images it produces.
When needing to travel light, my Nikon Z6 is what I grab. The viewfinder is delicious and I love the ease of use. Being a Nikon user, the menus are the same as my DSLR, which made the learning curve smaller.
I previously owned a Sony Alpha A7 and the complicated menus along with lack of weatherproofing were what persuaded me to switch when the Nikon Z6 became available.
My go-to travel lens is my Nikkor 24-85mm f/2.8-4. It gives me the range I need at any given time. On my Z6, my Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S fulfills a similar range.
Depending on the landscape or if I’m shooting astrophotography, I will bring along the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8.
If I’m feeling strong, I tote the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, which is a beautiful lens, but it’s akin to lugging a boulder in your bag. Be aware that the focus ring will be looser in colder climates and a simple touch may throw off your focus. A quick fix is securing a piece of gaffer’s tape to hold it in place. (I’ve wrapped some around a Sharpie instead of carrying a whole roll.)
If I am traveling for an extended period of time, I bring the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 because I feel like I’ve left an appendage behind if I don’t.
The Nikon FTZ adapter allows me to use all my DSLR lenses on the Z6.
My Nikon MC-30A remote trigger release is more foolproof and a better choice if I am concerned about dead batteries. I prefer the YouPro YP-870 wireless. I can keep the remote in a warm pocket rather than being tethered to the camera. You’ll need a different cable to connect the transmitter to each body, which I learned the hard way after dragging the YouPro all over Europe without one.
I travel with just two filters: Tiffen 77mm Variable Neutral Density filter and a Nikon Circular II 77mm Polarizer with XCSource step-up/down rings. The polarizer works well for water and skies, but having to take it on and off between shots when you’re on the run is risky. The Pro-Master filter pocket is handy for keeping it safe.
When I’m bored on a long train ride, I play with the ND filter and try and figure out how they made it! Utterly fascinating.
Never forget to carry extra camera batteries and their respective chargers.
I love my Peak Design 30L Everyday Backpack more than I can say. I have dragged and dumped it everywhere and it still looks new. Great design, even better craftsmanship, and the best part is you can load it up but it looks suspiciously light!
I keep it on my back and merely turn slightly when they ask about my carry-on at the airport. I’ve been so fortunate they haven’t weighed it on so many flights.
Eagle Creek Specter E Cubes are my favorite for transporting and keeping my gear organized. Padded with removable inserts, mesh zippered compartments, handles on the outside for a quick grab and they’re the ideal size for lenses. Unfortunately, they discontinued making them! Let me know if you’ve found a comparable product.
Inside the cubes, I use Altura neoprene lens pouches. Easy to use, zip drawstring, large plastic clip, durable and furry-lined, all at a good price for a multi-pack.
Peak Design anchor links for connecting your camera strap to the body are awesome as well. When the wind is blowing and the camera is on a tripod, quickly removing the strap is simple.
I have to admit I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the tripod. It always seems to be in the “do I really need to pack this” pile.
For astrophotography, one is required. Once I started my series of self-portraits, there’s no turning back now. MeFoto Globetrotter Classic tripod is sturdy enough for my weighty Nikon D4S. My Benro Slim carbon fiber tripod is lighter for backpacking and works well with the Nikon Z6. I prefer the locking plate on the Benro; the loop makes it easier to tighten down.
GoPro Hero 5 records quick videos of locations, merely for personal use. I love the wide perspective and, being all about stills, it’s nice to see the landscape move once in a while. Remember to pack the charging cord.
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15in, with Adobe cloud software (Lightroom primarily), 4TB G-Technology USB-C drives (x 2) is my remote office set-up. Having three different types of memory cards requires additional gear: Ugreen card reader for the CF & SD cards and Sony XQD USB adapter. The computer also reads the SD cards. The iHome battery pack for my phone is essential for when social media zaps your charge.
Waterproof Pelican boxes hold my SanDisk Extreme memory cards and Sony XQD’s. I buy smaller sizes so if one corrupts, I don’t lose much.
I seem to collect cards for fear of having a hard drive crash on the road and won’t wipe them until I’ve backed them up twice. The Sony cards are pricey, so I ask for them for Christmas.
One of my most important travel items is my Petzl Reactik headlamp. I sprung for the higher priced model because it has a larger surface area in which to depress the power button. When your bulky glove can’t turn it on/off at 3A in Iceland and the Aurora is exploding overhead, there’s a good chance that headlamp may end up in a snowbank. It has a USB charging cable, so no batteries required.
List of essentials: USA Passport, Field Notes, handcrafted pen, Grandpa’s rosary for safe travels, micro cloth, camera rain jacket, Pro Optic mini air blower, screwdriver tool for tightening the tripod plate, various sized batteries, Simple Modern stainless water bottle (refill it — save the planet!).
The $6 thrift shop (orange) dress and Sorel hiking boots go everywhere with me. #girlintheorangedress is a series of self-portraits with the goal of being an element of an extraordinary landscape. What began as a whim has become a delightful challenge: capturing myself doing something elegant in a harsh environment with no one around except the privacy of my lens.
*Oh by the way, that’s Jean-Pierre down front ~ the court jester from Versailles, aka my traveling gnome.
My homework is done. I think there’s an airplane with an empty seat calling my name.
www.dailynmatthews.com | @dailyn.matthews
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As someone fortunate enough to travel to many corners of the globe, I am envious of the quality that your travels have been captured in. With little more than a point and shoot, my memories are captured, but sharing them is not quite the same.
Great article packed with helpful information. Thanks for sharing your journey!
Thank YOU for your kind comment.
I will continue to make more journeys so I can continue to tell my story!
This is so wonderful Dailyn! I’m so happy you are having such amazing adventures! It was great to see you over the weekend! Sending you love for great travels and continued success as a shooter!!
You are an inspiration! Xoxocarol
It was delightful to see you and catch up after too long!
I’ve always adored your energy and kindness. I shall embrace your wonderful wishes.
Thank you for taking the time to read the article and for your support.
I am blessed to have you in my corner.
Thrilled to watch your journey and grateful for your teachings! I guess I have some new equipment to purchase! Dying to tag along on an upcoming adventure, only if you want the babies to join!!
Thank you, Melyssa!
Make those purchases and we’ll adventure together wherever you want to go. Happy to help in anyway possible ~ babysitting, too?!
QAmazing job on your first editorial! You’re a gifted writer! Dad is very
Well if I impressed my Dad, then all is right with the world! Hey world, look at that comment above!!
Thank you to my parents for my first camera and to my granddads that gave me my spirit of adventure and love of photography.
Very well written. Did I just visit several different continents carrying a heavy pack of photo equipment on my back?
Great pics and a great story of their origin.
Dailyn, thank you for sharing both your beautiful photography, and the stories behind it. The effort and passion you put into everything that you do is apparent in the results. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say we look forward to your next adventure, and the ones that will follow, for may years to come!
Great description of must have gear, while leaving room for the whimsical orange dress. Can’t wait to see where your travels take you next!
This girl is an inspiration. Most of us will not experience a second of what she set her self to do. That is brave ! Keep sharing your beautiful images with the world Dailyn! Hope to grab coffee again sooner than later. Hugs and congratulations on all you have accomplished so far.
Thank you for sharing and solving some of the many issues that are really needed to capture the next adventure.
I enjoyed the read! Cheers to your next travels!
Humbled and honored to be alongside such talented colleagues, sharing what’s in my bag.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve written!