I bought a Camper Van for Landscape Photography
Will my new camper van have an impact to my landscape photography? I'm convinced about. In this blog I tell you a bit more about why I bought it, which conflicts and troubles I had to solve when buying and why the dream of my camper van nearly exploded like a soap bubble - even more times.
#1 Feeling like my own Slave
As already mentioned in some of my YouTube videos, I own a company for IT & marketing already for ~20 years. And I always knew, when you want to build up a business, you need to offer a service or product that is unique - so that you get an USP - an Unique Sales Prosposition. The problem for me here is now: Our USP was even too high, so that it was never possible for me to get employees who were able to fulfill everything what were necessary - all employees cover just special parts. So I always have to be reachable for my customers, in some cases immediately. This is why I was never able to make bigger trips that take more than 10 days a year - without loosing customers. Don't get me wrong. I like the work in my company and the colaboration with most of my customers, but I think it is not hyperbolised when I say, that I sometimes feel like my own slave - when I'm not able to explore areas which are a bit more away from me.
#2 An Opportunity appeared
I'm more than pleased with an amazing landscape straight around me here in the beautiful Salzkammergut in Austria and I got out already really fantastic photos here over the years, but I think already longer about how I could expand my geographical area for photography without harming my company. My original plan was to try a couple of bigger trips around Europe with working beside for my company in hotels - I wanted to achieve this in the border of my YouTube channel and I planned these trips for 2020 in detail. But due to Covid-19 restrictions I unfortunately had to cancel each single of my planned trips.
I thought about a camper van over the last years already, but I wanted to think about it not before 2025/26 - when my photography business, what I never emphasised that much (the business behind my photography), would be grown and I'd do easier to finance it. In July 2020 I realised, that the already too high taxes for buying and operating a van here in Austria will even explode for vans that are registered up from October 2020. So I realised an opportunity in registering one before that deadline.
Just to give you an idea, that you know what I mean when I'm talking about "horrible costs": We have 20% VAT in Austria. For cars and vans we have additional NoVa taxes of ~12-18%, depending on the engine. But the NoVa taxes raised up to ~35% up from October - so we talk about ~55% taxes (no typo!) now when buying a van. Compared to Germany, who pay 19% taxes only or even Switzerland, who pay not more than 8% taxes, it is really horribly expensive in Austria. And the average earnings in Austria are lower than in these two countries!
But these high taxes are not enough: Beside this we have so called "engine associated taxes" here in Austria, what was always around 500-600 Euro a year for an average van. For those which are registered from October 2020 these costs got more than 3 times higher now than before. So we are talking about more than 1.000 Euro additionally compared with the taxes before - each year - just for owning the van!
As I thought about buying a van already in the past, I really saw an opportunity in the timing now. I mean, calculate the totally extra costs over an average lifetime of 20 years - that were painful :)
#3 Synergy between my Photography and my Company
The base idea is to drive around with the van to fantastic places in Austria and Europe, to explore them, to take awesome photographs, to produce inspiring and useful videos for my YouTube channel, to help out everyone who is excited to be out in nature with his camera gear. In the van I can work for my company, process images, cut my videos and even plan my next photo tours. Whereever I will go, I always will have my office with me.
#4 Choosing the right Van
It sounds so easy. You go into a shop and come home with a van, right? To be honest, I totally underestimated the high effort, just to choose the right van. First I wanted to have a VW California, because it is small, compact and has nearly everything inside I really need - nearly, because I missed one very important thing: You know, when I come back from a hiking tour - it's normal I think - I sweat. And before I go to bed I really want to have a shower, to feel fresh and have a relaxing night. There are lots of vans out there with shower, but there was only a few with a separate shower, which is really easy to clean after usage. I put a high effort into looking for that one that fits best to me. I wanted to have everything as easy to use as possible. Finally I decided for the "Rapido Dreamer D55 Select Exclusive".
#5 The one and only
But it wasn't like going into a shop buying it and the thing is finished. I knew exactly which special model I wanted to have and lets remember: I had to register it before October 2020 to get advantage on the taxes - and it was already August. So there was no possibility to order a new one, because this had taken around 6 months - much too late for my purpose. Most merchants were already sold out with vans for this year.
And to get it really difficult: There exists only one merchant here in Austria who offers Rapido Dreamer vans and you can't expect that this one merchant would have exactly that one van model in his stock you want to have, right?
There is only one way to find out, I thought. And so I called the merchant. He told me, that he was sold out and that he had only one last Rapido Dreamer in his stock. As there exist 8 totally different models, the chance was not all to high that it was the right model - but finally I thought to dream as he said "We just have a D55 Select Exclusive here. Which model do you want to have?" Yeah, I was still in the race :-)
#6 A Bubble exploded
Two days after I visited the merchant with my wife Barbara to have a look at it and to talk about the price, I called the merchant and just wanted to place my order. I heard a bubble exploding as he told me, that it got already sold the day before. It's over, I thought.
There was no other merchant in Austria. Importing from another country had been possible, but I didn't have enough time to organise this with all the necessary taxes and documents - and all the merchants got sold out as well. Through Covid-19 everyone seemt to want a camper van.
#7 A new Opportunity appeared
Three weeks before the taxes exploded - I forgot already about the camper van - I got a call from the merchant, that the van would be available again. The deal with the other customer was canceled, because their insurance didn't pay the damage of their old van (a tree fell on their old van and the insurance didn't pay), so they obviously didn't have money for a new one. So I bought the van straight on the phone, I think we made the deal within a minute or so :)
The merchant guaranted me to send me the documents for registration as fast as possible over, while they would integrate all the extra equipment I've ordered as well. It sound so easy - I just had to wait for the documents for registry. I didn't expected:
#8 The next Problem occured
It is unbelievable, but the documents didn't arrive, so I called the merchant again and he told me, that they wouldn't have the documents anymore. It started to get a little nightmare: The merchant registration expired, so they sent the documents to a registration center in the capital of the federal state to expand it. It took over a week that they just started to send the documents back. Simultaniously there occured a bigger Covid-19 case in a bigger package distribution center, what lead into longer delays for each kind of shipping in the middle of Austria. This was two weeks before October, before the taxes exploded. No one was able to see when the documents would arrive. I bought the van already - if the documents wouldn't arrive in time, I had to pay the horribly more taxes - now and in each year of using.
Finally, just a few days before the deadline of registration to "cheap" conditions, the document fortunately arrived and I was really able to register :)
#9 A Camper Van is not enough
You'll never believe about which topics you have to inform yourself if you're going to use a camper van. 98% of the existing camping dishes support to get cancer on longer usage. I had to engage with the possibilities of dishes. They should be a light weight in the one hand, but should not break. I found a solution out of a special glass. Let's hope that it works.
As it is really important for me to protect the nature, I don't want to use chemical products for my camping toilet, because on my opinion this were poison for the nature - also when putting it to camping stations, as it is designated. So I also had to engage with this topic to find a solution and I did. I use a biological solution without chemicals, what also would allow me to empty it into a normal water toilet.
You need a solution that everything you put into the van, like dishes is fixated, so that there is nothing damaged when you drive around and use your brakes, what's sometimes necessary of course :)
I needed a strong - a very strong - battery with a photovoltaik system on the roof of the van, to have always enough power for operating my laptop. I'm still waiting for it and will install it in over the winter.
The door of my garage was not high enough. Yes, you also have to think therefor. I had to break it out and to order a new door, which will hopefully arrive before the first snow. I also needed to install power current from my house to the garage for the new garage door and also to load the battery of the van.
Just to give you an insight about the most critical things - there were lots more smaller things to consider and organise and I'm still organising :)
#10 Everything came together
One of the biggest problem was the time. My company had the highest priority of course and I also wanted to produce videos for my YouTube channel - valuable videos, everything else doesn't make sense for me. Another problem was, that there happened something else - I had to work on a second bigger project beside this camper van project - and it also was a big opportunity which will have a really big impact to my photography over the next years - and also this one was a game against time. I will mention my second bigger landscape photography project in one of my next videos on my YouTube channel :)
This time from August to end of October was really, really hard for me. I didn't sleep all too much - I made a video "Sleepless in the mountains", where I hiked up a mountain for landscape photography without any sleep in the night before. Althought I got out amazing photos - that's not a good idea - don't try to do this by yourself!
I didn't take as much time as I usually had taken for location scouting for autumn and already for winter as well. I think this was maybe the hardest thing for me, because it is really a high effort to work on good autumn and winter photos. You need to visit locations more times, tweak at compositions and go back at the right conditions. So I definitely have to be good friends with improvisation over the winter :) But however - I think it was worth, I see it as good investment into the future. I had to take the chance and go for the camper van.
#11 Effects to my Photography and YouTube Channel
I'm convinced my new camper van will have an impact to my landscape photography, because I will be able to expand my geographical area in the one hand and in the other hand I also think to get more flexible in future, maybe to stay a day longer on location and not to think about if there is a room free for me in a hotel for one more day.
I also think that I can put more emphasis on my photography and also on my videos in next time, because whereever I will be, I will also have my office with me. I can plan and execute at the same location. Finally I expect to get more quality into my videos, maybe to make them more interesting and add even more value for my audience.
As there are still lots of things to be organised, I think to start the regulary usage of my camper van up from spring 2021. This gives me plenty time to plan things over the winter and start through when the snow is gone :)
Check out my gear, which I use for my landscape photography:
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