Incredible Travel Photography of IDI Student Michal Dzikowski
When extreme adventurer and travel photography expert Michał Dzikowski first started studying with us here at IDI, he had a degree in IT/Digital Media, and had found a comfortable career working as a medical device engineer. However, since the age of 7, it had been his dream to become a professional photographer.
Since taking the leap and leaving his day job, Michał has been honing his craft and living his dream: he has started his own sports, adventure and travel photography company Clear Skies Ahead, has been shortlisted and received honourable mention for photography prizes, and has achieved his ultimate goal of having his work featured in National Geographic.
“For the last ten years I have been travelling to remote and wild places. I have been wreck-diving above the northern circle, climbing in the Himalayas, trekking in the Sahara and have survived in the Amazon jungle.”
We catch up with Michał to hear about his journey with IDI, how he got to where he is now, and to take a look back over his most memorable expeditions during his time studying with us.
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“Having just returned from the Peruvian Andes, I have a very exciting and truly adventurous expedition to Colombia coming up with a slightly bigger crew. This one will be a true adventure – we will be in the amazon forest for 30 days without any contact with the outside world or support.
“We will be crossing an area the size of France with absolutely no facilities or known human habitats. Pure adventure 19th century style. If successful it will be huge as Chiribiquete is one of the last unexplored places on the planet.
“Apart from expeditions I also run a sport/adventure photo-agency running a crew of a few photographers specializing in documenting sport events as well as commercial sports photography.
“Lastly – I am trying to maintain highest fitness level possible and take part in Triathlons as often as I can.”
I learned a long time ago that if something is easy it’s usually not worth a lot. The more challenging something is the more joy and sense of achievement it brings.
BA (Hons) Photography
My Journey (So Far) by Michał Dzikowski
“Some time ago, while I was scuba-diving in the west of Ireland, I met these two friends. I knew they were doing pretty interesting things at that time, and although I was into going deep (scuba diving) and they were into going high (climbing mountains), we stayed in touch.
“By a complete accident we met again in 2013 at Dublin airport. By then, they were well known in the mountaineering world and were about to embark upon their 4th attempt up Nanga Parbat, the 9th highest mountain in the world.
“It was very simple – ‘Guys, I want to go with you, here are my photos’. A few days later I received a phone call – ‘Start getting ready’.
Travel Photography Examples
The ‘Nanga Dream’ Expedition
December 2013 – January 14
“At the time, ‘Nanga Dream’ was the longest trip I had ever embarked upon. I spent over 60 days during winter in the Himalayas. These days were unforgettable, and I do not even know where to begin in describing the whole experience.
“As far as mountaineering experience goes, Nanga Parbat was absolutely mind-blowing. Our base camp was at 3500 metres in a small (3m x 5m) shepherd hut. There were howling winds outside and the temperatures reached -20 degrees. The only heating system we had was an old wood burning stove; I can still smell the hut when using my climbing clothes.
I can still smell the hut when using my climbing clothes.
BA (Hons) Photography
“There were six of us on the expedition – three two person teams. Working on the mountain was so exhausting we had to alternate, each team spending no more than a week up the mountain at a time before having to come back down to base camp to rest, hydrate and eat.
“Pakistan itself is a feast for the senses and it remains “unpolluted” by western civilization. Friendship, hospitality, respect and traditions are still highly regarded there. Places like this are the reason why I travel – to experience such hospitality and friendliness and to be able to bring it back and show westerners that life is not about money and a career; that it is still very much about family, nature and friends.”
“When it gets difficult it also gets interesting – and so do the photos”
“The ‘Nanga Dream’ expedition taught me a few things:
- When the going gets rough, keep taking photographs – when it gets difficult it also gets interesting – and so do the photos.
- There is no point having a camera with you that is hidden in an all-proof pouch. Take it out and take photos. Minus 30 degrees, snow, knocks and hits; through it all my camera still worked.”
The Search for the Sistine Chapel of the Amazon
December 2014 – January 2015)
“Colombia’s Chiribiquete National Park is one of the most inaccessible places on Earth. It is covered by the Pre-Cambrian tabletop (tepui) mountains, surrounded by dense rainforest and criss-crossed by rivers whose black waters rumble over their rapids and plummet down their numerous falls. The park is home to jaguar, giant otters and tapir, as well as an array of endemic plants.
“Because of my experience as a travel photographer on the ‘Nanga Dream’ expedition, my name had started appearing in adventure/extreme travel circles. One day I came upon Maciej – a Polish canoe-tripping explorer who had already been on some bold and interesting expeditions.
“We clicked immediately. One thing led to another and in December 2014, we flew to Colombia.
“I had spent some time in the Amazon jungle before in Guyana, one of the world’s most ‘untouched’ jungles, in a very sparsely populated country in South America. There, taught by the natives, I had learned how to hunt with a bow, fish for piranhas and survive. After that, an expedition to Colombia seemed only natural…
“The objectives of our expedition were:
- Exploration of the upper Rio Cunare and exploration of Rio Tajisa upstream (we were the first people to paddle there)
- Photo documentation of ancient tribal rock paintings that are known to science (ca. 3600 BC)
- Discovery of new paintings
“Chiribiquete, ‘the Sistine Chapel of the Amazon’, has the largest archaeological concentration of prehistoric rock paintings in northern South America. Due to the large area covered and the difficulties of access, only a minimal part of the park was thought to have been surveyed. Archaeological expeditions in the early 1990s were abandoned due to conflict with the cocaine-business guerillas.
“To be somewhere where absolutely no one can reach you, no help is possible and the only person you can count on is yourself, changes your life perception. If you do not look after yourself, your food supply, shelter etc., you will stay there – forever. There is no number that you can call and arrange for someone to pick you up. Once we entered the jungle we were on our own for a full month.
“Each expedition is a life-changer: trips like these allow me to get away from everyday life and really live.”
‘Before It’s Gone’ Chadar, India Expedition
(National Geographic assignment 1 of 2) 2017
The ‘Before its Gone’ project commenced in early 2017, with the aim of documenting locations and communities that are experiencing rapid (and irreversible) changes.
Michał and fellow explorer, Mateusz Waligóra, aim to visit and document these places before or during these changes so they can be remembered as they were.
Their first expedition was along the frozen Zanskar river in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. When the temperature drops, the mountain passes are covered with snow and the frozen river becomes the only route connecting the Zanskar region with the rest of the world.
For hundreds of years villagers living in the mountains have used Chadar (the ice road trek) to get to school, work or reach medical care. But that will change soon, as a new road is to be built here.
The Zanskar Highway will allow the region improved access to education and health services, but at a cost: the new road could spell the end of traditional ways of living, pushing heritage and culture aside.
To find out more, view Michał’s travel photography and read Mateusz’s picture essay featured in the Guardian.
Victorinox Qhapaq Ñan Expedition (Peruvian Andes)
February – March 2017
“The aim of this unique undertaking is to identify, visit and document locations or communities that are undergoing a rapid civilisational and irreversible changes. These changes are not something that occurred in the past or might occur in the future – these are changes that are happening NOW!
“We are focusing on shifts in culture, social transformations, nature alterations and degradation. The idea is not to rediscover what is already known or protect what is already foredoomed – it is about noticing and documenting these irreversible changes so they can be remembered and learned from. It is our role and responsibility as a journalist and a photojournalist to hear these people stories and preserve them to the best of our abilities – fast, before they’re gone.
“The objective of the Victorinox Qhapaqu Ñan expedition is to travel, together with a local Quechua translator and using horses as means of transporting equipment on an ancient Qhapaqu Ñan road system from a former Incan capital Tahuantisuyu.
“The route will take us at the foot of Salkantay (sacred Inkan snowcapped peak) as the main motive for the publications after the expedition will be to attract worldwide media and public attention to the issue of climate change, namely disappearing tropical glaciers.
“Victorinox Qhapaqu Ñan Expedition is held under a patronage of Polish Embassy in Peru and Peruvian Embassy in Poland. Additionally, National Geographic Poland and National Geographic Lationamercia are providing their media patronage.”
[Full report from this expedition will be published in September in National Geographic Traveller Poland.]
Michał approaches his studies with IDI in the same way as the difficulties he faces on his extreme travel photography expeditions: ‘as an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop’. For those considering studying with IDI, Michał has some simple and poignant advice:
Go for it – do not hesitate. There is only one life and we must cherish every second of it…
BA (Hons) Photography
“There is only a certain amount you can learn without someone else critiquing your work and directing you. I had no idea how much my photography would change thanks to my studies. Looking back at my photos, I can see the various influences which changed and shaped my photography to be what it is today.
“The best part though is that there is still so much more to learn.”
Dreaming of getting into travel photography yourself?
Find out more about developing your own photography practice on the University of Hertfordshire accredited BA (Hons) Photography and MA Photography (Visual Communication) courses, delivered to you 100% online by IDI.
We hope you enjoyed Michal’s amazing travel photography and feel inspired. Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share: