While he might just look like an ordinary bloke, James Stronsky is certainly anything but. A man that used to be a demolition worker, he set out on an incredible journey, building his own motorbike over two years, selling all of his belongings and venturing out to ride around the world.
A few years later and James has driven across Japan, South Korea, Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. When we reached out to him, he was in a Tajikistan official building as he was waiting to get some paperwork done for his Uzbekistan VISA. He is now riding for Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea. Along the way he’s taken some incredibly images so we wanted to hear what makes him tick and inspires him.
How did you start taking photos and fall in love with photography?
Surf photography. I’ve been surfing since I was in high-school and one day I brought a camera with me out into the surf. Eventually I stopped taking my board. I started constructing camera rigs for multiple cameras, upgraded from one camera to the next, working my way up in quality (and expense). Before you know it I’m now shooting in some of the most remote places on the planet – on an Olympus OMD with two additional Olympus TG-Trackers attached on my helmet and bike. Let’s just say that this interest makes it easy to go wild. It’s like with motorbikes, it starts out small as a little hobby on the side and before you know it you have a full blown passion that completely consumes you.
What made you want to pack up everything and venture out on your own?
I’m naturally pretty nomadic. And I’ve always had a love of this part of the world (I’m in Tajikistan as I write this and have recently been riding through Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) and of travel in general. I was at a point in my life where I had nothing really keeping me in one spot and I knew that if I didn’t do this now I never would. Life has a way of becoming more complicated as it goes on. You really need to take opportunities when they present themselves. Or just make sure you introduce them yourself.
You seem to shoot a lot of landscapes in your Instagram. How do you go about composing a shot?
I shoot primarily off the back of the motorbike. It allows me the freedom to find the angle I want and to find the unexpected. If I think that something would look better shot from 5km in a different direction, then I ride there and do that. This method involves a lot of U-turns and extra time in the saddle but I don’t mind, it’s always worth it.
What travel tips do you have for our readers? Particularly for anyone looking to go on a long road-trip?
Just go. Things will work out. It’s easy to fret and worry about the constant stream of problems that arise on a trip like this – especially if you plan a lot and never actually do stuff (very easy to do). I think things have a tendency to work themselves out, you’ll always find a solution to your problems and you’ll go with whatever that is. If you tell yourself that things must be a certain way then you’re just adding stress and you might blind yourself to certain possible solutions. If you have a relaxed attitude then you’ll always make it through your trip. If you let it all get to you (and it will at points) then you might not… simple as that. Relax and enjoy the show. But primarily, just get going.
What are three items (apart from your camera and motorcycle) that you can’t live without?
– Jumpstarter. I have an Microstart XP-1. It’s basically a giant battery with every voltage outlet imaginable that can either charge all my devices a few times over (as mentioned, I have a few cameras to keep charged) or it can jump-start a dead battery. Convenient for charging, a lifesaver if I need a jump (and I have). They say it can jump-start a diesel truck but I’ve never tried. But it sure is overkill for my bike. And that I love too.
– Phone. Who doesn’t live off their phone these days – but actually mine doesn’t have a SIM and I’ve never used it for a call, SMS or even Facebook. What I do use it for is navigation via an offline map app and music and audio books.
– Dry socks. Simple one but easily the most mentally important. I can ride all day in the rain without a worry, but if the water somehow makes it into my boots… I’m not a happy camper. It’s the little things.
Check out James’ instagram and his blog here.