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Elia Locardi Travel Photography - Convergence, Dubai

Photographer Elia Locardi Takes His Sense of Home on the Road

Traveling the world in search of the perfect photograph often remains a dream while houses, school, and day jobs limit photographic possibilities to our immediate vicinity. Four years ago travel photographer Elia Locardi and graphic designer Naomi Locardi dipped their toes into world travel, but soon the jet lag and expense of maintaining a home while traveling full-time no longer made sense.

Initially, the couple made frequent return trips to their home in Central Florida. Discussing the experience, Locardi says, “I learned two things about round trip world travel: it boosts your airline status, but it also causes terrible fatigue and jetlag. For a while, we’d spend only a few short days at ‘home’ before leaving on another trip. We began asking ourselves why we came home at all and thinking it would be more efficient to just keep traveling.”

The stars dance above the extraordinary Mt Bromo Indonesia as the morning fog rolls through the caldera.

Leaping Into Location Independence

In 2011, the husband and wife team decided that they’d eliminate the return trip completely by selling most of what they owned and putting the rest in storage, packing their roller bags and traveling full-time.

The transition took nearly nine months, but in March of 2012, they hit the road for good. “When you’re moving to a different state, you can always go back for that last box of stuff. When you’re flying from central Florida to Sydney, Australia that’s it. You have to take everything. Just before our flight, I tossed the last of the cardboard boxes into the dumpster, put my laptop in my bag and went to the airport. We barely made it to the flight,” he recalls.

Global nomad is the commonly used term to identify people who have done just what the Locardis have done: packed it all in and hit the road permanently.  Unsure of how their families would take the news, he and Naomi opted for the term ‘location independent’. “It’s funny,” Elia says, “I’ve shocked my mom a lot in my life, but when I told her we were going to be location independent, she was completely nonchalant.”

After leaving, they awaited the big revelation their family and friends had expected, but it never did come. Adjusting to the new way of life included various phases, some exhilarating, some challenging. “I think it took about six months before it really sunk in that we didn’t have a home. What really did it was catching the flu and thinking ‘I just want to go home.’ But I don’t have a home. I realized then that I wasn’t missing my home. I was missing the feeling of comfort and the things I did at home, like making coffee in the morning or watching movies on the couch. The little things you take for granted when you live somewhere permanently.”

As the stars dance above the treasury in the ancient site of Petra Jordan.

Mobile Tools That Elevate the Digital Photography Workflow

Since then the Locardis have racked up more than 1 million miles and have visited more than 42 countries. They support their travels through Elia’s photography and Naomi’s graphic design work, but that means the family travels with a lot of gear and  every bit of it is weighed for its necessity and the value it adds.

 “The tools I use must elevate my workflow,” says Locardi. “As a travel photographer, portability is key.” Locardi originally began using a Wacom tablet in 1999 while working as a visual effects artist and motion designer. The experience of painting with the stylus instantly felt natural to him.

Now Elia processes his photos with a combination of Wacom products, including the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid, which Naomi also uses in her graphic design work. They also each carry a small Intuos Pro tablet.

“The Cintiq Companion has the potential to replace a lot of the tools I carry by unifying them into one device. It’s powerful enough to run all of the applications on the Windows platform and be the Cintiq that I can use to draw and input onto the device itself,” he says.

In post-processing, Locardi prefers the artistic approach rather than a technical process. “Similar to the way a painter would treat a canvas, I use the Companion in tandem with Adobe® Photoshop and a combination of hand painted masks, and luminance channels, to create complex blends of multiple exposures. Sometimes, I also selectively paint in color, contrast and detail adjustments,” says Locardi. This method fits perfectly with his experience as a visual effects artist.

When the Locardis arrive in a new place, the first thing they do is move the apartment or hotel room around, setting up their mobile office. “The set up really depends on the working environment,” explains Elia. “Back when I had a studio it was important to me for the space to feel creative. I have since realized that I don’t need my environment to be creative, I just need to be creative in my environment.”

Now that their office is anywhere and everywhere, with or without a plug, Locardi feels each new destination refreshes his creative energy.  “It’s liberating to work when and where you’re inspired,” he says.

We watched in awe as the Aurora Borealis danced around us, all alone in the Icelandic Countryside.

The First to Shoot a Familiar Site in a New Way

The Locardis decide on their next location based on where they are inspired to go and the potential power of the image to be captured. “The place has to appeal to us. I also try to pick locations that will increase my portfolio.” They aren’t scared off by iconic locations either. “I hear photographers say that there’s nothing new you can do to a shot of something famous like the Eiffel Tower. In photography now, someone has most likely taken the picture before you. The key is to be the first to do it in a new way, have an eye for composition and the vision to make something unique.”

When he travels to a new location, many times he has a certain scene in mind that he wants to create. He may spend every day trying to capture that specific vision, or he may get it on the first attempt and spend the rest of his time working on other shots on his list.

Discussing his vision, Locardi says, “In my work, I really think of it as building a scene as opposed to simply taking a shot. I want to bring the viewer into the scene, either to remind them of their visit to the place, or feel like they are there for the very first time. I use texture, color and depth to convey the sights and sounds, to really create the feeling of a place. When people view my images I want them to have an emotional response.”

Locardi doesn’t process his images the same way every time, it depends largely on the mood of the place and his own instincts. “Each scene calls for something different and I use a variety of techniques depending on what I feel the image needs. Some images I start, leave for a while, and return to finish weeks later. I have to feel like it’s finished before I’ll release it.” The resulting images are dynamic and unique.

At Home on The Road

Now, about to celebrate their two year anniversary of location independence, Locardi says, “We travel as a family so our sense of home travels with us, and that’s a very special thing. Home is wherever we are, as long as we’re together.”

Follow Elia on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and be sure to read his blog, Blame the Monkey, to follow along as he and Naomi make their way around the world.

To learn more about Elia’s workflow with the Cintiq Companion, watch the video below.