TrekPak Ambassadors: Dan and Alex McClanahan

As we develop the TrekPak brand, we will be partnering with talented individuals within our markets that portray the creative, inspiring, and adventurous personality of TrekPak. These people will be known as TrekPak Ambassadors and we will introduce them and share what they are doing through our blog.

We start this adventure with a young and amazing couple. Dan and Alex McClanahan are internationally acclaimed photographic artists headquartered in Ames, Iowa. Their passion for relationships and love of adventure has helped them develop a distinctive and creative style of imagery.

Dan and Alex McClanahan

TrekPak Q&A
TrekPak: Describe the moment or event that inspired your decision to become a photographer.
Dan: It was when I started dating Alex in college. She was a graphic design student and hanging around with her and her creative/artsy friends really had an effect on me. I wanted to be cool like them and to create things, and to impress her. I was a journalism student, but I bought a Canon Rebel XT and started playing with it. I quickly got obsessed with photography and the rest is history.

TrekPak: What is the most unusual item you keep in your camera bag?
Dan: I found a little two inch plastic dinosaur toy a few years ago on a location a shoot and kept it. It’s been in my bag ever since because I just like it. It’s like having lucky underwear, only more sanitary. It reminds me to be creative and that photography should be fun.

TrekPak: What’s the best advice you ever received from a fellow photographer?
Dan: Don’t get caught up trying to be somebody else. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of trying to be exactly like whatever photographer you’re idolizing at the time, but at best you’ll only be a faded photocopy of them. Be inspired by others, but ultimately the most effective use of your time is to define your own personal artistic vision and spend your days developing a unique style. That is where creative satisfaction lays. I first heard that advice from the wonderful Julia Woods.

TrekPak: If you could photograph any other photographer, who would it be and what would you want to do for the shoot?
Dan: Dan Frievalt. It would involve lots of smoke machines, flames, exploding automobiles, at least one helicopter, and maybe a ukulele. And several dancing dwarfs. If Dan ever reads this I hope he calls me up! And helps me pay for the helicopter rental…

TrekPak: How do you take your coffee?
Dan: Very, very strong and high quality. I guess I’m sort of a coffee snob. I usually drink espresso or cold brew, and I get my beans from my favorite local coffee shop. If I wasn’t a photographer I’d probably be doing something in the coffee industry.

TrekPak: What is a piece of advice that you wish you would have been given when starting out?
Dan: If you want to do this professionally, learn the business side of photography first. It’s the one thing they don’t teach you in school, but it’s a very necessary foundation that will make your life a lot easier in the long run. It isn’t fun and seems awkward to right-brained photographers, but lack of business skills is where I see most people fail. Without a solid business plan and the ability to pay the bills, your creativity will be stifled and it’s a downward spiral. Establish your business with the skills you have, start getting paid, and then it’s easy to become an excellent photographer because you’re free to be creative.

TrekPak: What historical image do you wish you could have taken?
Dan: Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl”.

TrekPak: What is your most memorable moment of being in the right place at the right time?
Dan: Does it have to be photographically?
TrekPak: No
Dan: I would have to say my proposal to Alex. We were both studying abroad in different European countries and met up a couple different times that semester. I had to scrap my original proposal plan because she had the flu really bad on our first rendezvous so I decided to just give her orange juice and wait it out. Before our next rendezvous I wrapped up the ring in a pair of socks and stuffed them in my backpack. We met for a hiking trip in Cinque Terre, Italy, which is easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. There were several moments that seemed opportune on that hike because everything was beautiful, but I kept holding out for the perfect moment until it finally happened. We found ourselves completely alone on the top of a castle tower overlooking the Mediterranean and she absolutely did not expect a proposal. I don’t think she ever actually said “yes,” she just cried and laughed and clung to me for the rest of the day. It ended up being far more perfect than anything pre-planned ever would have been!

Italy engagement shot

TrekPak: What go to pieces of equipment do you always carry with you?
Dan: My Canon 24-70 and two speedlights. The 24-70 allows me to get anything from a full scene to a tight headshot. The two speedlights allow me to light pretty much anything.

TrekPak: Where do you use TrekPak?
Dan: I use TrekPak in the Deuter Freerider Pro 30 Backpack as my daily camera bag. The hip straps make it super comfortable to carry – i do a lot of walking to find cool locations – and the TrekPak insert is easy to organize and re-organize on the fly. The full-length zipper on the back of the pack makes it quick and natural to access all of my gear in one swift movement. It may be the perfect bag!

Dan with Deuter TrekPak
Dan's Deuter Bag
Make sure to go check out Dan and Alex’s work here: