My Accommodations on a Shoot

Ford Bronco and Mean Bean

Going out on a shoot requires a lot of preparation.  One of the steps in preparation is arranging a place to stay.  After all, you're not going to be there for just an afternoon.  Most landscape shooting is done during the early morning hours and then again late afternoon/evening.  You're up before sunrise and don't get finished until after dark.  So, unless you're in to car camping (which I definitely am NOT), you'll need a place to stay.  Preferably you'll want a place that is close to your shooting locations.  The last thing I want is to get up at 3am and drive an hour to make it to my "spot" by sunrise.

Hotels are one option.  If you're lucky you can find one that is near your shoot and reasonably priced.  Unfortunately, that is often not the case.  Spending a week in a hotel at $100+ a night can be tough on the expense budget and can add the stress of "getting some good shots" to make sure it's all worth while.  Then there is food, which if you haven't checked lately, has gotten quite a bit more expensive.  Eating out for a week or two also gets quite expensive.  And, of course, there is the cost of gas . . . . and on and on.

Enter:  "The Bean" or technically in my case the "Mean Bean."  We recently purchased an off-road teardrop camper from Bean Trailers.  The company offers several models depending on your needs and how you will be using it.  All their models are off-road capable and designed for camping in the most remote locations.  Our Mean Bean has extra high ground clearance, off-road tires, beefed up suspension and can pretty much be taken anywhere your tow vehicle can go.  It has a queen size bed, lots of storage, a full size galley kitchen, and lots of outlets/lights for charging equipment batteries.  Everything is powered by built in solar panels and rechargeable lithium batteries.  It is fully set up for going "off-grid" and staying there for as long as you like.  This is no "McMansion on Wheels" that only pulls into campsites with a pool, clubhouse, gas outdoor fireplaces, and hooks-ups for AC.  On the contrary, it's meant for serious off-road camping.

Mean Bean in Rocky Mountain NP

This Mean Bean turns out to be the perfect alternative to those high priced hotel rooms and expensive restaurants when I'm out on a shoot.  Most locations I shoot at have campsites that range from free to just a fraction of the cost of a hotel.  Most national forests have "dispersed" camping sites which means you can usually camp anywhere you can find a safe place to pull off.  Unlike the National Forests, National Parks do not allow camping just anywhere.  Instead, they have internal campgrounds, that with discounts, can cost as little as $15/night - half that during the off season.  And, it's easy to pack your own food and prepare your meals right on site.  The sites are usually set up with picnic tables, fire pits, and "bear boxes" in areas where there is a significant bear population.  Other amenities, such as running water, showers, restrooms etc, vary from location to location.

Bronco and Mean Bean in the SD Badlands

During my last trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, my campsite was only a few minutes from the park entrance which made getting to those critical locations before sunrise much easier - not to mention more convenient for getting food after a late night shoot, without having to worry about finding an open restaurant.

Having and using this trailer has eliminated a major step in preparing for a shoot and significantly reduced the cost/shoot.  But of course, there is a cost associated with it and that is the up-front cost of the camper and tow vehicle.  However, rather than saying good-bye to your money one night at a time through hotel expenses, the upfront $$$ represent an investment in your business and tangible (and tax deductible) goods that can eventually pay for themselves.