Q&A with Travel Photographer, Landon Burnley

Landon Burnley is the king of road trips. With his beloved 4Runner and faithful four-legged travel companion, Mabel, Landon has racked up thousands of miles on the road. When he’s not traipsing across the country during his epic adventures in the Colorado Rockies and the Slot Canyons of Arizona, Landon spends his time as a fourth-year materials engineering student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. But his many passions don’t end there; Landon is also an avid and talented photographer. You can see all of these worlds collide on his awe-inspiring Instagram account. Luno Life got to ask Landon a few questions about his travels thus far and how he balances his explorations with life’s responsibilities.

What do you look for when picking your travel destination for your next trip?

Because I’m in college, most of the trips I plan are based on money and if I can drive there in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve gone on a road trip every spring break for the past three years with my girlfriend, Ruby, and my dog, Mabel. We’ve done a 1,000 mile week-long car camping trip to Colorado and hit Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. We usually just look for what we can afford and how far we can drive in the allotted time we have. I’d say it’s worked out nicely for us!

Your Instagram feed shows that you’ve been to some amazing far away places. What has been your favorite destination thus far?

My favorite destination to date would probably be Carbondale in Roaring Fork Valley in the Colorado Rockies; it’s a smallish town with just over 5,000 people. I’ve been there dozens of times. I love it because there is so much to do and see regardless of the season. The skiing at Aspen Snowmass is amazing during the winter, but I think the fall is the most beautiful when the Aspen trees are changing color. The contrast of the fiery Aspens with the deep greens of the pines is amazing.

What do you most look forward to when you set out for a new place to visit?

I love to not plan too much when I’m visiting somewhere new. I like being able to go somewhere and explore wherever the wind or road takes me. When it comes to photographing somewhere new, I like to look at what pictures have been taken at popular spots. Then I’ll go to those spots but take pictures from new angles and perspectives to try and put my own twist on that popular photo location.

Do you have a favorite item or piece of gear that you must take with you on every trip?

I always have my camera. I will not go anywhere without it. There was one time where I had to shimmy along a cliff and my camera couldn’t come with me. I was so sad when I got around and couldn’t document what was hiding on the other side of the cliff. I learned my lesson and haven’t gone anywhere without my camera since.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to start adventuring more but is hesitant to start?

I would advise them to just start in their own backyard! Sometimes we get so caught up in having to explore the globe that we forget what beauty lies within a short distance of where we already are. I’m still finding places that are within an hour of me that are hidden treasures!

One of your Instagram captions mentions that your car is your home away from home (we LOVE). How did you settle on your 4Runner as the vehicle of choice?

When I moved to California for college, my parents said I needed something safe and reliable to get me to and from school and home. We were originally looking for a 2003-2010 4Runner but happened to come across a great deal on a barely used 2015 4Runner. I convinced my parents that it was the perfect car and they agreed to split payments until I graduate. I love the size, capability, and reliability that all 4Runners have to offer and I know that I will keep it as long as possible (which could be forever with Toyotas).

Which season is your favorite for traveling?

My favorite season for travel is the fall. I love the dramatic color changes and how it makes the landscape so much more exciting. It’s also the time of year where it can randomly snow or rain. I like when the weather changes because it makes everything more interesting. Not necessarily always for the better (if you’re not prepared), but definitely more interesting.

Would you rather be at the beach or on the lake?

I would take any alpine lake over the beach. Nothing beats my love for high mountain alpine lakes.

We see that you travel with your sweet dog, Mabel! How does she alter and/or enrich your travels?

Mabel has to be the best adventure dog out there. She has made adventuring way more fun and entertaining! I think she loves being outside just as much as her owners. She is also a dedicated watchdog at night, but her bark is way worse than a bite. (Between you and I... she’s actually a big chicken)

How do you balance your school work with your time outdoors?

I like to set aside time for weekend trips in advance! By committing to plans during the week, it forces me to get my work done early so I can enjoy my weekend. This has also taught me to manage my time better to earn the reward of adventure.

If you could leave tomorrow to go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I would go straight to New Zealand. There is so much variety of activities in the outdoors and amazing scenery. I am also a huge Lord of the Rings fan and would love to visit ‘Hobbit Land’. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself being able to get there anytime soon so it’s only wishful thinking for now...