The Creators: Ben Prescott

A new generation of creators are remapping the world – and everyone is watching. Photographers and filmmakers are in the new vanguard of global travel, taking us on a high-definition trip to far-flung places, revealing the splendour of the world, and inspiring us all to pack our bags and become more intrepid.

For the first of a new Secret Trips interview series – The Creators – we spoke to Vancouver-born professional photographer Ben Prescott, who has travelled to the furthest stretches of the globe to capture the most intriguing and unbelievable landscapes that only a few people will ever be lucky enough to see. Ben is one of the new pioneers of travel photography for whom social media is their gallery. His epic mountainscapes give us an almost preternatural glimpse into the expanses of North American and Canadian ‘Big Country’. His work is an homage to nature and serves as a motivational call to get up and out into the world, to explore and experience, and to champion the outdoors.

Hi Ben. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background – how you found your way into photography and landscapes in particular?

I was born and raised about an hour outside Vancouver, British Columbia. Growing up, I was within a short drive of four ski hills and six mountains, with mountain biking and tons of hiking. So I was raised in a farm town surrounded by mountains, and my parents started me off skiing very young, at about three years old. I was always in the mountains just doing my thing. When I was 16, I got into construction, but by 26 I had hurt my back pretty badly. Part of my recommended rehab was to go on a ton of walks and hikes. I borrowed a friend’s camera to take with me on walks and I just started taking photos randomly. It was southwest BC in the winter, where it’s foggy all the time, and the photos happened to turn out simply because of the conditions. So I kind of fell in love with it immediately. 

Shortly afterwards I bought a camera and started posting on social media. This was early 2016 and it was pretty easy to get traction back then. It sort of blew up and created a way for me to make a little bit of a living from it. By 2017 I was able to go full-time, doing the occasional sponsored post on Instagram and using that to fund road-tripping around BC and Alberta. From my house to the Rockies is about an eight-hour drive, for example, while Northern California and Yosemite is 18 hours. If I was raised in Nebraska or Saskatchewan or somewhere like that, I don’t know if this would have been possible. It would have been a lot more expensive and time consuming to get to good-looking landscapes. Being born and raised in BC has been a huge blessing.


There’s something about mountains and mountainscapes that has an ethereal quality. I remember seeing Ansel Adams’ images of Yosemite and being blown away. There’s almost something religious to them. Do you know what I mean?

Yeah. He almost makes the mountains look like they are living, breathing organisms. Being down in the base of the valley in Yosemite now, with all the tourists and the busy roads, it’s very different to the experience Adams would have had. But it’s so interesting to think that he was standing in that same valley and he was able to see the place from a totally different perspective. I’m blown away by his eye for that place. He was able to impose his own visual language onto the landscape somehow.

Where have your most recent travels taken you?

To the Rocky Mountains, to Banff National Park and Jasper. We did seven days and nights of backcountry hiking in Banff. We were out there because we have a tree in Banff, which is a coniferous tree, but it has needles that turn orange in the autumn and fall off the tree. So what happens in these protected valleys at about 7,000ft [2,100m] elevation is that they go from fully green to fully orange in the space of about two weeks, and we were there right as they were starting to turn. To access these zones we did what’s called a ‘through-hike’, where we park one car at the entry and another at the exit some 45km away, then hike from one car to the other over the course of a week. It was absolutely incredible.

What kit do you take with you when you do a big trip like that?

As little as possible! Being too gear-heavy results in you coming away with fewer good images. If you have a go-to camera body with a single lens and maybe one other lens in the pack, that’s all you need. I just keep it strapped up on my pack so if I see something I like I just unclip it and take the photo. It’s not necessarily the choice of camera body, it’s not necessarily the choice of lens, it’s just that you have it accessible and ready to go every time you see something. You don’t have to go rummaging around in your pack and waste 10 minutes.

Are these types of trips quite spontaneous? To what extent do you map them out before you set off?

This trip was very planned. You have to go through the federal government’s reservation system, which only opens up on a specific day in March at a specific time. In half an hour, the entire park basically books out for the year. You have to be really diligent. That means a lot of prep work leading up to that day, because you need to understand how you’re going to get from A to B over the course of a week. No one had really shot this region before, so we couldn’t make any plans by looking at past photographs – there aren’t any. Finding the good angles and perspectives in this part of the park was actually quite spontaneous.

Negev Desert, Israel

Where in the world have you been that feels most like a different planet?

I’ve been lucky to have visited so many places in the world that blew me away, but my instinctive answer to that question is always the Negev Desert in Israel. It’s just such an interesting landscape. There are these connecting walkable ridges at a 2,000ft [600m] prominence over the basin of the desert, affording you incredible views. It’s very inhospitable and completely different to where I grew up. There’s very little growing, no water. We scaled one of the ridgelines in the dark, an hour and a half before sunrise, and then almost immediately the sky went from black to golden. It took maybe 10 minutes. The day just snaps into place out of nowhere, from starry night to bright daylight with no warning. It’s incredible.

Negev Desert, Israel

What’s your destination bucket list looking like?

That’s a very long list. I really want to go to Bhutan. I spent a month in Nepal in 2012 and I loved it. I spent a lot of time in the foothills of the Himalayas. Amazing people, really the kindest people in the world. I heard a lot about Bhutan and the way they live there. It’s truly unique and protected from outside influences. It’s entirely mountainous and everyone’s a farmer. I watched a documentary recently where a team of climbers summited the highest mountain in the country without even being able to find out what the name of it was. It was all done via satellite imagery. Anyway, there are these huge mountains and they don’t even have names yet. It just looks really different to anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Do you have any secrets or tips to make the whole travel experience easier?

The biggest game changer for me was Birkenstocks and socks on the plane! So cosy! Put on a fresh pair of socks and slip into your Birks and it’s bliss. Your feet don’t stink so you won’t be demonised by your fellow passengers, nor will they get squashed in your shoes on long-haul flights. I tried flying in hiking boots once, never again. Birks and socks. That’s the move.

What essentials do you always take with you?

There was a transition from my 20s to my 30s when I started travelling with a medical kit – essentially a first-aid kit and pharmacy kit, different pills for different problems. Since I began carrying it, it hasn’t sat dormant in the pack for more than a couple of days. It is always being used in unexpected circumstances, so it’s completely non-negotiable now. I also can’t travel without noise-cancelling headphones. I bought my first pair for €350 out of a vending machine in Frankfurt airport, just because I’d been flying a lot that week and was arriving everywhere feeling exhausted. A constant noise input is deceptively draining on your energy levels. With the noise-cancelling headphones you can block out the din of crying babies or jet engines, and you can listen to whatever you want. Not having to deal with constant peripheral noise definitely helps me feel a lot less tired.

Where’s next for you, Ben?

I’ve got a couple of assignments that are maybes, including a trip to Kyrgyzstan in the works for next year, which would be very interesting. But next month I’m heading to Southern California to explore a few different spots down there, particularly in the Sierra Mountains, behind Los Angeles.

Follow Ben Prescott on Instagram @itsbigben and discover more about his work at itsbigben.com

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