Great Escape Publishing Success Story: Interview with Ray Batson
Ray Batson, a former planetary cartographer, now spends his time writing, taking photos, and traveling. He is another living, breathing, Great Escape Publishing success story.
A recent adventure took him to Antarctica. Yesterday, I gave you a sneak peek of his article and photos from that trip — due to come out in next month’s issue of International Living. I included some insights from freelance writer Jen Stevens on what, exactly, Ray did right in his article.
Below, Ray tells us how it feels to get published in a glossy magazine like International Living.
It’s not surprising to see a past attendee go from a completely unrelated career to travel writing and photography. In fact, many of our top instructors spent years doing other things before they found their way to the lifestyle they’re so passionate about today. All professional photographers now, Shelly Perry was once in social work, Rich Wagner in department store management, and Efrain Padro practiced law.
One of the most popular speakers at our travel writing workshops, freelancer Steenie Harvey, left school before she turned 16. So did top iStock photographer Lise Gagne. Each of them endured a string of odd jobs before finding their passions and turning them into a good living — Steenie as a writer, Lise as a photographer.
My point is: Your background doesn’t matter. And it’s never too late. If you want to travel the world and get paid for the stories and photos you bring back, then go out and do it. It’s our mission to lend you a hand.
Great Escape Publishing
Planetary Cartographer Turned Travel Writer: An Interview with Past Workshop Attendee Ray Patson
BONNIE: Hi Ray. Can you give us some background about how you got your start in travel writing and photography?
RAY: I have been into photography for a long, long time! The first picture in my photo archive was taken in 1944. In the years since then, sometimes I took lots of photos, other times few. It depended on the availability of money for film, or access to a camera, or both.
In my career with the USGS and NASA, documentation photos were keys to my work. So I got in the habit of doing brief write-ups to back up photos taken during trips and excursions, either professional or recreational.
Then I went to the Great Escape Publishing workshop in Denver a few years ago, and under Jennifer Stevens’ tutelage, worked up a postcard about an icebreaker cruise my wife and I took through the Northwest Passage. It was accepted for publication by International Living.
Jen really pointed me in the right direction for writing these kinds of things. And I also enjoyed unforgettable talks by Steenie Harvey. During that workshop, Rich Wagner held an add-on photo workshop. That’s when I took a photo of the Colorado State Capitol building, which has become my top download on iStockphoto.
BONNIE: Where else have your stories and photos been published, so far?
RAY: When I was 13, I wrote a couple of stories about a Teddy bear that journeyed to Mars and to Antarctica, and was bitterly disappointed at being turned down by a couple of publishers.
Since then, not counting a number of technical papers and books published by or for NASA back when I was working for wages, I have had a few “Posctards” in IL and Travel Post Monthly, and a longer piece on our North Pole excursion in 40+ Travel and Leisure. I have been concentrating mostly on photography, and my wife and I have small portfolios on iStockphoto. We also have portfolios on Nikoneans, and on our own website, RNRImages.com.
BONNIE: How do you continue to write while you travel? Do you keep a journal?
RAY: My handwriting is hopeless these days, and I rely on my wife to take notes during our travels. I make a point of taking pictures of signs and posters during our excursions, which helps in doing write-ups later. I regret that I was too stingy to use film on such subjects in the days before digital. Also, my camera has a GPS and geocodes each picture in the metadata. I carry a laptop, and process our photos each day during trips. Clicking on the Lat/Long as it appears in Lightroom boots up Google Earth and zooms in on the exact place I was standing when I took the picture.
BONNIE: You recently had an article and photos about your trip to Antarctica published in International Living magazine. How does it feel to have this great-looking spread in a glossy magazine?
RAY: It is nice to feel like I might be getting the hang of writing something that a professional editor thinks somebody might like to read. Friends and relatives are a captive audience — they have to pretend to like your stuff whether they do or not.
BONNIE: Do you have any other story and photo ideas in the works? Where do you aim to get published next?
RAY: Quite a few, actually. We have taken some memorable and photogenic safaris in Africa, Alaska, New Zealand, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and we are heading to the western Mediterranean in April. We are getting particularly interested in the history of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and have visited some sites in the Agean and the Nile in Egypt. There is enough recent material to keep me busy without potboiling old stuff. That is important because I am not a prolific writer.
I would like to sell more fine arts photography (I think we have a pretty good portfolio), but don’t have any contacts or targets at the moment.
BONNIE: Do you have any tips to share for people who like to write and take photos but don’t know how to take the next step to getting published?
RAY: Great Escape Publishing workshops — I attended several — kept me motivated.
I have not found any magic tricks for getting into press. My maxim for writing is “if you don’t get them in the first 25 words, you won’t get them.” I had to have heard that somewhere, I know I didn’t invent it. As to photos, as you page through any batch, you may see some very nice stuff. But once in a great while there will be one that makes you kind of catch your breath, involuntarily. If you are looking at your photo collection when that happens, maybe you’ve got something.
BONNIE: Thanks, Ray!
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]