In February, as the COVID-19 crisis restricted in-person activities and kept classrooms remote, Marc Howard spent time exploring Yosemite National Park. The Monterey photographer and his family were there for the annual Firefall event, when, in the right conditions, a cascading waterfall shimmers like molten lava.
“If there’s enough snowpack, and the water’s melting, and it’s not overcast, and it’s just the right time, Horsetail Fall lights up on El Capitan and makes the water glow red. It’s pretty spectacular, and we’ve seen it twice,” Howard says.
His Firefall photos are among countless dramatic nature images that Howard has captured in recent months. When the pandemic halted parts of his commercial and event photography work, his household hooked up a travel trailer and explored the western United States.
Howard’s wife, Vanessa, had already been homeschooling their 14-year-old daughter. As other teachers moved classes online, it introduced even more flexible learning options.
“If I don’t have a shoot in town, I can edit from the road and go shoot more landscape and wildlife photography. We used this as an opportunity to get out and see things,” Howard says.
The flexibility to work from anywhere comes two decades after Howard launched his career. He grew up in Pebble Beach and attended Stevenson before studying business at Furman University in South Carolina. Though he enjoyed photography, Howard didn’t consider it as a professional path until he spent his college summer breaks assisting Monterey Peninsula photographers.
“At some point, it dawned on me that I could make a living doing this. That was a shift,” he says.
After graduating from Furman, Howard moved back west and married his high school sweetheart. He also absorbed photography lessons as a freelance assistant. Through photographer Ed Young, Howard took part in studio shoots, captured images of farmers working in local fields, and focused on agricultural scenes and California landscapes. While working with Tom O’Neal, he turned the lens on people, weddings, fashion and events.
“I learned so much from them. It was good to see how different people work through different situations. I experienced a variety of photography styles and techniques and subjects, and it really was the best on-the-job-training,” Howard says.
Now well-established with his own photography business, Howard does a mix of commercial, event and fine art work. He captures important moments for corporate groups that meet in the area, takes photographs at annual golf tournaments, and regularly works with clients like the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Some of Howard’s favorite photos come together on greens and fairways.
“I’m especially happy to work at Pebble Beach. It’s such an iconic place, and every time I walk out there, I think it’s the best office in the world. Even if it’s foggy and cold and windy out on the seventh hole, it’s just a great place to experience, with all that natural beauty and history,” he says.
Howard is also passionate about nature photography. He appreciates the chance to capture both iconic national parks and under-the-radar treasures.
“There’s such vast wilderness out there. I love finding places along the way,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s not the expected destination but something on the journey that becomes the magical photograph.”
In addition to exploring Yosemite, the Howard family recently completed a 4,500-mile loop through national parkland in Zion, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier and Mount Rainer, plus Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and Oregon’s Crater Lake. They’re planning future trips to Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
With each new route, the Howards get more comfortable balancing video classes, work deadlines and outdoor adventures.
“When it’s time to work, we all sit at the dinette with laptops. We try not to drive too much during productive times,” Howard says. “Our daughter is learning time management, which is one of the more important lessons you learn in school.”
The trio travels part time for now, pausing in Monterey when work and life require them to be in town. Still, Marc Howard and his family take inspiration from other families who have committed to full-time travel.
“The advice we’ve heard is, ‘Don’t wait for everything to align perfectly. Start with what you have, and just go do it,'” he says. “People often say they’d like to try this someday, and then they wait so long that they never do. We feel extremely fortunate to have the flexibility to do this now.”