About Free Roaming Photography

I grew up a video game nerd, at home in big cities free from any creative pursuits. Any free time I had was spent locked away in my room staring at a TV displaying the second dimension’s state-of-the-art graphics. Computers only exacerbated my addiction. 3D graphics came around hooking me into games like Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, and many more. I was good too. A future in video games in a big eastern city seemed inevitable. And then, the day after graduating college, I traveled west for the first time from my college home in east Texas.

I had never seen so much open land. The concept of public land to me was just as alien as Jupiter’s atmosphere. Preconceptions I had had about the American west were shattered open. My traveling partner and I explored the western United States over the course of three self-discovering weeks, first making our way across the southwest directly for the Pacific Ocean. Before getting there, however, we realized we missed the Grand Canyon. We swung back around and were forced to go through a national park, another piece of public land that I had never stepped foot in, nor had even heard about. Zion National Park was reluctantly on our route so we could once and for all see the Grand Canyon.

My jaw dropped around every turn. I had never seen anything so spectacular. At the age of 26, this was my first national park, and it changed my life. Earlier that year, I had also gotten my first camera. I was rediscovering my creativity and national parks immediately became the wealth of knowledge to push me back toward a more creative life. More only followed on the trip. After Zion, we finally hit Grand Canyon National Park before seeking others out along our way: Natural Bridges, Mesa Verde, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone. Upon returning to east Texas, I knew I had to be out west.

I packed up and moved to Phoenix, Arizona where I spent my first two days playing video games, as usual, and then began noticing the mountains around the area. I went out to see what was there and found a part of myself hidden away all those years. With my camera in tow, I began exploring all the mountains in Phoenix, literally overnight becoming an avid hiker. I simply wanted to be in the desert’s rugged terrain, exploring, seeing new views, discovering secrets around each turn. I gradually began exploring Arizona from beyond the city, always eager to find each road’s secret treasures. The outdoors had hooked me in. Video games had taken a backseat in the blink of an eye of my lifetime.

As I grew more and more comfortable with my camera, I began to seek out more and more natural areas. I grew more fond of the mountains. National parks became targets for any road trip. Such was the case in 2008 when I picked the obscure destination of Wyoming to travel to, a seemingly vast open wilderness with unknown natural beauty waiting to be found. I was to spend two weeks getting up there, driving across the state, and looping back to Phoenix, photographing all sorts of unseen (to me) discoveries along the way. I didn’t expect to see my first grizzly bears though.

The one day I was going to spend in Grand Teton National Park threw me an expected curveball. Through the bushes and trees, the soon-to-be-famous Grizzly Bear #399 had just come out of her den with her three cubs, one of them also soon-to-be-famous #610. I had never seen anything like it. I spent the remainder of the day getting acquainted with a few of the local photographers that were also out, then headed to a hotel to stay another night. I spent the remainder of the trip there and drove back to Phoenix in one day.

I moved up later that year, determined to become a successful full-time photographer, using the endless natural beauty as my guide. I am currently happy to call Jackson Hole my home, where I experience the area with my daughter, who is my inspiration and motivation.

Mike Cavaroc finishing the Arizona Trail

Movies: How to Train Your Dragon; Star Wars; Star Trek II, IV, VI, VIII; John Carter; anything Pixar; anything Edgar Wright; Hector and the Search for Happiness; LEGO Movie; Free Guy; The Mitchells vs the Machines; The Big Year

Shows: The Orville; Star Trek (all of ’em); Firefly; Arrested Development; Parks and Rec; Spaced; Farscape; South Park; Pushing Daisies; Master of None; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Books: The End of Night; Where the Wild Things Were; John Carter series; Walden; Desert Solitaire; Cosmos; A New Earth; The Four Agreements; Cowed; My First Summer in the Sierra

Play: Hiking; Backpacking; Music production; Snowshoeing; Drawing; Painting; Astrophotography

Trails: Arizona Trail; Teton Crest; Picacho Peak; Angel’s Landing; North Kaibab; Upper Muley Twist; Spooky Slot; Delta Lake; Crack Canyon; Table Mountain

In a nutshell: A major geek who likes to feel good and play outside

TEDxJacksonHole – Restoring the Night Sky for a Healthier Future