Exploring the Outdoors with Your Camera

At the end of his internship in Texas, Valentin, a Train USA J-1 alumnus and current Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, decided to explore the canyons and the southwestern United States. He planned a 14-day road trip through southern Utah and northern Arizona, including five national parks.

Most nights were spent camping, often in the back country. On one night, in particular, he set up camp in the back country of Arches National Park and was fortunate enough to witness our very bright galaxy from within. He used his headlamp to light up the inside of his tent as he captured the Milky Way and other stars in the night sky.

Capturing this moment allowed Valentin to net the top prize in our 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest. We recently caught up with him to learn about his U.S. experience and see what advice he could offer this year’s crop of budding photographers.

Desert Milky Way, First Place Winner of the 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest

Meet Valentin Stolbunov, Train USA J-1 Alumnus (2015)

Headshot of Valentin Stolbunov

Tell us a little about your internship. What has been the most rewarding or surprising aspect of your experience?

My internship was an incredible experience. Although there aren’t too many cultural differences between my home country (Canada) and internship country (U.S.), I had previously never visited the southern United States and made sure I took the opportunity to experience its incredible landscapes. I found Austin, Texas to be an absolutely awesome city and can’t wait to go back. The most rewarding experience of my internship was definitely making new friendships which I am sure will last a lifetime.

Photo Credit: Valentin Stolbunov

How did you first get into photography?

I first got into photography about four years ago when I thought it would be fun to take my dad’s old DSLR on a short camping trip. Since then I have gone on countless other trips, always with a camera, always eager to photograph landscapes and wildlife.

Photo Credit: Valentin Stolbunov

What advice would you give to future J-1 interns?

I would encourage them to make the internship about more than just work. The J-1 Visa program throws you into an entirely new environment –new city, new people–and you owe it to yourself to get out there and explore all there is to be explored!

What advice do you have for future photo contest entrants?

My advice for future photo contest entrants is to submit not just beautiful photos, but unforgettable moments. Ideally, you want your photo to accurately document an experience that you would love to share with those closest to you. Throughout your travels, you will undoubtedly be transformed (hence the name of the photo contest ?), and if you can capture and share the moments that transformed you, the experience will be significantly more fulfilling.

Photo Credit: Valentin Stolbunov

Snap, Share, and Win Our Photo Contest

Do you have a photo that can show the transformative power of travel? Enter our photo contest by October 3. Unlimited entries. The winner gets a two-day trip for one to Washington, D.C. during FotoWeekDC with a customized itinerary. Runners-up receive cash prizes, while all winners also receive a free Exposure subscription.