Note; this is essentially a ramble of what I’m hoping to do with my van conversion to help make my mind up!
So, it’s been a good month since I last got out with the camera in the hills, I do it semi-professionally but I’m not counting that. That’s a first in the last 2 years and it must be said, I’m missing it! Although, yes I’m busy with other projects (more on that in a minute), I feel as though my creativity in photography has drained and no longer do I find just the act of taking a picture exciting, it seems I’ve grown to realise that my passion doesn’t necessarily lie in simply taking a picture like I once did, it’s much more than that. My enjoyment lies in finding new compositions and coming back time and time again to shoot it at different times or when the light’s at its best to create an image that stands out to me. I’m finding this hard to accomplish right now seeing as I mostly shoot in the Brecon Beacons which is over an hour away – that’s quite a trek considering I also need to pay for fuel and the bridge toll!
So, I’ve been thinking how I can solve my problem and simply, I just need to be in the Brecon Beacons more, over a weekend for example, even when the forecast isn’t ‘ideal’. Currently, I make a trip when it’s dry sunny weather and that will never capture images that truly stand out to me. Staying in the Brecon Beacons over a weekend on a consistent basis in all-weather types and seasons means I need to find a place to sleep. My options are:
- Stay in a B&B; nice but unfortunately that will become quite expensive and I don’t fancy paying all the time
- Wild camp; I love doing but it’s a lot of faff to prep the gear and I’ll be honest, all that prepping is a toll on my brain especially if the weather’s bad plus I wouldn’t be able to be productive in the time I’m not out in the hills (I’m also a developer, so I have quite a few side projects on the go, one of them is charitable and it’s a project that’s mapping the UK’s hidden emergency service, it’s called Ododow – check it out here)
- Sleep in the car; I have a Corsa and I’ve tried laying but it really isn’t good for sleeping unless I’d be happy with my feet sticking out the back!
Three options that are nice on occasion (except the car!), but are not ideal. The last idea that came to my head was a van conversion. I started doing research and I found that I could quite easily buy a bog standard panel van for not a lot of money after the sale of my car. I deemed my requirements as this;
- Must be as easily maneuverable as my car and drives like a car
- Economical to save on fuel and so that I feel better for the environment
- A decent size cargo space, enough for about a six-foot bed (I’m 5’ 9”)
- Low mileage (<= 50k), I want something as reliable as possible
- Height, enough to sit in the back, not essential though
- A good background history on similar conversions
I’ve been searching the web the past couple weeks and the ‘matching’ van within my budget is the Vauxhall Combo/Fiat Doblo (same vans, different badge).
It drives like a car, economical, has a decent cargo space (with the bulkhead it’s 5’ 6” but I’ll be removing that so should be enough without the seats moving), fairly cheap to buy a low mileage model and has a good background history of conversion (thanks to Matt for the great guide and advice and to Dan for the conversion videos!). The only thing I’m not sure on is the height, it might not be enough for me to sit comfortably on the bed without my head touching the roof and to be a 100% certain, I would need to get the high top version as the standard height is approx. 126cm. With a 50cm bed plus my 88cm body comes to 137cm which means the top of my head would be sticking out the top. Not ideal, but then I think, how much am I likely to be sitting in the van? Probably not a lot and let’s be honest, laying in the van is going to be more comfortable. If I can drop the bed to 40cm then height won’t be an issue, this is just something I’m going to need to figure out when I have the van. I could just get the high top, but they seem to be more expensive and there’s very, very few used on the market at the moment. It would be cool if I could find a way to make the passenger seat swivel, that would solve my problem (this might work!).
Ultimately budget is my limiting point here, I don’t want to go spending money for the fun of it and it seems the Doblo/Combo L1H1 models would work albeit with some creativity needed to make it better. That sounds pretty good to me as another reason for doing this project is to learn some new skills, hopefully, my DIY will step up a couple notches after this!
My plan once I have the van is to write a series of the conversion so watch this space, who knows in a couple months from now, I might actually have a useable van to sleep in. Plus, I’ll have the ability to be more ‘ad-hoc’ with my photo trips, I can leave work, head straight for a place to sleep, get up for sunrise then go to work – sorted.
Whilst I haven’t been out with the camera much lately, I’ve still made a few hiking trips. Here’s one from Friday with the Mum, it was a first for her up Pen y Fan and she made it in good time too. Such a stunning day for it and as it was the hotest day of 2018, we both came away with plenty of sun burn!