Samson Hatae is a world traveler and photographer who has spent time in over 25 countries... and counting. Samson combines his passion for photography with travel, motorcycles, and surfing. His devotion for travel and celebrating different cultures around the world began as a child traveling to see family and friends in his father's birthplace, Japan.
BFK: What would you describe as your biggest passion? Motorcycles, traveling, or photography (or anything else not listed here) and how do they intertwine?
Samson: I would say my constant passion that never seems to leave me is photography and traveling. Other passions change from time to time but are always there like motorcycles, surfing, cycling, or any other activity I enjoy doing.
I will always get excited to travel to a new place or somewhere I really enjoy and will always bring a camera with me.
What have been two of your most memorable trips and what made them stand out?
One of my most recent work trips took me around the world on a cruise ship. We visited 23 countries and over 40 cities. It was overall an incredible trip with a lot of memorable points, but one day I keep going back to is a day in Taolagnaro, Madagascar.
My friend Lou and I were both out working that day and saw people renting out motorcycles and we knew we had to get on some. We found some to rent and then headed to the hills. As we went up this dirt road we stumbled across a group of kids swimming in little pond and we stopped to say hi.
They spoke no english and we didn’t speak their language but we just smiled, took photos and video, and had a great time laughing and making faces at each other. After that we headed back towards the ship and had some time to kill so we walked over a dune to see a beach with perfect waves. We usually had our fins for body surfing with us whenever we were close to the beach so we ran as fast as we could and got changed to get in the water.
A local fisherman came up to us and Lou asked if it was safe to go out... he nodded his head and decided to come out with us. We didn’t have much time but we swam out there, caught a few waves, and ran back to the ship just in time. It was one of those days that we couldn’t even have thought of making happen, but it all worked out so well. It will stick with me for a very long time.
Another memorable trip was when a friend and I decided we should buy matching police bikes and ride from CA to NY and see as much as we could. I have done a few multi-day trips on a motorcycle but nothing as long as what we had planned. We had various points we wanted to hit across the country and one of them was Yellowstone. We spent two nights camping and were lucky to get there when we did since it just opened the day before we got there.
A day I remember standing out the most on this trip was leaving Yellowstone. We rode by Bison, stopped at Old Faithful and just rode through a relatively empty park. On that day we experienced so many different landscapes it was incredible... from going over a 9,000 foot pass, red rocks, some rolling plains, seeing the worlds largest Jackalope, and then ending it with a sunset falling behind the Grand Tetons in the distance. There were a lot of of memorable days on this trip but nothing quite like that.
What about photography and travel excite you?
I was lucky enough to have family in Japan since my father is from there so we were able to go many times when I was young. I think this really opened up the world to me and left me wanting to see more. I really enjoy traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures. I know there is so much out there to see and that gets me excited. Photography comes natural to this equation of wanting to go and experience new places. I enjoy being able to photograph what interests me and share it with people that are willing to look!
You recently traveled to Japan, Costa Rica, and Germany... Three totally different cultures and experiences. Can you talk a little about each trip and what you did?
Japan: I would like to say Japan is my “second home” since I have been able to go there so much to visit family and friends, but I have not been there as much recently as I would like. It is a very familiar place and I love the culture, food, and people there.
The people in Japan are very kind and willing to help out or make sure you have a good experience with whatever it is you are doing. The food is some of my favorite in the world, but that may be because I grew up eating it... depending on the region the flavors are different and that is also something that makes it great.
Costa Rica: I was lucky enough to visit once for work and then not to long after for pleasure. The culture there is much more laid back than Japan and Germany. Everything runs a little more slower paced and mellow, or on “Tico Time”. It was somewhat hard to deal with for work since I am used to running things on a tighter schedule, but I appreciate it for other things, it is much more relaxing.
I found that everyone there was much more relaxed then back home and have an easy going attitude which I liked. I really enjoyed the food in Costa Rica as well. Rice, beans, and a protein for most meals and it all has a home cooked feel to it. There is also so much fresh fruit since the climate is perfect for that. It is a great place to go if you want to relax and enjoy a mellow pace.
Germany is an interesting place and I enjoyed the time I got to spend there. I was able to spend some time in Berlin and Hamburg, two pretty different places in themselves. It is awesome to see such old history mixed with modern buildings.
The people and culture to me feel pretty “western” to what I am used to, just handled in a more precise way. It is impressive that a lot of the people speak or know some English as well; if I would try and use the few phrases I knew in German and was struggling they could help me out and speak English. Most stores being closed on Sunday got me every time…since I am not used to that! I didn’t really get into the typical German cuisine often, but really like the Turkish and Indian food there.
When traveling to these faraway places, what are your goals when you arrive? Do you go with a plan of what you want to do/see, or do you try and go with an open mind?
Before I travel somewhere I haven’t been I like to do a little research about the area, like top sites to see and local cuisine. Some places I have a “must see” or “must eat” and try to get to that. If I know someone that has been there then I will get recommendations on the area.
If I get the chance I always talk to a person from the area to do what they do or eat what they eat. I enjoy visiting local eateries where someone who lives there would go eat on a daily or weekly basis. If I have the time, I will just go and walk around and see what I can get myself into (if I know it is a safe area).
I always enter every new place with an open mind, that to me is one of the most crucial elements to traveling. Sure I have a presumption of what a place is like, but always go willing to try something different then what I had in mind.
You have some really great outdoor and camping pictures - what's your perfect camp set up?
I really enjoy spending time outdoors and sleeping outside is a favorite past time. A perfect camp set up to me is a nice camp fire to sit around, a clear sky, and friends to enjoy it with. When I can bring my dog that is always a bonus.
Luckily here in California I can get a variety of different terrains to camp in so I can go to mountain tops, desert or along the beach all within a days travel. I never really listen to music when camping, that to me takes away from the being outdoors aspect of it.
My go to camp dinner is a can of chili or soup and some chips and breakfast would be oatmeal, coffee, and a banana. When possible and we get to travel with more gear, then bringing a dutch oven opens up so many more culinary options. We have gotten pretty “fancy” for camp cooking and that is a whole new experience.
What's your dream trip (if you haven't taken it yet…)?
I have a few dream trips and they all vary. I would love to take a motorcycle trip around Japan from top to bottom. Another would be to drive around the US with my dog, somewhat like Steinbeck's in Travels with Charley: In Search of America.
I would also love to do the classic Baja surf trip, or any other surf trip in search of waves. Russia has also been a destination I want to go to, it is very intriguing to me. I am always thinking of a new “dream trip” and I think that is a good thing. I keep adding things I am interested in doing/seeing and that keeps me excited for new places.
Finally, what's in store for you next?
Whats next…a few work trips around the states but other then that I have not planned anything major. I have so many images from my recent trips around the world I would like to get a little book going from a collection of those images, but that is quite the task.
I have been really liking shooting video and would like to shoot some projects I have in mind. No big trips planned currently, but I could scheme something up quickly if I feel the need to get out there.