Images from the Arctic to the Antarctic, including the Galapagos Islands, Australia, Africa and so much more!
Donna Ikenberry and Mike Vining
Although it is difficult for me to believe, I started my full-time career way back in 1983. Wow! Thirty-six wonderful years have passed since then and I am proud to say I am still passionate, especially about my wildlife photography.
When I began my full-time career I was 29 years old and I had never published a single photograph. I had sold some of my framed prints, but my work had yet to see the inside of a magazine. Still, I made the decision to become a wildlife photographer so that’s what I did.
Life as a full-time photojournalist has never been easy, but I have loved every minute of my career. My first year in business I made a total of $70 and I sold two photographs. Still, if I had it to do all over again I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now, more three decades later, I can happily say I have published 13 books, as well as nearly 900 magazine and newspaper articles, and more than 5,000 photographs. I have also visited my dream place—Antarctica—twice. I know I will go back for a third time because I have yet to see emperor penguins and they are my dream penguins.
For the first 16 years of my career I traveled full-time in an RV. I called a fifth wheel trailer “home” for many years. I dearly loved traveling full-time. My home was always with me so I never missed being there. And I had friends in nearly every corner of the country, friends I count on to this day. It was a wonderful lifestyle and I would still call myself a full-timer if I had not met my husband, Mike Vining.
I met Mike while working on a story about Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. Mike was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the time. An Army sergeant major, Mike was in New Mexico on business at the time. An avid outdoors person, he was also in the process of attaining state highpoints so he’d driven to Texas to climb its highest peak. I love climbing peaks, but I was on top of Guadalupe Peak making images, not just bagging a highpoint. Mike and I met, talked for a while, exchanged business cards, and that was that. At least it was for me, but it wasn’t for Mike. He was (and still is) a collector of guidebooks, and because I write them he knew he would keep in touch with me. I was adamant about keeping my single status so when we met I had no idea that one day we would be married. A long story short, Mike started writing to me, we became friends who hiked and camped together, and then we became a couple on Valentine’s Day 1998. That summer we were engaged on Mount Rainer, the highest point in Washington, and on January 6, 1999, we were married on top of Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii. Since then we’ve been collecting highpoints together: We’ve stood on top of 45 state highpoints since our wedding day.
When Mike and I got married we traveled full-time for a few months before buying a home in Colorado. Mike had too much stuff to travel full-time: Too many books and a mountain of outdoor gear. Thus, I gave up the full-time lifestyle. A few years ago we purchased a Lance 1685 Trailer so we are back to camping in RVs and loving every minute of it. In the spring, summer and fall of 2014 we headed north pulling our travel trailer to Canada and Alaska. We had the most amazing time.
Mike retired after we got married so we travel together and we couldn’t have more fun. We are avid hikers, backpackers, mountain climbers, rock climbers, skiers (both downhill and backcountry), snowshoers, kayakers, bird watchers and all-around animal watchers too.
I’ve enjoyed many highlights during my career. My all-time best highlight was meeting Mike, but going to Antarctica and seeing six species of penguins was also a dream come true. Riding my bicycle across the United States and publishing a guide for others to do the same (Bicycling Coast to Coast) was a high point as well. In addition, I also bicycled from Florida to Maine (Bicycling the Atlantic Coast), and I visited all of Oregon’s wilderness areas (resulting in many titles, including Hiking Oregon). After Mike and I got married we traveled together while I worked on Camping Utah (2nd edition released 2014), Wild Colorado, and Hiking Colorado’s Weminuche and South San Juan Wilderness Areas (3rd edition released in 2014).
Life is a joy. Traveling is my true passion, and while I would like to see it all, I know that's impossible. I traveled full-time for 16 years, and for the past 16 years Ihave traveled nearly half of each year. I know that if I live to be 100 years old I will never see it all. But I have my list of places to go and I will give it my best shot!