From Concert Hall to Camera

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Some choice modifications to the Discovery 2 mean that Bartek and his partner Monika can be self-sufficient : credit: © Bartek Kolaczkowski
Previously a professional pianist, Bartek Kolaczkowski is now a photographer who travels Europe’s remote regions in his Disco 2

Bartek is living his best life, adventuring in his much-loved Discovery 2 to remote and beautiful European locations, which he then expertly captures with his camera. These memorable trips involve lots of wild camping, usually miles away from the hustle and bustle of urban areas and other human beings.

Bartek is living proof that our lives can sometimes take unexpected turns as we head off in a different yet more fulfilling direction. For 22 years the Polish national played the piano in concert halls around the world, yet deep down he knew he needed more.

Wild camping among some seriously beautiful landscapes

“I was missing out, and the life I wanted lay elsewhere,” he reveals. Today Bartek has a new, more rewarding lifestyle; packed concert halls are but a distant memory, and he now thrives on the solitude and opportunities afforded him by combining his twin passions of travel and photography.

Dirt tracks will take you high up into the Albanian Alps

This Warsaw-based photographer is a Land Rover and car fanatic. Which is probably why many of his commercial photoshoots involve cars. Three of his current vehicles have the now near obsolete Green Oval of Land Rover: a soft top Defender 90, his go-to overlander Discovery 2 and a recently acquired 2007 Defender 110 TDCi, which he plans on kitting out for future trips. Like many others, he is considering removing the roof of his 110 and replacing it with a pop-top tent, thereby turning it into a convenient camper. He is under no illusions about the practicalities of Land Rover ownership. “While I love my Defender’s iconic status and look, the Discovery is much more comfortable.”

Some mountain passes were quite technical, but the rewards were very much worth it

Bartek and his girlfriend Monika Kozmin recently returned from a successful trip into the Albanian Alps in his Discovery 2. Their main aim was to wild camp in the hard-to-reach parts of the Theth National Park and capture images that would inspire others to go there. This was not Bartek’s first time in this little gem of an Albanian National Park, so I ask why he returned. “I just love the diversity of this small country. You are blown away by the breathtaking views while at the same time trying to steer your Land Rover up a very technical mountain pass. Then the next day, you are watching the perfect sunset on a deserted beach. For me, it just does not get any better than that – off-roading and photography in a beautiful place.” For some this is why we drive Land Rovers, of course.

Thanks to his Disco 2 and rooftop tent, Bartek has the freedom to discover new places

Bartek has a rather straightforward travel philosophy; he wants to enjoy everything nature offers while finding stunning locations to wild camp in. In other words, he likes to avoid the crowds. I ask Bartek about his favourite place in the Albanian Alps. “We were here two years ago and found a spot with the most incredible all-around mountain views. We just had to go back to see and experience it all over again; it certainly did not disappoint.” Judging by the images that Bartek produced while there, the Albanian Alps should be on any avid overlander’s must-do list.

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The very essence of ‘getting away from it all’, Land Rover-style

From the moment he purchased his 2003 Discovery 2, Bartek’s life headed off in this whole new direction of photography and travel. He explains. “This is my first overland vehicle, and I find it very comfortable and capable. Albania allowed me to explore the high-altitude mountains and lower beaches in it; I could go where the two-wheel drive vehicles couldn’t. My Land Rover is an important part of my work as it helps me locate the best places for my photoshoots.”

Roof rack is also home to the couple’s sleeping quarters

To ensure that he and Monika can be totally self-sufficient when on the road, Bartek has added some serious accessories to his D2. It all began with the modular but lightweight Front Runner Slimline II roof rack which would help them create loads of extra space for expedition gear. The rack was also home to their sleeping quarters, a low profile and lightweight roof tent. Self-sufficiency and being able to help themselves when in trouble was important to Bartek, so he has a spade and Maxtrax recovery tracks on the one side of the rack, and an awning on the other to provide additional shelter. Durable Wolf Pack Pro storage boxes and a 42-litre water tank are two other important bits of gear that adorn the rather full rack.

Monika is currently planning more escapes for this adventurous trio

Bartek is fortunate; he does most of his travelling with his girlfriend Monika, who also used to travel a lot before they met. He gets excited when talking about being on the road with her. “Travelling with a partner is the best; you get to share the experience of discovering new places.” Monika did lots of research before they headed off to the mountainous north of Albania, and she is currently drawing up plans so they can escape the Polish winter at home.

Vistas in the Albanian Alps are spectacular and well worth the climb to find them

Bartek and his camera have become inseparable. “It’s always with me, and I’m constantly taking pictures. In Albania, I always looked for fresh angles or practiced new techniques. My current life is all about photography and travel. A lens changes your view, it connects you to the world around you and the essence of which is found at the road’s end and that is where I want to be.” 

Thanks to his reliable and expedition-prepared Discovery 2, Bartek is able to travel all over Europe and the UK in search of both some solitude and that elusive money shot. Keep a look out for his Discovery or Defenders when you’re next out on an adventure.

 

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