What camera and lenses do you use?
I'm currently shooting on a Sony a7R II, along with my 4 favourite lenses:
What editing program do you use?
I use Adobe Lightroom to edit all my photos, but have just recently started playing around in Photoshop as well.
Are you the person in most of your photos? How do you take them?
I am the person in most of my work, yes. I set up my camera on a tripod (the Vanguard VEO 204AB - lightweight yet sturdy, perfect for adventures!), and then I set my remote (a Vello Wireless Shutterboss) to take photos in 2-3 second intervals. This way I can walk however far I want in front of the camera while it time-lapses.
How did you start taking these photos?
I started taking photos of nature and landscapes in 2006, and in the year 2010 I discovered self-portraiture as a way to express myself in front of the lens. Now, for the last 7 years I've been combining self-portraiture with my initial love of landscapes, and I find the whole self-portrait shooting process to be therapeutic.
Where is your "happy" place where you always take photos?
I'm always drawn back Golden Ears Provincial Park, which is a few minutes from where I live. The forest there is my happy place where I can easily spend hours wandering and enjoying quiet solitude, surrounded by tall trees and the greenest moss I've ever seen. I fell in love with photography in the forest and mountains of this park, so it always feels special and like "home" to me. In fact, the mountains in my website logo are based off the shape of the Golden Ears mountains.
Do you usually go adventuring alone? If so, what precautions do you take to be safe in the PNW?
I probably adventure equally solo and with friends, as I find both provide different experiences and are special in their own ways. It's SUPER important to take precautions when adventuring solo. I always let someone know where I'm going and when I'm expected to be back. If I'm doing a multi-day solo trek, I usually go places where I know I'll cross paths with other hikers every few hours, so I won't be completely alone for long in case anything should happen. I stay aware of wildlife, and I always take The 10 Essentials (important to know!) even if just for big day hikes. Oh, and I usually have my dog (for added company) and emergency chocolate.
How long did it take to gain a substantial following on Instagram? Was it difficult? Was it mostly organic or did you use tools of some sort? What advice could you give to others looking to grow their IG presence?
I started posting my photography on Instagram about 3-4 years ago, and my following has gradually and organically accumulated since. For me, Instagram is about sharing my art and connecting with others. It can be easy to get caught up in the number game, but if I'm honest, I try not to think about it. These days it doesn't matter so much to me if I have 50 followers or 500,000. I create out of passion, and if my art can connect with even just a few people, that's enough for me. If you're looking to grow your following, the best advice I can give is to ask yourself, "what do I want to share with the world?". Focus on that. The more you create and share what you're passionate about, the more the world will start to notice and follow along.
How do you set the focus on your self portraits?
I usually set my camera up on a tripod and then manually focus it to where I plan on being in the photo. Sometimes I have my dog, Pepper, stand in where I want to be, so I can focus the camera on him before I go to that spot. If you don't have a step-in model dog, I suggest using a branch or rock to focus on instead, and then replacing said item with yourself when you're ready!
What Hogwarts house would you be in?
When did you first start taking self portraits? Why?
I started taking self-portraits at the end of 2009 (when I was 16). I had already been using a camera for a few years with no particular style (just all the animals and nature photos!), and soon realized that if I wanted to really grow as a photographer, I should step out of my comfort zone and try something new. So I took on a "365 project", taking a self-portrait every day for the entirety of 2010. As a quiet "shy" person, it was a terrifying prospect at first, but it soon became a way I could express myself through my art. By the end of the project, I was hooked.
Where do you get your dresses? How do you choose what to wear for a photoshoot?
Most of my dresses are thrift store finds. I try to find long, flowing dresses that have a timeless feel for my imagery... Though if you were to ever see one of them up close, you'd notice all the tears, mud and grass stains from constant use in the great outdoors, ha! I don't think ahead too much about which dress to wear for each photo, I usually just stuff any one of my dresses into my backpack before a hike and if the opportunity should arise to use it, I will.
Do you start with any specific presets when editing?
No, I prefer to start fresh with each photo when I edit it.
Do you 'plan' your shoot (as in: envisioning it, knowing exactly how you want the picture looks like)? Or do you just happen to find a good spot and work from there?
I very rarely plan any of my shoots. I love hiking and going to these locations to simply enjoy being in them, without super high photo expectations... But when a scene jumps out at me and I realize, "I want to create an image here!", I'm prepared for it, and I start winging ideas. Most of my favourite images were spur of the moment decisions.
What motivates the images you create? Where do you get inspiration for your works?
Nature and emotions are my motivators and inspirations. I've always loved spending time in the forests and mountains, and as I've developed my image style, I'm mostly inspired by the sensations I feel when in nature: Wonder, awe, exhilaration, tranquility, peace, etc... These are feelings I want to try to capture in my work, and through self-portraiture I hope I'm able to portray how I feel when in the face of these landscapes.
Do you believe in something godlike? Do nature's great landscapes give you a feeling that there is something greater?
I do. I often feel a strange connection within these places, as if I'm back at the roots of something pure and good. I have a strong hope and feeling that these moments are reflecting something even greater, that there's more to life than what meets the eye.
Do you get any income out of these images? How do you support yourself?
I'm currently a full-time photographer, but it's often an uphill battle to support myself enough to get by. Most of my income comes from various client shoots, and I'm thankful for every opportunity I get! My dream would be to see an income grow from creating the more personal images I'm passionate about, and sometimes I catch glimpses of that through print sales or licensing these photos. Here's to hoping it keeps getting better!
How do you get yourself out of creative dry spells?
When I hit a creative dry spell, I like to take it as an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate what matters. Maybe try something new or experiment in different forms of creativity. I tend to go for long walks (such as 900km across Spain, whew!) to refresh my mind and change perspective. I actually wrote an article recently about my struggles with creative ruts, so if you want a more in-depth read, check it out!
If you weren't a photographer, what would you do?
I would likely work with animals if I weren't a photographer. I used to do a fair bit of dog training, dog-sitting and dog walking when I was growing up, and I would definitely be keen to get back into it!
Is your draw towards nature something that has been a lifelong passion that your art has developed out of, or do they feed one another? Does having the creative element help you to push yourself further in regards to hiking and adventuring?"
I've always been drawn to nature for as long as I can remember, yes. It's the reason I first started photography over 10 years ago. And now, my creative energy and love for nature really do feed one another. I'm definitely more motivated to push myself further if there's a chance of getting an amazing photo... and at the same time, if I don't get an amazing photo, my patience and appreciation for nature only grows from trying. Photography has helped me open my eyes in a new way, and because of that I've learned to love nature more than I did even before, if that's possible.
How do you take photos in cold areas only in dresses and without shoes? Do you drink tea or coffee before? How do you make this magic and stay healthy?
Coffee is life. I always have a hot thermos in my backpack. I also wear layers under and over my dress, as well as my super warm Westcomb parka (I don't know how I ever lived without it), which I take off only for a few minutes during the actual shoot. While taking the photos, the exhilaration and feeling of being "in the moment" keeps me from noticing the cold, and afterwards I immediately throw on my parka and warm boots before I even put my camera away. So far, I haven't died.
How does bringing Pepper along to these incredible locations affect your photography process?
He makes everything just that much better! An extreme goofball and the most loyal adventure buddy, he never strays out of my sight and he's always up for any adventure. Mountain peak scrambles? Yep. Jogs through the forest? Yep. Cuddles while camping? Yep. Howling together under the moon? Yep. His pure joy from being in the outdoors is contagious, which makes him the best companion I could ask for. Though he does tend to photobomb most of my work, but it's an easy trade-off for the company he provides.
What are your future plans?
The future is a big unknown to me, and I find that rather exciting. I aim to always stay creative, and hopefully photography and travelling will continue to be a big part of my future, but who knows what's down the road? I'm currently taking life one step at a time and keeping my mind open to future changes, opportunities and whatever else life has to throw at me!
What else do you do apart from photography?
I do a lot of trekking/travelling and hiking/camping, writing, hanging out with dogs, eating, and being an active member of my crazy big family.
What's your favourite kind of chocolate?
Finally, the important question! Dark chocolate is my favourite, but particularly Giddy Yoyo's sweet vanilla dark chocolate is to die for.
So it's all real? It's really you in a magical-looking landscape at dawn, without digital trickery?
I use Lightroom and Photoshop to bring out the best colors/tones/shadows/highlights, and sometimes I'll remove distracting items such as random rocks or leaves that stick out in the image... but otherwise, I keep it real. It's really me, in a real sunrise/sunset, in a real landscape, no extreme digital trickery needed.
Do you have a certain playlist/type of music that you like to listen to when travelling?
I do! My music tastes can range drastically, but I throw everything I like into a Spotify playlist which I call: "Chill Driving like a Somewhat Emotional Boss". I listen to this while driving/travelling, and it makes me feel chill, or somewhat emotional, or like a boss. True story. Here's the link if you want to give it a listen.
Did you go to school for photography?
No, I taught myself everything I know about photography. I was home-schooled growing up, which gave me a lot of time and flexibility to pursue my passions through the arts, and I'm extremely grateful for that! I decided not to go to college or university as I was already so deeply involved with my own work, and so far I'm glad I chose to carve my own path.
How did you take your photography to the next level? What would be your advice for a photographer at the beginning stages?
The biggest jump of improvement in my photography happened in 2010 when I did a "365 Project", taking one self portrait every day for an entire year. I knew if I wanted to take my photography to the next level, the best way was to commit myself to creating something everyday until I saw improvement. I learned more in that year than I did in all 11 years of my photography experience combined. That project became the foundation for my continued self portrait journey, which has gradually but continually grown and improved each year since. My advice for up and coming photographers is to create as much as possible. Don't be afraid to experiment in different styles. Create from your heart. Let other photographers inspire you, but don't compare yourself, your work is your own. Don't worry if you don't see improvement after a few days or months. It took me years before I saw my own improvement. And lastly, take moments to step back from the camera and look at the world through your own eyes instead of through a lens. A change of perspective can do wonders, and can remind you of the reason why you create.
What do you think about editing photos in general? Does it lessen the integrity of the photographer?
I think the way a photographer processes their work can be half the form of art itself. I don't see much right or wrong in how a photographer edits their photos. Some artists will completely change their photos through compositing, moving things around and completely changing colors... The final photo is the photographer's story to tell, and I highly commend the imagination they put into their work. As for my own work, I typically like to keep the scenes as natural as possible, but I still draw out colors, tones, shadows and highlights to their best vivid (but most realistic) potential.
How do you find the time and money to travel around the world?
I feel really fortunate to be able to combine my work with travel a lot of the time. Most of my income goes straight back into travelling so I can continue the cycle of creating these images, whether that be in my own province or other countries altogether. I'd rather spend money on travel and experiences instead of material items any day. I also travel as cheaply as possible, which means a lot of camping, sleeping in vehicles or crashing at friends' houses. If I'm shooting for clients, they cover the travel costs for me, and I'm often still able to create some of my own personal work while on these missions.
Is Pepper famous? He looks exactly like the dog in one of Passenger's music videos!
You guessed it! You can watch Pepper being cute in Passenger's music video here.
How did you meet/adventure/get to create with other photographers and massive creatives?
Okay, gonna gush a bit here: My very favourite aspect of social media is the community you can build through it. Over the last 10 years I've made lifelong friends through social media by sharing with, inspiring and supporting one another. Most of these "massive creatives" I met online years ago (particularly through Flickr), when we were all just starting out photography. Soon we were collaborating, meeting up, travelling together, and visiting each other across the globe. Many of these friends have become family to me now. I know I talk about how often I enjoy solo travelling and shooting, but in all honesty it's this support system of friends that has truly made my life richer.
Who is your favourite photographer?
How important do you think it is for photographers to have a niche?
Sometimes I feel lucky to have somehow developed my own niche in the photography world, but I often want to step outside of it and experiment in other styles as well. If I'm honest, I'm not at all opposed to changing my niche, or having multiple styles, in my future depending on life changes and what speaks to me. I think devoting yourself to one style can potentially pay off considering 100% of your effort goes into building that specific niche, BUT I am just as impressed and inspired by people who love to create in multiple genres, such as Dave Brosha or Wayne Simpson, who can absolutely slay landscapes, portraits, nature, adventure and lifestyle genres all at once. So to answer your question, I don't think having a specific niche has to be super important. Shoot what speaks to you day to day, whichever genre that may be.
Do you ever find it exhausting to interact on social media?
I'm currently (and probably always will be) trying to find the balance between being inspired by social media, and being exhausted by it. I find it easy to get overwhelmed or caught up in the comparison game, or exhausted by feeling the need to interact/comment/respond to everyone, and often times I need to take a break for a few days to "breathe" and re-focus on other matters. These days I'm not one to interact a ton on social media, but I do try to take brief moments here and there to catch up on the work of friends and others who inspire me, and to show my support to other photographers when I can!
How is it to be an inspiration for others - thousands? Do you think about it a lot?
It's super weird. I actually try not to think about it. I often feel like the "online presence" of mine that everyone follows is someone else entirely, because in reality (when I'm not travelling or shooting) I'm just a super awkward person who rarely changes out of coffee stained pajamas, spends way too much time working behind a computer screen, probably doesn't shower enough, sings and dances with my dog, tries to avoid human contact, and eats wayyyyy too much chocolate. Maybe not the inspiring romantic life you might have imagined I always live.
What was your first reaction when you saw the northern lights?
I laughed. And then cried. And then took pictures. And then stumbled all over the landscape in the dark until 4am, with only the light of the aurora, singing to myself and pretending to talk to Icelandic elves for company. I'm not crazy though, I swear.
How often do you have days where you really struggle to capture what you wanted? Do you feel confident going out that one way or another you'll be able to make something out of whatever you find that day through creativity and post processing?
There used to be many times I went on hikes and outings specifically to take photos, and returned disappointed when I was unable to capture what I wanted. Now I've switched my perspective to the opposite: Going on hikes and outings purely to enjoy them, but always keeping my gear on hand in case the opportunity to shoot should arise. This way, I feel rewarded just from spending quality time in nature, whether or not I come back with a photo. I don't plan my shoots in advance, but prefer the happy surprise moments when everything aligns in front of me for a good photo opportunity. So no, I'm not always confident I'll be able to make a photo, but I am confident that I'll still come back inspired just from appreciating my time in nature.