Thank you so much to one of my favorite publications and dream clients Travel and Leisure for featuring me in your weekly Instagram series “Behind the Views.” It was an honor to be approached! Click here to read what made the cut.
Here’s the full Q&A:
- How/when did you get into photography? I began when I was a kid, shooting on my mom’s 35mm Canon, back in the early-mid 90s. I started taking film and darkroom classes my freshman year in highschool and continued through college before moving to California in 2008.
- Can you remember the first photograph or video you took where it all clicked for you? Tell us about it. There’ve been special moments when it clicked for me in different ways over the course taking photos the past 20-25 years. Early on it was the “click” that made me realize I might have a career doing this, not just a hobby, and since then it’s been a “click” where maybe I’m noticing myself seeing differently than I used to. It’s an evolving career. Specifically, if I can ramble on, I had a teacher in my black and white darkroom class my freshman year in college – he was tough on everyone and I didn’t think he liked me much and that was fine. But, I brought him a print for critique during lab one day and he really worked with me until it was perfect, sending me back and forth for adjustments until he finally sat there staring at the print and said, “This is a really good print, you’ve really done a great job.” It was little things like this, people pushing me to do better because they believed in me, that really made things seem like I might be onto something with my photography.
- Tell us about the photos from your first trip as a travel photographer? I didn’t consider myself a travel photographer for a long time until I started showing some of my trip images in portfolio reviews and that’s what was really connecting with photo editors and creative directors. But I was taking images on trips long before that. Now that I think of it, I got one of my first travel jobs in college while working at a themed bed and breakfast. I was a front desk person and I took it upon myself to start taking images of the rooms and designing their marketing; I essentially created a position for myself. The owner of that B&B owned condos in Kauai, and flew me out to take images of them. In hindsight, I really didn’t know much about interior photography, etc, but it was amazing that he gave me the opportunity. It opened my eyes to where photography could take me and showed me that I had a huge passion for all things travel photography.
- How do you approach photographing/video on your trips? What do you look for? I look for interesting light and interesting details, but I also just look for interesting places. Sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to visit amazing places during the perfect time of day or the perfect conditions. So, make the most of what you’ve got. I take travel images for documentary reasons just as much as artistic ones. I want to inspire people to travel and encourage them to think outside the box as far as weather and seasons. As far as interiors go, conveying how it feels being a guest somewhere is most important to me, rather than simply being a passive viewer. What does it feel like living in a certain space? There’s a bit more intimacy and imperfect in that and entices would-be travelers more, at least in my experience.
- Any advice you’d give to aspiring photographers? My opinion: Don’t rely on the latest technology to become a good photographer. Learn the basics inside and out. Get a film camera so that every frame costs a little more in time, value, and thought. It makes shooting digital a little less robotic as well if you have experience shooting film. Don’t rely on presets to fix your image. Also, use others as inspiration, but we’d have more unique perspectives if the large majority of aspiring photographers stopped trying to recreate the same images they’ve seen on, say, social media, and instead just went to a place with no preconcieved notions of the “best” angles. The act of taking photographs in a place is largely my personal experience and relationship with the surroundings, but oftentimes the images never even see the light of day. Sharing them is secondary. Put your camera down and enjoy the senses. My past training as an actor actually helped me with that. I like to focus on how a place smells, how the textures around me feel, etc, before I just snap a few images and leave.
- What is in your go-to gear bag? My portrait and editorial kit is largely the same as my travel kit. It’s not space economical or weight practical, I’ll admit. My main travel gear is my Canon 1DX Mark III, 28-300mm telephoto (not shown, sadly, but it’s a must for me), 24-70mm for interiors, and a 50mm prime. I shoot portraits mostly on my 85mm prime, but I do leave that at home for travel. I also usually lug around my 35mm Canon Elan 7N with a bag of various film. I use a Lee polarizing filter for a lot of exteriors. I recently bought a very huge medium format Mamiya RZ67 Pro II that I’m still deciding how I’m going to fly around with because it’s so dreamy and I don’t want to leave it home. Worth every pound. I also finally found a great travel tripod that is sturdy enough for my beast of a setup but is super light weight, Peak Design’s aluminum travel tripod. The majority of my packing on trips is my camera equipment, and I’ve become very economical with my clothing and footwear choices for both harsh outdoor climates as well as posh luxury hotels. I’m in the market for a lighter, smaller travel kit but I’ve been slow to commit.
All images copyrighted by me: ©Emily Sandifer @emilysandiferphoto @ladyemilytravels
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