Responding to a last-minute Facebook post landed Erin Sullivan, also known as Erin Outdoors, on a flight to Namibia, Africa. When fellow photographer Colby Brown asked if anyone wanted to join him on the trip, Erin didn’t hesitate. “Namibia was high on my list for countries I wanted to visit due to its incredible sand dunes, wildlife, and interesting cultures,” she explains. This trip was a perfect fit for her.
When you look at Erin’s Instagram page, you are flooded with images of playful lions, colourful butterflies, and huge bears. Having always loved animals, being in the presence of wildlife is a spiritual experience for her. On what draws her to it, she says, “I am interested in conveying emotion, which is one of my favourite things and biggest challenges. I love capturing a brief moment –– like a cub reaching for its mum, an elephant showering herself with dirt, or a lion pausing to look behind him before continuing to walk through the acacia trees.” She is always grateful when animals allow her into their space to tell their stories.
Ethics of travel photography
While Erin is on the road quite often, she continues to make it a point to not exploit the people, cultures, or animals she meets along the way. On the ethical responsibilities of travel photographers, she says, “We are just visitors. We need to remember that. Just because you have a camera does not mean you are entitled to anything, including photos.” Travellers should behave respectfully wherever they go, considering the customs and traditions of each place they visit.
Knowing that tourism and photography have contributed to the exploitation of culture, land and wildlife, Erin says. “We first have a responsibility to seek out educational resources on the history of the places we visit, especially in the context of tourism. As photographers, we should be thinking about if we should be taking the photo we want to take.” She dives even further into this topic, exploring more hard-hitting questions regarding the ethics of photography with this blog post.
Erin’s top tips for using Lightroom Mobile
Since she is often travelling, a mobile workflow is essential for Erin’s lifestyle. She explains, “As someone who is active on social media and using it for both photography and blogging, it’s usually important for me to post relatively frequently (as long as I have Wi-Fi).” Mobile editing allows for fast edits and quick social media posts while she’s on the road. Here are Erin’s top five Lightroom mobile tips:
1. Use the histogram. The histogram can act as a second pair of eyes when it comes to your lights and darks. I am often editing in a wide range of lighting conditions –– from bright days outside to weird indoor lighting scenarios. Using the histogram helps me check myself that my light/dark composition is where I want it to be.
2. Bring up shadows for dynamic range. Sometimes my subjects are in shadow. To bring in more detail, I bring up the shadows. As long as you are shooting in raw, you should be able to rescue lots of detail in the shadows this way. To create contrast in the shadows, you can then bring the blacks down a bit.
3. Change individual colours. If I want a specific subject or part of an image to pop, I consider increasing (or decreasing) the saturation and/or luminance of specific colours.
4. Use the Selection Tool for faces, eyes, and other areas. This is a great tool for bringing out the eyes in wildlife photography, or bringing up specific shadows in faces or other areas of the image.
5. Use a slight vignette to bring more attention on the subject. I never do this too dramatically, but a subtle vignette can be helpful for subjects in the middle of your photo.
Throughout this trip, Erin was in an environment that was new and unfamiliar to her. “I was reminded of the importance of play,” she explains. Having not shot desert landscapes like these, nor having been on a safari during dry season, she gave herself room to experiment. Trying new techniques in post-processing enabled her to stretch her skills as a creative.
Erin shares some parting advice she wishes she had received at the onset of her career. “Don’t be so worried about what anyone else thinks, and never take yourself too seriously. Experiment. Life is one big scavenger hunt, and by not taking risks, you’re missing out on all the prizes.”