#SGIAfeature with Alexis Coram

20 October 2017

This weeks #SGIAfeature is on Alexis Coram, who sold everything to explore the US & Canada in her camper van, with her three pets alongside.

As you live your life on the road, do you preplan your images, or do they often happen as you move from one place to another?
For the most part I thrive on spontaneity. I love moments that just happen - the element of surprise is often what gets me jazzed about an experience in nature. Of course there are some places I know I'm going to shoot at certain times of the day - Sunrise at Lake Louise, for instance, but that's about the extent of my planning. Once I'm there, the vision either evolves naturally based on the conditions and my mood or I will just sit back and enjoy the moment without a camera.

Alexis Coram
© Alexis Coram

Who is your favourite ambassador and why?
Ooh tough question. I'm definitely a big fan of Cristina Mittermeier. I love the diversity in her subjects - wildlife, underwater, landscape - and I can't help but lust over the locations Cristina travels... it's both fun and inspiring to watch, and that's why I love photography.

Alexis Coram
©Alexis Coram

What determines the length of time you stay in any one place?
It depends a little on the time of year. As I travel full time with my 3 pets in a camper, I have to plan more in the Summer months to make sure we have a safe place to sleep - that often means booking campsites months in advance, which often locks me into a schedule. Now that Autumn is here and fewer people are traveling, I can be a bit more fluid with where I spend my time based on the conditions and weather. It happens to be especially cold right now in California's High Sierra where I'm spending the next month, which is pushing me further South than I had originally intended. This means new photography opportunities I hadn't anticipated, so that's exciting. Other things that influence me are weather - I think the weather app is my most used app. Too much wind or blue (cloudless) sky will encourage me to move on faster, whereas fog, clouds, or snow will convenience me to stay longer. Then there are those extra special places (like Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks) that make you wish you could stay forever because forever is what it would take to experience all the uniqueness that makes them so dreamy...but alas, there is so much more of the World you are pining to see, so you force yourself to move on. It's the bitter-sweet side of travel - wanting to see everything and also wanting to spend long enough in one place to feel like you truly did it justice. You can't have it all, so compromise comes into play a lot.

Alexis Coram
© Alexis Coram

You have taken many images of wild animals, can you give us your top tips for capturing these shots?
Patience, speed, and composure.
  1. Patience: wildlife isn't just waiting around in beautiful places for us to take photographs - it requires lots of waiting around and scouting, often without reward. Much of it is about being in the right place at the right time - impossible to intentionally time or predict.
  2. Speed: always be ready for a wildlife surprise. Animals often come and go so quickly that you don't have time to get your camera from a backpack, attach the right lens, set up a tripod, or even get your settings adjusted correctly. When I'm driving around places like Yellowstone, I have my 200-500mm lens mounted, my camera is turned on, and I've already adjusted my settings based on the conditions of the day. My camera sits right next to me in the car (often with a disgruntled dog sitting on the other side of it - she likes her space) so that when that bear jumps out in front of my car, I'm ready to shoot.
  3. Composure: this is hard to get if you don't have it, and it's obviously important to have good instincts and a level of calm around wildlife. You have to remember where you are at all times, what the exit path is, and the appropriate reaction protocol in situations of charging or attack for each type of animal -- don't run from a Grizzly bear, for instance, or you'll be putting yourself in a very risky situation. Staying calm isn't just good for the interaction part of the equation but also for your photography. As I've already mentioned, setting up a tripod often isn't going to happen, so handheld photography with a large lens requires a very steady hand, which requires a steady pattern of breathing. If, like me, you get all kinds of crazy excited when you're around a wild animal, you may feel a massive adrenaline rush and get the shakes - It happens to me all the time. I have to mentally force myself to calm down, take deep breaths, and shoot with the highest shutter speed I can in order to grab a sharp shot.

Alexis Coram
© Alexis Coram

How do you decide which images you share on your social platforms and is there any specific post-production you would do for every image prior to posting?
I pick my images based on what resonates with me from my experiences. If I felt a connection or inspiration in a moment or saw something that took my breath away, I'll share it. For me, social media is a place to connect with other travelers, artists, and people who don't have the luxury or ability to visit the types of places I'm fortunate enough to see....but it's also a place for me to document the places and moments that were immensely special to me. Being able to look back on the best experiences of my life very quickly is a pretty wonderful thing. I'm not afraid to post images that aren't photographically spectacular or perfect or highly processed. If it meant something to me, if I think I might want to look back and re-live an experience down the road, or if I want my Mum (who lives in England) to see where I was today, then I'll post it. iPhone, drone, DSLR, it doesn't matter. A memory captured is a memory that will live on forever. I edit iPhone images using VSCOcam and all raw images are processed in Lightroom. I don't have standard adjustments besides lens correction - Its all about the mood I'm trying to capture.

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