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Meet Sammie: adventure photographer and conscious consumer

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I recently had the pleasure of talking to Sammie Chan, an incredibly talented adventure photographer, social media influencer, and self-proclaimed conscious consumer based in Toronto.

Sammie and I connected through a blogging group about a year ago and since then I have eagerly followed her travels via Instagram and her website. In her bio Sammie says that she is, “just an adventurous soul living her best life”, and this couldn’t be more evident than on her Instagram. She pairs a keen eye for beautiful aesthetics and compelling photographs with an authenticity and thoughtfulness that is often rare on the social platform these days.

In our interview, we discuss everything from favourite travel destinations, to the pros and cons of Instagram as a platform for influencers and travellers:

What sparked your interest in travel photography?

I've been fascinated with my parents’ film photos since I was a kid – I always found myself flipping through old photo albums to relive those golden moments, they really tell a story. Funnily enough, I think I really dove into travel photography by appreciating my surroundings where I grew up - in Vancouver, BC. It's hard not to be inspired by nature there! 

What tips do you have for aspiring travel photographers? 

I am definitely no expert, but to those who are just starting out and picked up their first camera, I would recommend looking at your surroundings with different perspective and trying to capture that. 

How do you edit your photos?

If I'm posting on Instagram, I use Adobe Lightroom, and then tweak minor things on VSCO before posting. For client work, I just edit on Lightroom. 

What do you think are the advantages of Instagram as a platform for your work and photography?

The thing I love most about Instagram is that it truly has a great community of like-minded people! I've been meeting up with local adventure photographers in Toronto and wouldn't have been able to without this platform. 

Do you think there are any disadvantages of Instagram when it comes to sharing creative work?

There's always a good and bad side to social media. I would say it can be tough sometimes to not be influenced by trends on Instagram, especially on a platform that is based on what people like. 

Your main account is mostly digital, but you have a separate Instagram account for your film photography - what drew you to shoot in film and what do you think are advantages to this form of photography? 

I actually learned photography first on a film camera! I took a photography class in high school, learned to develop black and white film in a dark room, and made my own pinhole camera. Because each film type is made to look a certain way, like real-world ‘filters’, I love how raw it is and how well it conveys a story. I think an advantage to shooting film is that it makes you learn the fundamentals of photography and think about your composition for each shot because each shot costs money. I'd recommend starting on a basic SLR if you want to learn how ISO, aperture and shutter speed works together. 

As a social media influencer, you partner with different brands to promote their products. You talk a lot about being a conscious consumer and how this plays a role in the brands you partner with, why is this important to you?

Fun fact: I have a Sustainability Certificate! While it says on paper that I'm an eco-nerd, the turning point for me was probably when I looked at my closet one day and realized I had all these clothes I never wore and didn't love. I started thinking about why I bought those pieces and realized it was just because it was trendy. From then on, I gradually started shopping more consciously and I try to only buy things I see myself wearing all the time.

I began researching sustainability the fashion industry and learned what fast fashion meant for the environment and for people making these clothes that we don't really appreciate. Although I try to buy consciously most of the time, I also don't think that is accessible to everyone. Ethically made pieces are higher priced and I firmly believe that you can also be living 'sustainably' if you only buy a couple things a year, but wear them all the time, even if they're from fast fashion companies. Being a conscious consumer is an ongoing journey! 

Where is your favourite place you have travelled to?

It's so hard to choose just one! I'm tied between Milos in Greece or Tulum, but if I could go back to one right now it would be Tulum. I love being by the beach and I feel the most energized in the sun. Tulum is easily a favourite of mine because the little eco-chic town has all the vacation necessities: beaches, tacos, cenotes, and yoga.

What are your must-have travel items?

Camera, Hair Tie, and Power Bank - my phone ALWAYS runs out of battery during the day!

Where are you headed on your next trip, or where are you dying to travel next?

There are so many places! I don't have any travels planned yet for 2018 but my trips always happen spontaneously, I think it adds to the fun. I'm currently deciding between Cuba, Austria, Patagonia, or Bali! 

Once again, check out Sammie’s Instagram and her website to follow along with her adventures!

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