TO CHASE A DREAM
After a life-changing trip to Antarctica, I pivoted from my medical device marketing career to chase a dream related to adventure travel photography, writing and conservation on all seven continents and founded Epic 7 Travel. My goal is to empower, propel, ignite and connect with adventure seekers using underwater, landscape, wildlife and aerial imagery from around the world. In 2019, I began offering photo workshops in San Francisco focused on elevating visual storytelling. And, in 2020, I’m leading my first international tours to Bhutan, a captivating cultural gem in the Himalayas.
To draw people into your images, always look for unique perspectives. Trying sitting or lying down to be at eye level with wildlife or shoot up at them to emphasize that they are the “hero.”
Photography is all about the moments – whether that be human or wildlife interactions. Be patient and watch for those special moments that bring the scene and place to life. Wait for the tender caress, the laughter or the funny expression. Patience and seeing the world differently through little details are two of the greatest gifts photography has given me.
With travel photography, you want to transport your audience. To take your storytelling to the next level, think about the adjective and emotion you want to convey rather than just the subject itself. Is a penguin regal? An elephant massive? Is the ocean turbulent or calm?
WHAT GOT ME THE NAME “HONEY OOPSIE”
Since I’m known for being highly accident prone and nicknamed “Honey Oopsie” by my husband, pretty much every trip I take results in numerous hilarious events. While walking on fresh snow on Seymour Island in Antarctica, I somehow tripped on absolutely nothing and went sailing through the air, face-planting in powder. My GoPro went flying one direction and my Canon camera smashed face first into the snow (along with me). After extracting myself from my unintended snow angel and realizing I hadn’t broken any bones, I began laughing hysterically and immediately checked my camera, dreading what I might find. Fortunately, my lens hood and polarizer had protected the lens, allowing it to survive my clumsy antics unscathed.
I ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH TWO BODIES
I consider myself camera brand agnostic and modify the gear I travel with based on the trip. For wildlife trips to Africa, the Canadian Arctic and Antarctica, I always travel with two bodies –one telephoto and one wide-angle set up to make sure I don’t miss any coveted shots while switching lenses.
- Canon 7DMII + Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II + Tokina 12-28 f/4.0
- Nikon D850 + Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 AF-S VRII + Nikon 200-500 f/5.6E + Nikon 16-35 f/4.0g
- iPhone 11 Pro + DJI OSMO Mobile 3
- BLACKRAPID Double Breathe Camera Strap
- Mindshift Backlight 26L Backpack
- SYRP Variable ND Filter 1-8 stops
- Singh Ray Galen Rowell Soft Edge 2 Stop & 3 Stop Graduated Neutral Density Filter
- Oben CT 2491 Carbon Fiber Tripod & Acratech Ultimate Ballhead
Marielena Smith, founder of Epic 7 Travel, is an adventure travel writer, photographer, educator, and scuba diver based in San Francisco, California.