Catherine Simard is a Canadian-born self-taught travel/landscape photographer and digital artist with a passion for the outdoors and the wilderness. I view her work as dreamy and impressive and I’m excited to present her as this month’s ‘Photographer of the Month’!
Start by telling us a little about who you are and how you got started with photography.
In 2016, after completing 2 years of farm work in Australia, I decided to go on a 3-month solo trip covering Indonesia, Hawaii and western Canada. I had never before seen such huge mountains as when arriving in Alberta. The feeling I got when I saw them for the first time is indescribable. It was in Alberta I discovered my passion for hiking and I got introduced to scrambling, which allowed me to access more remote areas.
I was doing a bit of photography at the time but only shooting in full auto mode. I started to document my adventures and fell in love with photographing the mountains. Six months later I took a trip to New Zealand where I started experimenting with night photography. I think that’s when my cold-looking style started to develop.
What made you decide to leave your job and take your travel and photography full-time?
I have a long history of ‘quitting’ something that doesn’t feel good or right. Long story short, I quit sciences for fashion, quit fashion for travel, quit travel for farm work, quit farm work for travel again and then I found photography, the only thing that brings me true happiness and fulfillment.
It wasn’t hard for me to trust my gut and go for something I’m truly passionate about even if it meant high financial risks and no guarantee I’d make a living out of it.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I’d describe my current style as adventure-type and fantasy-like landscapes with a cold side. I am fascinated by the line between reality and fiction in relation to the emotional response the viewer has.
I started off in 2016 with simple single-shot images and basic edits but only a couple months after digging into editing I rapidly started to explore composites which brought me much more happiness and fulfillment, creatively speaking, than single shots.
I’ve always been attracted by any type of art that’s more fantasy-like or have an otherworldly feel and I think that reflects on my work.
What is your top advice for other solo female travel photographers out there?
I frequently showcase my solo adventures on social media and I hope to inspire people to spend more time alone in nature for self-improvement and healing.
Solo road trips have done so much for me and my mental health. I really wish people would stop being so scared of everything and just go.
Yes, as a female solo traveler, I have to be more careful and definitely informed about the different cultures of the countries I travel to but as long as you use your common sense there is no reason to be afraid to travel solo.
What inspires you to get out and create, even when your body is craving those extra hours of sleep?
Just the thought of creating something out of an epic landscape is what I need to get me out of bed – or out of my sleeping bag most of the time.
When I go on long treks or sunrise hikes, I get that excitement which increases my energy levels for days at a time and I’ll often not feel fatigue, hunger, cold, etc. I lose the sense of time I become completely focused and fully invested in creating.
Take us through some of your processes from capturing an image to finished product.
My creative process isn’t a list of steps to take to arrive at a final product. It varies immensely with each image because my creative process is primarily driven by emotions rather than technicalities and steps. Also remember, my goal with my work is not necessarily to represent reality and that does affect a lot the way I plan, shoot and edit.
However, here are some main things that I’ll do most of the time:
- It’ll usually start by researching the place I want to photograph through google image, google earth, Instagram, 500 px, etc.
- Then I’ll start to imagine what kind of image I’d like to create and what kind of mood I want.
- I’ll use apps like photo pills to check out the best time to capture what I want and I’ll look at the moon phase, the milky way position, the aurora forecast, sunrise and sunset time, etc.
If I can, I’ll check out the location during day time so I can plan my compositions before the good light is there. When shooting the location, I’ll usually only shoot what truly speaks to me, I’m a very picky shooter. However, if I see single elements that are visually interesting I’ll make sure to capture them in case I want to create a composite with them.
The editing process usually starts in Lightroom with basic edits and panorama stitching, and then in Photoshop I’ll put the pieces together and use techniques such as focus stacking, focal length blending, compositing, adding light and mood, etc.
Since I edit with my emotions, I’ll usually start over multiple times or work on the file for several days or even weeks until I’m satisfied and it feels right.
Based on your experience working with companies such as Sony, how important do you believe it is for photographers to partner with these types of companies?
I was very lucky to be approached by Sony at an early age in my career. Sony is the only brand I’ve ever used and it was a no-brainer to work with them as an ambassador.
It has definitely helped me build my name over the years and it feels great to be part of a family where everyone helps each other. However, I know many successful photographers that don’t have any kind of sponsorship/partnership and that are getting more jobs than anyone. So I’d say it is not essential to partner with brands, especially if you are very good at business and promoting yourself.
But if you struggle with getting your name out there it is worth getting partners.
Share with us your best advice for others dreaming of taking their photography full-time.
Trust your instinct. Make a business plan. A scary one – Take risks.
I believe it’s better failing than not trying. Don’t wait to be perfect to get yourself on the market and take jobs. Make sure you are ok with having an unstable and unsure income and be ready to WORK!
What is one piece of equipment you always have in your camera bag?
I’d say my Sony 16-35 f2.8, I use this lens for 80% of my work.
What’s next for Catherine Simard?
I’ll be developing new photography workshops over the next years and offering more extreme adventure-type ones with long treks to remote places such as Nepal, Pakistan, etc.
I love combining trekking with photography because I personally feel it is what makes the experience so special and memorable. You are not only getting great images but the reward of accomplishing something bigger and challenging. It really is what brings me the most happiness and I’d love people to experience it.