WorldSmith of the Month is a new feature, showcasing traveling artists and creative professionals around the world. I believe travel in itself can be a creative pursuit, but there are so many ways travel and art can (and do) intersect and fuel one another. Travel can bring you closer to creative endeavors, and living creatively can help you travel more. Read on to meet the newest addition to the WorldSmith community and learn how she balances art and travel.
Few arts go hand in hand with travel like photography. We all love to snap away while we’re overseas, whether it’s on a disposable Kodak, a waterproof GoPro, or a fancy DSLR with interchangeable lenses. Taking photos while we travel at its most basic helps us show friends and family back home what our time abroad was like, but at its best, developing your photographic craft makes you a better traveler. The reason is simple. A traveler and a photographer both require the same trait for success: patience.
Just ask professional photographer Erica Coffman, who has fondly irritated many a travel companion with her long shoot set-ups!
“Professional photography requires more time and patience in locations,” she says. “You have to find the right angles, the right light, the right timing. It’s a waiting game in many aspects.”
From trips across the U.S. as a wedding photographer to personal adventures with camera in hand, Erica’s patience helps her tackle the frequent travel dream. Since her first international trip to the Bahamas at age 18, she’s set foot on five continents, 22 countries, and 42 states. But she didn’t always imagine photography as a full-time career.
“My educational background is in politics. Quite the contrast,” she says. “Studying international politics gave me many good opportunities to travel and study abroad, and it was while traveling and working with a good camera that I realized I’m actually pretty good at the whole photography thing. [I] decided to pursue it as a hobby and part-time money-making side gig. That side gig grew into something so successful that I ended up quitting my job and becoming a full-time professional photographer.”
Erica runs two businesses from her Columbus, Ohio home: a wedding photography company and a photo studio where she plans and executes creative shoots with a team of assistants, hair and makeup artists, stylists, and models. When she leaves home, she’s inevitably bound for a place that will be a “treat for [her] camera.”
“I feel that I plan trips with photography in mind, focusing on the most beautiful, most unusual, or most photogenic places,” she says. “Places with epic landscapes, massive cityscapes, or photo-friendly people… I attempt to capture the moments that make me feel something, whether that’s the sun setting over a beautiful vista or an elderly Chinese woman showing me the intimacies of her home.”
She adds, “The sense of wonder [these places] emit inspires me to create beautiful photos that I couldn’t create otherwise.”
Erica says, “It’s difficult to describe the yearning for exploration that lies in most traveler’s souls. While I love and enjoy being home, there is a feeling I get while traveling that will never be felt while at home. The feeling of awe and wonder, curiosity and passion. The feeling that we, as humans, are at once so small, yet so large. Witnessing cultures, traditions, and habits of others is one of the best ways to learn about the world and yourself.”
Want to tap into your own awe and wonder? Erica leads photo tours with a focus on adventurous itineraries and sustainable travel. Past groups have traveled the Oregon Coast and China. In March 2017, she’ll be leading a photography workshop in Arizona.
What else is on this professional photographer’s horizon? She says, “2017 won’t be quite as travel-centric because I’m getting married this year!” The wedding will be in Puerto Rico in November with a mini-moon in the Caribbean and a larger honeymoon in Spain and Greece in 2018. Until then, she’ll be focusing on her Arizona workshop, followed by a vintage VW van road trip through California with her best friend, and leading an eco-adventure and philanthropy tour through Puerto Rico in June.
Want to join the WorldSmith community? Contact me at [email protected].