I first came across Jennifer Fast’s photography on Instagram. It was easy to see that the Alberta-based travel photographer has an amazing ability to capture her adventures on camera. Those adventures involve travelling and often hiking down the less beaten paths where she can bring us back inspirational photographs. Jenn’s website shows that she has worked with an impressive list of clients, and it doesn’t look like her adventures will be stopping any time soon.
We get to know travel photographer Jennifer’s fantastic work and the secrets behind her best shots.
Favourite locations to shoot:
Alberta and BC: I love the challenge and solitude that comes with shooting in remote locations that you must spend a lot of time researching to find, hiking long distances to access, that type of thing. I’ll always be in love with the hiking and backcountry camping opportunities available in Alberta and BC. There’s something about those vast landscapes that just makes you feel so small, and so awestruck by the magnitude of the landscapes surrounding you.
Nusa Penida: One of my favorite locations has been Nusa Penida, an island off the coast of Bali. The entire island is full of beauty around every corner – secret beaches and amazing viewpoints only available by travelling a series of really rough roads.
Big Sur: Another location I easily fell in love with was the Big Sur region of California. That entire area pulled at my heartstrings and I know I’ll be back there again and again. It’s easy to understand why so many artists have used the Big Sur area as a muse, to hermit away and write or paint. The winding cliffs here are so dramatic, and the rocky beaches are gorgeous.
Most challenging shot to capture:
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona: I struggle the most when photographing in incredibly busy locations, where I’m not free to move about and create compositions as I please. One example is shooting at the incredibly popular Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, a shot that I wanted so badly and had such high expectations for. The area is so massive that you require a wide-angle lens, or a composite of multiple shots to frame the viewpoint in a way that only begins to do it justice. Add in the fact that it’s difficult to even get a spot to shoot at during busy times like sunset, even if you’re there early, and it’s easy for the situation to become frustrating.
It has taught me that I’m not at my best during these types of situations and to just come back the next day before the sun rises. Researching a location and coming back to it outside of peak hours creates an entirely differenct, more enjoyable experience that I find allows for much more freedom in creativity!
Mooney Falls, Havasupai: There are certain spaces of our Earth that we cannot prepare ourselves for the majesty of once we experience them in person, no matter how much planning we have done and how many photos we have viewed. Havasupai for me was one of those places. My toes and feet are mangled and sore, but my heart is on cloud 9.
Berg Lake, Canadian Rockies: Usually, any of the shots that involved a lot of pre-planning or a lot of work to arrive to the destination are my favorite. There’s a sunrise shot of Berg Lake that I love, photographed on an early morning while taking down camp before beginning the long 20km+ hike back to the car.
Sunburst Peak, Canadian Rockies: A self-portrait I shot with a view of Sunburst Peak during an amazing sunset, during another multi-day backpacking trip. The effort to get to these spots paired with perfect conditions make them just so memorable and special to me.
Vermillion Lakes lit by Banff’s ambient light: I took this photo a couple of years back, and can still remember the stillness of this evening. The water was glassy, reflecting the warm ambient glow of the town of Banff. The stars twinkled overhead as the silence surrounded us.
The Process: Meet the Travel Photographer
Tell us a bit about yourself. Was adventure and photography always part of your life?
I was a creative kid who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba with my mother, stepdad, and older brother. I loved animals, writing, music, and anything artistic.
I have always had an interest in photography. My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and the first camera I ever owned was a neon-orange Concord 110 film camera that a family friend gifted me. I was probably about 9 or 10, and I fell in love with taking photos of my friends, family, pets and surroundings and seeing them come to life in prints months later, once I finally had the roll of film developed.
I began acquiring various used Polaroid and point and shoot cameras throughout my childhood, treasures I’d find at garage sales or the local Value Village and purchase these with allowance money.
After my family moved to Calgary when I was 15, I enrolled into a Christian homeschooling program that focused on developing its students’ creative passions and provided funding support. This gave me time to focus on photography more seriously and develop new skills such as Photoshop, and website coding.
When I was 17 and still in homeschool, I started working part-time at a photo studio in Calgary, where I photographed and touched-up passport photos, digitally rebuilt old family photo prints, and processed customers’ film photographs. I eventually saved up enough working here and purchased my first DSLR, the Canon 20D.
Once I finally had what I would consider a “professional” camera, I started shooting portraits for friends and family, which brought on referral clients. A couple of years later I was also photographing concerts and music events, gigs that I was given through connections.
Nature and travel photography followed later, once opportunities to spend time in these beautiful places with people who had the same interests started popping up.
When did you develop the passion for photography?
Once I realized I could possibly make a career out of photography, that is when the passion really started to flourish. I would credit that to the time when working in the photo studio as a teenager and started to understand the various career options associated with photography. I started to dream of being a travel photo journalist, as well as working on cinematic films.
What have been some of your most memorable trips?
I love opportunities during travel where I get to experience as much “real life” in the location as possible. One of my favorite trips will always be to Honduras in 2009. I had the opportunity to live and work in a local village, helping out at a local orphanage run by amazing missionaries that I am still in touch with and support today.
Being that deeply ingrained into the raw reality of a destination and the daily life of its people is lifechanging.
Though visiting and capturing beautiful locations will always be a passion, I’d love to have the opportunity to take more trips like this and capture more “raw” and “day in the life” type images, to hopefully bring attention to various needs throughout the world. I think this would be such a great use of my passions.
Do you have a process for choosing your locations?
It definitely varies. Sometimes a trip will be sponsored by a tourist board, agency or publication hoping to promote a certain destination, and they will recommend sights and activities. Often though, I’ll plan my own trips based upon locations I have seen and read about through different mediums – online on travel blogs or social media, through magazines, or images I have come across and have researched further.
I use Google Flights to plan my flight options, and love reading other travel blogs for inspiration and tips.
Do you have a favourite environment you like to shoot in?
Anything outdoors, with natural light, 99% of the time! And of course, I love shooting during golden hour – the period of day right before sunset, or right after sunrise, when the light is softer, diffused and more golden.
From your travels have you noticed things that give you environmental concerns?
It’s unfortunate, but it’s all too common to come across beautiful places that have been affected by the presence of people in a negative way. Litter across national parks and recreation areas, wild animals that have become accustomed to being fed by humans (or figuring out ways to scavenge food that humans leave accessible to them while camping), fragile natural areas where plant life has been killed off due to people meandering off trail, places that have been marked by graffiti.
I’ve even come across popular places during road trips where individuals have written their social media handles on natural formations like rock walls using permanent markers. It’s heartbreaking and must stop, and public education is an important part of this.
What advice would you give to travelers/photographers about exploring while being ecologically responsible?
Educate yourself about the various laws in place in the parks or locations that you visit. The rules are there for a reason and help to protect beautiful places and keep them wild for future generations.
Learn about Leave No Trace principles, follow them, and educate others.
Use provided bear lockers or bear bags to store food and any items with an odor during camping. Never put food or items down pit toilets. Pack out what you pack in.
Stay on trails and don’t enter areas that are obviously off limits or closed. Often, these closures go beyond just safety precautions, and can be put in place to protect fragile environments. It just takes one person to venture into an area that they’re not supposed to for others to see this and follow their example.
How can social media be used to promote responsible travel?
Through social media, we have more opportunities than ever to reach a larger audience and draw attention to important issues, such as conservationism and environmental responsibility. Myself (as well as many other travel photographers) tend to stray away from geo-tagging many locations on social media, especially those that are fragile or becoming over-run by tourism.
I’m a fan of mentioning LNT (Leave No Trace) principles as often as possible when posting about outdoor locations, to keep it top of mind to as many people as possible.
There’s definitely an expectation in place by the outdoor community of larger accounts to behave in an environmentally ethical way when they post online – to follow national park rules, to not go off trail, to camp in designed camp sites, to not fly drones where they are prohibited, that type of thing. I’ve seen multiple social media accounts called out from their communities for breaking rules like this and I think it’s fantastic that this online community of outdoor enthusiasts have sort of “banded together” to make sure these types of things don’t happen – or at least are not depicted to a wide audience via social media promotion.
Do you have any exciting projects lined up in the near future?
It’s looking to be a busy 2019! I’m hoping to focus more on video production, as well as wildlife photography. I’m excited about multiple backpacking trips coming up in the Canadian Rockies for the 2019 hiking season, as well as the opportunity to experience the amazing waterfalls of Havasupai once again with a good girl friend of mine. I’m currently planning a Europe trip this spring and hoping to make it over to Africa before the end of the year.