Let us introduce you to International award-winning Wildlife, Aerial, Underwater photographer, Scott Portelli. Scott’s a passionate adventurer and an important member of the Aurora Expeditions’ crew.
Exploring some of the world’s most breathtaking destinations, cruising the wild Antarctic and getting paid to be Aurora Expeditions’ official photographer sure is dream-worthy!
So what is the reality of this unique lifestyle?
We recently chatted with Scott and asked him the questions you’re desperate to know.
When did Scott realise he has finally ‘made it’ as a travel/wildlife photographer? And what advice does he give to somebody wanting to chase the dream and make a living telling stories through this incredibly powerful and immersive art form?
Read on for an insight into Scott’s magical world…
Tell us about the first time you picked up a camera & decided it was what you wanted to do in your career?
I always had a camera with me from a young age, but it really wasn’t until I was old enough to travel that I really enjoyed capturing the world and what I was seeing as I explored this amazing planet. But it took me a while to take that first step and make that transition to become a full-time professional wildlife photographer.
At what point did you decide to focus on travel/wildlife photography?
Travel inspired me to want to share the world with friends and family, and those that might not have the opportunity to explore it. The more I ventured out, the more I found that the natural world had so much to offer and it was something that I wanted to document, to be able to tell a story through powerful engaging images.
It’s not easy making it as a professional travel photographer, what hurdles did you have to jump over to get to where you are?
I think the main hurdle is to be confident that you are good enough to achieve what you set out to do. Once that barrier is down, you are motivated to make things happen. For many photographers, showing a diverse body of work is what they aim for to inspire others and add value to their work. You need to diversify as a photographer and have a multifaceted skill set. Learning as much as possible while applying it to my work is an ongoing process and probably one of the main challenges in such a competitive yet niche field.
At what point did you know you’d finally made it as a travel photographer?
Does anyone really know this? I think the reality is you’re always learning, always striving to be better, always looking to create something new, so I think I still have a fair way to go before I believe I have made it as a photographer.
When did you start working with Aurora Expeditions?
I have been working with Aurora expeditions for four years but have been a client of theirs for more than 15 years. It is a perfect alignment and having the privilege to work with such interesting, highly experienced team members who share the same passions, is just amazing.
What have you loved most about working with the line and its passengers?
Aurora Expeditions truly knows expeditions and adventure; they strive to have the best teams with the most experience and the best possible product on offer. I love that you always feel included when you are with the Aurora Expeditions team, it is never an act and it’s this genuine group of people that make the company the success it is today.
You’d no doubt have hundreds of incredible photos during your time with Aurora Expeditions, but which is your favourite and why?
There have been so many amazing moments and to pick one would be doing an injustice to the others, but I can tell you photographing leopard seals under water and being in their environment with an apex predator, was truly a spectacular experience. Face to face with a Leopard Seal is one of the most engaging images I have taken of this incredible species.
How much harder is it taking a photo underwater compared to on land?
Underwater photography can be challenging at the best of times, but when it is combined with diving in Antarctica, you have so many more things to think about. Camera settings, diving equipment, ice, wildlife, lighting. Everything impacts the final image and often you haven’t got time to set up a shot or plan it, as the wildlife and environment constantly changes around you. So I would have to say it is very difficult.
I can’t imagine it being difficult taking a beautiful photo in Antarctica, but what are some techniques you offer guests trying to set up the right shot in Antarctica?
I run a number of lectures designed to help people take photos to the best of their abilities using the equipment they have, and often this is just an iPhone. One of my most popular lectures on the ship is how to take professional-looking photos with a smartphone. We also offer sessions that cover camera settings for different scenarios, we give handouts for guests to use as practical guides and we do photo reviewing sessions each evening before dinner on the ship. There’s so much interaction and engagement in our photo sessions.
What’s your dream shot? Something you’re yet to take with Aurora that you’re patiently waiting to?
I think having a Leopard Seal present its prey to me while diving would be an amazing shot. It’s images that really capture the true nature of wildlife and the circle of life in the harsh polar regions.
What advice would you offer someone wanting to become a professional travel photographer?
Be persistent and be involved, this is the only way to move forward in a competitive niche industry. Wildlife, nature and travel photography is challenging but so rewarding, and I love that it is accessible to anyone that has a camera. Be ambassadors through your photography.
Click here to check out more of Scott’s incredible travel storytelling.
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