Not All About Me; Take 3 / by craig levers

It is a theme I’ve harped on about before and it is one I’ll probably repeat again. I’m convinced that it is vital to share your knowledge and help people starting out on a journey you’re already along a bit.

Whether it is sharing your surfing knowledge, even where to paddle out, or something as mundane as how to wax a board. Photography is the same; great photographers mentored me when I started 25 years ago, so I totally adhere to the ethos of giving back.

  Rachy co-piloting in Va'Vau Tonga. Photo Magenta Hyde

Rachy co-piloting in Va'Vau Tonga. Photo Magenta Hyde

My friend Rachel Stewart has become quite the Instagram sensation with her drop dead gorgeous New Zealand Landscapes. She has a staggering 54,000 followers. Deservedly so, she has a great eye, she has embraced the Instagram community; hash tagging like a demon and going to Instagram meets. Rachel is a successful case study in how a social media platform can actually perform. If of course the talent is there to start with.

I have to add this disclaimer before going forward, I had no idea I had influenced her to the extent she mentions. In the first draft of the interview I edited out her references, but then the answers made little sense, so the flattery stays in... although I’m incredibly not comfortable with it. 

  Rach and her signature hat at Tawarewa

Rach and her signature hat at Tawarewa

Say hello to Papamoa’s surfing mother of three, the humble Ms Rachel Stewart.


When we did the Tonga trip in 2010 you weren't taking photos. What was the inspiration/ motivation to start getting into photography?
 
I had always had an interest in photography, but had never really pursued it. At the time of our (AMAZING) Tonga trip, my two great loves were travelling and surfing! But I do remember that trip having quite an impact on me. I watched two talented individuals, yourself and our great mate Magenta (my bestie) combining their two great loves. For you it was surfing and photography, for her it was whales and photography. That really stuck with me.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I started taking a few sunset snaps when walking along the beach that I realised that I quite liked capturing moments that meant something to me.

  Owharoa Falls selfie and that hat!

Owharoa Falls selfie and that hat!

You have eluded in the past to having goals with Instagram. Could you explain your original plan?
 
Well, no word of a lie, I joined Instagram to follow you! You had put a facebook message out to say you were starting an Instagram account, I had no idea what that was, but joined anyway to follow your photography, which has always inspired me.
Then about a year later I started uploading my own little grams. I had no idea that it would turn into a full blown passion, and end up being a way for me to make a living.
When I realized that I was starting to gain exposure and more followers, I set out to make the most of every opportunity I had to take photos, better my art, continue my passion. That was my main plan, but I also wondered if I could somehow turn this into a way of living. Along the way I have had some great opportunities, met some amazing people, and been inspired to carry on with the journey. I’m thankful for all those good things that have happened to me.

  Mitre Peak, Milford Sound...are you kidding me! Race's posts like this average 8,000+ likes

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound...are you kidding me! Race's posts like this average 8,000+ likes

That plan has evolved as the Instagram community has of course; so now you're sitting at over 54000 followers, has this opened doors for photographic work?
 
Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined having over 54k followers on the gram, it even sounds crazy to me saying it out loud.
It has definitely helped my name gain exposure, and I have had quite a few photographic opportunities come my way because of it. I would have to say my proudest moment is being sponsored by Lee Filters, that really was a dream come true.
My photos have been used by Pure NZ in publications overseas and quite a few other tourism branches throughout the country. I’m really happy that companies seem to like the way I capture our amazing country.

  Lake Matheson photo Rachel Stewart

Lake Matheson photo Rachel Stewart

Your photography is beautiful, you've done a lot of long exposure work; is this still your favourite style of landscape shooting?
 
Long exposure is still my favourite type of photography, and it was after seeing photos from yourself, Sarah Hatton (iso100photography) and Crystal Hutchinson (midnight_photography) that I really wanted to try it for myself.
Recently I have really been enjoying incorporating a human element into my photos, and sometimes that doesn’t require getting the filters out. A scene can often look just as beautiful without using the long exposure technique, and I’m really enjoying exploring that style of photography a bit more.

  Pure cloud porn; Mount Cook Road. Photo Rachel Stewart

Pure cloud porn; Mount Cook Road. Photo Rachel Stewart

The average weekday for Rachy?
 
Looking after my beautiful young family
Coffee
Working part time in my ‘real’ job haha
Coffee
Running my photography business
Coffee
Taking photos
Coffee
Editing photos
Coffee
Spending time with the amazing people in my life
Walking, hiking, being outdoors

 
The photoshoot day for Rachy?

Trying not to forget anything!
Depending on where I’m going, I try to do a bit of research on what the place looks like, what angles are available.
Checking weather, clouds, sun times, wind, driving and hiking duration.
Assessing the scene once there, including the above factors.
Assessing the different compositions I’m going to shoot once the light starts to get better.
Choosing what filters to use.
Taking photos
Of course other times (and so many times) getting taken by surprise and just scrambling to get to a good spot and use the right settings to get a photo!

For the budding grammers what's the four best tips you'd give someone wanting to have a great Gram account?

Try and find your style, and keep some consistency with it. I am absolutely all for trying new things, but try and stick to something that makes your shots signature to you. 

Engage with your audience. You don't have to tell them about your personal life, but let them know you appreciate their support and give them the odd insight into who you are 😊

Follow people who inspire you and want to make you a better photographer. 

Don't forget to upload shots that mean something to you and ones that you like. Sometimes they may not be the best ones, but you gotta remember it's your life and your gram account 😊

Follow Rachel's fine work on Instagram HERE

Check out her website HERE

 

From The Galleries

It's all about the long exposures this post huh! This is not a Rachy one, it's a CPL from the May South Island Roady. Shot on the 617 pano. It missed the cut for the next book...kind of think we may have had a shocker not featuring it!!! 

Just click on the image to see it bigger and of course purchasing options