It’s a well-known fact that what we see on Instagram is not an accurate picture of real life. Our perfectly curated Instagram feed doesn’t always tell the full story — especially when it comes to travel.
I don’t want to only show the highlight reel of my life, so I thought it would be fun to share my behind-the-scenes stories from some of my best travel photos on Instagram!
Oh, The Things I Will Do For a Photo
Safety when traveling and taking photos is my number one priority and the last thing I want to do is promote reckless behavior or trespassing. I actually don’t get as close to the edge of cliffs as many people do because trying to get an epic photo is not worth losing my life over.
However, I’m all about stepping outside of my comfort zone — which is what I had to do in order to get many of these shots.
Swimming With Sharks
Paddling out towards a school of sharks — just for a photo! OK maybe they were harmless sharks, but I did have to plan for months (taking into account ocean swell, tides and weather) and drive an hour each way to this spot at sunrise for 5 days in a row in order to get the perfect conditions for this photo. The water was not this clear the day before OR the day after this photo was taken.
Even though I knew these sharks were harmless, it still felt a little creepy because I couldn’t see them underneath me despite the clarity of the water. Yes, the fear in my head is usually worse than the danger in real life.
Damn Nature, You Scary!
While road tripping through Nova Scotia, Canada, I saw this bus decorated with colorful snowmobiles just off the side of the road and HAD to stop for a photo. Only, I imagined myself ON top of the bus because it reminded me so much of the Magic Bus that Christopher McCandless made famous.
My biggest worry was if someone was living inside the bus, but instead what I found were huge spiders everywhere (I am scared of spiders more than anything!) and a nest full of bees inside one of the snowmobiles. I kept getting bit by something the whole time I was on top of the bus and I didn’t figure out until later when I was covered in bleeding bites that they were from black flies about the size of gnats so they are sneaky!
I went home from this trip with the biggest swollen bites all over my body, but it was a great conversation piece when talking with the locals. Anyone who lives in a place with black flies is my hero.
Just Pretend Like You’re Not Freezing
On a weekend trip to San Francisco with family, I insisted we all visit this spot at sunset. Dressed in a long skirt and jean jacket, I gritted my teeth through the cold and wind that forced everyone else in my family back into the car. They were surprised that I stuck it out in this outfit because it was COLD and everyone else was wearing a winter coat and gloves!
Horseflies are Assholes
How I got this shot:
1. Waited until I saw a storm coming (for a moody shot) to bike 5 miles out of town.
2. Patiently wait an hour on the side of the road to finally get a very small opening with no cars driving past me.
3. Set up my tripod in the middle of the road to get this shot with me in it.
4. The entire hour that I waited on the side of the road, I was bit by the same horsefly 1,000 times (I am only slightly exaggerating).
5. Bike back to town in a thunderstorm.
6. That is a GOOD day!
Walk on a Frozen Lake in Sub-Zero Temperatures in a Ball Gown
I did a photo series in a Cinderella dress and packed this ball gown along with me on several trips. This lake in Jasper, Canada seemed like the perfect spot for a sunset shot. Hey, at least I was wearing snow boots underneath my dress to keep my feet warm.
Travel Mishaps Make The Best Stories
During the last 8 years as a professional travel blogger, I have experienced my fair share of travel mishaps. The best part about looking back at my travel photos is that each one has a unique memory tied to it and it usually involves things not going according to plan. My travel mishaps always turn out to be the best stories.
Iceland was one of those trips where we just kept getting hit by one thing after another. If we weren’t trying to outrun a storm that would close the entire southern portion of the Ring Road, then it was losing our credit card, or our campervan stove lighting on fire and engulfing Scott’s hands in propane flames. Thankfully he walked away with very minimal burns on his hands and was able to throw the stove out of the van before the flames caught the curtains on fire!
This particular shot was taken in 50mph winds and was not easy to get! Just venturing outside of our campervan in the wind and cold took some encouraging self talk (I’m not going to lie, it felt like we had reached our breaking point towards the end of the trip), but I knew I wanted this shot at sunset.
I set up my tripod for a long exposure and had to use all of my strength to keep the wind from knocking my tripod and camera into the waterfall. The wind was blowing water drops in our direction so I had to time it perfectly to get a photo without the lens covered in water.
After almost lighting our campervan on fire, we decided it was a good idea to only use the stove outside of the campervan and we cooked the last of the food we had at a campsite in front of this waterfall. Scott came into the campervan to grab something, only to turn around and find a dog had just helped himself to our dinner.
Bees LOVE this dress. I could barely stand still for this photo because several bees kept trying to land on me and I am allergic to them! I wish I could say I react calmly when this happens, but the opposite is true when it comes to bees.
Laguna Beach, CA
On a winter day in Laguna Beach, we finally decided to visit this infamous pirate tower. We made sure to go at low tide, but the waves were 10-15 feet that day. This made for some pretty cool splashes on the rocks, but I left the scene drenched after a rogue wave came in. Luckily, I was not holding the drone remote controller this time!
Looks like the perfect scene, right? Little did we know, just after sunset, the biggest mosquitos I’ve ever seen would start relentlessly attacking us.
I traveled 50 hours each way to visit the sun-drenched Philippines. This was the only day it was not raining on my 10-day trip. Still… I have no regrets.
Getting The Shot When You’re Traveling Solo
If you spend much time scrolling through Instagram, then you may be familiar with the term “Instagram Husband.” In this day and age, I feel like practically every female influencer on Instagram has their own photographer, which makes taking amazing photos as a solo traveler seem unattainable.
I have personally always been the one behind the camera because while I love taking photos, I don’t always love being in them. After realizing that I wanted photo memories with me actually in them — and also realizing I travel solo on 95% of my trips — I’ve had to get pretty creative with my camera and tripod.
80% of the photos in this post were taken unassisted — with a tripod and remote shutter release. It just takes a little practice and patience!
Scott has a (sometimes debilitating) fear of heights. He gets vertigo and can’t stand anywhere near the edge of a cliff. This photo in Norway requires the photographer to stand close to the edge of the cliff in order to create the illusion of the rock I’m standing on. He tried his hardest to take the photo for me, but he couldn’t get anywhere near the edge without getting dizzy, so I set up my camera and tripod with an intervalometer and took this shot of myself.
Among stares from crowds of people taking photos at this popular spot in Italy, I proceeded to set up my camera and take photos of myself in a swimsuit, moving around to get different poses. I used to be embarrassed to do this in front of people, but I would rather have the photo I want versus asking a stranger to take my photo and have it end up being not what I envisioned.
I almost didn’t share this photo because my natural reaction is to always find something wrong with my body in a swimsuit. I’m learning to let that go.
Another shot taken with my tripod and remote shutter release on a solo excursion. This is another situation where I had to plan for weeks because this cave can only be accessed at certain low tides and I wanted it to coincide with sunset. I drove 3 hours and scaled the the side of a cliff just for this photo.