For Elia Locardi, the heart of his photography is about capturing beautiful locations at their most extraordinary moments. As a full-time, location-independent travel photographer, he journeys to the ends of the earth to scout out iconic destinations, as well as discover new ones. While getting there is a logistic challenge in and of itself, part of his recipe for a successful photograph involves spending time living in and experiencing these novel environments. Eschewing the typical fast-paced get-the-shot-and-move-on shooting style allows him to get a deeper sense of his subject and its context. As he puts it, "Having that emotional connection to the location helps me translate those emotions into my work."
Fueled by "A mix of positivity, a lot of caffeine, over a million miles of travel, and the overwhelming desire to succeed and pursue my passion to create," working location-independent with his wife and business partner Naomi for three years has nonetheless challenged them both. As Elia put it, "I wouldn't want to do this alone. That's for sure!"
They knew before starting out that they'd make mistakes along the way.
"I believe that everything I’ve done in my life, whether positive or negative, has lead me to where I am today. Albert Einstein had this great quote: ‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’"
Being a travel photographer was challenging enough. Selling nearly everything they owned raised the stakes of trying something different to a new level.
Yet, it is exactly those challenges that have given the pair a unique perspective and opportunity for self-discovery.
"I've had to learn so much by doing it that I have a sense of joy when I get to answer those questions because I feel that those are the things that I've grown the most with: The traveling and the being on the road full time." As he puts it, "The process of getting rid of nearly everything that you own... When you do it, you start to really discover the things that are important to you, rather than the things that you think are really important to you. Our thoughts and views of the world have changed so much."
Elia's mobile career requires mobile gear and digital cameras, which continue to advance and push what's possible in his work.
"I can’t think of a more exciting time to be a photographer. It seems like every day, new awesome products are being developed to help us capture the world around us. These days we can take extraordinary photos from something as simple as our mobile phones -- and that's a fact."
Gone are the days when taking quality photographs demanded a cadre of Sherpa's to move it from place to place.
"People ask me ‘How do I get started and take my photography to the next level?’ -- when years ago I would recommend a DSLR, now I'm recommending a mirrorless body and lenses."
While small cameras could mean mediocre results in the past, Elia believes the rules have changed.
"These days it isn't about the big giant camera and lens anymore."
"Of course I always have my Cintiq Companion. I also carry a small Wacom Intuos tablet for my retina Macbook Pro -- these two things would be hard to live without!"
The intuitive control of Wacom products really streamlines the blending process his work is known for, allowing him not only to blend different exposures to capture a wider luminance range, but also to blend temporally. As Elia puts it, "Specifically for the past few years, I’ve been experimenting with blending different moments of time together. So when we remember an amazing sunset we're not just remembering a single image of it -- we're remembering the way that the colors moved in the sky or changed over time and the lights in the city came on, so I've been spending a lot of time with blending raw files from a span of time so that I can capture this entire sequence to a single moment. It represents and embodies a total memory experience of a location."
Elia doesn't work with any licensing agencies. In fact, most of his clients seek him out. Outside of the photography itself, he attributes his success to a combination of social media influence and a widely-visited blog featuring frequent updates.
"Social media and blogging played a huge role in my success. Over the past few years, I’ve been using social media as a way to build a solid and engaged following. This puts me in constant direct contact with the photography community. Being fully location independent, and on the road traveling the world full-time, social media has also helped me make real connections and friendships with people and communities all over the world. It's something I recommend every photographer gets into in some form or fashion."
While he finds himself occasionally pitching new products to brands, companies, and sponsors, what's really expanded his sphere of influence has been running global photographic tours, teaching post-processing workshops, and speaking at major photographic conferences worldwide.
"These days being a photographer isn't just about taking photos, it’s about growing a business around the photos you take. It’s odd to think that as a full-time photographer, I don't make my living directly from my photography -- it’s the things surrounding photography that I focus on in business. Workshops, photo tours, seminars, speaking tours, brand ambassadorships, product development, social media, and different things like that. I set out to be a passionate travel photographer but I went into it with a lot of determination to succeed. This business sense gave me the ability to adapt to changing trends and create new opportunities for myself."
In Elia’s mind, "The best photographer out there is the one having the most fun. Follow your own creativity and creative vision, your own passion and desire to create. As long as you love what you’re doing, everything else will come with time."
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