Not all of us are able to travel regularly, so the images brought back by travel photographers give us a valuable window to the world. It is even better when the photographer goes off the beaten track and shows an original point of view.
This is the case of Stewart MacLean, who has spent the last five years exploring the planet, and whose images stand out from what we usually see on social media.
Hi Stewart, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Stewart MacLean and I am a travel photographer from Canada. I have spent the better part of 5 years exploring South America, Asia, and Australia working and volunteering along the way to keep me on the road. I love exploring new cultures and taking photos of the people I see along the way.
“I hope to communicate the beauty of people across the world.”
How did your passion for photography start?
I was traveling on the Caribbean coast of Colombia where I met an Australian who had been taking photos throughout his trip. His photos were amazing and gave me the feeling of wanting to see more of the world. I wanted to be able to take photos that would make people feel the way I did. As soon as I got home I saved up and invested in a camera. 5 years later and I am still taking photos and helping influence people to explore the world.
“I believe you can go anywhere in the world and you will find interesting people living completely different lives than you, each unique in their own way.”
What do you want to communicate through your photos?
I hope to communicate the beauty of people across the world. When someone looks at one of my images, I want them to make a connection with the subject and imagine themselves in the scene.
Where do you find your inspiration?
From all of the people I meet along my travels, whether locals or other travelers. I believe you can go anywhere in the world and you will find interesting people living completely different lives than you, each unique in their own way. This inspires me to search for these people and photograph them.
“Getting the chance to meet volunteers from all across the globe […] really broadens your mind and changes the way you see things.”
What is the place that inspires you the most?
That would be a place that I volunteered for, for a year and a half called Merazonia, which is a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in the Ecuadorian jungle.
What do you find there that you didn’t find anywhere else?
What can’t you find there. It is a place full of beautiful animals, down to earth people, and stunning nature. The animals that are put in their care are in amazing hands. The center shows endless passion towards the animals and their well-being.
Merazonia is located 5km from the nearest town, with no electricity, which allows you to really disconnect from the outside world. There are waterfalls and hikes you can go on throughout the center, all stunning. Getting the chance to meet volunteers from all across the globe and share deep conversation and ideas really broadens your mind and changes the way you see things. All of these factors mixed creates the perfect environment for inspiration.
“There will always be something interesting to shoot no matter the time of day”
There are often people in your pictures. Do you have a particular “technique” to approach people and photograph them?
I always make eye contact and give a smile. This simple thing has helped me in almost every situation where I wanted to get a shot. Just giving a smile gives off a warm and friendly vibe, which makes them more likely to be okay with you taking their photo.
What is the best time of the day to take pictures?
Usually before sunrise and sunset is the “golden hours,” for photography. I tend to shoot at all hours because you never know what opportunities will come when you are traveling. There will always be something interesting to shoot no matter the time of day, especially while traveling.
“If you get off the beaten track a little and go where the locals go, […] you will find endless unique photo opportunities.”
What gear do you take with you when you travel?
I tend to travel light so I don’t carry around any big equipment with me. I use a Fujifilm X-T2 with a 23mm and an 18-55mm lens. This is a mirrorless system so it’s compact and easy to transport. I love the mirrorless sized cameras as they are less intimidating to people which in turn creates more photo opportunities.
What advice would you give to take good pictures on a trip?
Interact with the locals. It is so easy to go to a country and just go to the main tourist sights. If you get off the beaten track a little and go where the locals go, whether it’s a market or a small village, you will find endless unique photo opportunities.