Alaskan pho­tog­ra­pher Ni­cole Smoot has a pas­sion for the wildest of fron­tiers.

ALASKAN PHO­TOG­RA­PHER NI­COLE SMOOT EXPLORES THE WILDEST AND REMOTEST OF PLACES, WITH A PAS­SION FOR ANY­THING OUT OF THE ORDINARY.

SHIBUI Issue - - CONTENTS - CURATOR KARINA EASTWAY PHO­TOG­RA­PHER NI­COLE SMOOT COUN­TRY ALASKA

Where are you from orig­i­nally and where are you based now?

I was born in South­cen­tral Alaska, and am still based there at the mo­ment.

What cam­era do you usu­ally shoot with (and why if ap­pli­ca­ble)?

I shoot with a Canon 5DS-R. I made the de­ci­sion when leap­ing to a full­frame cam­era to go with the 5DS-R be­cause of its per­for­mance in low light as I spend a lot of time shoot­ing the au­rora and as­tropho­tog­ra­phy, but I also needed a good all-round cam­era that was durable and fared well in many set­tings. I use three lenses: the Roki­non 14mm f/2.8 for shoot­ing the night sky and ar­chi­tec­ture; the Tam­ron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD for the ma­jor­ity of my land­scape shots; and the Tam­ron 70200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD tele­photo for wildlife.

How did you get into ad­ven­ture travel?

The in­ter­est has al­ways been there, and grow­ing up in Alaska didn’t ex­actly curb it ei­ther. Most of my

trav­els were not any­thing out of the ordinary when I started out: east­ern Europe, the Balkans, South­east Asia. But shortly af­ter my 27th birth­day I found my­self in Ye­men and So­co­tra and I’d have to say that is where it re­ally started. Trav­el­ling in a coun­try seen as a fail­ing state, camp­ing in the open un­der the stars, catch­ing fish for din­ner and see­ing that peo­ple still carry on with their lives even in cities that are of­ten un­der at­tack by mil­i­tant and ter­ror­ist groups.

Can you tell us a lit­tle about the travel ex­pe­di­tions you’re work­ing on at the mo­ment?

At the mo­ment I am cur­rently work­ing on some new ven­ture-leading tours. The first one will in­volve me tak­ing a small group to Iran to ex­plore an­cient Per­sia; the sec­ond will take an­other small group on an ex­pe­di­tion in the Pamir Moun­tains of Ta­jik­istan, the Silk Road cities of Kash­gar and Tashkur­gan, and onto the north­ern ter­ri­tory of Gil­git-Baltistan in Pak­istan. They are slated to take place 24 May through 3 June and 9 June through 24 June of 2018, re­spec­tively.

As far as per­sonal ex­pe­di­tions go, my fu­ture plans in­clude more thor­oughly ex­plor­ing the east­ern third of Ta­jik­istan, fur­ther ex­plo­ration into Afghanistan, and vis­it­ing the re­mote is­land of As­tola in the Ara­bian Sea. Not so much an ex­pe­di­tion but an ex­cit­ing thing that will hap­pen for me next fall will be the first in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion of my pho­to­graphs at the Schiphol Air­port in Am­s­ter­dam in the fall of 2018.

What’s an ab­so­lute ‘wow’ des­ti­na­tion you’ve vis­ited and what was it that made it so spe­cial?

That’s dif­fi­cult to an­swer with just one re­sponse as I’ve been to so many ‘wow’ des­ti­na­tions. If I had to name a few they would in­clude Ta­jik­istan for its stun­ning moun­tain­scapes and mir­ror-like lakes; the Afghan Wakhan cor­ri­dor for its in­cred­i­bly warm and wel­com­ing peo­ple; the dra­matic Hindu Kush with the Big Pamir moun­tains cut­ting it off from the rest of the world; So­co­tra Is­land in Ye­men be­cause of its unique trees and wild, re­mote beaches; vis­it­ing Peru’s Vini­cunca be­fore it was even on

any tourist’s radar; cruis­ing be­tween ice floes in the mid­dle of the Ross Sea and com­ing face to face with a leop­ard seal on my ex­pe­di­tion to Antarc­tica ear­lier this year; and fi­nally Alaska. Even though it’s home it still never dis­ap­points me to stand in­side ice caves, have wildlife just off my front porch and the many moun­tains and lakes that keep me oc­cu­pied year af­ter year.

Can you tell us a lit­tle about your favourite sub­ject to pho­to­graph – peo­ple, an­i­mals or places?

I’d have to say my favourite sub­ject would be places. I love to show peo­ple places that may have never been on their radar, or that they’ve likely never even heard of.

Top pho­tog­ra­phy tip for be­gin­ners?

The only way you’re going to fig­ure it out is to go out there and try.

You don’t need a gi­ant ex­pen­sive cam­era and you don’t need a de­gree in pho­tog­ra­phy, there are great pho­tog­ra­phers who only use an iPhone and have zero for­mal education in pho­tog­ra­phy. My num­ber one tip is to fig­ure out com­po­si­tion and how to work it into your style of pho­tog­ra­phy. No cam­era, lens, fil­ter or edit­ing pro­gram is going to teach you that eye for com­po­si­tion.

What’s your top travel tip?

Pre­pare for the worst, hope for the best, say yes to an ad­ven­ture and don’t for­get to pack Lop­eramide.

What is it about be­ing “be­yond the beaten path” that in­spires your trav­els?

It’s prob­a­bly all due to a com­plex that Alaska in­stills into every kid that grows up there: most of us can’t han­dle crowded places. I have a friend who grew up here and moved to Syd­ney five years ago, and she still has strug­gles at times with the sheer vol­ume of peo­ple in the city, even though she ab­so­lutely loves it. There’s some­thing spe­cial about trekking some­where and only meet­ing a

shep­herd or two on the trail, vis­it­ing a per­fect lake in a bowl of moun­tains with no one else in sight, hav­ing a beau­ti­ful beach com­pletely to your­self, or get­ting to sit down for tea with some­one in a rarely vis­ited coun­try who is over the moon that you’re there to ex­pe­ri­ence their lost land, nearly for­got­ten tra­di­tions, and then go back home to share a piece of them with your fam­ily and friends.

Which shot in par­tic­u­lar re­ally means a great deal to you and why?

I think one shot in par­tic­u­lar of my­self with a dragon blood tree on So­co­tra Is­land. The photo was taken long be­fore I ever con­sid­ered be­com­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher, let alone a travel pho­tog­ra­pher. It means so much be­cause it res­onates with how long I had wanted to visit the is­land and what a se­ries of in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult life events lead to me end­ing up out there. Then of course any­thing shot in the moun­tains of Cen­tral Asia, be­cause they sig­nify the length of time I had spent dream­ing of vis­it­ing the place and the re­silience and strength it took to reach some of the places.

What lo­ca­tion is still on your bucket list to visit?

A few to start would be Syria, Iraq, Gabon, So­ma­lia, Western Aus­tralia, Mada­gas­car and New Cale­do­nia.

A fi­nal in­spir­ing travel quote for our read­ers?

“The man who goes alone can start to­day; but he who trav­els with an­other must wait till that other is ready.”(Henry David Thoreau)

So many peo­ple are flab­ber­gasted at the places I’ve gone, and in com­plete shock when they find out that I’ve gone to most alone. This quote ex­plains ex­actly why.

PRE­VI­OUS PAGE Vini­cunca, aka The Rain­bow Moun­tain, deep in the An­des Moun­tains, Peru

CLOCKWISE FROM BE­LOW Dragonblood Tree in the Dixam Plateau, So­co­tra Is­land, Ye­men; Bac­trian camels in the Kyzylkum Desert, Uzbek­istan; Khafraz­dara Lake in the Bar­tang Val­ley lo­cated in the Cen­tral Pamir Moun­tains of the Gorno Badak­shan Au­tonomous Oblast, Ta­jik­istan; Kyr­gyz Ceme­tery near Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyr­gyzs­tan

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