Wouda Interviews Alex Serafini for some Travel Photography Tips

10 Apr 2017

Photography is truly something special – no wonder it has become such a popular means of storytelling and self-expression!
Who says travel photography is simply about snapping memories? Why not create some art when travelling? We chat with Alex Serafini who creates beautiful fine-art from her travel photos for some tips.

A photograph in Alex Serafini's Undercurrent Triptych Series
A photograph in Alex Serafini's Undercurrent Triptych Series
A photograph in Alex Serafini's Undercurrent Triptych Series

Childhood camping trips

Alex Serafini is one of those talented young ladies who don’t just take photographs, but creates art (which you can buy at the Francoise V Gallery). She was an adventurous kid: Her mother always encouraged her creativity, letting her unique individuality flourish.

A huge part of Alex’s love for South Africa and travelling came from regular camping trips with her dad who was a real rough and tough, do-it-yourself kinda guy. He took Alex and her sister camping (without luxuries) to deserted beaches in the middle of nowhere and mountainous valleys’ which remain nameless. Their family home had a river running through the far end where the kids would spend days getting lost in their imaginations. “I wouldn’t swap my childhood in Cape Town for anything, as being surrounded by artists and entrepreneurs who continue to inspire my every decision.”

A photograph in Alex Serafini's Eventide Triptych Series
A photograph in Alex Serafini's Eventide Triptych Series
A photograph in Alex Serafini's Eventide Triptych Series

Travel & Fine Art

She grew up devouring National Geographic magazines, one after the other; the time, patience, wonderment and courage these photographers exhibit is where it all started. Alex is also no stranger to the world of fine art being that her mother is a designer.
Inspired by both travel, “the greatest gift you can give yourself”, and fine art, Alex believes in a world where it is possible to love and combine these two mediums of work. She also has a keen interest in documentary photography.

Indonesia Palm 3 by Alex Serafini
Indonesia Palm 1 by Alex Serafini
Indonesia Palm 1 by Alex Serafini

“Colour speaks volumes”

Alex’s first few years in photography started out in the darkroom; although digital was already in use. Film just seemed more appealing and still does. She greatly admires black and white documentary, landscape and photojournalism yet somehow, colour always finds its way into her work. Alex is constantly developing and trying out new techniques and can’t really pinpoint a single style; “some may criticise this, but I cannot seem to help myself – there is too much in this world and in photography to get excited about and explore”. Alex says that colour speaks volumes evident in “the power it has to affect our moods and emotions”. A true artist can never ignore such yearnings.

Eventide: A fine art travel photograph by Alex Serafini

A new collection

Alex is a firm believer of attending as many workshops and courses as you possibly can as “educating yourself, learning from others and drawing inspiration from new sources”, especially when you are in a bit of a creative slump, is important. She recently did a fine art photography course with Martin Osner and after digging through her “archives”, she found that she was sitting on gems from her trips to Barcelona, Italy, Turkey and Tunisia. This will shape her new collection, which with a bit of tweaking, will be finished soon.

Alex’s list of photographic equipment

Before she left for a surf and photography trip to Indonesia, Alex bought an old underwater camera for R200; a plastic, dinky toy of a thing, but it proved to be quite durable saying it “literally makes me laugh every time I use it”.

She loves her trusty Nikon FE, which is a joy to carry around.

Her Nikon D7100 is light and perfect to travel with, coupled with a 35mm f/1.8G or 50mm f/1.4G lens and she’s good to go for day hikes.

She’s recently bought an underwater housing (DiCAPac WP-S3 Waterproof Case) for her D7100 camera, which she can’t wait to use and create some magical images with.

Alex never leaves home without her Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod with 3-way head, some filters, “just in case an incredible seascape moment presents itself” and a flash, as she loves to paint with light.

Eventide: A fine art travel photograph by Alex Serafini

How to get your work hanging in a gallery

In the past couple of years, Alex has worked in dedicated photography galleries and this has taught her so much about the different papers, framing, quality control and more which are handy to know when working with investors and buyers. Learning more about these processes can only help you put together a quality product.
As with any other field of work, networking is key! Go to workshops, exhibitions and support others in the industry. Be open to making and working with people in other industries. Alex also suggests putting together a portfolio of work with a strong idea or concept and submitting it to galleries. You can hold your own exhibition or in collaboration with a friend.

Undercurrent 1: A fine art travel photograph by Alex Serafini

The best photography advice

The best advice Alex can give is to “always check your corners” and try and do as much in-camera as possible. Who wants to sit and fix easily avoidable errors in front of the computer screen anyway? Eugene van der Merwe, her lecturer at varsity, used to drill this and many other technical pearls of wisdom, into his students, and as such it’s something that has always stuck with her. Don’t just point and shoot, anyone can do that; rather think about what you want to include or exclude in you composition with every release of the shutter.
After exploring abstract photography more deeply, learning from other photographers’ techniques and working in the fast-paced genre of travel documentary, she’s learned to ease up a bit and leave some things to chance. “I still always check my corners” and she tries avoid cropping unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Butterfly-Valley by Alex Serafini
Lush 1: a fine art travel photograph taken by Alex Serafini

How to take better travel photographs

Alex gives us unexpected and interesting advice for taking better travel photographs. And she is not ashamed to admit that she will very often leave her camera behind (shocking right?), but it all makes sense when she explains why. Instead of being antisocial and somewhat intrusive behind the lens of your camera, you can now connect with the locals or other travellers. This allows you to get tips on secret local spots, which you would not have been led to otherwise. People tend to be more relaxed around you when they see you with a camera later on and you are happily on your way to that majestic spot to get that winning shot.

You will find this magical young lady preparing for her next travel photography destination, jamming out to the tracks of artists like The Black Keys or Levi Rosen. We are sure to remember her helpful photography tips on our future travels and are super excited to see her next collection of work for some more inspiration.

VW Collection by Alex Serafini
VW Collection by Alex Serafini
VW Collection by Alex Serafini
VW Collection by Alex Serafini

About the Author:

Wouda McMicken spends her work days as part of the driven Outdoorphoto team. She enjoys photography, especially with her treasured Nikon Film camera.

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