I got my first camera when I was about 8. It was one of those Kodak film cameras that you had to take into the shop to get the film developed and wait like 3 weeks for it to be returned. Those were the good ole days – I have so many photos of my sister and I in New Zealand on my Aunty’s farm and my finger features heavily in about 80% of them, obscuring the image with a lovely pink blur. I was quite the budding photographer!
I remember the elation I felt when I was in my teens and I saved up for my very first digital Canon camera (I can’t remember the make or model, but it’s still at home somewhere, it’s little black body all covered in dust and a label that says PROPERTY OF STEPH SANDERS on the side of it). Along with this new camera came numerous embarrassing photos of my friends and I, or my sister and I, dressed up in different outfits. But I’d say this was where I first started getting “artsy” with photography – even though I was quite terrible at it. I started playing with the macro function on my very highly evolved digital camera and thought it was just the coolest thing, like ever.
It must have been in about grade 11 or 12 that I got my first proper DSLR Canon camera – so back in 2010/2011 - my faithful Canon 550d. To be brutality honest, I got it because it was the cool thing to do (hello teenage self-esteem). I used it intermittently for about two years, when I remembered it was there, before not really touching it much until 2016.
But in 2016 something clicked.
My sister and I booked a two-week Lord of the Rings Tour through New Zealand (seriously, best thing EVER. But I digress…). I’m part kiwi (well, my Dad is kiwi, so I’m claiming it because I am planning to move there in the near future) and had been to NZ a number of times and knew how breathtaking it was, so I decided I’d pack my camera – just incase. Well, I used my camera every single day of that trip. I found this rejuvenating joy in observing the world around me and capturing it in a way that expressed how I saw it.
I did it for me – I still do it for me. Images hold memories; you can remember what you felt, what else there was around you, who was there, the weather, the smells, the sounds. That’s the power of photography.
I came back from that trip and I haven’t really stopped taking photos ever since. It was a passion I didn’t know I had, let alone one that I ever thought might grow into something I earned money from. I’ve taught myself and learnt from others along the way but I’ve never attended a class or watched a training video (I really probably should as there are still so many buttons I don’t know how to use!) and that’s not a brag, but it’s just to say that it’s absolutely possible for anyone to do!
I started up a photography specific Instagram in 2017 as a place where I could post more photos (“without annoying everyone on my Instagram feed”, that was my reasoning) and built myself a website - my little pride and joy.
My main area of passion with photography is landscapes. It’s my recharge. Being creative, spending time by myself out in nature surrounded by nothing but the sound of the wind in the trees, the sun on my face or the stars in the sky – I love it. That’s my happy place. People often laugh at me when I say I’m going back to New Zealand again (we’ve been every year for the past 4) but I can’t actually explain to you the joy I feel when I go back. It’s the epitome of nature; raw, rugged beauty – completely majestic and untouched. What more could you want?
Aside from landscape photography I wouldn’t say I have a “favourite” type of photography. I just like telling a story or capturing a moment.
When I came up with the name Let Me Wander Photography, it initially was about wandering through nature and exploring the globe, and at the heart of it that will always be what I’m most passionate about. If you gave me the option of photographing a room full of people or travelling the globe and asked which would make me happier, I’d take the travel in a heart beat. That’s just what makes me tick. That’s what gives me the greatest sense of peace and creative fulfilment.
But in the last two years I’ve started to let myself get creative in the other areas of photography, in ways that I’d been too scared to do. I really enjoy studio photography - Mark Seliger’s Oscar’s portrait shots are some of my FAVOURITE - although it’s not where my natural photography talent lies. I actually experiment with my own face quite often. Ironically, I don’t like having other people take my photo – I think my face looks weird. So I often spend a while in front of the camera with my little self timer remote just experimenting with shadows, lighting, angles and also working out how on earth my face works in photos (does that sound weird? Probably. I don’t care.) I love capturing the human composure and emotion, but I find people feel more comfortable when they aren’t stuck under studio lighting. So if I could pick my favourite way to take portraits and do creative shoots, it’s natural lighting - especially in blue hour or golden hour!
If you had asked Steph in 2018 if she would ever have thought she would earn an income from her photography she would have thought you were crazy. Fast forward 2 years and I have to do tax for my business, people have my photography hanging on their walls in prints, canvas and glass, and I’ve photographed weddings - something I always swore I wouldn’t do because I was too afraid. Turns out, they have been some of my favourite experiences and have become some of my fondest memories. (Just goes to show, if you’re scared about doing something you should probably push through because it’s going to be worth it.)
I one day hope to be able to use my photography to tell the stories of refugees, and people in developing countries alongside my dream of working in humanitarian aid. Ultimately, that’s what I’d love to use my photography passion for – to give voice to those who don’t have a voice.
I don’t have any plans to quit my day job and be a full time photographer, simply because I’m wary of losing my passion and drive for it if I have to fully rely on photography to sustain me. It’s my creative escape and my way to relax, and I don’t want to lose that. But it’s such a privilege to earn income from my passion, and it’s a wonderful little side hustle!
Definitely stay tuned for some new New Zealand photos (hopefully later this year!) - our annual family trip was postponed because of COVID, but I’m siting by to hit the rebook button!
Thanks for coming along on this journey with me so far! And if you have any questions, pop them in the comments below and I'll do up a blog post with some answers!