PHOTOGRAPHER: Seth K. Hughes
BASED IN: On the Road, USA
KNOWN FOR: Being a location-independent photographer
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM X-Pro2 Camera, X-T2 Camera, X-E3 Camera, FUJINON XF14mmF2.8 R Lens, XF27mmF2.8 Lens, XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens, XF1.4X TC WR Teleconverter
When you look at photography by Seth K. Hughes, it is not only the images that are fascinating – it is the lifestyle that makes those images possible. For the last four years, Seth, his wife and his dog have lived and worked on the road. Traveling in an SUV hooked up to a travel trailer, Seth documents his life and adventures on the road with FUJIFILM gear. In this interview, we asked Seth some questions about a series of images of a fellow traveler he met on his journey.
Seth, tell us about this collection. Who is the model and how did you meet?
In the past four years that I’ve been a nomad, I’ve met so many travelers and adventurers with unique and inspiring outlooks on life. Their perspectives expand with every new place visited, every contrasting culture experienced, each personal challenge overcome.
Everyone’s story is different. Regardless of the catalyst, I will always be drawn to those who are committed to living life to the fullest.
Michelle Waller is one such person. In late October 2017, when the high desert climate was at its zenith, I interviewed Michelle at a picturesque campsite overlooking Arches National Park. Tall and athletic, Michelle looks like the kind of Colorado athlete who could conquer mountains – and she does, on her mountain bike, camping in her van. She might still be in a safe, salaried job, living the stationary life, if a medical scare hadn’t forced her to re-evaluate everything.
Oh dear, that sounds frightening. What exactly happened?
Michelle suffered from a leg cramp at the end of a triathlon. She later discovered this was caused by potentially deadly blood clots. She had a doctor sit across from her and tell her that she was lucky to be alive. Those words will never leave her. She says they echo in her head each and every day. At that point Michelle realized how precious time truly is.
So this event changed Michelle’s life? How did she respond to it?
Michelle left her job, became an intrepid traveler, and started a women’s adventure company. Michelle has made it her business to help others live fuller lives. We were Instagram friends, and I developed a tremendous respect for what she was doing. Her passion for adventure, and for enabling adventure in others’ lives, inspired me to reach out and ask whether she might be interested in doing a photo and video session.
So, you like to search out subjects and stories that inspire you?
As a professional photographer, shooting personal projects is doubly meaningful. Not only do I help proliferate meaning and purpose through my work with the lens but, more often than not, new skills and insights come out of the project.
The person or people I’m working with receive professionally shot images that they can use for sharing their message. I gain experience and some more images for my portfolio. More than once, such work has inadvertently benefitted my photography business by garnering the attention of new clients, who hire me. The cycle repeats.
That’s a really inspiring approach. What was Michelle’s response when you reached out to her?
When I messaged Michelle to extend an invitation to meet up in the desert of Southern Utah with our respective adventure rigs, she immediately accepted. I believe that’s another hallmark of an inspired traveler: the openness to meet new people and connect at random waypoints across the globe. In this case, we met at the fringes of Arches National Park.
Meeting up with Michelle to tell her story was a passion project. My goal was to document this pivotal phase in her life and shine a light on her quest with the intention of empowering others. I could tell we were both excited about the prospect.
So, what did your collaboration involve? Did you shoot only still images, or video too?
During the course of a weekend, we talked about her accomplishments and challenges. We discussed the chain of events that led to her decision to save up and buy a van. It’s a rare model that she had to dash across the country to snag and convert into the ultimate adventure rig. My wife and I had to do a similar thing when we bought our travel trailer. We raced through four states to pick it up from St. Louis.
I shot a series of portraits, lifestyle images, mountain biking shots and video sequences to complete the picture. My two FUJIFILM X-T2 bodies, coupled with the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 and XF50-140mmF2.8 lenses, were instrumental in capturing the full width and depth of Michelle’s personality. I used the X-T2’s built-in intervalometer to shoot a time-lapse of her van under the brilliant, spinning night sky.
We also set up a video interview in the comfort of her van where she proceeded to give a tour of the unique features of her home on wheels.
And how did your FUJIFILM gear handle the challenge of shooting both photos and video for this project?
I was glad to have had the opportunity to practice and become more intimately attuned to the robust video capabilities of the X-T2. Throughout the project I needed to transition quickly between still-frame shutter speeds and video shutter speeds, because video frame rates dictate your shutter speed.
I used a variable ND filter so I could shoot at wide apertures and create a shallow depth of field, even when it was fairly bright. This allowed me to give the video a cinematic quality. I felt that telling Michelle’s story required both still frame as well as video, and the FUJIFILM X-T2 handled both seamlessly.
In the end, I’m not sure what I loved more about the project, Michelle’s bold and intrepid narrative, or the stunning visuals that we captured. This experience encapsulates everything I love about storytelling, being an artist, and collaborating with kindred spirits. I truly believe that sharing stories is one of the best ways we can all relate to and inspire one another.
Seth K. Hughes is a compensated FUJIFILM X-Photographer.
To see more of Seth’s work, visit his website.
To explore the full X Series lineup visit X Gear Chooser.