Known for her clean aesthetic and wanderlust-inducing photography, Los Angeles-based travel photographer and creative consultant Carley Rudd’s career is a tale of trusting your instincts and taking a chance. Self-taught with a deep appreciation for nature, three years ago Carley took a leap of faith and left her full-time agency role to pursue a freelance career and has never looked back, having since contributed to publications like Travel & Leisure, Suitcase Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, AFAR and Tiny Atlas Quarterly—to name a few—and worked with such clients as AirBnb and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. Read on to hear more about Carley’s journey, her advice for aspiring travel photographers, must-have travel essentials and more.
Tell us how you got started as a travel photographer.
I have always been drawn to photography and had an insatiable curiosity to see the world. I remember as a young girl flipping through National Geographic Magazines reading about Jane Goodall, watching Indiana Jones movies and studying work by famous artists, telling myself I would someday visit the places they did. Later in life I found myself saving all my money to go on trips. In the beginning of my career I built up a portfolio through self-funded travel. Whenever I was traveling I would contact hotels, magazines, tourism boards, and offer to share my work. It slowly built up from there.
Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Minimal, mindful, escapism.
Describe a defining moment in your career.
One of the biggest defining moments in my career was quitting my 9-5 job at one of the top advertising agencies in Los Angeles to pursue a full-time freelance photography career. It was one of the most freeing moments. I took a chance on myself and have never looked back.
What advice would you give to photographers aspiring to get into the travel space?
Start shooting! Practice and shoot something different everyday. Build up a body of work. Study other people’s work that inspires you and consider how they use light, create compositions, etc. Then hone in on your own unique aesthetic and style that makes you, you!
“Traveling to new places and having new experiences fuels my creativity. I also find that when I slow down, and truly observe the present moment I’m in, my mind comes alive.”
When are you most creative?
Traveling to new places and having new experiences fuel my creativity. I also find that when I slow down, and truly observe the present moment I’m in, my mind comes alive.
Who and what inspires you?
My husband inspires me everyday to follow my dreams and know my worth. Creatively, I’m inspired by so much. Art, design, architecture, nature. Everywhere we travel I try to visit a local art museum or design shop, explore local architecture, and spend time in nature.
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow to get inspired.
For photography inspiration: @suitcase, @cerealmag, @tinyatlasquarterly, @ignant and @majesticdisorder. For escapism and to be transported to dreamy destinations: @sandylamu, @viancasoleil, @seeladanse and @seehura.
Where are you dreaming of traveling when the world opens up again?
I am planning to do a lot more local travel and road trips, and would love to embrace slow, sustainable travel experiences abroad in places like Japan, South America (especially Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil) and the Middle East (Jordan, Israel and Egypt).
How do you travel lighter and more consciously?
Now, more than ever I have been learning about ways to support sustainable travel. This means visiting more off-the-beaten-path destinations, looking for hotels that take sustainability seriously, lowering your carbon footprint by choosing train or boat travel over air and car, and finding ways to support local artisans and eco-friendly tour operators during your trip.
A great sustainable travel company I support is Regenerative Travel and I love their philosophy, “By encouraging sustainable travel around the world, we can harness our collective power to live more purposefully in our everyday lives.”
Best advice for living like a local when you travel.
Always ask the locals for their recommendations! They know best. And don’t be afraid to get off the beaten-path.
What has travel taught you?
Travel has taught me a lot about empathy and compassion. And more than anything, it’s taught me that despite how different and how far away we may be to others, we are all connected. Connected to one another, all living things and this incredible planet we inhabit.
“Travel has taught me a lot about empathy and compassion. And more than anything, it’s taught me that despite how different and how far away we may be from others, we are all connected.”
Favorite place in the world to watch the sunrise / sunset.
I think I’d have to say Santorini for some of the most magical sunsets, and sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park. There’s something so beautiful about the desert morning glow.
Favorite off-the-beaten path beach.
The beaches in Koh Lipe, Thailand. I think it took a plane, ferry, bus and tuk tuk ride to get there but well worth it!
Favorite road trip route.
Hard to choose! I’d say it’s a close tie between the Route 1 drive through Big Sur in California and driving through Süd Tyrol in Italy catching glimpses of the Dolomites.
Favorite road trip playlist.
Totally depends on where the road trip is. For road trips through California and the American Southwest it’s a lot of CCR and Fleetwood Mac Radio. When driving the Algarve coast in Portugal I was listening to this playlist a lot.
Most magical hotels / Airbnb’s in the world.
The list could go on and on. I have been incredibly fortunate to stay in so many wonderful places around the globe. Here’s three I could keep going back to again and again: Son Rullan in Mallorca, Scarabeo Camp in Morocco and Tri Lanka, a luxury sustainable boutique hotel in Sri Lanka.
Travel / carryon essentials.
Lunya Sleep Mask, Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask for long haul flights, Grounding Calm Essential Oil from the Grateful Desert, a good book, healthy snacks, Skyroam for wifi on the go and my camera, always.
How do you embrace slower living?
For me, it’s all about shifting from a consumption driven and scarcity mindset to a more sustainable and abundance filled mindset. When you’re constantly thinking you never have enough or you have to buy more this or more that, life can feel like a race or never-ending competition.
Instead, I try to focus on gratitude and do things like, gardening, cooking, support local farmers markets and artisans, practice meditation, spend time in nature and dedicate time to learning and being creative.
I try to journal every morning. There is a book called The Artist’s Way and the author Elizabeth Gilbert recommends practicing “morning pages” every day to help awaken your inner artist. I use this time to set intentions for the day and read daily affirmations. I also bring palo santo wood with me wherever I go and often start my mornings burning it. Living as a digital nomad can leave you feeling ungrounded at times so the familiar scent helps me stay centred and start my day.
Describe your perfect Sunday.
Start by enjoying a cup of coffee in the sunshine and fresh pastries from the farmer’s market. Spend the morning wandering Lisbon’s Principe Real district stopping in design shops, galleries and concept stores. Then, enjoy an aperitif in an outdoor courtyard and meet friends for dinner at A Cervicheria for fresh seafood, good conversations, and yes of course, we’ll order that extra bottle of wine!
Philosophy to live by.
Follow what your heart desires. I believe that when you work towards what truly makes you happy, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.
Who should we interview next?
I would love to see Paola Mathe of @findingpaola interviewed!
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