For photographer Jillian Lukiwski, everything is better if it’s done outside. “Eaten outside, sipped outside, created outside,” she says. So she’s built her life around ways to enjoy being outside as much as possible.
Her work as an independent metalsmith keeps her busy in the studio, but if she’s inside for too long, she says, she becomes nonfunctional. So by taking her camera along on her daily adventures in the mountains of Washington and Idaho, she’s built a massive social media following and a career shooting outdoor images for magazines and brands. Jillian’s photos of her life are so appealing, people often to gush to her, “I want your life.” To that, she answers, “So what’s stopping you?” Here are four things she’s learned in building her life and photography career in the outdoors.
You don’t need tons of special gear to enjoy the outdoors.
“You can hike in jeans and running shoes,” she says. “You can use a 13-year-old tent. Excellence comes with love and time and hard work. Choose the things you want to love and practice them.”
Don’t be afraid to go out on your own.
Many of Jillian’s most popular photos are of herself. Not because she takes lots of selfies—but simply because she often heads out on adventures by herself. “I think being alone is excellent for introverts and extroverts alike,” she says. “There’s a lot of pressure to be with gangs of people constantly, but it’s good for our souls, too, to feel a sense of aloneness, to hear the Voice rise up out of the stillness and solitude to speak to our spirits and minister to our fractures and brokenness and to feed the portions of us that are healthy and blooming and growing. I find being alone uplifting—it’s almost a spiritual practice for me.”
To get better at photography, it takes effort.
“Photography is a craft,” Jillian says. “Good photographs are a result of honest moments paired with knowledge of the craft of photography. Use your camera as much as you can—master the tool itself.”
But don’t pay too much attention to what other people are doing.
With Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and the likes, it’s easy to be inundated with other people’s styles. But to truly develop as a photographer, it might be best to block some of that out. In fact, Jillian herself is not even on Facebook. If something she does looks trendy, she says, it’s probably actually by accident. That’s how she’s developed a unique style. “Try to see the world around you with fresh eyes,” she says. “Don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing, capture your own life in your own way. Keep it all real.”