For 21-year-old blogger-photographer Hannah Cepe, the pursuit of her passion for photography started in her teens when she first got hold of a DSLR camera. “My passion for this craft started at a young age when I was traveling around the Philippines all by myself. I have always loved spending countless hours outdoors; hiking, snorkeling, surfing,” she says. “I was 18 when my mom bought me my first DSLR camera, and I guess that’s when the journey began. I was always inspired by nature and stories. I like how photos can capture the beauty of the moment and freeze-frame it.”
A self-taught photographer, Hannah says she learned by observing. “When I was in college, I worked as a production assistant in the film industry. I learned a lot about composition and lighting through working with cinematographers. They also gave me incredible tips and techniques on how to take good photos,” she shares.
The budding photographer also did a lot of reading and research and attended a few workshops. “It was all trial and error, which I think is arguably the best way to learn,” she says.
Sharing her soul
Putting together her love for travel and photography, Hannah started her blog, The Soulo Traveler. “Ever since I joined Instagram, I always incorporate long captions when posting photos. I really enjoy telling stories that inspire people to also see the world. I think it’s just too selfish to keep all the beauty to myself.”
Hannah’s style always tells a visual story. She says, “I love when the photo makes sense, more than the technicalities. I love the idea of photos, creating emotions that people can relate to, just like when they read a book or watch a film. And like every traveler, I’ve always been drawn to freedom and adventure, so my photos were always constantly exploring those topics.”
Hannah’s photos have a certain haunting, unnamable quality – a soul that perfectly embodies the blog name. “I like creating personal series of conceptual images because I find it fascinating to create my own version of reality. Oftentimes, I would also experiment and keep my photos within a limited color scheme. I’m obsessed with simplicity and I like it whenever my photos play within a single color palette,” Hannah says.
Though her blog is fairly new in the travel blogging scene, Hannah has already been invited to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world like New Zealand and Indonesia. However, she cites Biri Island in Samar as the most beautiful place she’s ever visited. “It has the most extraordinary scenery that I have ever witnessed – towering rock formations, gorgeous coastlines, dramatic sunset views,” she says. “It’s so easy to turn a corner and happen upon a gorgeous view that was just asking to be photographed. Also, they have the best mais con hielo… My idea of beauty goes beyond the physical aspect. Biri has everything – the culture, the nicest people, the view, and the food.”
When not traveling, Hannah paints and is a graphic designer. She has also been honing her skills in fine art photography. Without access to a professional studio, Hannah’s photography sessions bring out her creativity, making her tap into her creativity and resourcefulness to create her vision.
“To tell you the truth, I suck at setting up studio lights. It was never my thing, I guess,” Hannah admits. “I always rely on natural light because I think I’m more interested in capturing stories in their natural environment. I also like the challenge of improvising,” she says. For her, the difference between her fine art work and travel photos is that her fine art photos are more personal. “It focuses on telling stories rather than just taking good photos.”
Already, her work has captured the attention of Vogue Italia and were featured in Made in Shoreditch. She was also part of Status Magazine’s Yardsale exhibit and she will soon be taking part in upcoming international exhibits. She posts her fine art works at Hannah Cepe Photography on Facebook.
When it comes to the challenges of travel photography on the other hand, Hannah says, “I think the challenge was always about how to photograph the moment and experience it as well. When traveling, it’s always hard to balance both. I often find myself taking more photos than enjoying the moment.”
Her wanderlust still burning strong, Hannah says Iceland, Austria, Norway, and Prague are on the top of her bucket list of places that she wants to go to. “But it’s first my dream to visit all the 81 provinces here in the Philippines.”
As she gears up for more travels, Hannah gives her top five tips everyone should know for taking better travel photos: “Be on the look out for good light. Always aim for the story. Try to create photos that matter rather than just photos that are nice to look at. Never let go of that childlike wonder. And finally, shoot, shoot some more, and never stop.”