Michelle Gefre – Trail the Sun Photography
Chef and TV personality, Anthony Bourdain, is quoted saying “If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel — as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live, and eat, and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go” . Twenty-two year old Michelle Gefre of Trail the Sun Photography, reflects this quote quite brilliantly. A thrill seeker, lover of knowledge and animals, and modest world traveler, she shares with us her inspiration for living such an enriching life.
What excites you?
I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love anything adrenaline! I love snowboarding, I’ve been skydiving, I did a gorge swing when I was in Africa which was really, really cool. I love traveling. That’s where I get my inspiration for my photography, through my traveling and everything the world has to offer in its beauty. I do a lot of hiking and am constantly outside, it’s great being able to capture what I see.
I’m one of those types of people who feels like if I’m sitting at home doing nothing, I’m wasting my day. There’s always something to see out there, there’s always something you can do. Trail the Sun comes from the idea that even though the sun is setting here, it is rising somewhere else. It’s finding new adventures, constantly moving, don’t stand still; you’re not going to get anywhere in life by standing still.
Tell me about all of the places you’ve been to.
I’ve been to London, England; South Africa; Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
Yes! It was insane. Sharks are actually my biggest fear. I went in Gansbaai, South Africa, and I was actually one of the first people in the cage, surprisingly! Once I was in the water with them it was different. It was an adrenaline rush for me, that’s for sure. You don’t realize the size of those things until they’re right in front of you, I mean, they were as long as our boat. They’re HUGE! It was also really cold, which I don’t think a lot of people realize because they think of Africa as being really hot, but it is the Atlantic Ocean, so it was really cold water.
What brought on those excursions?
I really wanted to travel, and I’m getting my degree in Biology (Zoology, more specifically), so when I went to Africa I actually volunteered for a month working with monkeys, mostly Capuchins, also elephants and cheetahs. We would spend some days at the monkey sanctuary, some with the elephants, and some with the cheetahs. The monkey sanctuary was where you got the most interaction with animals. They would come up and sit on you, and we would feed them. They’re like toddlers!
I was in Africa for two and a half months. After I volunteered for a month, I signed up for a tour group, where they took me up through all of the different countries. I was by myself part of the time, like when I was in London, and I was by myself in Capetown, South Africa for ten days before I met up with the tour group.
Part of travel is immersing yourself in different cultures, and I think that if you’re not doing that you’re not truly traveling, you’re just a tourist. It’s so important, too. I came back from this trip looking at life in a completely different way. I picked up all these things from different people that I met, and I still use them.
That’s such a dream! Now tell me, you have your hand in a lot of “artistic pies”, how did you come to photography as your main form of expression?
I definitely do! Whenever someone looks at something, especially something pretty, they try and absorb the moment. I really like going to places that no one else can get to and be in that “wow” moment, and then be able to share it with everyone else. I want people to be able to see what I see. So that’s kind of how I came into capturing the moment.
When did you pick up photography?
I picked it up officially only about a year ago. I’m still in my beginning phase, which is why RAW Artists is so cool because it has helped me pick up and get going with that. It’s going pretty well so far!
I’m definitely mostly self-taught. Back in high school, I did take some photography classes, so I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with a DSLR. I don’t like using the automatic settings on my camera at all. I believe anyone can put a camera on an automatic setting and snap a picture, so it’s really been self-taught as far as finding the right aperture, the right exposure, shutter speed, stuff like that. It’s a learning process that I’m taking myself through.
What will you be exhibiting at the RAW Showcase coming up?
I’m doing some of my Africa photography. I’m a huge animal person, especially considering I’m into biology, so my favorite time to shoot was when I was in Chobe National Park, in Botswana. I’m also doing some of my Pacific Northwest photography. That’s a huge thing right now, the Pacific Northwest is blowing up like crazy. The broader the range of styles I can show, the better.
This will be my first time debuting my photography in public, ever. It’s a little nerve wracking, and it’s difficult to pick out the pieces since I have so many photographs. I’m still trying to narrow it down, it’s the most difficult part! When I was in Africa I took around 6000 photographs.
You also mentioned that you would love to be a photographer for National Geographic, tell me about that.
I’m pretty sure it’s every photographer’s dream to work for National Geographic! I just love that none of the photographers that they use have photography degrees. They really encourage people to go to school, most of their photographers have biology degrees. I love how the company shows parts of the world that people haven’t seen or even heard of, and it talks about a lot of scientific views. I really admire all that they do and all that they strive to do.
What do you think sets you apart from other photographers?
Well, I guess it’s the fact that I’m not afraid to go out on my own. I’m not going to sit around and wait for anyone. For example, a lot of people told me I was crazy for going to Africa by myself. There are also a lot of easy hikes here in Portland, but I’m more driven to get to places people haven’t seen. Definitely a “road less traveled” kind of thing. That’s part of the reason I chose to go to Namibia, most people haven’t heard of or been to Namibia, but it has some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.
Whether she’s conquering her greatest fear, chillin’ with the Capuchins, or snapping some of the most beautiful images from around the globe, Ms. Gefre is sure to be embracing and enjoying each captured (and un-captured) moment.
Catch Trail the Sun Photography at the RAW Artists: Portland showcase on March 5th at Holocene from 6pm-10pm! Tickets.