Some people feel most comfortable bundled under a mass of blankets with their fingers tippity tapping across the keys of a laptop while coffee cools on their nightstand. They have no need to venture out into the world, no drive for more than what they can find in their apartments. But, others obey the siren call of wanderlust and go crazy trapped perpetually in the confines of their living spaces. Errin Casano (@ErrinCasa) falls firmly into the second camp, spending as much time as she can exploring the outdoors and memorializing it in stunning images.
Until recently, Casano was working on a marketing management diploma, which meant she had to consolidate a lot of her need to adventure into mini vacations and summer treks. Casano backpacked through South America on consecutive summers, exploring Colombia and Ecuador, and spent the last one on a road trip from Vancouver to Alaska. Recently, she has leaned more fully into forming a team and documenting their exploits in the wild. Her natural savvy and marketing background have allowed her to grow her community rapidly.
In between working with major brands and tromping through Canadian forests, she spoke with us about her life as an talented force on Instagram, her recent trips, and her advice for people looking to the follow in her footsteps. And, she sent us a bunch of really amazing photographs that are sure to make you consider Canada as a last minute holiday destination.
What title would you give yourself? I was trying to figure it out and you do so much that it was hard.
In a nutshell, probably a content creator.
Lately, in interviews, I have been confronting a lot of bias against women in the travel sphere. Do you get pushback for being a young, pretty lady?
You have to hit roadblocks all the time, but I haven’t found too many problems. I think sometimes when you’re a man and you’re in the wilderness, people trust you more and your skill set and stuff like that. The same goes for the photography world.
I would like to call myself more of a photographer, not someone who models all the time or wants to be in pictures all the time. I do like to post. Maybe a quarter of my content on my Instagram is photos that have been taken of me because I like to show who I am, but in no way would I say that I’m a model or I’d rather go stand for a camera. I really like to respect myself as a photographer. And sometimes that can go unseen.
A lot of girls on Instagram are more of the influencer side where they post ads of themselves holding cans of pop or whatever, and that’s really not what I wanna do. I want to inspire others and create. That’s the most important thing for me.
I noticed that you weren’t in a ton of your pictures. In fact, I think maybe the first five minutes I was going through your stuff I thought you were somebody else. And I couldn’t figure out, I was like “did she dye her hair? That doesn’t look like the same person.”
Yeah, it’s actually crazy how much you get that. Someone will be like “Wow I love your shoot.” And you’ll be like, I am not that race. My hair is blonde, like … Seriously.
Why did you start your Instagram and sort of produce this following? What was the motivation?
I think pretty much how it all started is, I went traveling for two months, like two and a half years ago, and it was my first backpacking trip. When I came home, I felt like I needed to be on the go constantly. I had travel anxiety where I felt like I needed to constantly be doing something and going to new places and exploring new stuff. I felt stagnant when I wasn’t doing that.
So, I started hiking locally at Lake Azure and Sqaumish and Whistler and all that to get myself out there. As I was doing that, me and my friend started taking iPhone photos and putting them up and that started getting some popularity. I think after six months or a year, we all bought cameras and as time went on and our following got bigger, we realized you need to grow your skill set as you grow. We practiced our photography and upgraded our cameras, again. The following came and the path for the outdoors came first, and then we taught ourselves how to take photos and show what we’ve been exploring as time went on.
When you’re talking about these people, are these the people who became your group All About Adventurers?
Yeah, definitely. At the beginning, it was me, Matt, and Brayden adventuring together, and then, along the way we met Maddy and Angela. A lot of the time we take photos together and go on adventures together, so that’s pretty much the All Adventures crew. We try to adventure together as much as we can. Maddy actually lives in Calgary, so we don’t actually get to see her as much, but it’s always fun to head over to Banff, because there’s so many epic places to hike there. It’s always fun to go visit her.
I was just talking to someone who said that was Banff was like one of their highlights of their van living.
Yeah there is so many people living the van life over there. And even in Squamish and Vancouver.
Because it’s so beautiful?
It’s crazy. I’d thought I’d seen mountains until I went to Banff.
So, you have a unique perspective on developing a social media following because you have a degree in marketing.
I do. I got my two-year diploma at BCIT in Marketing Communications. And it was kind of funny, because I came back from traveling and jumped straight into school. As I was figuring out the Instagram thing, I was also figuring out the marketing thing. It kind of all formed at the same time, which is pretty weird. But, I think with the marketing degree, it’s really helped me kind of understand when you’re talking to brands or people who want photos done. You understand what they’re looking for and how that whole marketing campaign goes down.
Are you working with a lot of brands?
Yeah, that’s pretty much how I’m able to do the freelance thing. Right now, I’m working with Eddie Bauer, which is a big one for me. I’m really happy to have them reach out to me, because they’re a really great company to work with actually.
Did they reach out to you because of your Instagram and you’re all about adventuring?
They reached out to me, not the group, so I think it must have been through my Instagram.
Wow, okay, so even though you’re not technically modeling your Instagram account after a social influencer the way they might put themselves in the center of the account, you’re still reaping some of the benefits of having that influence?
Yes. I think the difference would be as a photographer, I can sell my images because that’s an extra pull for money, whereas influencing is only advertising pretty much. I can do both sides. I’ll do content creation to show the product and also put it on my Instagram as advertising. Pretty much, those are two different ways I can add value to a brand.
I don’t know if you went with the whole team, but you went on a sponsored road trip from Vancouver to Alaska last summer right?
Yeah, that was our first road trip as a team. Pretty much, that was sponsored by brands.
How do you arrange something like that? Do you go to them? Do they go to you?
That one, we got the idea a few months beforehand and then we budgeted how much we thought we would spend on the trip and how much gas money we needed and how much we needed to survive for a month-and-a-half.
From there, we decided to hit up some brands that some of us have worked with in the past and some that we kind of thought would be a good fit for the trip. I think four or five months before we left for the trip, we started sending out emails and pitched sets and portfolios and stuff like that, so they’d have something to look at.
And then from there, a good selling point I’ve found for brands is that you take them on a trip because it’s more of a story for them to tell. That was really the start of us getting jobs as a team. And it went really well, in my opinion.
Well, how was the trip?
It was awesome.
What were some highlights?
I mean, Alaska is pretty different from here because you can see insane glaciers from the side of the road; so we saw a lot of glaciers. We did a couple really cool tours. It’s pretty cool up there, I wish I had more time. I think the most epic thing we did was we flew over Denali National Park and we got some pretty favorable weather. We usually only see the mountain I think like 60 days out of the year because of cloud cover. We got perfect views that day, so we were pretty stoked from that.
How long have you been at this?
Well, I started doing the Instagram thing two years ago. As a full time job, that was pretty much when I finished school, I think. In May, I finished school and kind of focused my energy on the Alaska trip, went on the trip, and then came back. Now, I’m doing full time freelance photography.
What advice do you have for other people that want to make that transition into doing freelance photography?
It depends on what your niche is; for me, the best choice was going traveling and realizing the potential for finding those cool landscapes and capturing them to show other people. I guess it all depends on what kind of photographer you want to be, but for me, it was really getting out there and exploring.
I find that a lot of people think that it’s the gear that’s gonna make them a good photographer, so they’ll go out and spend six grand on a camera because that’s the camera that they saw one of their favorite photographers using. But, I was using a $500 camera and getting paid for gigs until December. You should probably get a camera. It doesn’t have to be the most amazing camera. Then, once you outgrow it and you’ve really honed your skills, you can upgrade.
It’s really about practice and constantly pushing yourself to get different shots you’ve never seen before. Find those photographers on Instagram you want to follow and really inspire you. I actually keep tons of folders of places I want to go and shots I’ve seen other people post that I find really inspiring. They’ve done something a little bit different; so next time you go out you can kind of play with that. I think it’s really important to stay inspired by other people.
Who are you super inspired by right now? Is there anyone you would recommend that people could follow?
I’ve always loved the Hanhels, @MatthewHanhel and @ReneeRoaming on Instagram. They’re actually this married couple, and they just did a huge trip living in a van, and they went to all the national parks in the states. That was a really cool trip to follow. And they’re kinda like #couplegoals, so I follow them.
Another one that I’ve kind of been following a lot lately, is this German couple. I’m not sure if they’re a couple or if they’re just travel buddies, but Marcel and Frauke Hagan. I really like their stuff because they’re not really PNW photographers, but their style is very folksy. They set up scenes in the outdoors and stuff like that, so it’s kind of interesting.
I like to watch landscape photographers and also a lot of people like photographers that set scenes, tent views, fairy lights, and stuff like that, because it’s very interesting for lifestyle shots.
How is it interesting for lifestyle shots? I’m curious.
It’s good to find inspiration in what other people are doing, and sometimes the best product shots are the ones you’ve planned ahead and set up; they don’t just happen naturally all the time. It’s nice to see new ideas and kind of incorporate those ideas with your ideas.
So, like plandids. Are you familiar with plandids?
It’s an Instagram marketing approach. It’s essentially a terrible portmanteau for the words planned and candid. So … it’s what people call those shots that are supposed to look natural but clearly have been planned. They’re plandids. I heard it in a marketing meeting, and suddenly I saw it on Twitter and was like “Oh no, it’s everywhere. Everyone’s saying plandids, it’s horrible.”
I’ve never heard anyone say that, so hopefully only the marketers are saying it.
But that’s you, you’re a marketer.
What percentage of your time do you get to spend traveling?
I try and spend as much time as I can. For me, it’s hard to do photo shoots and add stuff to my Instagram and keep it constantly going without getting out and exploring and going on trips. So, believe me I’ve spent probably half my week either hiking or going on a road trip.
And is the other half taking photographs for clients, or just living your life?
I think the traveling is probably the photograph half and the other half is kinda like answering emails and just doing a bunch of office work.
The part we don’t talk about.
The not fun stuff that needs to get done stuff.
What inspires you?
I think it’s the fire in your belly kind of thing, when you are kind of doing something that you really enjoy. I have the freedom to go where I want right now, and that’s something that keeps me super inspired.
Another thing that keeps me pretty inspired is, surrounding myself with people that I want to be around, that are passionate like me and wanna do what they want with their lives. I love to hang out with my All Adventures crew and meet new people from the Instagram community who are doing what they love and really putting themselves out there.
So, that’s what I like to spend my time doing. Just meeting up with new people, and expanding that network of photographers.
Something really interesting about the Instagram community is everyone wants to meet each other and find out what each other are like and then gossip about each other. But, it’s super interesting to find out who is your kind of person and you make so many friends that way, too.
Well, that’s really interesting. I can see why people would want to gossip, because everything is so carefully curated.
Everyone knows each other, so you look at someone’s profile and wonder what they’re like. Are they actually like this or not? I think most of the people I’ve met have been really awesome and people that I’d definitely hang out with again. But, I find me and my crew, my friends, we’re pretty outgoing and crazy when we go in the outdoors. Some people can be a little bit more quiet, or you might meet someone who’s not the same type as you. But, other than that, we’ve had some great experiences with meeting new people from the community. It’s a pretty small community, so you have to be pretty open to meeting people.
Yeah. I interviewed travel photographers, and people who live in vans, or who have become travelers and digital nomads and stuff. And everyone talks about meeting other people on Instagram.
Yeah. Your whole friend group turns into Instagram people.
Yeah. Which is really unusual, because Instagram people are generally a very attractive group of people, so it’s this weird pack of conventionally attractive people. You don’t get that in a more average friend group.
It’s also like if I go hiking, or go on a road trip with someone who doesn’t like to take photos, I’ll probably become super annoyed. It’s easier to just go with people who have the same itinerary as you, because if you’re stopping every five minutes to take a photo, people can get kind of annoyed. Unless it’s a good friend and they kind of just learn to live with it.