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https://alphauniverseglobal.media.zestyio.com/Alpha-Universe-Feature-Stephanie-Vermillion-6.jpg?width=500&height=500&fit=bounds

How This Creator Found Her Way As A Travel, Adventure & Astro-Tourism Storyteller

Writer, photographer and videographer Stephanie Vermillion (@bystephanievermillion) describes her beat as, “A mix of culture meets adventure meets conservation.” She works with outlets such as Outside Magazine, Vogue, National Geographic, Travel & Leisure and BBC Traveler to go on experiences and share her stories through travel journalism and photography. We spoke with Stephanie to learn how she nabbed this dream job, how she’s focused in on a niche, the cameras and lenses gear that she uses to create her dynamic work, and advice she has for others.

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7R IV. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/320-sec., f/5.6, ISO 100

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7R IV. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/320-sec., f/5.6, ISO 100

Career Snapshot

Though Stephanie studied journalism in college, she believed she needed to switch her career path – that’s how she ended up working in public relations after graduating. A few years into her six-year PR career, Stephanie moved to New York City and was looking to meet people with common interests. She found herself at a travel meetup and started to get to know travel writers and photographers. This helped Stephanie realize that it was a feasible trajectory and one that people can find success in.

This was the spark she needed to begin dabbling in travel blogging. She also had an interest in photography and filmmaking, but she knew she had a steep learning curve on that front. She sent a cold email to a wedding filmmaker asking if she could shadow her. The filmmaker said yes, and thus began Stephanie's informal schooling in photography and videography. After a while, the wedding filmmaker began referring Stephanie for jobs and that became a strong side hustle. For every wedding Stephanie worked, she invested the income into purchasing high-quality gear.

Stephanie Vermillion

Creator Stephanie Vermillion

Around the same time, Stephanie started pitching magazines to write various stories. Not only did she find it more lucrative, it also worked well for her because it was like the work she did back in journalism school. Her professional writing and journalism work really took off around 2019 and Stephanie started traveling a lot more, getting invited on writing trips for bigger publications and expanding her work so that she sells not only her writing, but her images as well. “That’s really what I do now. I travel and take a lot of photos of the story that I’m reporting on and then sell it as a package. It's complementary and it just opens up the storytelling opportunities. if I'm telling a story about a person that I met at a remote farm in Greenland, you want to see that person as well as read about them, so I just think that it's such a natural fit.” 

Culture Meets Adventure

Stephanie had been raised by an intrepid father, who instilled an adventurous spirit in her. When he passed in 2018 from cancer, Stephanie found comfort in the fact that he lived with “no regrets,” and that inspired her to do the same. She followed in his footsteps, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and reported on this deeply personal story. This became her first feature article in Outside Magazine.  

With those family values, Stephanie had always been drawn to cover travel and adventure topics. “Travel can be such a powerful force. For example, currently a lot of people and organizations are finding new ways for travel to bring income to those communities that are rural or indigenous that maybe haven't had access to this kind of income. And so I feel like travel can, if you do it well, really help support local communities.”

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. 1/250-sec., f/7.1, ISO 100

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. 1/250-sec., f/7.1, ISO 100

What she says she is deeply drawn to is culture meets adventure. Not just writing about the experience of the adventure, but diving deeper into the history and culture of the place, experience, or encounter. “I like to look at stories that go deeper into the experience, into the people, in a respectful way. I also just love stories that put me in a position where there’s going to be dirt underneath my fingernails – gritty stuff. ‘Am I going to wake up to a spider on my face?’ That kind of thing because again, it goes back to what my dad instilled in me. So much of what inspired me and all of this was his stories and so I almost have this goal to get these crazy stories just like he had.”

Various Mediums In Storytelling

Nowadays, Stephanie sells her written stories in addition to her images and videos. It has taken her a while to break into the visual side, especially with video, but she says that so far she’s found quite a bit of success. “Video is something I aways offer now because you have no idea if the client will want that. I think people are afraid to ask for what they want. If you just, up front say, ‘I’m also a filmmaker and can offer that content as well,’ you’ll be surprised by how much interest you can generate.”

Stephanie always studies the publication she’s working with to help her customize her content pitches. If the outlet has a strong YouTube presence or is looking to create more Instagram Reels and TikToks, she will know that and include that information in her pitch. “More and more media and publications are looking to amplify their digital and even print stories with social media content.”

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3. 1/250-sec., f/14, ISO 200

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3. 1/250-sec., f/14, ISO 200

Stephanie has found Sony cameras and lenses to be the best gear to help her tell her stories. She shoots with the Sony Alpha 7 III and Sony Alpha 7R IV along with the Sony 50mm f/1.8, Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master, and Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. She loves having the Sony Alpha 7 III to work as a “jack of all trades” with photography and videography.

She has found it critical to have two camera bodies as a travel photographer. “I always have two camera bodies on me because in these adventure places often the elements are not the friendliest to your gear and I don’t want to be switching lenses in the field with sand and dirt blowing around. I love having the 50mm on one body and the 100-400mm on the other, then I can basically get anything I need.”

There are also other parts of the Sony system that Stephanie says she’s obsessed with. “The low light alone opens up so much potential for the work I do. I have captured images of sea turtles nesting in Panama with my Sony cameras. And in that instance I didn’t want to disturb them with a flash – the lights can be so harmful to the animals – and I still got the photos. And same with the electronic shutter, I love that the noise didn’t disturb the turtles either.” 

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 14mm f/1.8 G Master. 3.2-sec., f/1.8, ISO 800

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 14mm f/1.8 G Master. 3.2-sec., f/1.8, ISO 800

She also loves the low light capabilities for astrophotography. Stephanie loves photographing the night sky and this has led her to another surprising professional niche.

Discovering An Astro-Tourism Niche

Over the years, Stephanie has also found a niche in telling stories of astrotourism. This stemmed from a trip she took in 2019 with her husband. The pair went northern lights hunting in Iceland. “Photographing the northern lights was so addicting and it felt like magic. Not just seeing it, but photographing it. Your camera can see so much more than your eye can, and that's just incredible. I was like, ‘Wow, I need to write about this.’”

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. 13-sec., f/2.5, ISO 1250

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. 13-sec., f/2.5, ISO 1250

She then planned a trip to northern Michigan because she learned you could see the northern lights in the Upper Peninsula. She was blown away by the idea that you could see the northern lights in the continental United States, so she began writing about it. “I started doing a lot of writing about how to aurora hunt in the lower 48 states and stuff, and then that led to just more writing about chasing auroras and the best way to see them.”

This path has led Stephanie to learn and write about more after dark adventures. “It’s not just about the stars, there’s bioluminescence and night diving. Then I learned about night safaris. There’s this whole world happening after most people tuck in and that has been really cool to explore.”

Advice For Others

Traveling, making photographs, sharing interesting stories and going on adventures – Stephanie clearly has a dream job. Along her journey, she’s learned a lot of lessons and we asked her which ones stood out to her. “One important thing is to surround yourself with people who inspire you and who change the way you see the world or change the way you think about what is possible.”

She goes on to say that when she first moved to New York, she met people who were doing things she admired and that ended up changing her life. “No matter where you are, reach out people who inspire you just to see if you can buy them coffee, not to pick their brain or network necessarily, but just to build friendships with them. The more you surround yourself with people who can expand your mind and expand what you see as possible for this world. And for me, it's largely been photographers because I feel like a lot of photographers, especially those in the nature travel space, almost literally see the world differently because you're photographing it but they're interesting just perspective on life often and I think being around fellow creatives is really important and that can happen through so many ways.”

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7R IV. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/125-sec., f/5.6, ISO 640

Photo by Stephanie Vermillion. Sony Alpha 7R IV. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/125-sec., f/5.6, ISO 640

“It can feel so isolating, all of this, and you often think you're the only one facing these problems so I think the biggest thing too is realizing that people who are at the top of their game also have imposter syndrome or don't think that their work is good. We're all going through things and  we're all humans.”

See more of Stephanie Vermillion’s work on Instagram @bystephanievermillion and on her website stephanievermillionstudio.com.

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