As a photographer and environmentalist, Meg Haywood-Sullivan has traveled across the country more times than she can count, been flown in helicopters in search of deep snow, and ridden a horse amongst a herd of wild elk - all the while capturing her stunning surroundings with her skilled eye behind the camera lens. Often traveling with her boyfriend Charles Post, who is an ecologist and fellow environmentalist and photographer, Meg and Charles are always in search of new environments and cultures to study and photograph. We were lucky to chat with Meg in-between adventures to discuss what brought her into the world of photography, how she uses social media, and what keeps her thrilled about what she does.
You're based in San Francisco and travel quite a bit. Where are you from originally and were you an adventurer as a child?
I was born and raised in southern Massachusetts - my roots run deep amongst the dunes and salty shores of the east coast. My father is a medium format landscape photographer and my mother is a professional artist. I remember being a kid road tripping across the country in our VW van and using my dad’s hand-me-down 35mm camera to capture moments along our travels. Over the last few years I’ve lived in many places, including New York, Montana, Spain, Washington, and San Diego to name a few. During a road trip from the rockies to southern California my cherry red ’97 F150 broke down in San Francisco, the city I now call home.
As a photographer, you have a pretty diverse expertise - from shooting snowboarding to covering the red carpet. Is there one category that you enjoy most and feel truly in your element?
My greatest inspiration as an artist stems from an honest appreciation of the great outdoors and the people who’s lifestyles coincide with protecting and enjoying the environment. Last spring I did a shoot in Hawaii profiling various stewards of the delicate Maui watershed - projects like that really inspire me to craft my images into a visual story to make a difference.
You travel a lot for work to some pretty incredible places, like Hawaii. Have you had a trip that proved to be a bigger challenge than you anticipated or helped you grow as a photographer?
Not one trip stands out in particular, but I notice my photography and gumption grow anytime the elements are involved. Frostbite, destroying expensive camera gear, lack of sleep, carrying sometimes a third of my weight on my back while riding sideways in chest deep snow, and trying to keep up with some of the best athletes in the world - from snow to surf and everywhere in between. I have so much respect for fellow photographers and filmers in the outdoor world, its never easy, but we do it because we love it.
And speaking of winter, it's on our heels! What's your favorite gear for shooting on location in the snowy mountains?
I’ve always loved being outside in the winter, from snowboarding in the backcountry to shooting wildlife in negative degree temps. Having the right layers is essential, and my rule of thumb is a base layer, down jacket, and an outer shell in that order. Good gloves are my #1 - I use a thin glove liner with finger access and an insulated down mitt. If it’s really frigid I will toss a few hand warmers in there too. For camera gear, I use a blower to get the snow off my lens and keep my camera batteries in my chest pocket to keep them warm.
You have a beautiful Instagram account. Have you found that it's a valuable tool for connecting with brands? And how has a platform like Instagram changed the field of photography?
Instagram is a fantastic tool for any creative to connect with brands, friends, and make new connections. I use it as a platform to keep my contacts updated with projects I’ve been working on as well as use it to get inspired by other photographer’s work. Instagram has made photography basics accessible to the masses, helping people from all sorts of backgrounds develop their eye and get inspired.
Are there upcoming trips or projects that you're excited about?
Cuba! I can’t tell you the client yet, but I’m really looking forward to shooting the colorful culture and pristine coral reefs right off the coast. You can bet there will be lots of underwater images popping up on my Instagram soon. I’m also really looking forward to getting back home to California next week. It’s been since July that I’ve spent any significant time at home and my studio, so I’m looking forward to prepping my backyard veggie garden for winter harvesting.
Thanks for chatting with us Meg! We'll be following your travels on Instagram. All photos provided by Meg Haywood Sullivan.