Behind the Lens with Natalia Anja

by Alicia Taggio
photo, camera,

Take one look at her Instagram profile, and you’ll suddenly develop a strong case of Wanderlust. At only 28 years old, Natalia Anja is currently using her photography skills to travel the world with Global Degree and capture the experience one photo at a time. Natalia’s photos have a way of captivating, inspiring, and telling a beautiful story about travel in the process.

We caught up with her after he recent whirlwind tour in Asia, to talk photography and what people and places have inspired her along the way.

Natalia Anja asia travel photos

How long have you been a photographer for and what motivated you to first pick up a camera?

In 2008 I moved to Italy and because of the language barrier I couldn’t find a job for the life of me. My dad gave me his DSLR so when I couldn’t find a job I spent most of my time learning to take photo’s. I fell in love with photography and since then had always dreamed of becoming a professional photographer but because of fear, the idea didn’t seem ‘realistic’ at the time. I dabbled at it for years until 2012 when I had a change in mentality and believed that anything we set our mind towards can be attainable if we truly want it and are willing to put the work in.

Who are some of YOUR favourite photographers and why?

There are so many that I look up to but two that stand out are Rob Daly and Kharen Hill. Rob is an absolute genius! I think he creates pure magic. Every photo of his takes my breath away. All of his work is so original and creative. He really inspires me to start doing more passion projects and to step outside of the box. Kharen’s work also speaks for itself, it’s incredible and she’s one of the loveliest people I have ever met. Kharen was so helpful when I was first stepping into photography, I really admire her.

You’re aiming to be the youngest (and only) female to travel to every UN country in the world. What motivated you to do this?

Our family moved around a lot growing up and along the way I fell in love with the excitement of a new place. I learned more through immersing myself into different cultures than anywhere else. Travelling was always on the bucket list, not to the Global Degree extent, but once I heard about the contest I’ve never wanted anything so badly. The idea of visiting every UN Nation never crossed my mind before and now having experienced 23 countries in 8 months, I’ve become so intrigued with the world. There are so many misconceptions about travelling and about particular countries.

I like to see what it’s like for myself instead of hearing third hand stories from people who have never been to places they’re expressing information about. I also want to share my experience to prove that travelling isn’t as scary as I once thought it was.

What are your essential camera gear items when you travel?

I learned a lot of what I need and don’t from my last trip. I realized the following items below are pretty important essentials for me personally.

    • I shoot with a Canon 5D mark iii. I  try to keep it light so I only bring a couple of lenses. I love my Tamron 24-70mm 2.8, it’s very versatile and I love my Canon 70-200mm 2.8.
    • I bring 5 Canon batteries with me in case I don’t have a proper outlet to charge them, this way I have plenty of backups. When I shoot video the battery life is much shorter.
    • A few memory cards.
    • I have two 1TB external hard drives to back up my images. I keep one with me and the other with someone I’m travelling with.
    • Lens cleaner (Spray and cloth) My glass gets dirty so much faster on the road.
    • Tripod
    • Polarizer Filter
    • Graduated Filter
    • An easily accessible backpack with an attached waterproof shell. I also store a Roo Rain Gear Rain Poncho that fits right over me and my backpack. It has been a life saver in monsoon season.

What is your favourite thing to capture and why?

I love capturing portraits, especially of kids; they’re always so interesting. One of my favourite things to do in different countries is to first make sure the local is ok with me taking a photo of them, snap a shot and then show them. It warms my heart because showing them the photo always gets the best, most genuine reaction from people.

You’ve experienced some incredible things on your travels, which place was most memorable and why?

Mongolia was remarkable! For many reasons It was so authentic and having a true nomadic experience was so special. I found myself saying ‘wow’ all the time.

It was an epic road trip where we had vultures on our shoulder, we rode semi-wild horses in the Gobi Desert, we rode camels, we milked cows and yacks, we had an outdoor bbq with people from the Italian opera while they serenaded us as we ate the most delicious food. Every day I checked off bucket list items I didn’t even know I had. I’m so excited to share that episode.

Which destination surprised you the most?

Bhutan, I didn’t know anything about it before Global Degree. It’s known as ‘the happiest country in the world’ and I have to agree, I think it is so far.

women, laughing, smiling

It surprised me because I’ve never felt so safe and surrounded by such a positive energy and overall community respect.

Aside from your camera, what things can’t you live without on the road?

natalia anja in Croatia

    • My toothbrush and toothpaste. Dental hygiene is very important!
    • Running shoes for adventures
    • I hate to say it, but my phone for writing and sharing my experiences on Social Media and staying in contact with my family and friends.

We love your Instagram feed, what’s the number one thing you’ve learned about being successful on this platform?

Thank you! I love sharing experiences with people. I use instagram as a platform to get inspired. I try to post photo’s that not only meant something to me but would make someone want to see a particular place, step outside of their comfort zone, or to feel something.

I try to refrain from posting cell phone photo’s, they’re always so grainy. Most of my photo’s are taken with my dslr or are photos people have taken of me with my dslr.

What is the #1 tip you would offer someone who wants to become a travel photographer?

If you’re passionate about it, just do it! The school of YouTube and playing around with a camera can teach you so much. Pick up a camera; it doesn’t have to be expensive and just ask photographers that inspire you questions.

Natalia Anja

Follow more of Natalia’s adventures in photography on her InstagramFacebook page or website.