BPW Student Spotlight: Susan Zhao

It's time for the latest BPW Student Spotlight, where we highlight a different member of our talented community to learn more about how our students turn their passion for photography into freelance work, fulfilling hobbies, or even full-time careers.

In January 2018, BPW student Susan Zhao and her fiancé, Boris, embarked on a six-month journey from Boston to Argentina in a ’99 Toyota Land Cruiser named Fred. Their adventures—along with Susan’s incredible travel photography—are being documented on their blog, Turn Right at the Amazon.

©Caitlin Manning Photography

“We feel seeing the amazing world we are living in is very important for us at our current stage, so we gave up our stable life in Boston for traveling,” says Susan. “Four months into our trip, I have to say it's really a rewarding journey and I'm very glad we made this decision.”

So far, Susan, Boris, and Fred the Land Cruiser have made their way down the East Coast to Mexico, and then through Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, the Galapagos Island, and Ecuador.

As for Susan’s favorite?

“There are too many places I love during this trip! It's very hard to pick a favorite destination, but from a photography perspective, Guatemala and Colombia are truly amazing.”

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It's All About the Journey

Susan’s captivating photography becomes even more impressive when you understand just how recently she began developing her skills.

Originally from Nanjing, China, Susan came to Boston in 2010 for graduate school. She got a Nikon D3300 with a kit lens, shooting in auto mode and only getting what she calls “some mediocre photos.” However, when she and her fiancé started planning for their South America trip, she decided to take some classes to improve her photography skills.

“I did a lot of research online trying to find a good photography class in Boston, but most classes I found were more for people who would like to become professional photographers,” says Susan. “I still remember the Digital Cameras 1 class I took with Chris in 2016— within three hours, I learned most of the fundamental knowledge of my DSLR, which totally opened a whole new world of photography to me.”

After that, Susan took almost all the classes that the BPW offered, including Night Photography, which was her favorite.

“I was always amazed at how people took photos of such beautiful starry nights and I could get nothing,” says Susan. “But after that class, I found I could get those shots, too! And during this South America trip, as we are camping a lot, I have a lot of opportunities to stay up at night in the wild and use my camera to record the stunning starry sky. These are really magic and memorable moments of our journey.”

To see more of Susan’s superb travel photography, check out turnrightattheamazon.com/galleries/photography/

Visit Susan's Instagram: @turnrightattheamazon

Visit Susan's Instagram: @turnrightattheamazon