WanderWoman Series; Hannahbella

A huge part of travel for me is the people I meet and the friends I make in the places I get to experience. Some of my best friends are the people I have met while living overseas and the number one thing we have in coming is that we get it. Get what? This whole travel life. The coming & going frequently, the moving towns often & somewhat regularly. The fact that we rarely live in the same place for long and in turn the feeling of saying goodbye/reuniting once a year (if we're lucky). So when I meet people who share this same passion I immediately want to know more about them and where their adventures have taken them.

We've lived in the same town in Canada at different times. Fallen in love with the same country at different times. And now here we are both in Bristol and our paths crossed. The rest is pretty much history! I met Hannahbella through the epic crew that is IgersBristol earlier this year and was immediately struck by how damn lovely she is, and then she started talking about her travels and immediately I knew I need to know more about this lovely human. She called the small town of Jasper, Alberta home just around the same time I did all those years ago, and turns out we know the same people (small town vibes right). She toured New Zealand with no car (you go girl) and captures the night sky like a Queen! So much so she has been offered the most incredible working opportunity this year working as a destination manger in.. THE ARCTIC CIRCLE! No joke, she is headed off in a weeks time and I couldn't wait any longer to share her story & her amazing images as part of this months WanderWoman Wednesday!

Alright girl, tell all these wanderers about yourself…

Hello! I'm Hannahbella, and I'm a night, landscape and travel photographer from the South West of England. I'm a bit of a nomad, in the last 2 years I have been based in 4 continents chasing the Aurora and milky way.

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I 've only just gotten my driving liscence in the last few weeks! My last big trip was across Canada and New Zealand over 10 months solo. I Walked, cycled, hitched, caught buses and trains! Me and a HUGE back pack and camera gear, ha ha! I probably got picked up out of pity that I couldn't pack lite haha!

Did you always want to travel/what made you start?

Ever since I can remember my mum has taken me and my sisters up mountains, swimming in rivers and the sea, we've always been a camping family. Lots of walking trips to the peak district, across Cornwall, Ireland and France rain or shine.

My Family are from South Africa, so trips over to visit them as a young-ling really inspired me.

Going to Kruger national park seeing lions, hiking table mountain, seeing naughty zebra stealing fruit from gardens, memories that will always be etched in my heart.

How do you decide where to travel to?

I have a lose bucket list, which I have slowly been making my way through.

In 2016 I decided that I was going to make a dark sky reserve tour of the world, I have always been drawn to a sky pin pricked with stars, that was the start of an on going epic adventure

I love being in the mountains, experiencing other cultures, to go camping or be by water. Cold weather doesn't bother me too much and I'm often drawn to glacial places (Iceland, Canada, Himalayas, New Zealand South Island)

Sometimes I look for places in a light pollution app on my phone, usually places where there's a chance of seeing the aurora borealis or the milky way, if it's dark I'm super happy!

Instagram is pretty inspiring too!

Look up my hashtag #HannahbellasAdventures to see where I have been

What is your travel style?

Adventure! I love hiking, biking, paddle boarding, camping. I love to get stuck in, within 10 hours of being in Vancouver travelling from New Zealand I was on a 33hour train to get to the Canadian Rockies!

I've learnt to be flexible, you can't plan everything, mountains make their own weather for instance.

I lived in a pretty crappy one man tent in New Zealand for the best of 6 months, some of the best times in my life and its a movable home you can put up anytime anywhere! I like to explore what the locals do, eat and drink, I avoid crowds and cities if possible. If I am in a city I tend to hide away in a botanical garden or a big park.

What is something you wish you could share with your pre-travel life self?

Be braver, trust your gut and learn to pack lighter!

Top 3 bucket list places you’d love to visit?

Greenland, illunnsat looks amazing! Two Glaciers calve into the ocean littering the bay with huge icebergs!

Northern Norway, I would love to paddle board the fjords, see orcas and climb some of the beautiful mountains around Lofoten

Scotland, I haven't been since I was 13. It was beautiful, would love to go to the Outer Hebrides and watch the sea otters! Galloway is a listed Dark sky site

Top tips for anyone wanting to get out and shoot astrophotography

I taught myself Astrophotography by researching and practicing it.

Google your camera and lens and look up Youtube videos about astrophotography and settings.

It's not all about expensive kit, it's about patience, practice and warm socks and coat!

I started out with a canon1100D, a fairly cheap DSLR and kit lens (18-55mm), I bought a cheap tripod and sat out in the garden trying to focus on a bright star for aaaages!

Next I started capturing constellations, the international space station zipping by, my moon pics got more detail, then I captured the milkyway for the first time.

Each time I got better and each time my smile grew as did my confidence. I started to share my pics online and have now had my photos published with BBC sky at night, Science mag, used in NASA aurora research, in Huffington post, BBC Earth and more.

Any questions on settings feel free to look me up on instagram, I'd be happy to help.

Don't forget to look up from the camera and take in the moment :)

Best & worst travel moment?

I had a few bad moments when travelling in India when I was 19. This one sticks out the most at this moment. I was traveling with my friend Sarah and my cousin Mo (both very beautiful blondes). My cousin was in an cow related accident (!) a couple of weeks before, it flipped her and broke her tail bone when she landed. We decided against a busy bus so she could lay down on the back seat of the car, alas! Our car broke down in tiny village the middle of nowhere well after midnight. We stayed inside with Mo half asleep, our driver left us to find help and suddenly we were surrounded by a large gang of men who hadn't seen white petite blondes before, they ogled and shouted at us, trying to pull the windows out of the rubber seals to get to us! 15 long minutes later we were rescued by local police who beat the men with bamboo poles in front of us! It was pretty scary, but we got the car part fairly quickly, and had to rescue our driver from being beaten too! We finally got the place we were traveling to (the Ellora Buddhist Caves) 16 hours after we set off , to find it was closed for a week... total nightmare!

My Best moment was in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rocky mountains.

I cycled out to a plateau at 1am and the sky burst into a dancing green swirl of magic.

The Aurora Borealis Pulsating really brightly above me, standing alone in the night. Horizon to horizon, feeling like I was under the ocean, looking up at sunlight through the oceans waves above.

Absolutely the most incredible sight I have ever seen! I laughed and cried and took a million photographs. The next day I saw a black bear in the wild and my heart couldn't have been fuller with joy!

What’s up next for you in the wild world of photography?

I'm heading to the Arctic Circle this winter. I just accepted an amazing Job in Finnish Lapland as a destination manager, looking after guests activities including Aurora hunting, husky sledging, snowshoeing, visiting Sami reindeers, ice fishing and snowmobiling! I'm pretty excited, I reckon there'll be a lot of photo opportunities. I will be putting on presentations around the south west UK about the aurora in the meantime. Still pinching myself!

Famous Last words for all the wanderers out there

Seek adventures and explore the world, try new things; if someone offers you a dried fish – take a bite! You might like it!

Take the long road, meet the locals, try and speak the language it will make them laugh! Stay up late and dance under the stars.

You have one life, fill it up with as many experiences you can, while you can.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” Dr Seuss – Oh The Places You'll Go!

To make sure you don't miss out on anything astro-related, travel plans & especially her time in the circle later this month through the winter then give HB a follow on her links below!

Instagram @hannahbella_nel

Facebook - @hannahbellaphotography

Twitter - @hannahbellaaaa

#www #wanderwoman