How @filmandpixel Captures the Vibrancy of Miami

  • 01 of 14

    Meet Photographer Erica "Spin" Simas


    While relocating to the Pacific Northwest from sunny Miami, Florida, Erica Simas kept her camera in tow. Documenting her travels on @filmandpixel and chasing the wonder of her new home's natural landscape, she became enamored in the artistry of human innovation, capturing the essence both nature and people.

    As a photographer, Erica's determination in her images is evident. She doesn't let the weather or time of day dictate her art. She consistently pushes boundaries, and she always leaves her comfort zone to capture perfect points in time, creating memories, feelings, and stories that last forever.

    In the following interview, ​Aundre Larrow unveils how Erica photographs the world, her new home in the Pacific Northwest, and what's like to return to Miami, the town where Erica was raised.

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  • 02 of 14

    How Erica Discovered Her Love of Photography


    What was the first trip you ever took, and what did you capture? What did you learn?

    The first trip I ever took was before I owned my camera. I went to Japan in 2008 with a friend because I was studying Japanese. My friend owned a Canon Powershot that I used a lot during the trip. It was then that I realized I probably wouldn't have any photos of this trip if it wasn't for her and her camera. At Shibuya Park, I had her camera in hand and was able to capture a Japanese man playing a jug. He was sitting on a bench, alone, and the opportunity just seemed right. It was a very blissful photo opportunity: It was then I really realized I need to get a camera. I didn't want to miss the chance to capture something like this again. I loved creating a tangible memory for a lifetime. I think that was my learning experience: Get a camera for when you travel. 

    What is your mentality when you are traveling? 

    I don't make too many plans. I create a loose itinerary and plan somewhat, but for the most part, I let things happen on their own. I like to have a clear mind and schedule when I am traveling because I never know what's going to happen. When I was in Japan,  I followed the current of the city and it led me to some unique, hidden parts of Tokyo I wouldn't have seen if I had a defined schedule.

    What are your must-haves for each trip you take? 

    Obviously, a camera: I bring at least one, but I usually take two. One digital and at least one film camera. I like to capture a little bit of my trip on both. I also like to take a hat when I travel, it's kind of a nice way for me to hide when I feel as though I stick out too much. My laptop is a necessity, however, but sometimes I feel like it could draw me back as it makes me want to put in some work, which isn't ideal when you're traveling and experiencing new things. 

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  • 03 of 14

    Destinations Erica Wants to Photograph Next


    Do you do research before you go on trips? How do you decide where you want to shoot while you're there?

    I do a little bit of research, mostly around parks and iconic spots. I also try to reach out to locals to see what are some of their hidden treasures. I also like to plan at least one really rewarding dinner or meal. In general, I don't like to plan too much so I often end up winging it. If the area has a downtown, I do tend to migrate there first. Downtown areas are always a melting pot for interesting people who either live locally or are visiting, just like me.

    Where haven't you been yet?

    Tons of places! This is a question that makes me kind of sad, really. I have so many destinations I would absolutely love to visit, but I just haven't yet. One area of the world I have not visited yet is Europe and Asia (besides Japan). Asia is more of my dream than Europe is for some reason. I think this has to do with the culture shock and being completely vulnerable in a country where I stand out. That vulnerability is adrenaline for me. 

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  • 04 of 14

    How Erica Packs for Trips and the Photographers Who Inspire Her


    What is the best travel advice you've been given?

    Pack lightly. I think as a girl this can be really tough because some women tend to pack more than men. We have our make-up, jewelry, shoes, accessories, and of course, clothes. It is always tough to do, but I've trained myself to be a minimalist traveler. Especially when I want to bring so many camera gadgets with me. Now, those things take precedence.

    What photographers do you follow that have inspired you to go to a new place?

    Dylan Furst (@fursty) is definitely a big inspiration for me. He was one of my first friends in the Pacific Northwest. He's made such a name for himself, and it's been an amazing journey to watch him grow and flourish into an astounding photographer. He's been traveling the world, and it's marvelous. Denise (@ofwildestheart) also inspires me to travel more. She is fearless and willing to go to new places. I am kind of a chicken when it comes to doing extreme things that involve heights or hiking, so to see her doing all of these things and really striving to make it happen regardless the amount of work or fear that goes into it is exceptionally motivational.

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  • 05 of 14

    Why Erica Loves Japan and Making No Plans On the Road


    You've been to dozens of states and countries: Which places do you find yourself most at home? 

    I haven't been to a lot of countries, but I believe the place I feel most at home is either Miami or Japan. There's always been something about Japan that's drawn me to it. The culture, food, fashion, respect, and terrain: I love the futuristic vibe that lives in a very traditional country, which is like no other place in the world. When I was there, I felt like I belonged there. It was always a dream of mine to live in Japan for five years, if not more. Obviously, Miami also feels very much like home because I was born and raised there. Every time I go back to visit, I realize that even though I have been away for some time, somethings just never change, and I really like that. 

    If I wanted to travel with you, what would you tell me are your basic tenets?

    Be free. Don't stress about small things, like missing the last train in an unknown country or city. Everything happens for a reason, especially when you're out experiencing new things. I believe everything will fall into place, even if it's a rough situation. I also like to play it safe as much as possible when I am in an unknown place. 

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  • 06 of 14

    How Erica Travels From Place to Place


    Window or aisle seat?

    I love the window seat because I am a curious traveler, and I like to take photos. But, I also have a small bladder, so I have learned to be more of an aisle person. I don't like to disturb others because of my constant need to get up.

    Would you rather rent a car, take a cab or use public transit?

    It depends on the situation, time of day, and budget, but I prefer public transit. I like being one with everyone else and experiencing what it's like in the hustle and bustle of the city. 

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  • 07 of 14

    What It's Like to Go Home


    What's it like whenever you travel back home? Do you feel like a tourist in your own city?

    The last time I went back to Miami, I did feel like a tourist. But I feel like I did it on purpose. I went to the most iconic places and photographed them with a new eye and perspective. It will always feel like home: I always feel like I never left when I come back to visit. 

    Do you think a person can have two homes?

    Most definitely, but I think it has to be balanced. You can't be away for too long because things change too much, so it's important to frequent that place you love and hold dear to your heart. For me, I make it a point to visit Miami every year. 

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  • 08 of 14

    How Erica Photographs Miami Like a Local


    How is capturing Miami as a native different than capturing other destinations?

    As a Miami native, I capture everything, including my friends and family. When I travel, I hardly ever capture photos of the person I am traveling with. I try to focus on the surroundings, the lifestyle, architecture, and landscape. When I capture Miami it's always the people I am visiting mixed in with the ideal Miami scenes. I like photographing the people because I want to keep documenting our friendship and eventually look back at all of these memories.

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  • 09 of 14

    Capturing Miami's Vibrancy


    Talk to me about color: Miami has a lot of it. Do you have any systems of compositions you lean on when trying to capture images in such a vibrant environment?

    Everything is vibrant in Miami. The cars, houses, clothing, and everything in-between is very bright. It's a tropical city with a lot of influence. Naturally, when I think of Miami, I think of bright colors as well as pastels. It's a totally different palette than that of the Pacific Northwest, that's for sure. The last time I visited I went to South Beach, and I noticed more of the yellow, pink, blue, and orange houses. I mean, that's not something you see everywhere in the world. It was also interesting to see many things that color matched, so the last set I shot there was about trying to color match a lot of scenes. For instance, the buildings matched the colors of cars, scooters, bikinis, and more. I tried to focus on color composition. It made for a very interesting series. 

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  • 10 of 14

    Erica's Favorite Miami Locales to Photograph


    Do you have any favorite spots you hit up to shoot again? Have they changed over time?

    My favorite spots are Little Havana, Wynwood, Ocean Drive, and underneath the Key Biscayne bridge. Wynwood is definitely where I see the most change. I almost didn't recognize it last time I went. There are so many new shops, restaurants, and galleries: It blew my mind.

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  • 11 of 14

    Why Miami Is a Palette Paradise


    What words would you use to describe Miami? Can we see any of it in your work?

    Palette Paradise. Anyone who goes to Miami or has seen my photos of Miami can immediately tell there's a play in colors. Miami has it all: minimal whites to vibrant hues. It's hard not to love that about Miami. It's so colorful that it makes everything instantly beautiful. 

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  • 12 of 14

    How Erica Showcases Miami's Famed Architecture


    Exteriors aren't super popular on Instagram, but you've really mastered them: Do you have any rules for how you compose them?

    I love shadows, reflections, angles, symmetry and any kind of geometry in exterior photography. I love to capture the negative space of buildings in contrast to the sky, which can create a gradient. One Instagram photographer I admire is @woody_chai. He took on the #lookingup challenge, and his work reminded me not to focused solely on photographing what's in front of me. There is always a new angle for exterior images, especially in different times of day. Shadows and light can make an exterior so much more admirable, so I often try to compose around those factors as well. 

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  • 13 of 14

    Why Erica Loves Miami's Little Havana and Wynwood


    Miami has many interesting places and faces. Name one of each that you won't soon forget.

    My favorite places are Little Havana and Wynwood. I also love South Beach because there are always tourists there, and I love photographing the tourists in Miami. They always seem to have the best-colored bikinis and they instantly rock fedoras. I love it. Some of the most iconic people I can't forget are the cigar rollers in Little Havana. And I, of course, like photographing friends and family.

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  • 14 of 14

    How Miami Molds Erica's Photography


    How does being a native of Miami make your work in the Pacific Northwest unique?

    I try to see something in everything. In Miami, apart from the beach, it can be hard to photograph. How can you compare a mountain range in the Pacific Northwest to the topography in Miami? The Pacific Northwest basically sets up the shot for you, whereas, in Miami, you must explore and expand your boundaries to find photo opportunities that may not be so obvious. From living in Miami, I now seek new subjects in the Pacific Northwest. It's my survival tactic that gets me outside of the beautiful landscapes. 

    When is your next trip to Miami?

    I hope it's soon! It's been almost a year since I've been home, and I already miss all of my family and friends. I also miss hearing Spanish every day and the smell of rich Cuban coffee, pastelitos, and the soothing scenes of Miami's warm, sandy beaches.