Where I'm At: Interview Series - Erika Swafford of Nature Photo Artist


Welcome to the next interview in the series, 'Where I'm At'. It's a voyeuristic, yet helpful look into the lives of women who are finding where the light plays within them.

Their daily rituals, ways of managing stress and advice to you, the readers, are captured in these interviews.

This month we have the lovely Erika Swafford from Nature Photo Artist.

Erika is a nature photographer, artist and photography mentor on a mission to help aspiring photographers get off the auto settings on their camera and start making art in manual mode.

She lives in Tennessee in the US and shares some great tips below.

What is your usual wake up time?

During the weekdays, I wake up at 5:30 AM.  I try to get right up so I don’t get behind.  On the weekends, I get up later and don’t usually set an alarm unless I need to be up by a certain time.

Do you have a morning routine or ritual?

I start my day by letting out our dog, Snoopy, who sleeps indoors at night. Then I head to the bathroom to put in my contacts, put on my make-up and style my hair.  Our two cats, Tiger and Mia, usually try to join in.  


While I’m working on my make-up and hair my husband is up and getting ready for the day, too.  It’s nice to start out the morning together like that.  He leaves before I’m finished so I have breakfast with a favourite TV show.  I like to start with something funny so it puts me into a happy frame of mind before I head into my day at work.

Tell us about your commute.

I have a 45–50 minute commute to work in the morning and evening.  That’s a lot of alone time in the car but I like it most of the time.  Sometimes I get to see amazing things like vibrant rainbows in weird places in the sky (as in the photo below).

I’ve learned to make my commute more entertaining than just staring at the road.  Here are a couple things I do on my commute:

Listen to audio books – this is by far my favourite thing to do while driving to and from work.  Both fiction and non-fiction books are great to listen to in the car.  Some of my current favourites are:

The Bartimaeus Series by Jonathan Stroud

The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Prachett

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

World Wide Rave by David Meerman Scott

Record your thoughts – I do this usually in the morning on my way to work.  This is a variation of Morning Pages, where you would normally write for 3 pages non-stop.  Instead of writing my pages, I talk my Morning Pages into my phone using an app.  It records what I say as long as I want to talk.  This is surprisingly therapeutic and even fun.  There are many apps you can get for your phone that record voice.  Then just talk away!  

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow for some spontaneity?

I do like to plan ahead but it doesn’t always happen.  Normally, I only plan ahead if I have a deadline for something.  Otherwise, I just do what comes my way or whatever strikes my fancy. 

I’ve noticed that when I do plan, I usually put too much to do in a day.  Because of that, I try to limit myself to committing to one thing at a time when I can.  I still have the list of things I want to do but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get them all done. 

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

I love going to the River Park at lunch.  It’s a good way to get my head out of the things at the office.  There’s a paved walking trail that follows the bank of the Tennessee River.  

At one end of the River Park is a dam.  That whole area is home to many Blue Herons who watch the waters for fish.  The fresh air is rejuvenating and watching the river go by is relaxing.  That’s a good combination to refresh from a morning of office work.  By the time I head back to the office, I’m ready to take on the afternoon.

What kind of workout schedule do you (try to!) adhere to?

Right now, my workout consists of doing squats while I put on my make-up in the morning.  I try to get in some walking at lunch, too. 

How do you like to end your day?

I like to end my day with a really hot shower, especially when it is cold outside.  The hot water is relaxing and warms me up so I can go to bed and fall asleep more quickly.

What time do you doze off?

I try to be in bed by 10:00 PM.  Being more of a night owl, I don’t always make it by 10:00 PM...  But I do function better when I’ve had at least 7 hours of sleep.

What do you aspire to every day but never / rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

Organising my physical space!  I have a tendency to just pile things up with the intention of organising it into a perfect dream of organised bliss ... My pantry, my closet, my desk, my purse, my mail.  It seems so easy and yet I rarely do it.  But I’m so glad when it is done because I feel like I’ve mastered my universe!

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day?

I’ve learned that I need to do one thing at a time.  In a world where multi-tasking is sometimes a necessity, doing things one at a time will help you do it better, faster and with less stress.  I have to repeat to myself many times a day, “one thing at a time, just one thing at a time”. This helps when I’m tempted to distract myself with other tasks I need to get done. 

Finally, can you give us your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

I love a quick homemade-fast-food meal.  This one fills you up and is super-easy to make.  Instead of stopping by Taco Bell (ed: my equivalent of Mad Mex in Australia!) to pick up this delicious delight, I’ll make my copycat version.

Homemade Nacho Bell Grande

  • Tortilla chips
  • Refried beans and taco seasoning to taste, heated
  • Olives, sliced
  • Tomato, chopped
  • Taco sauce
  • Sour cream, optional

Layer on a plate: tortilla chips, refried beans, olives, tomato, taco sauce and sour cream.  Enjoy!


Thanks Erika! I'm definitely trying your nacho recipe soon and I love your mantra about one thing at a time. Very wise. 

You can find Erika at:




If you're looking to improve your photography skills (who isn't?!), get her free digital guide 3 Easy Tricks to Improve Your Nature Photos at  http://www.naturephotoartist.com/get-free-stuff.html