Jumping on board with Captain Potter: A Q&A with Sam Potter

Meet Sam Potter, aka Captain Potter – the lifestyle influencer who spends his days travelling the world, capturing incredibly picturesque moments and distributing them to your Instagram feed, leaving you totally inspired and quite frankly, a little jealous.

Hanging with his epic crew and chasing the high that is pure happiness, Sam has embraced the beauty of the world from end-to-end – stumbling upon a career that allows him to do what he loves, with the people he loves. Guided by passion and the intrinsic drive to create art and preserve memories, Sam’s films and photographs map out the world’s best destinations alongside the likes of sisters Alexis Ren and Allie Michelle, pro-surfer Koa Smith, plus Australia’s own Ellie-Jean Coffey.

Despite visiting various coordinates across the globe, we had the opportunity to catch-up with Sam in his hometown of Kauai, Hawaii to find out all about his work, where his favourite locations are, and what’s coming up next for him.

How did you first get into gramming?
I think it all started in photography class one day when I’d done all my work so began making funny little videos on my phone of my friends. I just fell in love with it, so then kept making videos on my phone. Then one day I was going to Kalalau, which is this beautiful beach on the Na Pali coast that you kayak or hike into, to do some camping with friends. We bought a GoPro and started making videos and photos, and that really was the main start for me.

Do you prefer to do the films or photos?
I don’t have a preference, as long as I’m passionate about the subject, shot, or location… or whatever it is that I feel like creating – I love both. It’s just about having passion for whatever it is I’m trying to capture.

Is it your full-time career?

Did you expect that?
No, not at all. In a sense I prepared for it, but I was just making those GoPro videos and then companies started reaching out to me. I think the first job I did was when a company hit me up and told me they’d pay me $100 to make this little video and I was like: “Are you kidding? I can get paid to do this?!” I then started to get hit up by more people. I remember getting hit up by a bigger company and thinking: “Wow, I should take this seriously!” I’m definitely not much of a spender, but I put all my money into camera gear and I just went for it.

How much equipment do you use to film and take photos?
I have two camera bodies. I have the Canon 5D Mark III, I’ve had that camera for three years, and I’ve got the Mark 1DX II – I just bought that one. I also have a GoPro, which is fun to play with as a little portable camera here and there. I also have a drone – I just got the Mavic. I rent a lot of equipment from Hawaii Camera. I want to purchase a water housing soon [a casing that lets you take your camera underwater]. I think a water housing will help me take things to the next level because I spend so much time in the ocean. I do a lot of diving and surfing, so it’s good for me to have something other than just a GoPro. The majority of films I’ve already put out that are shot underwater use a GoPro with the Dome Port [lens] on it.

When you’re creating a new film, what inspires you?
I feel like inspiration comes pretty unexpectedly, I’m actually surprised by the things that I automatically have a passion for. But I think it’s just doing something different that intrigues me the most – when I start to create something and think ‘wow, this looks different than anything I’ve ever done…’ that’s what really gets me going. Or just when you’re spitballing ideas with friends and you get that feeling of ‘let’s make this right now!’ – that’s how you know you’re onto a good project, when you literally can’t wait to start it.

A lot of my inspiration also comes from nature and the outdoors – just being in the ocean and the mountains. All of my work is just from me being in awe of this world that we are surrounded by, it’s just so beautiful and special.

Some of your shots feature other influencers such as Alexis Ren and Mahina Alexander… Do you count them as friends?
Yeah they’re my friends, they’re two epic souls – really good people! Mahina and I grew up on the same island and she’s just one of the most epic people I’ve ever encountered, she’s amazing. Allie Michelle, Alexis’ sister is also great. I’ve definitely met some amazing people through Instagram… probably the coolest thing about Instagram is the people you meet.

Have you made many true friends from Instagram? Do you all hang out together outside of the gram?
Yeah definitely. I think that a lot of our Instagramming actually comes from us hanging out and having a good time. There are times when we’re more shoot-focused, but I think most of it is from us having fun and enjoying creating something memorable – preserving memories and creating a piece of art. The photos you see are planned out in some parts, so the artistic side of trying to make a good photo, but when I see a photo – I see a memory… a beautiful moment in time that we were all just blessed to be in an incredible area together. Good vibes and good times!

What has been your biggest achievement as a content creator?
Honestly, I’m so happy with the balance that I’ve struck in my life between work, fun, hanging out with my family, and hanging out with my friends. It’s not a specific moment, it’s the balance that I feel and the satisfaction and happiness that I have in my heart – to me, that’s the biggest achievement. The fact that I’ve been able to maintain that and haven’t gone overboard and worked too hard, or haven’t had the discipline or drive to not have worked hard enough, I’m just really happy with the balance I’ve found between work and play.

How long does it take you to create and edit a film?
A very long time! I like to minimise my time on my computer, but I’d say if everything is flowing extremely well – I could put out a 30 second Instagram video in about 3-4 hours, but that’s at my very best. I just put out a small edit on my Instagram and it probably took me four days to a week just to get everything perfect. Sometimes I’ll even scrap the whole project and start over!

As far as hours, it probably takes me about 24 to 38 hours of actual work – but it does depend on how long each video is. Sometimes it takes me up to a month to get a video out if I’m going through a lot of footage. Generally the easier projects, the things that flow well and come out faster, are my favourite pieces. I think you enter a flow state when you’re enjoying the creative process. I’m putting things out and I want them to be perfect – I view them as artworks, not just a vloggy piece.

What about a photo?
Photos are a lot simpler, it depends on the photo. I could go and shoot in one day and take all of my photos and go through them and then edit them that day. So one day…

What type of editing tools do you use?
I use Premier Pro [Adobe], Photoshop, and Lightroom. For my videos, I use Premier Pro and that’s it. For photos, I do my editing in Lightroom, send it to my phone, and then do my final touches on Instagram. I love Instagram’s variety of tools and using it to make little adjustments. If there’s anything I don’t want in the photo, for example if I left my backpack in the shot, I use Photoshop to cover it up with leaves or something. I generally try and stay away from Photoshop. I don’t like to use it just because I like to limit my time on the computer – I like being outdoors, shooting. I do not like being inside on my computer, it is the one part of my job that I try and minimise.

What’s coming up next for you?
There’s nothing specific I can disclose to you, just because of contracts, but for the next couple of weeks I’m going to be on my island, in my home, with my family and friends – just hanging out, having a good time, and relaxing, enjoying life. That’s one of the most important things to me and one of the things I look forward to the most – spending time with family and friends. Human relationships, especially with family and friends, are so important and that’s what I love most in this world. So for the next couple of weeks I’ll be adventuring, surfing and diving, and loving all my family.

And five years down the track?
I don’t have an answer; This may be something I’ll learn to do differently in the future, because I do understand the benefits of setting long term goals, but right now I don’t have one. The reason for that is I’m just following whatever it is that makes me happy. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you have, where you’ve been, how much money you have… all that matters is what’s going on inside of you. Are you genuinely happy? And that is the only thing that I’m chasing – keeping that stoke and that happiness alive in me… I’m just following that path and seeing where it takes me. And just taking the opportunities that bring that out in me.

All images: @captain_potter
Produced and written by Yasemin Genc / Interview by Yelena Fairfax

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