Sera Wright’s stunning shots of pastel pink sunsets, pristine beaches and glittering seas have earned her a legion of Instagram fans.

But the self-taught landscape and travel photographer doesn’t just want to share pretty pictures—she’s sending an important conservation message.

Through her striking images taken around Australia and overseas, the digital influencer from Byron Bay hopes to inspire others to appreciate and protect nature.

“I hope that my photos will inspire people to get outside, explore and travel to as many destinations as possible,” she says.

“I am extremely passionate about nature and conservation, and I use my photography to raise awareness and educate people on why it’s so important to care for our amazing country and planet.”

It’s this environmental ethos, combined with her creative talents, that lead to her appointment on the judging panel for The Nature Conservancy’s 2017 photo competition.

The competition aims to inspire Australians to engage with nature through photography and celebrate Australia’s natural beauty, and Sera is looking forward to being on the other side of the fence as a judge this year.

“I am a big believer in photography inspiring people to get outside and appreciate nature, so I can’t wait to see what the Australian public deliver in this year’s competition.”

One of Australia’s top social media influencers, Wright boasts more than 54,000 Instagram followers and has worked on tourism campaigns for the likes of Olympus Australia, Canon Australia, Intrepid Travel, Singapore Airlines and Destination NSW. Her beautifully-crafted web and Instagram pages are filled with pastel-hued summer skies in Byron Bay, turtles swimming on the Great Barrier Reef, Samoan waterfalls and unexpected pockets of natural beauty, like the Butterfly Garden in Singapore’s Changi airport.

She says one of the biggest keys to innovative nature photography is ensuring optimum lighting conditions, and advises shooting close to sunrise and sunset.

Other tips include using people in landscape shots to add an extra element of interest, photographing scenes you personally connect to, and finding a point of difference, like a new angle or perspective.

She dismisses the two thirds rule of conventional composition as not essential, but says “leading lines”, which draw the eye to the subject of the photo, is a good technique.

Sera views photography as a valuable tool in creating change and educating the community, particularly on issues like the environment and conservation.

“With social media, you can reshare and repost photos, articles, videos and other digital content the world over and create a movement.”

More and more people are jumping onboard and realising what an important role photography has in helping create awareness of the environmental issues around the world—especially when it comes to climate change, the decline in the Great Barrier Reef, and endangered species and their habitats.

But she is concerned that there’s not enough respect for the environment in the quest for the ultimate, Instagram-able photo.

“I believe that as photographers, influencers and visual artists we have a responsibility to encourage others to do the right thing.”

“I see a lot of photos on social media of people or photographers standing in a location which is restricted or prohibited entry due to the fragile environment (Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park, Queensland for example) just to get ‘the shot’. We should be promoting the right thing to do, how to help conserve the ecosystem and environment and planet on which we live.”

Wright became interested in landscapes and wildlife at an early age, watching David Attenborough documentaries on repeat and flicking through National Geographic magazines at home.

Now 35 years old, Sera owned her first camera at the age of 10 and learned the basics at high school, but only taught herself the rest when photography turned digital.

Sera feels blessed to have grown up in the nature lover’s paradise of Byron Bay, and has fond memories of spending her childhood exploring the great outdoors.

“I think being brought up camping and out in nature most weekends and school holidays, instead of going on holidays to resorts or cities, made a massive impact on me at an early age,” she says.

I’m so thankful to my parents for bringing me up this way. It made me appreciate the natural world and learn the importance of protecting and conserving the world around us early on. Without a healthy environment, ecosystem and planet, we won’t have a world to live on. Every species on this planet has a role, a purpose and needs to be saved. The Nature Conservancy’s photo competition is a great opportunity for photographers of all levels to raise awareness on these important issues.

Building on the success of our previous competitions, in 2019 The Nature Conservancy Australia Photo Contest will merge with TNC’s global contest giving even wider exposure for your inspiring photos.

The global photo contest will open around May 2019 and there will be a range of categories including one for Australia-based photographers, with fabulous local and global prizes you can win. Even if you’re not a photographer, you can still participate by voting for your favourite photo to win People’s Choice.

Why not start early and head outdoors to explore and capture the beauty of Australian nature.

To Subscribe to the Photo Contest Alert visit natureaustralia.org.au/photo and for more information on Sera visit photographybyronbay.com.au