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Tim has been interested in photography for many years. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a Master's in Environmental Science. Writing nature articles allows him to combine his interest in photography and nature into one medium.

Interview with Nature Photographer Kari Post

 

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Photo courtesy of Kari Post
Nature Photographer Kari Post

Several years ago, I stumbled upon a blog of a young photographer located in the Northeast United States by the name of Kari Post. What I enjoyed about her blog was not only the amazing photography, but her writing. What came across in her posts was the passion she had not only for photography and nature, but for the people that were part of her life and community.

When I decided to start a series of interviews on nature photographers, I immediately thought of Kari Post. I contacted her and she was gracious enough to answer some questions for this article. As is typical of Kari on her own website, she put her all into the interview questions below and gave very complete and thorough answers.

When you read through Kari’s website and her answers below, you realize for someone so young, she is very well traveled and has a well established sense of self and her purpose and passions in life. She lists photography, nature, exploring, adventuring, writing, teaching, and helping others as some of her most highly valued concentrations.

Kari also has several awards to her credit too numerous to mention, but can be found on her website. She is also a member of the North American Nature Photography Association, the Association for Experiential Education, American Alpine Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, and Access Fund.

Kari’s portfolio contains many different types of subjects, all related to her love of nature. Some of my personal favorites include her Loon and waterfall photographs. I also really enjoy all of her photographs located in her “Art in Nature” folder (in fact, the one named “Twisted” is my son’s favorite photograph of her’s).

So, please read below to learn more about Kari and her love of photography and nature.

Patience is a Virtue

Patience is a Virtue
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Acadia National Park, Maine
The red beam of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse shines against the bold sunset colors of the evening sky. The lighthouse is located on Maine’s Mount Desert Island within Acadia National Park.
Photo © copyright and captions by Kari Post.

Hi Kari, thanks for doing this interview.  I found your blog a few years ago and really enjoy your style and the subjects that you choose.  First, could you give us a little background about your early life?  Where you raised in New England?  When did you become interested in nature?

I was born and raised in New Jersey and grew up as an only child, so I think I gravitated towards nature early on because it provided an interactive play experience. I loved flipping logs to search for bugs and salamanders, catching fireflies and minnows, exploring in the woods, growing plants from seeds, and those types of things. Nature has always been an important part of my life. I moved to New Hampshire a little over three years ago to go to grad school and absolutely fell in love with life up here. I finished my degree but stayed in the area because of all the places I’ve ever lived or traveled to, this is the one that most feels like home.

How long have you been involved in photography?  I noticed on your website that you started in sports photography.  Was there a particular sport that you were most interested in photographing?

I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t interested in taking pictures. When I was really little, I would borrow my mom’s camera to take photos of animals at the zoo or ducks at the local duck pond. I think what really got me hooked on photography was a trip I took to Australia and New Zealand as part of a student ambassador program when I was fourteen. I took something like 800 photos (a lot back then) with a $20 point-and-shoot camera and my mom came home with two grocery bags full of prints. In high school, I ended up taking a couple of photography classes and got my first DSLR.

I was an athlete on the track team, and many of my friends played sports, so I did a lot of sports photography for the school paper. I continued that trend in college, largely because I had easy access to sporting events and was a health and physical education major, so most of the people I had classes with were athletes. I photographed just about any sport I could. My all time favorite sports photo is a wrestling photo from the NCAA Division III National Wrestling Championships that were held at my college. I started turning my attention to nature and wildlife photography when I finally got my own car and was able to drive places.

Was it a conscience thought to move away from sports photography and more to nature photography?  What were some of your earliest nature subjects?

There was never a day when I decided I wasn’t going to photograph sports anymore. As I got closer to the end of college, I became more focused on student teaching and other things so I had less time to go to sporting events. Once I was done with school, I felt like a creeper shooting on the sidelines at games, and they weren’t as much fun to attend without my friends playing. At the time, I was dating a guy who was also a nature and wildlife photographer, so we would go find interesting nature subjects and photograph them together. I think I started by photographing mostly birds and wildlife, but I’ve since gravitated more towards landscapes and photographs of people adventuring in nature.

How did you learn your photography skills?  Did you have a teacher or mentor?  Did you study photography or the environmental sciences in college?

I’m pretty much self taught, but I’ve learned a ton from friends and others over the years. The boyfriend I dated in college introduced me to a lot of the techniques specific to nature photography, and I have hundreds of photographer friends that I’ve shared techniques with and learned from. I gather a lot of tips from reading online forums, and I’m constantly perfecting my craft and trying new things. It helps keep photography fresh and interesting.

I’ve never formally studied photography. Both of my degrees are in education. My undergraduate degree is in Health and Exercise Science Teaching, and I have a Master’s in Environmental Studies with a focus in Environmental Education. I really love teaching, and those degrees have been super helpful in helping me translate my love for and knowledge of photography to others.

Loon with Sunfish

Loon with Sunfish
Cheshire County, New Hampshire, USA
A Common Loon (Gavia immer) with a sunfish it caught while hunting on a pond in southern New Hampshire. This adult was catching fish to feed its chick.
Photo © copyright and captions by Kari Post.

Do you have favorite photographers that inspire you?  Do you have favorite subjects and/or favorite photographs?

There are so many photographers whose work I really admire and photographers who inspire me. I think Nick Brandt’s black and white photographs of Africa are stunning, and there are a handful of photographers who work for National Geographic, like Brian Skerry and Jimmy Chin, whose work just makes me drool. If I listed all of the photographers whose photographs floor me this would be a really long interview.

The photographers who inspire me the most though aren’t necessarily household names. They are people I know, talk to, and engage with on a regular basis. I’m on the North American Nature Photography Association’s College Scholarship Program Committee, and the young photographers I have met through that program and the high school program are probably by far the photographers who most inspire me. They are so young, so talented, so passionate, and so driven. They dream big and just go for it. Impossible isn’t a part of their vocabulary. If I’m in a shooting slump, I seek out one of those kids and chat with them to psyche me up about photography again.

I’m also really inspired by local photographers who take gorgeous photographs of places I know and love, like my friend Jerry Monkman based out of Portsmouth, NH, who is also one of the nicest photographers I’ve met.

As for my favorite photograph, that probably changes on a regular basis. I really couldn’t pick one favorite, and if I did, it would likely change next time you asked me. My favorite subjects are probably loons, mountain landscapes, and waterfalls. I’ve also really started to enjoy the challenge of including people in outdoor photographs. I think showing people enjoying the outdoors responsibly is a great way to encourage people to connect with nature, and with your image.

In your blog (I don’t see it now, but maybe on an older blog?), you discussed an educational project you were a part of in the Southwest (am I describing this right?).  Can you tell us how you were chosen for this and what it was all about?  Was there a lot of stress in completing the project?  Did that experience help mold your current thoughts about photography or nature?

You might be referring to my experience as a NANPA College Program Scholarship recipient in 2011 (Editor’s note:  that is the one I had in mind), in which I and several other students worked on a conservation project in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas. I applied for the scholarship program as a grad student because friends who had done it encouraged me to do so. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the experience I had was career changing. It was so inspirational to meet young photographers similar in age to me and to get to collaborate with them on a conservation project. Environmental photojournalism had always been something I wanted to do, but I had never quite figured out how until I got to experience it with the NANPA College Program.

We had maybe five days to create a project that told the story of land conservation in the area we were working in, and those weren’t even full days. We ended up creating a bilingual multimedia piece that combined stills, video, interviews, and narration. Undertaking such a large project in so short an amount of time was really intense; I don’t know if I was ever stressed out, but I definitely didn’t sleep very much. It was 100% worth it though. One of the best parts of that project was the ability to work as a team to do it. I’ve done a few other multimedia and video projects since then, and I’ve always found them much easier and more rewarding when you have someone else to bounce ideas off of, share the workload with, and get positive energy from.

Here’s an article I wrote about my experience for NatureScapes.Net that more accurately conveys how awesome the entire experience was: “Seeking the Sun:  My Experience as a NANPA College Program Student

St. Augustine Beach Sunrise

St. Augustine Beach Sunrise
Washington Oaks State Park, Florida, USA
The sun peeks over the horizon as it rises over St. Augustine Beach on the coast of Florida.
Photo © copyright and captions by Kari Post.

You mention on your website that you recently visited Nepal, Ecuador, and the Southeast US and are considering running photography tours.  How where those experiences?  Can we expect Kari Post tours in the near future?  Any other locations you are considering?

Traveling to those places was amazing. I went to Ecuador to do some high altitude mountaineering and to Nepal to scout for possible future photo workshops. For my southeast US trip I spent time in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia, and worked my way back through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Rhode Island on my way home. On that trip I did a mix of scouting, leading photo workshops, working a photo event, and leading a backpacking trip, with a little personal travel mixed in. I spent nearly two thirds of the first half of the year on the road, so it felt amazing when I finally arrived back home from all of that time away and did not have plans to leave immediately again.

It’s unlikely that you’ll see me offering a full calendar of independently operated photography workshops anytime soon. I really enjoy teaching and have led numerous workshops in partnership with non-profit organizations and private companies, but I still don’t feel motivated to undertake all of the upfront expenses of insurance, permits, marketing, and planning on my own. It’s a lot of work, and the work is pretty unexciting. I’d rather be out creating images, exploring the world, or connecting face to face with other people than sitting behind a desk. That’s probably the number one reason I’m not a full time professional photographer – I like real people more than computers.

There will be more workshops coming in the future, and I’m currently planning to provide two workshops in New Hampshire early next year. Right now, I don’t have any plans to leave the country or go on a big trip. I love where I live and have really enjoyed being home for a while, and lately find myself preferring spontaneous adventures to carefully planned expeditions. I don’t think being on the road 24/7 and zipping from place to place is the best way to get to enjoy, appreciate, and fully experience where you are. I’d rather spend more time in fewer places. When I do travel, I really enjoy having the time to freely explore the places I visit and getting to interact with the culture without having an agenda. I don’t feel that two weeks in Nepal or Ecuador makes qualified to lead a workshop there, and right now, I’m enjoying being home.

On your website, you mention that you are contemplating other types of photography in addition to nature photography.  Any ideas in what future direction you may go?  I really enjoy your writing as well as your photography (the posts on your blog are awesome).  Have you considered doing more writing?

I’ve considered branching out into doing more adventure and travel photography, instead of sticking solely to nature subjects. I’m also toying with the idea of getting back into sports photography, focusing mostly on obstacle course racing, adventure sports, and outdoor recreation. I rock climb and work as a climbing guide and instructor, so I want to start shooting rock climbing more. While a lot of professional photographers tend to specialize in one type of photography, I do think it’s important to keep challenging yourself and trying new techniques and new subjects every once in a while. One thing I’ve been playing around with is doing more storytelling and visual journalism through still photography, multimedia, and video.

I love writing, and would gladly do more of it, but I haven’t really figured out how to move in that direction. I don’t really have an outlet for my writing other than my blog and occasional articles on NatureScapes.Net. A dream of mine has always been to do stories for National Geographic, where I’m both writing and photographing. I think writing enables me to express ideas that I just can’t in photographs, and both forms of communication and art compliment each other well.

Twisted

Twisted
Waimea Valley Audubon Center, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Moss covered tree branches and leaves trace delicate interwoven patterns against the sky.
Photo © copyright and captions by Kari Post.

You discuss a documentary that you are currently working on.  Is this your first documentary?  Can you tell us much about it at this point in time?  Have you enjoyed the filming process compared to photography?

I’ve been working with Jerry Monkman on a documentary about the Northern Pass, a high voltage power line project that would put 180 miles of power lines and towers across the state of New Hampshire to move power from dams in Quebec to densely populated areas in central and southern New England. It has been a lot of fun and quite challenging. This is the first video project I’ve worked on and the first of its magnitude. I have done some documentary work in the past, but those were all shorter multimedia pieces that combined still photos, audio, and some video, and all of those projects were completed in a much shorter timeframe. This project is nearly all video and time lapse photography and a lot of interviews and audio recording. Jerry and I spent about four months shooting and filming, and we are now taking a break between that and post production. We’ve had several unforeseen setbacks, but I hope that the film will be completed by next spring.

Shooting video and creating films is a lot different than shooting stills. I like them both, and I don’t see myself leaving photography to become a filmmaker. With filmmaking, I think you need to think more long term and the process is different. A lot of time and energy, both mental and physical, need to go into the final product. Perseverance is a necessary ingredient in filmmaking. I find shooting stills to be more therapeutic, and, at least at this stage, I find editing stills much easier. Editing video and audio is a nightmare for me, and investing in video and audio recording equipment is something I’ve begun to do very slowly because it is so expensive. The entire process of making a film is more intimidating, but I do like the challenge.

Kari – thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers.  One last question, in your post entitled “The End of 2012”, you state “I even started to think about photography very differently than I have in the past”.  Can you elaborate a little on your change in thoughts on photography and if you have continued to morph as a photographer?  Any advice that you would give to amateur nature photographers?

I think I’m a person who tends to learn by observation and doing. I know a lot of photographers at all levels of the photo spectrum, from rank beginners who still don’t understand manual exposure controls to professionals who have won international contests and had their work widely published and appear in galleries all over the world. A lot of how I see photography, or rather the business of photography, is a direct reflection of what they have done and how they have shaped their business models.

It has never been my goal to be a rich photographer or a household name. Photography for me has always been about sharing an experience with someone else. I want my photographs to communicate, inspire, and hopefully make a difference. A lot of people have become professional photographers by shooting commercial subjects or events, producing instructional materials and leading workshops, working assignments, or catering to exclusive galleries and fine art collectors. A lot of photographers push what I consider to be ethical boundaries in order to make their business profitable and their photographer lifestyle sustainable. Being a successful pro photographer has less to do with being good at photography than it does at being able to market yourself and make financially sound business decisions.

I don’t really have an interest in selling myself or my work or trying to convince people that I’m the best and my photographs are worth something. I’d rather just have fun, do what I love, and do it in a way where, at the end of the day, I feel good about myself. Photography should enrich your soul and invigorate your spirit. It shouldn’t seem like work all the time. I don’t want to worry about whether what I’m doing is profitable or not, because if I am focused on that, then I’m not doing it for the right reasons and I’m not doing it to the best of my ability. I’ve steered away from trying to earn a living off of photography because it takes all the fun out of it for me. I want to be able to pay my bills via other means. Any extra income I get from photography is just icing on the cake, and gives me more freedom to explore, adventure, and shoot more. I’m not depending on it to put food on my table or a roof over my head.

The best advice I would give to amateur photographers is to follow your heart, which is probably the best advice I can give to anyone. Too many people spend too much of their life doing things that make them unhappy so they can later do things that make them happy and that is no way to live. Life is short. It is beautiful and finite. Do what makes you feel happy and whole, and do it now. If you have a dream, go for it. Not all dreams are compatible with one another, so sometimes you have to choose, but that’s ok. You can become a better photographer, or a professional photographer, if that’s what you want. You won’t figure it all out at once, there will be a lot of trial and error and wrong turns, and maybe you’ll discover that your dream wasn’t really what you wanted, but try! You can change your mind. I’ve gone back and forth between shooting on a daily basis and earning the majority of my income from photography to not picking up my camera for months. Whatever. I’m happy. Be passionate. Be kind. Be truthful and honest and do what sits well in your heart at the end of the day.

Again, I would like to thank Kari for taking the time from her busy schedule to answer these questions. Please be sure to check out her website at www.karipost.com.

Longtail Salamander on Leaves

Longtail Salamander on Leaves
Pennsylvania, USA
Longtail Salamanders (Eurycea longicauda) are named for their long tail, which is as long as the salamander’s body.
Photo © copyright and captions by Kari Post.

If you are a nature, wildlife, or outdoor photographer (or related) and would like to be intereviewed by Nature Photo Journal, please contact the Editor at [email protected]  We’d love to hear from you.

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