Into the Wild with Julieanne Kost
Julieanne Kost is not only a Senior Digital Imaging Evangelist at Adobe, but also a passionate photographer, author of Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking and the ultimate road warrior. As an Adobe evangelist, Julieanne spends most of her time traveling the world spreading the Photoshop and Lightroom “gospel” to enthusiastic and attentive audiences.
As one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, many wonder where she gets inspired and how she keeps the creative juices flowing.
Sometimes inspiration happens in unexpected ways. A dinner conversation with friends was actually the motivation behind Julieanne’s spontaneous summer road trip. She was intrigued as her friends described their recent hiking excursions. Knowing all too well that spending a week’s vacation at home would mean the silent nag of household chores – like mowing the lawn and washing the windows – she opted to get out of town and go into the wild. When it came time to select a route, images of breathtaking scenery at places like Point Reyes, Mt. Lassen and Crater Lake came to mind as she had visited all of those spots on childhood trips with her parents. What would it be like to revisit all those places now, as an adult? Being an avid hiker, she also knew driving through California with all its national parks, would make for some great wandering and of course – photography along the way. With that in mind, she hopped in the car headed north toward Oregon…
What do spontaneous road trips like these do for your creativity?
Julieanne: Most of my time is spent with people, yet I need to take time to be alone to re-energize. I enjoy spending time just letting my imagination wander, being outdoors experiencing nature and exploring the area to see what I will find. My perfect escape is to simply set off in a direction without any plans or reservations, and a completely flexible schedule. I don’t want to be distracted by anything that will get in the way of being able to take a side road and just meander. For me, it is essential that I can unplug and ignore the clock in order to open up, to discover, to breathe.
What did you intend to do while on your trip?
Julieanne: I had a few small and larger goals that I set for myself while on the trip. I openly admit to being a “task master” – I am always making to do lists in order to continuously push myself to do more, see more and create more. One of the goals was to hike for a few hours in a different spot each day and take some photographs along the way – national and state parks are excellent for this. The exercise would serve as a meditation and keep my body moving, allowing me to unwind and shed stress. Once I could reach “my zero point” I was also going to prioritize some larger life goals. I wanted to come up with three things in my life that I wanted to change, and three personal projects that I wanted to finish in the next 12 months. I tend to have too many personal projects going at one time and I felt that I needed to wrap a few up at this point or they would tend to creep on forever! After all, knowing when you’re done with a project is a huge part of any project!
How do you prepare for your adventures – practically and photographically?
Julieanne: I think I prepare as any normal hiker would with plenty of food, water, layers of warm and waterproof clothing and emergency supplies in case of bad weather or an accident. I tend to carry too much camera equipment with me because I don’t want to hike all day and come across a phenomenal scene only to have left the lens/tripod/filters back in the car! I am terrified of bears and try to avoid them if at all possible – it’s difficult to relax when in constant fear!
Julieanne’s first day of the trip (Point Reyes) – opening up with a wide angle lens. She says the ocean was so vast and the sky was so enormous, she wanted to take it all in. The images are very reflective of her mood at the time – the beginning of her journey, opening up to new experiences and allowing her mind to expand.
How do you seek inspiration?
Julieanne: Inspiration is all around us, but I tend to feel that it is easier to see, if you’re truly grounded. When I’m calm, centered, and remind myself what I can and cannot control, then it’s easy to relax and take the time to really look at the world around me and the role I play within it. When life is hectic and I’m trying to multi-task under pressure, I find it almost impossible to expand my mind and explore new possibilities. Some people thrive in a chaotic environment and/or need to socialize with others to be inspired. I do like to collaborate with others, but I find that I do my best work when I’m alone–which I feel is completely normal for introverts such as myself.
Changing my surroundings is the easiest way for me to look at new things with a fresh perspective. I constantly remind myself to pay attention. I don’t want to go through life in a daze. We’re creatures of habit—we drive to work by the same roads every day, we eat the same foods, we tend to solve problems in the same way time after time—and it’s very tough for us to break out of our molds. But, if you do something different every day, you expand your base experiences. The more experiences you have the more opportunities that there are to find inspiration.
What do you photograph when you’re out in nature? Do you photograph around a theme or are you shooting whatever strikes you?
Julieanne: Over the past five years, the images that I’ve taken have changed dramatically. I used to try to take the “perfect” image in a single exposure. Today, as a result of the incredible power that the computer and applications like Lightroom and Photoshop have given me, I see potential for an image in almost everything I look at. I no longer wait for the “perfect” photographic opportunity; I look for anything that evokes an emotional response in me.
My photography tends to span from the more traditional “straight photography” (as is shown in this post), to multi-image composites, which span both time and space – the sum of which is my attempt to communicate my imaginary world through visual imagery. How I will use the “components”, the textures, or elements that will evolve into the building blocks for future digital illustration is rarely clear to me as I photograph them.. It comes to me later when I look at it again and realize the reason that it evoked such an emotion and therefore fits with the image that I am creating.
Much of my more traditional photography is an attempt to capture what is beautiful. However, I am fascinated with creating images that make me look inside myself and ask questions, that stir emotions, and reach across both the conscious and unconscious mind.
Third day of her trip, Julieanne says you can see she’s beginning to slow down and notice things. She’s not just taking the normal “grab shots,” but thinking about patterns and textures and how things work together. This is a sequence of tree bark images she pulled together from various hikes. These bark photos will most likely be used as a texture for a future composite illustration.
How do your outdoor experiences/moments contrast with your day to day life?
Julieanne: My day to day life is filled with constantly evolving technology – a rush of turbulence and change. There certainly isn’t a moment of the day that I’m ever bored. The tools that I use to create my images and communicate my message are always improving, giving me more opportunities and possibilities than I ever could have imagined. Thankfully, gone are the days where a person has to do the same thing every day for their entire lifetime.
However, I still need to reach that “calm” state where I can be creative and being outdoors allows me that luxury. I have a never-ending appreciation for the complexities of nature. I don’t feel that I can make anything that is more beautiful than what nature provides, my only hope is to try to capture it’s beauty and subtlety. I find inspiration in the little things – the details. I try to photograph what other people don’t see and I try to reconnect with the planet, where we come from, what makes us who we are.
These images were captured on the last days of Julieanne’s trip (Mount Lassen & Crater Lake). She notes, her first day’s landscape are full of tension and cause anxiety in the viewer. By the end of the trip her photographs are much quieter – capturing a stillness that reflects her state of being and mirrors her frame of mind.
Check out more images from Julieanne’s adventure.