As huge photography lovers, we've been excited to speak to more female photographers and learn about their unique artistic journey and life behind the lens. We recently went in depth with professional photographer Kristen, who splits her time between the contrasting scenes of Tamarindo, Costa Rica and Savanna, GA - read about her photography journey below.
Hey Kristen, Tell us a little about where your from and your journey into photography.
Born and raised Jersey girl! I was raised in Northern NJ, right outside of NYC. I now split time living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and Savannah, GA.
Interestingly enough, photography has always been right in front of me and something that I’ve always been really drawn to.
As a kid, I loved watching slide shows from my parents’ travel adventures (they both worked + flew for PanAm). I took black & white film photography in both middle school and high school and fell in love with the whole process of learning to shoot film, develop, and then make prints in the darkroom. It wasn’t until my later 20s (once I traded my heels in New York City for a surfboard & camera in Costa Rica) that I really started to pursue & give myself permission to consider photography as a profession. Since then, it’s been so rewarding to see how I’m growing as a photographer, as well as developing + refining my own style. It’s been a slower evolution + journey.
Are there any experiences that have really shaped your life leading you to where you are today?
We all are sums of our own experiences. Everything on my path (whether positive or negative) has helped shape me into the person I am today. I made a New Year’s resolution to learn how to surf back in 2011, which led to me taking a surf trip on a whim to Costa Rica. Those two decisions certainly helped shape who and where I am today.
Tell us more about your photography, and how you've been successful with your business ventures!
Soon after moving to Costa Rica, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the sunsets were. Like jaw-dropping, out of this world beautiful! I first started photographing them to share with my family and friends. Then one day, I had an idea to make postcards using my sunset photos - especially since all the postcards I had seen in Tamarindo looked nothing like Tamarindo and/or used ugly stock photos. The postcards have done really well in Tamarindo - so everyone that has purchased a postcard as a souvenir or sent one as a souvenir has a piece of what I like to call “Pura Vidadise”. Selling my postcards inspired me to pursue photography for clients as well (I photograph a lot of families on vacations and destination weddings), and a couple of years ago I opened my online print shop, aptly named The Sunset Shop. Before I launched the shop, if a client wanted a print, they had to reach to me first. After working one-on-one with several clients, I wanted to make it even easier for anyone to have a piece of the beach at home with them, so I went to work designing The Sunset Shop. I still love working one-on-one with clients if they need help picking out the best sunset print for their space or if they have a question about sizing, and I also love how a client easily can navigate to my shop, pick their favorite print; and voila!
How do you find inspiration for the images you create?
Being out in nature gets all of my creative juices flowing, especially during golden hour and sunset. In fact, witnessing Costa Rica’s magical sunsets influenced me to start photographing consistently by chasing sunset every afternoon, which led me down my photography path!
Tell us a little about how your photography and style has changed and grown over time?
The more you photograph and edit, the more you find your own voice. When I first started out, I was photographing a lot of different things. With more experience, I’ve refined my focus on what I love to photograph - sunsets, surfers + waves, landscapes, vintage vehicles, and people.
I will photograph other things if I feel inspired, but if a gorgeous sunset or sunrise is about to happen, I’m there to watch + photograph it! And as one of my friends mentioned to me, she started to see my personality in my work with more experience.
We often hear from our artists about creative block? Do you find yourself stuck sometimes? If so we'd love to know how you get yourself out of the rut!
Blocked, no. Uninspired, yes - whether that be while out photographing or the editing process. Going outside for a walk on the beach, watching the sunset, or a good surf session, taking some time off, taking a step back to work on something else helps me. For example, there are photos in my image archives that I’ve gone back to and seen the images differently months or years later. As a result, I have a fresh perspective and can bring the images to life with a new edit.
Creative photography can come with many challenges. What are some of the biggest ones you face?
Getting in my own way. When you are on a team, you support each other. But when it’s just you day in and day out, you need to have a creative support system. For example, fellow Her Waves artist Pepa Ivanoff and I love to bounce ideas off each other, support each other’s work and motivate each other. It’s one thing to be an artist, but another thing to be an artist-entrepreneur.
Best piece of advice you've ever received?
Put in the work while no one is watching. Follow your happy. And sometimes, as much as you want to plan, you just gotta jump in + start doing! For me, that was quitting my corporate job and moving to Costa Rica. I by no means didn’t have everything figured out when I went to Costa Rica, but with a lot of hard work, determination, and passion, I found and am pursuing my passions, photography, chasing sunsets, and surfing (almost) every day! My “life/happiness bank” is pretty darn full! :)
You split your time between some pretty amazing and beautiful locations. Where's your most favorite place to travel/visit?
That’s a tricky question to answer! I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to some pretty amazing places. I will always have a special place in my heart for the island of Antigua - my grandparents lived there when I was a kid. I have such fond memories of just being a kid exploring the beach and playing in the ocean. My father was also born + raised in Brazil, and whenever I’m in Brazil, I feel this nostalgia + sense of place.
What do you love about surf culture as it pertains to women surfers?
The camaraderie of female surfers, in and out of the water, vs. the very competitive nature of male surfers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a rather competitive person, but when I’m out surfing, I want everyone around me to be having fun, catching waves, and laughing! In fact, many of my male surfer friends have commented to me how much they love surfing with women because it’s such a different vibe.
How has your surfing life in the water affected the rest of your life on land?
Surfing has changed my life! It’s the reason why I first went to Costa Rica, why I moved there, and one of the main reasons I’m there now! It’s taught me to be more patient, the importance of taking time for yourself (especially without the distractions of technology), and I feel more connected with Mother Nature.
Who's your biggest role model?
I don’t have one specific role model, but several role models in different areas and times of my life.
Surfing wise - Steph Gilmore! She is tall like me and is such a talented, well-rounded surfer. I also used to have a poster of Michael Jordan hanging on my ceiling in high school and college!
We bet you get to surf some pretty rad spots in Costa Rica. Where's your favorite spot to surf?
Ollie’s Point - right-hand point break perfection. Although it doesn’t break like it used to thanks a major sand bar shift after a tropical storm closed up the river mouth emptying out where the break is.
Longboard or shortboard?
Depends on the wave I’m surfing - some waves are better for longboards and others for short boards. My home break is a longboard wave, so 99% of the time, longboard baby! I also just love the feeling of cruising on a longboard and dancing on the board, cross stepping, and noseriding.
Something on your bucket list?
Surfing in Sri Lanka!
Before I fell in love with surfing in my 20s, my first love was basketball. I played D1 in college -- full athletic scholarship and all.
“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” - The Alchemist.
Beach + Sunset + Surf Prints: thesunsetshop.com
Wedding + Family + Lifestyle Photography: sambatotheseaphotography.com