Age / Location / Passion
24 / San Diego, CA / Photography
Also stoked about?
Go to Gear?
Favorite place to get outside?
Pacific Northwest, especially coastal Oregon and the Olympic Peninsula
What’s your story?
I grew up in San Diego, but most of my family is based in the Seattle area so I spent a lot of time traveling all over the West Coast, especially on camping and backpacking trips. I’ve always been a really artsy person but never thought I’d pursue a career in a creative field; I’d always figured I’d study science. When I graduated high school, I felt really directionless and spent a few years changing majors before I landed on journalism, then finished my BA in photojournalism at San Francisco State University in 2015. It was a really windy path, but now it seems like photography should have been obvious; I’ve been completely in love with it since my first film photography class in high school. But it never seemed like something I could make a career out of; I had it in my head that what I did for money and what I did for fun would be different things. Now I’m trying to make my passion for capturing moments – especially in the outdoors – into my livelihood, and it’s really exciting.
What’s something you recently did that you’re still stoked on?
Last year I spent ten months and 23,000+ miles visiting each of the contiguous United States. I camped, couchsurfed and stayed at farms and communes around the country. The people I lived with were amazing, and I learned so much; I was constantly surprised by how much I didn’t even realize I didn’t know. It really forced me to change the way I look at things – there are so many more ways to live the dream than I’d been taught growing up. It isn’t about chasing money or a nice house or being the big boss or whatever. More than anything, I finished the trip thinking that the most important things in life are building a community of inspiring people and doing work that you love.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who are chasing their passions. It can be so scary to go for what you want instead of what you’re “supposed” to do, so when I meet someone who’s pursuing their dream I get really excited. The farmers I lived with last year were working so hard, just crazy long hours in the sun and rain, but they were so stoked about what they were doing – their joy for their work has really stuck with me.
Why Adventure Photography?
Part of what pushed me to leave on my road trip was that I had a lot of uncertainty about actually working in photojournalism. It seemed like to be successful as a photojournalist meant to be covering riots, conflict zones, and (especially in San Francisco) the consequences of gentrification. Those images are so important, and I’m grateful to news photographers for helping create awareness and push for change, but I didn’t want my day-to-day life to focus on human suffering.
I spent my trip doing only what I wanted and needed for survival and I always got to choose myself. Leaving the “supposed to’s” behind was so empowering, and I think that’s what pushed me to pursue adventure photography. I’m happiest in wild places, and even happier with a camera in hand, so I’m going for it. It’s fun because I get to go on trips where it’s my job to go explore beautiful places with rad people and take photos all day. It’s certainly not my primary income (yet), but I do spend time planning, editing and sharing the images every day so I’m in a good place.
What is one image that you’ve taken that you can say has dramatically impacted or changed your life?
This is hard. I could argue that my most important photo is the last one I took, because I’m constantly trying to improve. I sort of left the photojournalism path, so my images aren’t really promoting social awareness or change. But for me – at least at this moment – the image that comes to mind is a self-portrait I shot at Rocky Mountain National Park last summer. I’d been on the road for almost six months and had just left an amazing farm community in Boulder and had been playing at Great Sand Dunes NP before that – I was just having an incredible time. I got to the park on the first weekend of summer and it was packed, but somehow I lucked into the last site in Glacier Basin. I found myself reading in the sunshine and just feeling really excited about where my life was taking me and how lucky I was to be able to have this crazy experience and took that photo to hold on to that feeling. I think that sharing it kind of reinforced what I was doing as a positive thing. There was a lot of negativity and fear about my trip in the beginning from my friends and family, so being able to show them what my daily life actually looked like was really empowering.
Why is what you’re doing through this important?
I hope that by sharing my images, I’m helping to get people stoked about pursuing their own adventures. It’s always flattering when someone says they’re living vicariously through me, but I’d much rather hear that I encouraged them to actually go do something they’ve been dreaming about.
When you’re not traveling, exploring + shooting, what are you up to?
I have a couple of day jobs, so a lot of my time is spent at work or running back and forth to shoots and meetings. When I get some time for myself, I go to yoga. I just started going to classes during Christmas, but it’s been a really fun journey and it’s been good for me to spend that time practicing staying present. I’ve also been really lucky to reconnect with my friends from high school and junior college since coming back to San Diego last fall, so there’s a group of talented women I chill with when our schedules match up.
As a woman in the photography + outdoor industry, what’s something that you think is really important?
I think that for any creative person, but especially for women, and in particular women in the outdoor industry, having a community that encourages and inspires you is the most important thing. When I feel lazy or like I’m in a rut, knowing that there are people who like what I’m doing and look forward to seeing my images is so helpful. And on the flip side, I think it’s important for me to give that same support and energy to other women and creatives. Right now I’m really into the idea of building community through social media.
How do you balance work, travel and play? What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow their passion?
The short answer is that I don’t. I’m still learning about balance and accepting that while I can definitely have it all, I can’t necessarily have it all at the same time. It’s tough because when I was on the road my life was really spent in the day-to-day simplicities: where am I going to sleep, what am I going to eat, where do I need to get to tomorrow. Once I had all of that figured out, I had time to chase my whims. Now I have several jobs and projects and am still trying to plan lots of adventures. I don’t get a lot of sleep, but I’m still living the dream, so I guess it’s working out. I’m learning a lot about prioritizing.
My advice to someone who wants to go after their passion project would be to just start. Don’t waste any more time dipping your toes in the water and just jump in. Put all your energy there. It’s going to be hard and crazy and stressful and amazing and too fast and frustratingly slow, but if you go after it wholeheartedly it’ll happen.
One Instagram account that you’re crazy about?
Just one? I could share dozens, but today my favorite account is @sam_griggs. She’s a portrait and travel photographer, and I love the tones and framing she uses. My favorites are her portraits; I think the personality of her subjects really shines through – that’s something I want to do better.
Coffee, tea or ____?
Coffee, please. If I have five dollars, I’ll spring for a vanilla latte, but I’m not picky. I even like gas station brew.
Thanks for sharing your story with us. Keep exploring + inspiring.
Stranded on Land