As well as being a Professional Fujifilm X-Photographer, Karen’s eBook: “10 Steps To Finding Your Voice”, lead to the creation of the popular Kelbyone course “Finding Your Artistic Voice”. She now leads a popular photo retreat: “The Artist’s Voice” in France. She has presented at Google, Photo Plus Expo and venues around the county. She lives in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
What is your favorite animal to photograph to date?
Well, I grew up with horses, so my lovely equine friends hold a special place in my heart. That said, more than anything, I love moments of connection in my photography. Anywhere I experience the sweetness of a soul’s expression through my lens will always make me swoon.
Why did you switch to Fujifilm?
I switched in May 2015, right before a month-long trip to France. My DSLR backpack had gotten so heavy that I toppled over a times – not that much fun. At the same time, I was craving a different paintbrush. Smaller and lighter, for sure, but my vision also craved a particular color palette, certain tones and definition - and a much greater dynamic range than I had been experiencing. Not to mention, a better user-experience; I’m a muscle memory girl and programmable buttons help keep me in my “zone”. When I first picked up a Fujifilm camera, I knew I was home. I took it to France that year and never looked back.
Is there a noticeable difference in your workflow (field and post) using the Fujifilm system?
Absolutely! In addition to making photographing more fun and instinctive (the camera simply feels like part of me), it has sped up my post-processing workflow enormously. I don’t have to spend nearly the amount of time I used to in order to create results that make my heart sing. That means less computer time, which is one of my top priorities in life right now. Plus, I can post directly to social media on-the-spot if I want to, with minimum fuss and processing. Easy!
What is your favorite wildlife image to date and why?
It sounds silly, but at the moment it’s an image called “Cat Caught”, which admittedly is not entirely “wild” life. I was with my “The Artist’s Voice” photography retreat in Valbonne, France and we were wandering about, discovering moments with our camera. This cat saunters out, curious to know what was going on, but wanting to look nonchalant and cool at the same time. I was using my Fujifilm X-T2 and XF23mm f1.2 R lens. I watched him taunt my students, discovered his rhythm and what he found irresistible. Then I got my exposure, ISO and aperture set up and kneeled down for the catch. He walked right into my lens - and bam! I caught the moment. He’d have been mortified if he’d known. I giggled in a slightly evil - and thoroughly satisfied manner. Any image that makes me laugh with satisfaction becomes an immediate favorite.
What is the furthest you’ve traveled to photograph wildlife?
What was your most challenging situation while photographing wildlife and how did you overcome it?
In the case where I’d like an animal to just hold for a moment and look my way - it’s always challenging to know what will create that response at just the right moment. For instance, photographing “The Ladies” required getting ahead of this very long line of cows out on the range (not kidding) in Sattley, CA. They were booking it for home and I could see which way they were headed, based upon their well-traveled path and knowing how habit-oriented cows are. I set up my camera and, when the time came, took a big breath and started singing “Home on the Range” in low and sultry tones. They were so entirely shocked by the whole thing, they stopped in their tracks and stared at me for a good ten seconds before galloping off in terror in a cloud of dust. Ten seconds was all I needed.
How has the Fujifilm system enhanced your experience photographing wildlife?
Fujifilm’s speed, beautiful colors, tone and definition all make photographing wildlife a joy. They’ve come a long way since I first switched from DSLR. At first, mirrorless in general seemed slow. But not anymore! Between the speed and incredible IS of Fujifilm lenses I use for wildlife, I nail my shots easily, making the entire experience a sheer delight.
What is an essential tip or piece of advice you feel fellow aspiring wildlife photographers need to know?
Develop the ability to feel what the animal you’re photographing is going to do. That ability to anticipate is golden - and it has to become instinctive. Only then can you snag ‘the moment’, not the one right after.
In your opinion how do you establish a unique style when photographing wildlife?
Like any other kind of photography, I think you have to focus upon what you love and commit to it with all your heart. From the type of animal, to the story you want to tell about them, to the distance you love to capture them from, to what you desire catching them doing. For me, I believe that each animal has a soul, something to say - and a divinely expressed way of being. I love to capture them in their moment of engaged bliss. Animals have this irresistible “IS-ness” about them that makes my heart soar. Of course, I also believe the earth has a soul and that it expresses itself in most divine ways - and I love capturing that too. You see, no matter what kind of photography I’m engaged in (wildlife, landscape, travel, etc.) my jam is capturing these soulful moments that make me laugh, sigh, my heart take flight, or my eyes well up. I think that, until you commit to whatever you love most with all you’ve got, it’s hard to establish your own unique anything in photography. Or life, for that matter.
If you could go back to your early days as a pro and do something different, what would it be?
Have digital cameras available WAY earlier than they were, so I didn’t have to quit, on-account of darkroom chemicals making me sick, then having to wait 20 years to come back to the thing I love most, which is photography. Then again, I wouldn’t be who I am right now if I hadn’t and, honestly, I wouldn’t change that for anything!