Name: Kari Post
Occupation: Graduate Student
Location: New Hampshire, United States
Favorite Color: Blue
Describe yourself in three words: Passionate – Adventurous – Playful
Hidden Talents: I can ride a bike with no hands (a skill learned while biking across the United States in 2009). I’m also a master at belly flops from tall heights.
Irrational Fears: I find dolls to be quite creepy, and also clowns, trolls, and garden gnomes.
Andrew: Thanks for taking time for this interview Kari.
Kari: Thank you so much for considering me and your interest in my work. I’m really excited about being featured on The Unframed World.
Andrew: For those unfamiliar, could you summarize who you are and what you do?
Kari: I specialize in using photography to teach people about nature and the environment. For me it is really important to be making a positive difference through work that I love. Environmental photojournalism and hands-on nature photography programs have enabled me to connect people to nature and teach them about environmental issues.
My background is in education, and up until recently, I worked primarily in the field of outdoor experiential education, leading wilderness adventure programs for youth. That work is very demanding and leaves little time or energy for much else, and I felt that I really needed a way to combine all of my passions – teaching, photography, writing, traveling, nature, and the outdoors – into one, more sustainable lifestyle. So now my work involves a little bit of everything. I still lead trips from time to time and work/volunteer as a photography instructor for a number of non-profits and schools.
I’m also an editor and writer for NatureScapes.Net, an online community and resource for nature photographers. I contribute to other blogs and publications as well. The North American Nature Photography Association is one that I’m heavily involved with as a regional ambassador and member of the college scholarship program committee.
Right now, I’m concentrating on finishing up my final semester of graduate school and working on my Master’s thesis project, which focuses on how participatory photography programs can be used to help young people connect with and learn about the environment.
Kari: Well, I’ve always wanted to be good at something – everyone does I think – and I was also the type of kid that had a lot of energy and a short attention span. I got bored easily, so I dabbled in a number of different things, sticking with what I found interesting. In middle and high school, I got involved with the school newspaper and yearbook because I found I loved writing and taking pictures. I discovered my love for teaching when I coached youth sports and taught swim lessons. I’ve always liked helping people, and nature has always fascinated me. Basically, I think ended up being good at those things because I liked doing them, and I ended up liking them because I was good at them. I just stuck with it.
Andrew: It seems like everything you do stems from a love of the environment. Tell us a bit more about this.
Kari: I grew up as an only child, but I was very social. At home, I didn’t have any human playmates, so I think I gravitated towards animals and nature because they provided an interactive play experience. My mom used to take me to the zoo and the duck pond, where I would pet the animals and feed the birds. I would catch fireflies and minnows to observe and then set them free again. When I was really little, I remember sitting with my dad by the brush pile at the end of our driveway, empty plastic peanut butter jar in hand, waiting for the garbage men to come by to pick up the sticks and bramble, so that I could rush out into the street and collect the crickets that had been hiding underneath it. I had subscriptions to Your Big Backyard, Ranger Rick, and ZooBooks, and most of my toys were plastic animal figurines.
I’ve always loved nature. As I got older, I think I started to realize that it wouldn’t always be there. Places I knew and grew up in were changing. I saw housing developments come in and destroy natural areas I had played in. My parents told me stories about the animals that used to be in our neighborhood and I even noticed when certain animals disappeared. I still miss the family of foxes that lived behind the school near my house; my mom and I used to watch them play on the soccer field, and I could sometimes hear them yipping at night when I lay in bed. Not anymore. I think when I saw the world I loved vanishing, it was really hard for me not to try to do something to save it.
In my adult life, photography has become one of the ways I connect with nature. Some of my most amazing experiences in nature have happened because of photography, so it only makes sense for me to use photography to save it. I’ve also realized that if photography can help me see the world differently, to notice and experience things in nature that I might have missed before, it can do the same for others. And when I think back to my childhood, I remember how much I enjoyed reading those colorful kid’s magazines and how those pictures of animals I had never seen captivated me. The power of photography – to educate, to inspire, to communicate – is incredible. It’s important to me that my photography has a purpose, and what better purpose could it have than inspiring people to love and protect our natural world?
Andrew: This one is just for fun. If you had to choose either photography or writing and give up the other, which would you go with?
Kari: Ugh, I would never want to give up either. My initial instinct was to say that I’d give up writing, because I could always speak my thoughts and share them that way. Photographs, by themselves, are generally more mysterious and open to a wider range of interpretations than writing, and that, I think, is part of their appeal.
But then, I realized that photography has frustrations associated with it that writing will never need to have. For example, every photograph I take relies on a lot of technology. I need electricity to charge my camera batteries and a computer to edit and process my images. By being a photographer, I am somewhat forcibly married to time spent sitting inside, at a desk, never far from an outlet connected to a power source most likely consuming non-renewable resources to provide energy. Writing, on the other hand, is so simple. I could have a pad of paper and a pencil and head deep into the wilderness and not come out for a long time. I could be like Thoreau. I wouldn’t need to rely on a network of human created systems just to be functional at my craft, and writing equipment is far less expensive than camera equipment and high-performance computers. If I was only a writer, I would not need to worry about having the most up-to-date technology, lugging around heavy gear with me in the field, or where to find a power source just to stay operational.
Sharing facts about environmental issues and scientific discoveries is much easier through writing, but photographs have the ability to appeal to emotions in ways written words often can’t, and they can do so in just a fraction of a second. In reality, the two compliment each other well and usually are much stronger together than either one would be absent of the other. I hope I never have to give up either!
Andrew: Your photographs are gorgeous. Fill us in on your post-processing workflow.
Kari: I always shoot RAW and start all of my post processing in Lightroom. I first correct the exposure and white balance, and touch up dust spots and level the image if necessary. If it is a landscape image with a bit of bright sky, I’ll often add a digital graduated neutral density filter to even out the exposure. Then I usually work my way down the tool set, most commonly making adjustments with the Shadow/Highlight and Clarity sliders, and sometimes making selective color adjustments. My manipulations usually aren’t very heavy handed, and my strongest photographs are pretty good straight out of the camera.
Once I’m done with my Lightroom adjustments, I’ll convert the image to a TIFF and pull it into Photoshop for final processing and any targeted adjustments. I use the Nik series of plug-in filters quite often. Viveza can often enhance any photograph, allowing me to brighten my subject ever so slightly against the background, color correct parts of an image, or bring out the textures that help make the image come to life. I also like the Darken/Brighten Center filter in Color Efex Pro, and love Silver Efex Pro for black and white imagery.
My goal is to keep the end result looking natural and accurately representing what I saw at the time of capture. Every so often my post processing may involve a bit more work – sometimes I cross process a single frame, combine multiple exposures for enhanced dynamic range (usually by hand blending but occasionally using HDR software), or stitch multiple frames together to create a panorama – but in general I try to keep my processing simple. Usually, I spend somewhere from 5-15 minutes on a single frame, single exposure image, but it’s not uncommon for me to spend an hour or more on a photograph if I think the end result will be worth it.
Andrew: What’s your top tip for wildlife and nature photography enthusiasts?
Kari: Know your subject. The more you know about your subject – where it lives, what it eats, when it is active, what behavioral peculiarities it has (if it’s an animal), or how it looks at different times of day, in different light, during different seasons – the better chance you will have of capturing a really stunning photograph of it, and one that is not only beautiful, but that tells a story about the subject as well. If you know the behavior and habits of an animal, you can better predict what it will do and where it will go, and you can more easily find the best angle, light, and setting for it. Knowing a location can get you there at the right time of day, facing in the right direction for the most beautiful light. Also, responsible nature photographers are sensitive to the needs of their subject; they respect wildlife by not scaring it, causing it undue stress, or manipulating its habitat in ways that will affect the animal. They respect the landscape by not creating trails where there are none, trampling vegetation and destroying delicately balanced ecosystems. The more you know about your subject, the better you can minimize your impacts on it and maximize your success as a photographer. If as photographers we are trying to capture beautiful images of the natural world, we can’t go about destroying it in the process.
Andrew: In all your travels, what’s one place you hope to return one day?
Kari: New Zealand. I didn’t travel much when I was younger, so when I was fourteen my mom decided to give me the opportunity to go to Australia and New Zealand through a chaperoned student ambassador program. It was my first time beyond the borders of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania and my first time on a plane, and of course the experience was incredible. New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful country; I love mountains, lakes, lush green foliage, and rushing water, and New Zealand has it all. At the time, I still didn’t know anything about photography, but I loved to take photos and I snapped hundreds of New Zealand using a small 35mm point-and-shoot. I would love to go back there with a “real” camera and all of the knowledge I have now.
Andrew: Conversely, are there any places you’ve been that once was enough?
Kari: I’m tempted to say Kansas, or even New York City, but truthfully, I think I’d be willing to visit any place again, except for maybe Jaffrey City, Wyoming, where everyone I was unfortunate enough to meet was simply unpleasant and made outsiders feel very unwelcome. Kansas needs more trees and topography and New York needs less people, cleaner streets, and better manners, but both have their charm, and both are interesting places to visit for a short time. I was recently in Haiti, and that was a very hard place to be. Coming from the northeastern United States, it’s difficult to comprehend what it is like to live without access to clean drinking water, in an area of decaying infrastructure and incredible poverty. But the people there are so full of life, and it seems like a place with so many stories to tell. I would go back given the chance.
Andrew: Last question, in the next few years, do you have your sights set on specific goals?
Kari: I have a LOT of ideas, but I think the key to accomplishing any of them will be to pick out a few areas to focus on and start with those. I eventually want to be teaching conservation photography and environmental photojournalism to young adults, and then also partnering with other photographers and writers, as well as researchers and scientists, on conservation and education multi-media projects. More importantly, I want the students I teach to be doing that kind of work. I’m doing a little bit of that now, but it’s not currently my focus per se, because I’m also doing a lot of other projects and trying to finish up school.
None of the groups I work with now are able to hire me full time, and a large part of what I do is volunteering. Financially, it’s not ideal and the multiple job thing is not really sustainable in the long run. It would be nice to land a full time job doing exactly what it is I love. I’m pretty confident that everything will fall into place, but it’s hard to predict what that will look like. In addition to teaching, I also have a few other tentative plans for the future, including some ideas for a non-profit organization, a few books, and a long list of projects that I want to tackle and turn into multi-media documentaries or written photo essay pieces one of these days. It’s a lot, but at least it should keep me busy. I’ve discovered that I like keeping busy; I’m so used to having a lot on my plate that I start to feel lost when there is too little going on.
Andrew: Thanks so much Kari, it was a pleasure!
Kari: Aww, it’s been fun. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my work with your audience. These projects are really important to me, and I always enjoy being able to talk about them with folks willing to listen.