Profile: Photographer Kari Dahlstrom
By Tim Cotroneo
An Oregon coast photography tour was the impetus for Kari Dahlstrom getting serious about her simmering passion. The tour led Dahlstrom to adding a new layer to future travels, and exploring the world through the eye of her camera lens. Travel Dreams caught up with Dahlstrom during a Seattle-based travel writer workshop and asked her to share some favorite photographic moments.
How did you get started in photography?
I’ve always had an interest in photography and had taken a few classes over the years. About four years ago, I went on a small group photography tour on the Oregon coast. Spending a week immersed in photography really solidified my passion. The tour also helped me to amp up my skills. Since then, I’ve pursued every opportunity photography presented.
What is your favorite or “go to” camera?
I’m a Canon girl. My first DSLR was a Canon Rebel XTi. I’ve shot a Canon 6D, 7D and recently a 5DMarkIV. The best camera is the one you have with you. Whatever camera you have, get out and shoot!
What is the back story on this whale action shot?
I just love everything about humpback whales. It’s exciting being out on the water hearing their spouts, capturing their graceful tails and if you are lucky, catching a breach. Whales are incredible beings. I’m amazed how something bigger than a school bus can launch itself out of the water. I’m pretty sure whales are my spirit animal.
How do you educate yourself to take better photos?
The number one way that I advance my skills is through photography tours. Tours provide the opportunity to shoot for many hours at a time, and spend several days in a row with an instructor. I also learn from other participants. I’m a member of Photo Enthusiast Network (PEN.) This is an online community of photographers who support each other. PEN features tons of instructional videos and other content about shooting and editing.
What circumstances led to this lighthouse photograph?
The clouds in the Pacific Northwest can really be spectacular. Just a few minutes after this shot we saw orcas swimming and eagles in the trees. I was with my mom and husband and it was just a really great day.
What is the one thing you wished you knew when you first started taking photos?
Photography is kind of like golf, the more you practice, the better you get. Having a coach or mentor is important to growth and so is opening yourself up to critique.
What are your memories of this bird in flight shot?
Puffins are tough to photograph as they are quite small and super fast. Once you get your settings, it’s a little bit of “spray and pray” hoping you get a few good shots.
What is your photographic niche and what is it about this niche that appeals, inspires, or satisfies you?
For me, photography is storytelling. I’m a writer as well as a photographer and both of these couple well with my love for travel. I guess my niche is a broad one that combines travel, wildlife and landscape photography as a storytelling tool.
Talk about the preparation that goes into your photography?
Because I shoot a lot of landscapes, it often means early mornings or late nights to catch the best light. I’m grateful that my husband will get up at 3 a.m. to drive to Mt. Rainier or the tulip fields for sunrise with me. When you are getting up that early, you want to be sure your equipment is ready to go — batteries charged, cards formatted, etc.
Set the stage for this shot featuring a man and his dog at sea.
I loved Croatia with the narrow cobblestone alleyways and friendly people. I ended up going to on this trip with six days notice when someone else dropped out, so everything we did and saw was quite special and unexpected.
What are your favorite photography destinations so far?
I’ve shot in some amazing and challenging locations. The most challenging was shooting the aurora borealis in Alaska when the temperature was 25 below zero. My most memorable experience involved the featured photograph at the top of this article – shooting a polar bear from a zodiac in the Arctic Ocean. We actually spotted the bear swimming in the water just yards from our boat, then watched her on shore rolling around to dry off.
What do you try to say in your photographs?
I try to honor the subjects of my photographs and share just a moment of the story of this person or place.
Anything I haven’t asked that you’d like readers to know about you or your photography?
I’d like to encourage anyone who has an interest in photography to get out and shoot. It doesn’t matter what camera you have, it’s about seeing things in the unique way that only you can see them and capturing that moment.