Not everyone can say that they spend their lives doing what they love but for Iceland Photo Tours photography guide, Kathleen Croft, that dream is a reality.
This travel and landscape photographer spends most of her time in the field photographing fresh and unspoiled areas, travelling to many remote areas such as Greenland. Kathleen is always exploring and happy to share her adventures as she documents the glacial recession and effects of climate change in the Arctic.
With degrees in Science and Biology, as well as a strong background in analogue photography, Kathleen is truly one-of-a-kind in her profession. Her work can be viewed in publications such as National Geographic, Landscape Photographer and Outdoor Photographer.
This month, we spoke with Kathleen about the beauty of allowing others to live vicariously through her photography, the inspiration that it creates, and the ongoing challenges that she faces in photography today.
Hello Kathleen! Thank you for chatting with us. How did you develop an interest in photography?
I began my love for photography as a young child. I always had a camera hanging around my neck. I shot for my primary and secondary school’s newspapers and yearbooks. I began my serious passion for photography at the age of 14 when I was given my first underwater camera by my Father. I lived on the ocean in Florida and hung with underwater photography until the digital era became the end of my slide film days. My very first published image was on a cover for the Belize Tourism Bureau when I was about 19 years old. The image was of a majestic Whale Shark.
Do you have any formal training in photography?
I graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans where I took numerous photography classes. I spent countless hours in a darkroom developing slides. New Orleans was an excellent place to learn photography and to expand my skill set. My focus at Loyola was geared more towards street photography and photojournalism than landscape photography.
Zen Aurora. Photo by: 'Kathleen Croft'.
Given your focus on street photography and photojournalism, what was it that first drew you to landscape photography?
I moved to Arizona from Florida and was no longer living on the beach. Arizona is a little difficult for underwater photography so having to change mediums to adapt in the digital world, I took up landscape photography and never looked back. I live right outside of the Grand Canyon in the Southwest so I always have a wealth of photographic opportunities outside of my back door.
With so much at your fingertips, what, in your opinion, is most important to consider when shooting landscape pictures?
For myself, it is connecting the viewer with nature as we observe it. The natural world is such a beautiful place. Many people cannot travel as extensively as I do, so I like to bring a sense of place and visually take people to landscapes that they will never otherwise see for themselves first hand. I like to connect people with the beauty of our world.
Aurora House. Photo by: 'Kathleen Croft'.
When you are out shooting, how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
I do plan where I am going to shoot. I spend countless hours researching an area before I explore there. I virtually scout online, and then physically scout once I am at a destination. I will spend hours visualising a scene from all different perspectives. I love to be outdoors so this is a privilege for me. The instincts come into play once I have really experienced an area and find the compositions that are appealing to myself and the potential viewer. People live vicariously through my images.
What are your thoughts on working with single images versus a series or projects?
I am a single image shooter. I need to begin thinking in terms of projects but I usually only shoot projects for clients. I like to work a scene and take home one successful image that I am happy with.
You’ve been a guide with Iceland Photo Tours for quite a while now, running regular education sessions to Greenland. How did you begin teaching photo workshops?
I began teaching workshops a number of years ago. I had been photographing many of the areas that I now instruct in for years. I know an area inside and out before I ever bring a client out into the field. After some time, friends and acquaintances that I knew started asking me if I would teach them and show them the many places that I had photographed. And so it began.
Everybody has a different way of learning. Describe the teaching methods you have found useful with your photography students.
I love to be in the field with people and to teach them hands on. It is incredibly rewarding when the clients finally reach that ‘ah ha’ moment and it all begins to make sense. The beauty of the digital era is that they have instant results displayed before their eyes. I enjoy sharing the ideas of composition and how to bring all of the elements in a scene together. Once the settings all become familiar, we tie them all together and really work a scene in unison.
Scoresby Sound. Photo by: 'Kathleen Croft'.
Has the advent of amazing smartphone cameras changed what you carry with you? Do you still carry your camera when you go out and about?
I always have some sort of a camera with me. It is very easy nowadays to carry small mirrorless bodies or a bridge camera with you wherever you go. You never know what may unfold on the horizon.
Among all the gear that you own, is there one thing that you wish you hadn’t bought?
A drone. I just do not think that I need more things to carry.
What are you looking forward to adding to your gear next?
I am a dedicated Nikon shooter. I have gone Sony and also Fuji but I still always come back to my Nikon. My next purchase will be the D850 once all of the bugs are worked out. I am loving the mirrorless systems for my go-to daily shooting but for my serious work, I gravitate back to Nikon.
Calm. Photo by: 'Kathleen Croft'.
After all this time, do you still find photography challenging?
Yes, the light is forever giving us challenges. Just when you think that you may have nailed it, you turn around and ‘bam’ it is behind you.
Some days, the composition is flawless and it rains. Some days, you time the moon rising over the perfect horizon and it is cloudy.
Landscape photographers always have to contend with the current weather conditions. Weather forecasts are great but not always predictable. Then again, sometimes we are richly rewarded and it makes it all worthwhile, hence the time for a happy dance.
What do you like most about your professional life?
I am exploring the globe ten months out of the year. I love adventuring to new places and revisiting old haunts. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my experiences and knowledge with others. I meet new people everyday and share life experiences. I honestly cannot think of anything that I would rather be doing.
Iceberg Arch. Photo by: 'Kathleen Croft'.
What do you like the least about being a full time photographer and workshop guide?
I miss being home with my family.
Do you have any tips for an aspiring photographer who’s picking up a camera for the first time?
Live it... love it... explore it... master it. It takes a lot of hard work but in the end it can be the most rewarding career of your life.
If you could take your art in any direction without fear of failure or rejection, where would it lead? What new thing would you try?
Again, drones. Aerial photography is an amazing venue but I have never flown a remote control plane or operated a remote control car, so I am a bit intimidated by my drone. I would be mortified if I were to crash it. A few years ago, I was on a trip in Scoresby Sound, Greenland, and I watched a fellow photographer sink his drone on his very first flight. Maybe someday…
Join Kathleen on a photography workshop in Greenland!