Meet the Badass Woman Who's Owning Adventure Photography

The strategy: Stick with it, shoot what you love, and stay on the move

Aug 5, 2015
Outside Magazine
adventure photographer

"I’m pretty competitive and stubborn. I want to be up there with the best guys. I want my work to speak for itself," says Krystle Wright.    Photo: Courtesy of Krystle Wright

The first camera adventure photographer Krystle Wright owned was a disposable Kodak panoramic. She took it on camping trips, rationing the 23 pictures she could take by meticulously dividing the frames by the days of the trip.

At 18 years old, she bought her first underwater housing for a pro-level camera and shot images while playing in the surf near her home in Queensland, Australia. Eventually she started photographing surfers, but realized shooting only one sport was tiresome. She expanded her repertoire and now shoots rock climbing, BASE jumping, skiing, and freediving. Regularly found in the pages of Outside, the now 28-year-old's work can be seen in countless publications all over the world.

We caught up with her to talk the about taking pictures while freediving and why there aren’t more women adventure photographers.

adventure photographer
Ben Plotkin-Swing walks a 181-foot highline between the Winter Spires on Washington Pass in the Cascade Mountains, Washington.   Photo: Krystle Wright

OUTSIDEWhat’s your favorite sport to photograph? 
WRIGHT: It varies. A lot of people know me for my BASE-jumping work and I do love it, but it’s hard seeing so many friends lost to the sport and I probably won’t shoot it for a while with all the recent tragedies. Someone asked me if I’d stop shooting it all together, but if you lose a friend driving a car, you don’t stop driving. So I’ll come back to it. I love freediving too. I’ve always loved the ocean and taking it to that next level and am hoping to work on that this year. 

How do you stay in shape to photograph top athletes in such a variety of sports?
It’s just trying to find time for your fitness. I love rock climbing, but I know I’m not going to climb any 5.14-rated routes. I don’t have the time to dedicate to train for that. Often it depends on the terrain but you can usually hike to a vantage point to shoot, or if I’m on a really difficult crag I can get on a rope and jug up to get into position. Ultimately it comes down to having good cardio and good strength.

How do you freedive and shoot images?
I’m restricted to 12 meters with my camera equipment. I prepare my camera and make sure it’s technically set. With the water housing you can’t change things super-fast. Then it comes time to float on the surface, get a breath and head down with the athlete. 

adventure photographer
Yoram Zekri free dives in the Matavulu Blue Hole on the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.   Photo: Krystle Wright

How much time do you have to get a shot while underwater?
If you're pursuing a specific shot, you just keep going up and down. At first you head down and you might hang out for a minute. But you get fatigued and after multiple dives you might want to stay down only 10 seconds. You don’t watch the time, you go with your body. Some days if you aren’t feeling it, you might only be down there for like 15 seconds or other days you might hang out for a minute or longer. For me, I always want to be down there for much longer, but that will take some serious training. 

What are you looking for as far as composition when shooting underwater?
My favorite images tend to be really simplified—a single figure and the background is almost one tone. I want to capture what the athlete is feeling. Sometimes it is just playing with the water quality, whether it’s clear or foggy. Other times if we are diving around caves or reefs I have other things to play with. 

What do you like about freediving yourself?
I love the meditation of it. It’s nice to clear out all the distraction in your life, because if you are distracted, that’s a factor that makes your dives more difficult. For me being in the water, it’s like a second home. I feel so calm and relaxed.

adventure photographer
Shane Denherder para-motoring above the flooded Bonneville salt flats in Utah.   Photo: Krystle Wright

Women are breaking all kinds of barriers in adventure sports. There are badass female climbers and skiers, yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot of women adventure photographers. Is that something you notice? And why aren’t there more women in the field?
For sure it’s something I notice. People ask ‘Where are the women?’ Well we are here. But we are entering a very male-dominated industry. I’m pretty competitive and stubborn. I want to be up there with the best guys. I want my work to speak for itself. The intimidation can be a factor. I think some people think ‘I can’t run as fast as the guys so I don’t deserve to be there,’ but just own it and keep after it. I’m 28 and see friends having kids and settling down and I know there are some women that haven’t pursued thier career after having kids. It’s just a different life choice. Some people call me a trailblazer which makes me uncomfortable because I’m just doing my own thing. I do think a wave of younger women in their early 20s are coming up and pushing themselves. Perhaps it will just take a little time to see a change in the field. Getting good at photography does take time. And being a freelance photographer is a challenging lifestyle to pursue. I haven't had a home for three and a half years. It does scare a lot of people, not just females but also guys. 

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