Life, Work, and Photography…from the Window Seat

Life, Work, and Photography…from the Window Seat

My name is Julieanne Kost and I’m the Principal Evangelist for Lightroom and Photoshop at Adobe. Some of you may know me from the tips and tutorials that I’ve created or perhaps a few of you know me because of my photography and digital illustrations. If we’ve never met, well, hi.

I travel about 250 days a year, and, for better or worse, I’m required to fly to get to almost all of the places I visit. As a result, I spend a great deal of time on airplanes in those tiny, cramped seats with little to do but try to work or read.

Shooting photographs allows me to stay sane during those long flights, because what most people don’t know is that I have a bit of a handicap when it comes to flying; I am scared to death of it. I’ve always been afraid of flying, but during one particular 20-minute bout of turbulence in the middle of the Andes years ago, I found myself white-knuckled, fingers embedded in the hard plastic arm-rests. It was in that instant that the camera became a comforting buffer between the reality of that moment and my own thoughts.

I discovered that shooting pictures out of the plane window allowed me to view the scenery in a different context: not as the earth some 30,000 feet below, but as an immense, constantly scrolling image. As long as I could see the world as an image through an eyepiece rather than as a harsh, physical reality, the threat was less real. I became a spectator – an observer of the scene rather than part of it.

Aerial landscape photography wasn’t something I’d ever intended to do – it was a natural outgrowth of who I am (someone who loves to capture photographs of things that other people aren’t paying attention to) and what I was doing at the time (trying to find a creative outlet in the midst of cab rides, hotel rooms, and convention centers). It seems unbelievable that I’ve been photographing out of plane windows for more than a decade, but sometimes you choose your personal projects, and sometimes they choose you.

It’s interesting to me that none of my fellow passengers have ever asked me what I’m doing when I shoot photos out the window. I’m not sure if they think it’s a waste of time (because they’ve tried it and their images didn’t turn out), if they’re afraid to ask, or if they think it’s simply my first time on a plane and I’m giddy about sharing the experience and some images to my favorite social media site. Regardless, I love knowing that what they see and what I’m capturing are often completely different things.

As my enthusiasm for aerial photography grows, I’ve continued to try new approaches to it. Instead of limiting myself to taking photographs on commercial flights, I recently hired a helicopter as well as a small plane to see what the difference would make in my photos. These flights made me feel a bit more pressure to make something happen as opposed to let something happen – probably a reaction to the narrow window of time I had to photograph.  But despite my fear of flying, these flights were some of the most memorable minutes of my life and definitely fulfilled my goal to “try something new every year.”

More than anything, this project has validated for me that the full execution of an idea is worthwhile. Many people have taken a picture through an airplane window, but, as with so many other creative ventures, few have chosen to focus on the subject passionately for more than a decade. In that length of time, you develop an eye, a knack, and a craving for more. And no matter how much I travel, the window remains an undeniable source of inspiration that I can’t ignore.

To see more of my aerial landscape photography, please visit my portfolio at http://julieannekost.prosite.com

For in-depth tutorials, techniques and shortcuts for working with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom visit my blog at http://blogs.adobe.com/jkost/

To purchase my epub book “Window Seat – The Art of Digital Photography ad Creative Thinking”, visit the iTunes store here.

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