The first adventure photographer Krystle Wright owned was a Kodak panoramic camera. She took it on camping trips and rationed the 23 pictures she was able to take, meticulously categorizing the frames by the days of the trip.
At 18 she bought her first underwater housing for a professional camera and took pictures while playing in the surf near her home in Queensland, Australia. She eventually started photographing surfers, but found that photographing just one sport was tiresome. Expanding her repertoire, she now photographs rock climbing, BASE jumping, skiing and freediving. Regularly to be found on the pages of Outsidethe work of the 28-year-old can be seen in countless publications around the world.
We caught up with her to talk about freediving photography and why there aren’t more female adventure photographers.
OUTSIDE: What is your favorite sport to photograph?
WRIGHT: It varies. A lot of people know me for my BASE jumping work and I love it, but it’s hard to see that so many friends have lost to the sport and I probably won’t be shooting it for a while given all the recent tragedies. Someone asked me if I would stop filming everything together, but if you lose a friend driving, you don’t stop driving. So I’ll come back to that. I also love freediving. I’ve always loved the sea and taken it to the next level and hope to work on that this year.
How do you keep fit to photograph top athletes in such different sports?
It’s all about finding time for your fitness. I love rock climbing, but I know I’m not going to climb 5.14 rated routes. I don’t have the time to train for it. Often it depends on the terrain, but you can usually hike to an overlook to shoot, or if I’m on a really difficult rock I can grab a rope and jump up to get into position. Ultimately, it comes down to having good cardio and strength.
How to free dive and take pictures?
I am limited to 12 meters with my camera equipment. I prepare my camera and make sure it is technically set. You can’t change that super quickly with the water housing. Then it’s time to float on the surface, catch your breath and go down with the athlete.
How much time do you have to shoot underwater?
If you’re tracking a specific shot, just keep pacing up and down. First you go downstairs and maybe hang out for a minute. But you get tired and after several dives you might only want to stay down for 10 seconds. You don’t look at the time, you go with your body. Some days when you don’t feel it you might only be down there for 15 seconds or other days you might hang out for a minute or more. For my part, I always want to be down there much longer, but it takes a lot of training.
What do you pay attention to when composing images when taking photos underwater?
My favorite images tend to be very simplified – a single character and the background is almost monochromatic. I want to capture what the athlete is feeling. Sometimes it just plays with the water quality, whether it’s clear or foggy. Other times when we’re diving around caves or reefs I have other things to play with.
What do you like about freediving yourself?
I love meditating on it. It’s nice to eliminate all distractions in your life because when you’re distracted it’s a factor that makes your dives more difficult. Being in the water is like a second home for me. I feel so calm and relaxed.
Women are breaking all kinds of barriers in adventure sports. There are badass female climbers and female skiers, but there don’t seem to be many female adventure photographers. do you notice that And why aren’t there more women in the industry?
Sure it’s something I notice. People ask, “Where are the women?” Well, here we are. But we’re entering a very male-dominated industry. I’m quite competitive and stubborn. I want to be with the best. I want my work to speak for itself. Intimidation can be a factor. I think some people think, ‘I can’t run as fast as those guys, so I don’t deserve to be there,’ but just admit it and hang in there. I’m 28 and I see friends having children and settling down, and I know there are some women who have not pursued their careers after having children. 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 think there’s a wave of younger women emerging in their early 20s and pushing themselves. It might just be a little while before things change in the field. It takes time to get good at photography. And being a freelance photographer is a challenging lifestyle. I haven’t had a home for three and a half years. It scares many people, not only women but also men.