First, I’d like to thank Gameness for the opportunity to be featured on their blog. Gameness is a quality company and to be a part of Gameness is truly an honor.
I’ve struggled to turn my thoughts into words for this article and I’d like to thank my wonderful fans for giving me inspiration, feedback, and questions to get this little project off the ground.
The most popular question asked by my fans was, what made me turn to BJJ? It’s actually pretty comical how I ended up shooting BJJ. I was totally and completely against it in the beginning. My husband began training and suggested I stop by and take some photos at his academy. I insisted that this was the most absurd idea ever and that no one was ever going to want these photos. After several more requests I finally gave in and visited the school. I began falling in love with the sport and the community and the rest is all history. Things started to happen quickly for me on the local BJJ scene and I began chasing after the IBJJF tournaments to gain more exposure and experience.
I’ve always had a love for Martial Arts and photography. I practiced Tae Kwon Do as a child, picked up Hopkido as an adult, and now it’s on to BJJ. The connection between Martial Arts and photography just feels natural for me because I truly love both. BJJ is now fully integrated into our daily lives; it’s everywhere and we love it. If you’d like to read more about my early days and the journey to Kristensphoto.com, please check out my blogpost.
Another popular question was, if I could train and take photos anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? That’s really difficult to answer. The world is such an enormous canvas and to select only one place seems impossible. I can quickly think of a scenario, not so much a place, but a scenario. A dream come true would be to photograph top-level competitors at an outdoor or open-air facility somewhere tropical. I envision 70-degree weather, birds chirping, and amazing BJJ athletes handing out private lessons. Haha! Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this day?
A few fans asked about the lifestyle of a photographer and the struggles I’ve faced to get where I am. I could have written the entire article about this but I will do my best to condense my thoughts. I am still employed full time as an Unexploded Ordnance Technician. My occupation consists of 10 hour days where I am physically digging holes while using a hand held metal detector to search for bombs. Trying to manage Kristensphoto and my full time job became overwhelming recently, especially when all the sponsorship applications started coming in.
For instance, flying to CA to shoot an IBJJF event. I wake up at 4:30 AM to spend 10 hours in the WA rain looking for bombs, leave work, quickly shower and catch a flight to CA. We find ourselves in CA around 11 PM and finally in bed around 12:30 AM. The next morning starts early (as the IBJJF waits on no one!). I spend the next three days (at least 10 hours a day) bending, laying, leaning, squatting and running to the restroom. And none of that includes the three minutes I spend eating. After the tournament comes and goes, the real fun begins. I return home with 8,000 images to sort, edit and upload. I don’t think the average person really grasps just how many images that is and how time consuming it is to process this many images. After the tournament, I return immediately to work. The e-mails and fan messages never stop but I love the excitement from my fans and customers. I feel as though I have a deadline to make because everyone is so anxious and excited to see the images. During Worlds 2013 I literally fell asleep editing at my computer. Sometimes I push myself too hard and it takes a toll on me. At times, chasing my dreams is a struggle but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am very blessed and I have the never-ending support of my amazing husband. One day I will have only one job and it won’t be digging up bombs! Read more about my work here!
Last, but not least, I was asked to write about my most memorable moments as a photographer. Two moments immediately came to mind. First, there is a local boy whom I photograph often and he has absolutely stolen my heart. This young boy and his family are truly an inspiration to both my husband and I. The photo below is my favorite photo of this little warrior. This little guy dominates his local matches. He has done so since his very first in-house tournament. There is so much heart wrapped up in this tiny little package. I have had to fight back tears while photographing his matches. There is just something special about this little guy and I’m so excited that I get to be a part of his Jiu Jitsu journey.
The second moment that really sticks out for me is when I captured Gui Mendes at Worlds 2013. I am a huge fan of The Mendes Brothers for many reasons. I like what they stand for, what they’re doing in the community, and how they’re changing so many people’s lives through Jiu Jitsu. They also take a special interest in the lives of the children at their academy. I had the privilege of visiting their school and watched the Mendes Brothers helping the young students with their schoolwork on the mats before they trained. I believe they are truly making a difference while fulfilling their own dreams and it’s admirable. I have captured many happy moments after the Mendes Brother’s victories in the past; however, the moment I am writing about now is unfortunately not the happiest memory for Gui Mendes. Watching Gui lose his match in the finals was tough for me. Through the lens I feel connected to the fighters. I can feel their emotions and see their blood, sweat and tears as I photograph them. This loss was hard for Gui and I could see the pain in his face. I find it commendable how the Mendes Brothers conduct themselves, even when faced with tremendous adversity. Despite Gui’s disappointment he conducted himself like a champion, treated his opponent with respect, and a few moments later was on the sidelines coaching his brother to victory. I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for these guys!
In closing, I’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to all of my friends, family, fans, competitors and sponsored athletes. Thank you so much for taking the time to read about my journey as Kristensphoto. I hope you’re excited to check out and 'like' my Facebook Fan Page if you haven’t already done so. Thank you for the support and please don’t forget to tell your friends about Kristensphoto!