As we commemorate some of our favorite work from 2016 it only makes sense for us to call attention to Kristina Reese (@shadow.boxer). Kristina has distinguished herself among her fellow Instagrammers with her unique compositions, often gloomy and always gorgeous edits, and of course her use of @Olloclip lenses to capture incredibly detailed and sometimes decorated pictures of one of her eyes. We had a genuinely fascinating conversation with her about her dedication to capturing fresh perspectives, contrast, and fade. Read along now!
Hello friends! My name is Kristina Reese (@shadow.boxer). I grew up on Long Island, in Levittown, New York. Being so close to Manhattan, I was exposed to amazing Art, Museums and the theatre at a young age. As a teen, my family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
In NC, I was immersed in the awesome art community & became a Floral Designer. My passion and driving force was to be creative through a floral medium. I designed, taught workshops, did designing for some movies and TV shows and won many awards throughout the State and Southern Regions. I started taking pictures of flowers and really enjoyed capturing their beauty. And I had free reign of any flowers I wanted!
During that time, I heard about Instagram and decided to make an account and post some iPhone pictures. From there, it seems my life turned upside down (for the better)!
As time went by, I learned more and more about photography and made some amazing friends via Instagram. After 17 years of being a floral designer, I decided to focus on photography and grow creatively through capturing pictures of things that interest me. Art is running through my veins and in one way or another, I am keeping that alive!
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET IN TO PHOTOGRAPHY?
Growing up, my parents were always photo crazy! We have dozens upon dozens of albums from every trip, family function, holiday, etc. My older brother turned to photography at a young age and I always admired his talents. It wasn't until I discovered Instagram and all the fun of snapping pictures with my iPhone that I decided to make the jump to a DSLR camera. Since then, I have tried to absorb all that I could and learn from the Instagram community. A few years ago, I was told to learn the basics first, before buying a DSLR, but I threw all caution to the wind with that advice! I bought the camera and jumped in with both feet and learned by experiencing it with my own hands. I make mistakes and try my best to understand all that I can... there is always room to learn and expand! Since then, my older brother has given me all of his old film cameras so that's my next step!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
This question is really hard because I don't think that I have a certain style. I know what I like, so when I am shooting/editing, I basically try to show that in every photo. Color plays a big part in what people would say is "my style". I have never been able to edit/shoot in black and white because I love color so much! I live in a very sunny area of the United States, so the sun is always around! When shooting daytime shots, I try to bring out the light and shadows the sun creates. But when shooting at night, I try to take advantage of the colorful lights of the city. Another aspect I try to create is mood. I like to use a lot of tonal range filters to create a darker, more emotional response, like X-Film in Mextures. I finish off every photo with a heavy tonal filter to evoke that type of mood.
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU TRY TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR WORK?
I would like to encourage people to think outside of the normal approach. I have always said that anyone can take a picture, but capturing its essence is something totally different. By different angles than the usual, that's the first step.
Here in Arizona, there is a lot of nature, cacti and sunsets and they are undoubtedly beautiful. But you can give the viewer so much more by capturing it with a different approach and it is more appreciated. I just want people to feel what I feel when I take the photo. Because taking a picture is so easy; but giving off a sense of emotion makes the photo that much more appealing.
HOW HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR WORK?
Social media has played an integral role in my growth as a photographer. When I first started Instagram I was just snapping pictures with my iPhone. Being part of the community and getting to know artists who could share ideas, editing techniques & formulas made me realize that this was something bigger! Something more like a platform or catalyst that can bring art to all types of people from around the world. As time went on, I decided with a fellow iger & dear friend, to create some feature pages to highlight those artists who can inspire others! It has been a passion of mine for a while now & it brings me and other Igers a sense of community.
Social media has created friendships, helped me show my art in galleries here in Phoenix & given me so many opportunities that I don't think I would have been able to experience without it. Social media, when used in a positive way can do great things & for me it has been thus far and for that, I am extremely grateful.
WHEN YOU ARE OUT SHOOTING, HOW MUCH OF IT IS INSTINCTUAL VERSUS PLANNED?
Nothing that I do in life is planned! Usually, when I go out shooting, I have a basic time of day or location to shoot, but it stops there. I always try to lug around my heavy bag with lenses, just in case I change my mind about either shooting macro, bokeh, landscapes or anything that catches my eye! I just try to watch what is around me and capture things from different angles impulsively. Sometimes it's a flop and sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The spontaneity is what makes photography so fun for me. The organic feeling will show through in the shots if they are uncalculated and free!
IN YOUR OPINION WHAT MAKES A PIECE MEMORABLE?
To me, a memorable piece is one that is unique, as well as individualistic to one's style. Everyone views a picture differently, because what one finds pleasing to the eye, might not be to another. So, with that being said, I think creating pieces that are unique to your own style & staying true to yourself is what makes all pieces memorable in their own way. If one of my pieces evokes a special thought or a strong emotion, then that is when I feel I have created a memorable piece.
WHAT DOES YOUR EDITING PROCESS GENERALLY LOOK LIKE?
My editing process is usually pretty simple. Typically, editing a photo takes about 15 to 20 minutes unless I have to patch out a power line or a sensor spot from my dirty lens.
First, I open Lightroom on my computer and adjust exposure by making my shot darker. Being in Arizona and shooting outdoors, my shots can be a little too bright for my taste. So I decrease the exposure and increase dehaze. I usually have to adjust the highlights and tweak the hues by increasing each individual color that I want stronger. Those colors are usually blues and oranges. I like my final edit to appear slightly on the colder tones.
When I am satisfied I send to my phone and that is where I add my final touches to the tone and mood. I have two apps that I use, one being Mextures and the other is Rebelsauce. I have a few formulas that I like to use that I have found throughout the Mextures community and hashtag!
HOW SPECIFICALLY DO YOU USE MEXTURES IN THAT PROCESS?
I start by loading my photo into Mextures. I always start with an Atmospheric filter. Those seem to be my favorite, because it gives so much depth. 'Haunting' and 'Insidious' are ones that I seem to gravitate to. Vignette and Neutral Density are also big favorites. I then load the film adjustments and go through each individual ones to see how each one brings out different aspects in the my picture.
Adding Contrast and increasing the Fade is also a must! When I get the adjustments where I like them, I will add an X-film filter!
I have always loved to play around with guest formulas and formulas that have been posted and shared and tweak the - that is definitely part of the fun of the app! Sometimes I find myself making several different edits on the same photo just because it's so fun!
CAN YOU SHARE A FEW OF YOUR FAVORITE FORMULAS?
Okay! Here are some of my personal favorites!
FLHPHIE - Abyss - This formula is a favorite of mine because it gives the photo a darker feel with undertones of purple and gold. It has a neutral density filter, K-Porta film adjustment, as well as 8 layers total.
ETEIWJW - The Escape - This formula is another one of my darker formulas. It starts off with the Misty Film adjustment, high increase of contrast & fade with two additional mextures layers, Haunting & Vignette. It gives your finished photos slight blue hues & dark framing.
UDUNTIQ - The Storm - One of my recent faves, this formula definitely adds mood & tone to your image. It has the F-Fortia Fade film adjustment which darkens highlights. It has 3 mextures layers total, one being Haunting (which I stated earlier is a fave!) & 2 reddish layers. The ultimate effect of this formula will give your shot a darker warm tone, reminiscent of a gloomy stormy evening.
BWIGPQS - Autumn Lockett - This 7 layer formula is filled with wonderful textures making your image brighter with warmer undertones. The Space Dust filter & Sunflower filter in Light Leaks give lighter, sunny vibes. Increased contrast & several atmospheric filters really add to the effect!
XEDRUNH - Seaside - As I stated earlier, I really enjoy blueish tones to my images. Well, this formula definitely plays up the blue tones! I started with the F-Superia Film adjustment. Increased contrast & saturation combined with 3 blue filters and 1 vignette give your image a brighter gradient at the top with a darker natural tone to the bottom, similar to sand & surf.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE MEXTURES OFFERS ANYTHING UNIQUE TO YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
Mextures is extremely unique. Probably one of the most unique editing apps out there! There is so much that you can do just in that app alone. With the different filter adjustments, gradients, film grain...the possibilities are endless when it comes to my edits. I usually edit the same photo several different times just to see the outcome. When I edit, I know in my head what I want the photo to look like in the end & in Mextures I feel that I can make that happen. There isn't another phone app that can make it possible. After years of using Mextures....from the very beginning when Merek made them available on his website, I knew that Mextures was something that added to my processing tenfold. And when the app was created, it was so much more than the overlays! That's what makes it so special to me. Just playing with all of the adjustments & processing filters, it is just an amazing tool to have to editing! Being able to save the formulas is also an amazing feature! I have formulas that I made years ago & I always love going back to them to play and make adjustments to see how it transforms my shots!
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
What inspires me to create...well, I have always been driven by some type of art "force". Being inspired at such a young age, I found that art feeds my soul. I have had so many outlets, from crocheting, painting, making jewelry, Floral artistry & I have found that photography is so gratifying. I am inspired daily through Instagram and the huge art/photography community there. The friendships that I have made & the community based pages have driven me to create more and more. So, I would say the utmost reason I create is because of the friends that I have made through photography. We all share ideas, collaborate on projects, critique each other's work & that is worth so much to me. If I'm not creating something or fulfilling the ideas flowing through my head, I just won't be satisfied! The friendships keeps my spark alive & photography feeds that fire inside of me to keep learning and creating!
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED YOUR WORK?
This question is so hard because there are so many people that I have met that have inspired me and helped me along the way. I would have to start with @carolgong and @521gemini. Both of those ladies have helped me with confidence, camaraderie and friendship and those things are so important to me. Both of them are pretty much editing geniuses, especially when it comes to Mextures. They not only help me creatively, but also help me to be a more understanding person. I would not be where I am without those two wonderful and artistic souls.
As far as mentoring, I would have to mention one of my amazing friends, @mike_ince. Mike is a phenomenal photographer and blogger who has taught me so much, as far as photography techniques, honing in my style and giving me confidence to push myself to the limits. His knowledge of photography is by far more than I could ever know and I appreciate his constant critiques and opinions when I need them!
My great friend Jason @arizonadreamin is also a friend that took me under his wing many, many moons ago when all I had was an iPhone to shoot with. He would send me inspirational shots and tell me that anything is possible! He has become such a great friend and colleague since I moved to Arizona. He welcomed me into the AZ photography group with open arms. For that, I am forever indebted to him for all of the friendships I have made through him.
As far as inspirational work, I would have to include, @_soliveyourlife_ and @the.metropolis! I have been following both of them since I started Instagram years ago. They have always been inspirational with their work and are wonderful artists.
For me, with most anything that I do, I just do what I like. I try to stay within my comfort zone and break the rules when I can. I enjoy playing around with older shots as well as learning new techniques and hopefully continue to grow creatively.
Head over to Kristina’s Instagram feed to see more!