OCEANSCAPES’s Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

ForbesLife: You’re the founder of OCEANSCAPES, an underwater travel photography brand with a goal of, as you put it, “inspiring us all to ‘feel’ the ocean.” How do you define yourself as an artist?

KRISTIN: I capture and share moments in the ocean, in the hopes that my images will trigger something, spark an interest, elicit a feeling that causes empathy. I had spent a lot of time near the ocean and always felt a deep connection to the blue horizons, but it wasn’t until I moved to Maui in 2008 that I actually started submerging, exploring, understanding more about the power of the ocean, what lies beneath the surface. I witnessed things in the water that I did not understand: Why were our turtles getting tumors? Why were our coral reefs dying? Why were the locals seeing less and less fish when they were fishing? With my career experience in working with nonprofits and public relations, I looked at challenges and concerns through a lens of problem-solving and awareness efforts. Meeting my fiancé Sven Lindblad in 2015, founder of Lindblad Expeditions and an Ocean Elder, our mutual love and deep concern for the oceans started taking us on adventures around the world. I began scuba diving and quickly took my love of photography underwater. As we experienced some of the most remote and pristine areas of the ocean and interacted with organizations, people, and efforts around the world on the front lines of addressing the challenges that are facing our oceans, I continued to capture and share. As a writer, I also use my voice and influence platforms to share important stories that accompany my photographs. I have realized that people, through the sharing my experiences via social media, were feeling a connection to the ocean that they might never have had the opportunity to experience. I realized that through my words and photos, people could perhaps understand a bit more the intensity of the challenges that our planet is facing with the continued degradation of the Big Blue. And that is how OCEANSCAPES as an "artivism" platform was born.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Speaking of “artivism,” what is the relationship between photographic art, activism and travel?

KRISTIN: Travel brings me to situations where I’m inspired to create art, and that art I deliver with a story and a message, a call to action to feel the ocean; through the education comes awareness, through the art comes inspiration, and hopefully conscious conservation-oriented actions. Tourism holds a huge platform for driving change. My vision includes local-centric exclusive collections for hospitality properties to help educate people about the oceans in that specific location. I am hoping to curate exhibitions that highlight the work of scientists and conservationists that work so hard to help us understand what is going on in our natural environment—what we can sit back and celebrate, and what we need to fight for. I love collaborations with designers and some of the projects I am the most excited about are in the fashion and product creation realm, working on prototype lines for bikinis, yoga apparel, and home. My installation model is one of partnership with commercial and residential space designers, working with them to create ocean-inspired spaces for their clients. One of my favorite travel quotes is from Pico Ayer, “And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, in dimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”

FL: When did you start your career in photography? What training did you have?

KRISTIN: My love of photography started in a high school photography class. My father bought me a nice camera for my birthday, and from that day forward, a camera has not been far from my side. When I moved to Maui in 2008 it was a sabbatical of sorts, a walkabout, with my camera by my side and freedom to roam. My process, although hard to define in traditional art terminology (and you don’t get a degree for it), involves much more than picking up an iPhone and shooting a photo to post on Instagram. I found out quickly that underwater photography is not for the weak of heart. It’s complicated and challenging, and it can involve a lot of technology and gear that you need to stay on top of. It involves extensive planning and preparation. When you are in the water, you can deal with a whole slew of threatening things: currents, underwater landscapes, big animals, stinging things, biting things, burning things, predators. You are either holding your breath or breathing manufactured air strapped on your back and having to monitor an array of essential bodily functions at all times. You finish your dives, and then it’s download time. I’ve had to accept the predominance of blurry photos because in the water, you are constantly balancing movement. That is when the editing come in, picking selects that my heart chooses, not my mind. Finally, the transmitting into a space. Where will it be hanging? What could work best and most creatively to your style and design plan or flair? From collages on metal, to light boxes, to fabric, to fashion, to all sorts of framing and printing source options, creativity and purposeful execution creates the final product. My goal is for my images and the art that is built out of them to come with a message and elicit a conversation and, as inspired, an action.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Why are oceans so dear to you?

KRISTIN: I’ve had so many lessons delivered to me through the ocean: compassion, passion, humbleness, courage, pride. My greatest moments in life have been in her embrace; I have pushed myself to the extremes and also learned how to let go within her waves. Her blues have taken mine on unselfishly and given me back only streams of light. It is absolutely my kuleana (privilege of responsibility) to give back to her.

I was recently with my three-year old nephew and he was having a serious temper tantrum. At this stage of his life, the only thing that will get him to stop screaming is baby sharks. When he sleeps at night, he sleeps on baby shark sheets and has a life size “baby” shark in his arms. Baby sharks are the only thing that brings this three year old bundle of curiosity ultimate peace. Yet today, nearly one in four species of sharks and their relatives are threatened with extinction. And people are still scared to go into the ocean because of an animal that humans are driving to extinction? In addition, the shark isn’t really overly concerned at all about humans except during times of survival confusion. And we are still ordering fish every day on our salads, because we don’t understand that overindulgence and waste are contributing to the overfishing problems of this limited protein of the sea. If you saw what I’ve seen and understand that our fish stocks globally are in red alert, you would start evaluating every bite of fish you take and being very mindful of your source.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Speaking of being mindful, what are the major issues facing our oceans today, and how can people get involved in the movement?

KRISTIN: Very simply put: plastics, overfishing, and ocean acidification (global warming). It is now believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea. Over 70 percent of the earth is covered in ocean, and reports point to the fact that ocean fish populations have been cut in half since 1970.  That’s a lot of life on earth lost. A new study found that 94 percent of surveyed coral reefs have experienced a severe bleaching event since the 1980s. Some scientists believe that by 2050, ocean temperatures will be warm enough to cause annual bleaching of 90 percent of the world’s reefs. If we can balance these three things the ocean will be in a much better place.

For plastics: every little bit helps, but in my opinion we need to start making global policy changes outlawing single-use plastics. We have the resources and brainpower to move into different production models, but it will only happen when the market really demands it. As a voter, inherently, our vote has the power of influence over legislators. For ocean acidification: I leave this one to the experts, but I believe cutting methane and fossil fuels would make a big difference. So the concepts of eating more plants, consuming less gas, and using solar and wind energy I think is a great start. Also, supporting the work of scientists and entrepreneurs doing cutting-edge research to innovate coral farming and create temperature resistant corals that can be planted to restore coral reefs, like Coral Vita. For overfishing: very simple everyday application, eat less fish. And look for ways to support organizations that are doing work internationally on reforming fisheries, like Ocean Conservancy, EDF, and RARE. The ocean will replenish itself if given the opportunity, we must adapt new models of harvesting and consumption. Educate yourself on marine protected areas and lobby for MPA’s in your favorite waters…Mission Blue is a great organization establishing “Hope Spots” around the world.

As Sylvia Earle, the grandmother of the oceans, says, “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” Think about it. And next time you see a photo of the ocean, give it a feel.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Which oceans are your favorite to photograph? 

KRISTIN: Warm, clear ones! I love photographing in all oceans, but haven’t submerged below 65 degrees (I did that in the Galapagos). I do really enjoy being free to swim in my bikini, skin to salt water, in crystal-clear waters. To date, my favorite place to photograph the oceans is in the satin waters of French Polynesia. Maui called me 10 years ago and I will never tire of the way the sun sets across our beautiful volcanic mountains. There’s also nothing like photographing underwater in a high bio-mass area, surrounded by a school of fish that are moving like a symphonic dance performance around you. And you have those moments when an animal, like a manta, comes by you and looks you in the eye. Do I believe in the ability to transmit energetic communication by way of interaction? Absolutely. Just go swim with dolphins and you will understand. It’s indisputable and that concept evolved my photography. Any ocean is an ocean that I create for.

Connect with Kristin and OCEANSCAPES: via Instagram @oceanscapesphotograhy OR oceanscapesphotography.com

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OCEANSCAPES’s Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

ForbesLife: You’re the founder of OCEANSCAPES, an underwater travel photography brand with a goal of, as you put it, “inspiring us all to ‘feel’ the ocean.” How do you define yourself as an artist?

KRISTIN: I capture and share moments in the ocean, in the hopes that my images will trigger something, spark an interest, elicit a feeling that causes empathy. I had spent a lot of time near the ocean and always felt a deep connection to the blue horizons, but it wasn’t until I moved to Maui in 2008 that I actually started submerging, exploring, understanding more about the power of the ocean, what lies beneath the surface. I witnessed things in the water that I did not understand: Why were our turtles getting tumors? Why were our coral reefs dying? Why were the locals seeing less and less fish when they were fishing? With my career experience in working with nonprofits and public relations, I looked at challenges and concerns through a lens of problem-solving and awareness efforts. Meeting my fiancé Sven Lindblad in 2015, founder of Lindblad Expeditions and an Ocean Elder, our mutual love and deep concern for the oceans started taking us on adventures around the world. I began scuba diving and quickly took my love of photography underwater. As we experienced some of the most remote and pristine areas of the ocean and interacted with organizations, people, and efforts around the world on the front lines of addressing the challenges that are facing our oceans, I continued to capture and share. As a writer, I also use my voice and influence platforms to share important stories that accompany my photographs. I have realized that people, through the sharing my experiences via social media, were feeling a connection to the ocean that they might never have had the opportunity to experience. I realized that through my words and photos, people could perhaps understand a bit more the intensity of the challenges that our planet is facing with the continued degradation of the Big Blue. And that is how OCEANSCAPES as an “artivism” platform was born.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Speaking of “artivism,” what is the relationship between photographic art, activism and travel?

KRISTIN: Travel brings me to situations where I’m inspired to create art, and that art I deliver with a story and a message, a call to action to feel the ocean; through the education comes awareness, through the art comes inspiration, and hopefully conscious conservation-oriented actions. Tourism holds a huge platform for driving change. My vision includes local-centric exclusive collections for hospitality properties to help educate people about the oceans in that specific location. I am hoping to curate exhibitions that highlight the work of scientists and conservationists that work so hard to help us understand what is going on in our natural environment—what we can sit back and celebrate, and what we need to fight for. I love collaborations with designers and some of the projects I am the most excited about are in the fashion and product creation realm, working on prototype lines for bikinis, yoga apparel, and home. My installation model is one of partnership with commercial and residential space designers, working with them to create ocean-inspired spaces for their clients. One of my favorite travel quotes is from Pico Ayer, “And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, in dimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”

FL: When did you start your career in photography? What training did you have?

KRISTIN: My love of photography started in a high school photography class. My father bought me a nice camera for my birthday, and from that day forward, a camera has not been far from my side. When I moved to Maui in 2008 it was a sabbatical of sorts, a walkabout, with my camera by my side and freedom to roam. My process, although hard to define in traditional art terminology (and you don’t get a degree for it), involves much more than picking up an iPhone and shooting a photo to post on Instagram. I found out quickly that underwater photography is not for the weak of heart. It’s complicated and challenging, and it can involve a lot of technology and gear that you need to stay on top of. It involves extensive planning and preparation. When you are in the water, you can deal with a whole slew of threatening things: currents, underwater landscapes, big animals, stinging things, biting things, burning things, predators. You are either holding your breath or breathing manufactured air strapped on your back and having to monitor an array of essential bodily functions at all times. You finish your dives, and then it’s download time. I’ve had to accept the predominance of blurry photos because in the water, you are constantly balancing movement. That is when the editing come in, picking selects that my heart chooses, not my mind. Finally, the transmitting into a space. Where will it be hanging? What could work best and most creatively to your style and design plan or flair? From collages on metal, to light boxes, to fabric, to fashion, to all sorts of framing and printing source options, creativity and purposeful execution creates the final product. My goal is for my images and the art that is built out of them to come with a message and elicit a conversation and, as inspired, an action.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Why are oceans so dear to you?

KRISTIN: I’ve had so many lessons delivered to me through the ocean: compassion, passion, humbleness, courage, pride. My greatest moments in life have been in her embrace; I have pushed myself to the extremes and also learned how to let go within her waves. Her blues have taken mine on unselfishly and given me back only streams of light. It is absolutely my kuleana (privilege of responsibility) to give back to her.

I was recently with my three-year old nephew and he was having a serious temper tantrum. At this stage of his life, the only thing that will get him to stop screaming is baby sharks. When he sleeps at night, he sleeps on baby shark sheets and has a life size “baby” shark in his arms. Baby sharks are the only thing that brings this three year old bundle of curiosity ultimate peace. Yet today, nearly one in four species of sharks and their relatives are threatened with extinction. And people are still scared to go into the ocean because of an animal that humans are driving to extinction? In addition, the shark isn’t really overly concerned at all about humans except during times of survival confusion. And we are still ordering fish every day on our salads, because we don’t understand that overindulgence and waste are contributing to the overfishing problems of this limited protein of the sea. If you saw what I’ve seen and understand that our fish stocks globally are in red alert, you would start evaluating every bite of fish you take and being very mindful of your source.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Speaking of being mindful, what are the major issues facing our oceans today, and how can people get involved in the movement?

KRISTIN: Very simply put: plastics, overfishing, and ocean acidification (global warming). It is now believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea. Over 70 percent of the earth is covered in ocean, and reports point to the fact that ocean fish populations have been cut in half since 1970.  That’s a lot of life on earth lost. A new study found that 94 percent of surveyed coral reefs have experienced a severe bleaching event since the 1980s. Some scientists believe that by 2050, ocean temperatures will be warm enough to cause annual bleaching of 90 percent of the world’s reefs. If we can balance these three things the ocean will be in a much better place.

For plastics: every little bit helps, but in my opinion we need to start making global policy changes outlawing single-use plastics. We have the resources and brainpower to move into different production models, but it will only happen when the market really demands it. As a voter, inherently, our vote has the power of influence over legislators. For ocean acidification: I leave this one to the experts, but I believe cutting methane and fossil fuels would make a big difference. So the concepts of eating more plants, consuming less gas, and using solar and wind energy I think is a great start. Also, supporting the work of scientists and entrepreneurs doing cutting-edge research to innovate coral farming and create temperature resistant corals that can be planted to restore coral reefs, like Coral Vita. For overfishing: very simple everyday application, eat less fish. And look for ways to support organizations that are doing work internationally on reforming fisheries, like Ocean Conservancy, EDF, and RARE. The ocean will replenish itself if given the opportunity, we must adapt new models of harvesting and consumption. Educate yourself on marine protected areas and lobby for MPA’s in your favorite waters…Mission Blue is a great organization establishing “Hope Spots” around the world.

As Sylvia Earle, the grandmother of the oceans, says, “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” Think about it. And next time you see a photo of the ocean, give it a feel.

Photo by Kristin HettermannKristin Hetterman

FL: Which oceans are your favorite to photograph? 

KRISTIN: Warm, clear ones! I love photographing in all oceans, but haven’t submerged below 65 degrees (I did that in the Galapagos). I do really enjoy being free to swim in my bikini, skin to salt water, in crystal-clear waters. To date, my favorite place to photograph the oceans is in the satin waters of French Polynesia. Maui called me 10 years ago and I will never tire of the way the sun sets across our beautiful volcanic mountains. There’s also nothing like photographing underwater in a high bio-mass area, surrounded by a school of fish that are moving like a symphonic dance performance around you. And you have those moments when an animal, like a manta, comes by you and looks you in the eye. Do I believe in the ability to transmit energetic communication by way of interaction? Absolutely. Just go swim with dolphins and you will understand. It’s indisputable and that concept evolved my photography. Any ocean is an ocean that I create for.

Connect with Kristin and OCEANSCAPES: via Instagram @oceanscapesphotograhy OR oceanscapesphotography.com