In Ecuador, I was taken right out of my comfort zone. I was in a completely new environment—with people who didn’t speak my language, doing my first ever journalistic style photography. This “journalistic photography” sometimes required me to point my camera directly at someone, and that made me pretty nervous as I don’t like bothering others in any way. But, I knew I needed the picture to tell my photographic story. It was really scary; I could not really communicate with my subjects (the Ecuadorians) due to the language barrier. I was a fish out of the water, clouded with doubt, anxiety, and confusion.
But with the amazing guidance of Karine and Lucas I know I began to shed my old habits of being passive, apprehensive, and “people pleasing.” I didn’t want to miss out on opportunities. Karine worked with me to get right up and close with people, and we spent literal hours trying to get me to get the best possible picture of movement in life. We worked to get what she, and now I like to call; “making a picture” not, “taking a picture.” From Karine, I’ve learned to be brave, assertive and persistent both in photography and in life. I honestly feel renewed as a person and as a photographer. I know what I want and I’m not afraid to get it now—it’s like I have a superpower now!Brenton Sianjina, 18
My journey to Ecuador was unforgettable and quite frankly left me speechless. I was blessed to be granted the opportunity to visit the most exciting places with amazing instructors, Karine and Lucas, and my fellow youth photographers. Although I had attended photography workshops before, this was the first time that I made a conservation-oriented photo story out of my images. Because of this, I was able to establish a stronger connection with the natural world; I was given a reason to tell others why conserving the environment is so important. In Ecuador, I was able to witness the beauty that nature can offer us all. It was in Ecuador that I was able to truly realize what Aristotle meant when he said, “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous”.Briana Villarreal, 17
The last two weeks have been some of the best two weeks of my entire life. No day was wasted, no time was left unspent; at every second on this trip, we were engaged in learning something new. Even though there were many nights with little sleep, long mornings with torrential rain, and an abundance of large cockroaches, I couldn’t speak more highly of the experience I have just had. While we saw some incredible wildlife, my favorite part of my trip to Ecuador was meeting like-minded people and learning alongside them. I was very new to both street photography and the process of conservation storytelling through photos, but I feel confident that I could now go off on my own and produce something valuable in these genres, thanks to working with Karine and Lucas.Ethan Rising, 16
I am so fortunate that I had the opportunity to experience Ecuador and the amazing wildlife that I was able to observe and photograph. The highlights for me were going herping at night, hummingbird species, the insects and the whole biodiversity. One of the best things we got to see was the Pinocchio Lizard in Mindo, endemic to that area. I learned so much about different species, photography, and nature on this trip, a once in a lifetime experience!Liam Singh, 15
The incredible experiences we had thanks to Karine and Lucas in Ecuador, from meeting people who are paving the way for an eco-friendly economy, to seeing an abundance of amazing animals and being taught by two inspiring conservation photographers, gave me a greater understanding of the importance of conservation and changed the course of my lives in some aspects.
Karine’s honest (photo) critique allowed us all to develop as photographers and Lucas’s knowledge of Ecuador made it so that we could connect with many people as well as see many types of wildlife. Looking back on the trip now, the lack of sleep we got was worth it because it allowed us to have crazy experiences. There were two times during the trip when I was speechless; the first was flying upside down on a zip-line overlooking the cloud forest, and the second was when a Jaguar walked in front of our blind. For anyone who is on the fence about going, I highly recommend trying it because it truly is a life-changing trip.Ian Harland, 18
Without a doubt, this workshop has been one of the best experiences of my life. During this workshop, we visited Mindo, and the Yasuni National Park—places where I can appreciate the connection between nature, and the human being.
Now, while going through my pictures, my mind returns to each of the places we visited, and the incredible moments I shared with my classmates, and instructors Lucas and Karine. We each had to try our best to capture images that would later be made into our conservation ‘stories.’ Lucas and Karine showed me the true essence of taking pictures. Before the workshop, I thought that the goal of taking pictures was to achieve a perfect photograph—but, little by little, I realized that photography goes beyond making beautiful photos. The true mission is to document what we see, and use the images to move an audience, and make them aware, and inspire them to ‘act,’ after seeing the pictures that are made.
I am very grateful and want to again say how important this trip was to me. I am firm in my decision to fight for the protection of nature and the environment. Now, more than ever, I have the knowledge of how to reach people through my photographs. I hope in the near future I can return the favor to Lucas and Karine for having me on this trip.Daysi Santi, 19
“Incredible” is the first word which comes to mind, when I reflect on the Youth Conservation Photography Workshop. Our days were filled with so many new experiences: we met and photographed scientists in the midst of their research, we visited the Amazonian indigenous people of Kichwa Anangu and photographed them as they went about their daily activities. We bonded as a group and became much like a family: hiking, singing, dancing, and eating exotic foods, including weevil larvae, which I would gladly do again! In the end, we presented our stories, photographic presentations of a particular theme we each followed during the workshop. Since this experience, I have shared my photographs with everyone: teachers, students, family and even our school’s alumni association. I am also preparing an exhibit of my Ecuador photography for a gallery. Soon, I will be helping my biology teacher instruct a class on the Amazon Basin. I recall thinking I would never travel to the Amazon when I studied the subject two years ago. How fortunate I have been to realize one of my life’s goals!Ana Sapp, 18
“This was a trip of a lifetime. It has taught me to be responsible and independent. When we went to the Amazon it really pushed the idea that technology is ruining the world. This trip also taught me to see nature through different people’s eyes, whether it is a biologist, a guide or any other indigenous community member. In all-this trip changed my life in a way I cannot explain.”
Zachary Ramirez, 14
The Ecuador trip was an amazing opportunity and experience. I improved my portrait photography and learned valuable information about how I could improve my photos. Because of our small group size, I learned a lot from the instructors and made life-long friends. I especially enjoyed Yasuni National Park because of its incredible wildlife.Carolina Fraser, 16
“The youth conservation photography workshop in Ecuador was amazing! Karine’s suggestions and instructions helped me find and make photos to create my story. Lucas’ knowledge on Ecuador and the animals that call it home was exceptional; now I’m even more intrigued by reptiles and amphibians. Both Karine and Lucas helped me expand my photography portfolio. The combination of exceptional instructors and an awesome group of students made this one of the best trips I have been on. Students at any level of photography should go on one of Karine’s and Lucas’ workshops to help improve their skills.”Emma Balunek, 19
This workshop was different from other ones I have attended. Karine and Lucas arranged some awesome in-the-field opportunities to document conservation stories, as well as some interesting presentations from biologists, researchers, and photographers. We were learning in a setting that had so much to offer in terms of both conservation stories and photography opportunities. The trip wasn’t about getting a multitude of those “easy” classic wildlife shots. It was more about thinking outside of the box to create the most unique storytelling images possible, and learning the skills necessary to be able to do it on our own back at home.
Between the time we spent in the cloud forest, the Amazon, and the city, I learned so much. In addition to learning much about photography, it was also a fantastic way to meet and bond with like-minded young photographers. Karine and Lucas were awesome teachers; always being able to suggest something to take my photography to the next level. I had an excellent time with the instructors and my fellow students in Ecuador. I learned so much, and I’d go on another trip with Karine and Lucas in an instant.Liron Gertsman, 16