Q & A with Photographer Christian Schaffer

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Photo credit: Christian Schaffer

We first discovered Christian’s work on Instagram, and immediately fell in love with her exquisite way of capturing the magic of the outdoors. Known for the surreal colors in her photographs, Christian’s unique eye has resulted in some of the most memorable photos we’ve seen in years. 

We reached out to see about a possible collaboration, and inspiration struck in the form of our newest launch—the S.O.S. Rescue Mask. Our mask was born from a winter weekend in the mountains, and we are honored to feature one of Christian’s moving mountain landscapes on the outer box.

Christian is an outdoor adventure, lifestyle & travel photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. She decided to leave her corporate position and pursue photography and long-term travel, and has been working as a full-time creative for the past 7 years. 

We sat down (virtually!) with Christian to chat about the inspiration behind the photo, her life on the road, and what’s next in her world—

Photo credit: Christian Schaffer

Tell us a little bit about the shot we featured on the Rescue Mask box! How did that photo come to be? 

CS: I took this photo at sunrise in late summer, from a backcountry trail in the Cascade range of Washington state. My friend and I camped high up on a ridge and there wasn’t another tent in sight. We had 360 views and an incredible sunset, crescent moon and pastel sunrise. This was our morning view over coffee - mountain layers for miles.

Photo credit: Nathaniel Wise and Christian Schaffer

How does nature inspire you and your work? 

CS: So many things in the natural world inspire me. Nature is simple in the sense that its laws are universal - they apply to everyone. Nature invites us to come as we are. Second, nature is far more calm and quiet than our urban spaces. For me personally, I find nature to be a place of community and connectivity. There is more space to think and dream and build deep, one on one connections. And of course, there are the incredible views.

Photo credit: Christian Schaffer

Beyond photography, what are your favorite ways to explore the outdoors? 

CS: I love hiking, running, walking, biking, kayaking, dancing…anything really that involves movement and the outdoors. 

As you know, sustainability is incredibly important to us here at Kinfield—and we know it’s important to you too! What are some of the ways that you incorporate sustainability and a sustainable mindset into your life on the road? (i.e. tips + things you do to reduce environmental impact etc) 

CS: I am forever a student when it comes to sustainability, especially these last three years while living in a vehicle. A few things I have personally incorporated into my lifestyle include solar energy, slow travel, reducing the amount of mail/packages I receive, reducing single use plastics, and adding reusable shopping bags + reusable produce bags to further cut down on plastic use. Also, I always do my best to leave a campsite better than I found it by picking up any trash in the area. It isn’t always possible to pack it all out, but every little bit of effort helps.

Photo credit: Nathaniel Wise and Christian Schaffer

Your first big move was from the Midwest to Hawaii—that must have been quite the experience! What were some of the lessons that you learned about yourself from that move, and exploring a new place on your own? 

CS: That move is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I didn’t know anyone and had just enough savings to pay for tuition and my housing for the first semester of college. My parents didn’t dissuade me, but they made it clear I alone was responsible for making ends meet. That was an incredible motivator and learning experience in and of itself. I was inspired to take action and cultivate skills that I might have never done otherwise - and those small victories became stepping stones to larger ones that continue to build over time. I also discovered that doing things alone allowed the space and opportunity to meet new, like-minded people. I think of moving to Hawaii as the greatest (although expensive) education I could have had - regardless of whether I went to University. It was a lesson in learning how to take the leap, and grow wings on the way down.

Photo credit: Christian Schaffer

What are some outdoor brands that you love/recommend and why? 

CS: There are so many great brands out there - a few personal favorites are Patagonia, Peak Design, Nemo, Osprey, Salomon, Smartwool & Black Diamond. These are brands that have carried me for so many miles in all kinds of terrain - despite the wear and tear of regular use and living on the road. 

How do you use the Rescue Mask? 

CS: For me, the rescue mask is like a mini spa retreat after a long day of hiking and exploring outdoors. Also, I live in a van so it feels extra luxury to relax with the rescue mask while watching the sunset someplace remote.

 What’s your favorite or best meal you make when on the road? 

CS:I love vegan tacos!

What’s one of the places that you’re most looking forward to traveling to this year? (Can be someplace new or somewhere you’ve visited before!) 

CS: I would love to travel overseas and spend a few months backpacking and house-sitting in Europe this fall/winter. I used to live in Italy and haven’t been back since 2013. It would be fun to start practicing Italian again and travel though some remote villages to photograph lesser known regions. I am also hoping to dedicate a couple months to Idaho & Montana this summer. There is so much to explore!

Photo credit: Nathaniel Wise and Christian Schaffer

What’s one thing you want to learn by the end of this year?

CS: I would looove to learn how to play and sing an entire Ben Howard song on my travel guitar. And maybe even share it :)

You can view more of Christian’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram and YouTube to see more of her life on the road. 

All nature photos shown here are shot by Christian Schaffer. All photos of Christian are shot by Nathaniel Wise. Photos are re-shared here with permission.


Photo credit: Christian Schaffer
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