Viewpoints ~ My Canadian Rockies View

Last month I missed sharing for our Viewpoints blog circle because our family was immersed in preparation for some home renovations in addition to getting ready for a 2 week trip to the Canadian Rockies.  On July 29th, we flew to Calgary and got our rental van for exploration in the mountains from the Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper National Park. I was so excited for this adventure with my family and to simply be in the mountains again. I had seen so many images of this gorgeous area and the beauty did not disappoint.  

We were unfortunately greeted with smoke from the British Columbia forest fires and that really did not dissipate during our time in Canmore and Banff. It came and went with the winds so we had some clearer days and some really hazy days where the mountains could barely be seen. But we still made the most of it and despite the smoke, I also managed to get a few landscape photo opportunities. And of course, many shots of my kids during our adventures :) It will take some time to get through them all! 

Today I will share some of the landscapes I have managed to edit over the last few weeks since our return. 


Three Sisters reflection at Sunrise 

Three Sisters reflection at Sunrise 

Spring Creek during a smokey sunset 

Spring Creek during a smokey sunset 

Smokey evening at Vermilion Lakes 

Smokey evening at Vermilion Lakes 

The Road to Kananaskis Country 

The Road to Kananaskis Country 

Sunset at Storm Mountain 

Sunset at Storm Mountain 

Coming around the bend at Storm Mountain overlook 

Coming around the bend at Storm Mountain overlook 

Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway 

Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway 

Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway

Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway

Sunrise at Patricia Lake in Jasper National Park 

Sunrise at Patricia Lake in Jasper National Park 

Moraine Lake Reflection 

Moraine Lake Reflection 

Stay tuned for more views from the Canadian Rockies! And in the meantime, continue our small circle of visual inspiration with Kathy Roberts. You won't want to miss her stunning work! 

Viewpoints ~ My Hilton Head View

My family recently spent a week in South Carolina just off Hilton Head Island. The primary purpose of the trip was to visit my Dad and Stepmom and enjoy their home in Bluffton as well as the beaches of Hilton Head Island. We were lucky that my brother and his two young kids were also able to make the trip at the same time as us.  The kids enjoyed the cousin time! 

Whenever we travel, I look forward to exploring the nature and new photographic opportunities. With the kids, most of my photography was in the pool and the ocean, which mainly meant shooting with my new Go Pro Hero 5.  But I also really wanted to get in a little landscape shooting. 

Sunrise is always the easiest time for me to get out and shoot on vacation without being disruptive to family activities. It's tough to take the early alarm sometimes, but in addition to it working with family, it is a time of day that I love to be out taking in the quiet of the morning and watching the sunrise unfold. And no doubt, it is often the most rewarding when it comes to dynamic photo opportunities. 

I watched the weather and looked for a partly cloudy forecast at night and in the morning and headed out at 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning. When I got in the car to drive the 30 minutes to the island, I could see stars above, so I wondered what I would find along the beach. Even as I drove, I couldn't see the sign of a spectacular sunrise, but when I walked onto the beach, I was greeted with amazing light and incredible colors! 

With Friday morning turning out so beautifully, I tried my luck again on Saturday. It was a little tougher getting up to the 5 a.m. alarm after a later night out with the family, but I wanted one more morning on the beach and with my husband joining us Saturday morning, I figured I'd get it in before he arrived. 

HH sunrise.jpg

This time the colors weren't intense, and I was not sure how the sunrise would unfold but the clouds were full of texture and interest. I set up my tripod and took a few shots and waited as the sun began to rose. Not as vibrant as Friday, but still, such a beautiful scene.  

So worth the early wake ups, I left the beach a bit wind blown and sandy, and very satisfied from my quiet time and fix of seascape shooting :) 

I also managed to catch one sunset when we were at the beach before we headed home for dinner. 


Don't miss the gorgeous work of my friends in this circle. Visit Amy of Big Woods Creative next :) 


Magic in the Tetons...A coming together of past, present and future

Back in 1969, years before I was born, my grandparents bought property in Jackson Hole, just south of Grand Teton National Park. By 1971, their house was built and a history of family memories was born. My first visit was as a very young girl and the story told to me by my grandparents is that when I was 4 years old,  I put up my arms and declared the Tetons "My Mountains". Though this is hardly true in reality, that feeling has grown and stayed with me for nearly 40 years. I have been fortunate to live in great homes and communities and travel to many wonderful places in my 41 years, but nowhere has my heart and soul felt so complete as in the Tetons. 

As I fly into the valley, the jagged peaks come into view and the feeling of coming home washes over me. I get a lump in my throat, a sense of peace, and a feeling like my heart is going to jump out of my chest all at the very same time. The piece of me that has been missing has returned and I feel complete once again. 

Driving the park road, putting one foot in front of the other on the trails I know by memory, watching the clouds float over the mountains, my heart soars and the feeling of being in 'my place' is so intense and familiar. I have seen the area change so much over the years and the tourist traffic increase dramatically.  But the magic of the Tetons remains the same year after year and my need to be beneath their grandeur remains as strong as ever. 

Hiking and photography have always been 2 of my favorite activities in GTNP. My husband and I hiked and camped all the backcountry trails in the early 2000s, finishing with a pizza at Dornan's and an afternoon of reading in the hammock with a beer. Eventually, the hikes became shorter with our kids but photography became a more serious endeavor.  

It seems only fitting that the Tetons have such a strong presence in my landscape photography since my passion for the landscape genre began in Jackson Hole. I dream of spending more time here exploring both iconic locations and the roads less traveled, capturing these peaks in all seasons and conditions. It is easy to simply spend hours watching Mother Nature unfold over the valley, as the light and shadows dance and the Grand plays hide n seek amongst the clouds. 

My passion for landscape photography led me into teaching the genre 3 years ago when my first online workshop began in September 2014 with Click Photo School. The workshop has now run 6 times with a fall and spring run each year. Through this workshop, I have met so many photographers and have had the privilege of seeing the world through their lenses and watching their landscape photography grow. The friendships formed have been a highlight for me and it has been especially rewarding to meet many of these alumni at the annual Click Away conferences where I have also led several landscape classes. 

As much as I love the online teaching, I long to also work and connect with my students in a more hands on way. Teaching at Click Away reinforced this for me and also demonstrated the inspiration, creativity and connection that comes from in person gatherings. I found myself longing for more landscape and nature focus and the opportunity to connect with others who share my passion. I long for the opportunity to teach and inspire as we immerse ourselves in nature and chase the light. I want to bring a group of creative women together for connection and inspiration to learn from each other and support each other in our art. I want to create an opportunity to give ourselves the gift of several days focused on nothing but nurturing our need to learn, create and connect with other women who share this need. 

For a couple years, the dream of leading a workshop in the Tetons was simmering in my brain. Finally I knew I needed to stop daydreaming and make this dream a reality. I wanted to bring my vision of this retreat experience together with my love and knowledge of the Teton area.  

I am excited to say that I have a fantastic group of 7 ladies signed up for this unique experience and I look forward to kicking off the first annual Magic in the Tetons retreat September 27 for 4 days and 4 nights of nature, photography and friendship.  

This past fall my grandparents home was sold and the loss is heartbreaking. But this retreat is a bright spot for me. Taking my past history there and my love for capturing its beauty to create this future adventure. 

Past, present and future coming together to build friendships, inspire creativity and capture the magic of the Tetons! 

Viewpoint ~ My Dominican Republic View

My website has been a bit quiet the last month or so as I've been teaching The World Around You on the Clickin Moms forum and combined with my kids sport schedule and end of school activities, not much time is left! Thankfully this month's Viewpoints blog circle is the inspiration to get me back on my website and blog. 

My family and I had the privilege of spending spring break in the Dominican Republic and it was a wonderful vacation. While my focus was family, I was able to sneak away and capture some of the beautiful landscape and seascape of this gorgeous island. So for this month's Viewpoints, I am sharing some of my favorite captures from this April vacation. 

You won't want to miss the beautiful work of Kathy, Nadeen and Amy! Next in the circle is Amy of Big Woods Creative with a view of her favorite island! 

7 Reasons Why I Love Landscape Photography

Why Landscapes? Do you ever wonder why people fall in love with landscape photography? Or why you might give it a try? Why spend time on this genre? 

The thoughts surrounding the answer to this question have been swirling in my head for the longest time; months, a year, maybe more. It’s a question I have asked myself at various times over the last couple years and reflected upon. 

After all, we are all busy people with so many choices and so little time. Life is short and precious and every moment matters. With 4 young kids, there is never enough time and I am always questioning how I use it. 

Sometimes it makes me wonder why I spend so much time on photography. I remember distinctly thinking about this in the fall of 2015. Shortly afterwards, we had an incident with my youngest boy, 4 years old at the time, where he crashed his bike and one of his top front teeth. He had to have it pulled because the tooth cracked down the middle up into the root. In an instant his baby smile was goneTwo days prior, we had been at the park during my middle boy’s soccer practice. I brought my camera along and captured my twins while they ran around doing their thing. One of my favorite images was of my boy in a full on genuine smile. And right there…that’s why I take those pictures of them. I was so happy to have a last real shot of his baby smile in the midst of his bike accident. 


But landscapes…well, then, why landscapes. That’s not capturing my kids fleeting moments. And most of the time I’m not even with them when I’m shooting landscapes. I spent some time reflecting on this and the short answer, I realized is that they are good for me physically, mentally and emotionally. And there are several reasons for this. 

1. They get me out in nature - Shooting landscapes forces you to get outside and find the beauty around you. Sometimes this means discovering places right in front of your eyes that you just never noticed were beautiful before. Other times this means exploring new places and getting out on a hike or nature walk. Even if I don’t come back with images that excite me, I’m always better for having gotten out in the fresh air. It also pushes me to explore new places that I might not have discovered otherwise. Students in my workshop, The World Around You frequently comment that they visit or discover places they had never been before in order to practice their landscapes during class.


2.  They lead me to see the world in new ways - Not only does landscape photography push me to explore new places, but it gives me a push to get out during those times of day that we are often holed up inside, such as sunrise, sunset and nighttime. Because it can be more challenging to get out at those times, we often don’t in our daily lives. But since these are the times when the most interesting light can be found, landscape photography pushes us to set an alarm in the morning rather than sleep in, or to stay out for (and even past) sunset. Or it leads us to find a dark place at night and observe the stars. I have seen more sunrises thanks to shooting landscapes than I ever had before. I have gone on winter hikes and seen the milky way over the Tetons at 4:30 in the morning. Often a little physical discomfort is involved, whether pushing through sleepiness or shivering in the cold, but it is almost always worth it. And the adrenaline high when the LCD screen captures what you saw, is indescribable. 

3. Shooting landscapes is like therapeutic meditation - Getting out to shoot landscapes clears my mind and soothes my worries and anxiety. When I get out and set up to shoot a landscape scene, I find that my mind is freed of my worries and distractions. I become completely focused on the scene around me and setting my camera to achieve my vision. Watching the sun come up over the horizon or dramatic clouds change as they move across the sky becomes entrancing and my mind and body are freed from the tension of anxiety as I focus on capturing the wonder of nature. For that time, all that matters is freezing those moments in front of me and in finding creative ways of capturing the beauty unfolding. 

I watched the clouds drift over the Tetons for 2 hours this September morning.

I watched the clouds drift over the Tetons for 2 hours this September morning.

4. They give me a genre of my art that is all for me - I love photographing my kids and capturing all their childhood moments, but I love that I have a genre that is all about me and my art. It does not rely on my kids’ cooperation, them being cute or little, wearing the right clothes, or anything else. I love that now and in the future, I will always have the world at my fingertips to shoot. Photographing the kids can come and go and change depending on their stage of life, but I know I can have my landscape photography outside of them. 

5. The world is my canvas - Sometimes I get frustrated living in the Chicago suburbs. I’m a bit far from the city to make it easy accessible, especially at ideal landscape light times, there is no beach and no mountains. But, there is beauty to be found everywhere if you look for it at the right times. Prairies, forests, lakes and ponds, oceans, mountains, deserts and cities. Endless opportunities and even a single location changes dramatically in different weather conditions and seasons. I love finding new locations but I also love the challenge of trying to find something new in the same location. 

There is also so many fun creative techniques and opportunities to show your voice through landscape photography in your processing. While my goal is to portray the mood of the scene as it was, there really is an opportunity to push the scene to reach your vision that is so fun if you enjoy post processing and sometimes, I can really lose myself in that process. Processing landscapes is just FUN!! 

Crashing Waves.jpg

6. To transport me right back in time to those moments - You know how you look at a picture of your child from when they were little and your heart melts remembering that moment? Well, landscapes can be the same way. When you truly feel like you captured the feeling of that moment out in nature, the photograph can bring you right back. That feeling of peacefulness in the open air, of being in awe as a sunrise unfolds or storm clouds develop over the mountains or sea, can come right back as I edit an image. 

They allow me to capture a place that is special to me, or one I have visited but may never go back to, and remember it just as I experienced it. The way I capture it or process it may not be the way someone else would have done so, but the image represents the way I saw it and felt in that moment. 

This is one of my very favorite images EVER...capturing the warmth of our family home my grandparents owned all my life and the magic of the nature that surrounds this place represented by the milky way. The home was sold this fall and my heartbreak is indescribable. But I'm so grateful for my experiences and that I was able to capture this and many other images of their property & our experiences there the last few years. 

7. Landscapes CAN and DO include people - I love that my practice of landscapes alone helps me to capture my children in the environment the way that I want to. Shooting landscapes makes me really look at every area of my frame in regards to composition and what is included in my frame, whether my depth of field works for my vision, and whether there is detail in all the highlights and shadows where I need it. Landscapes have pushed my practice of both technical and creative choices consistently and made me a very intentional shooter far more than I was before. 

#8 would be the way they have improved my photography overall, but that's a whole separate article! 

Ultimately, shooting landscapes allows me to capture the magic and awe that is our world. Not only does it get me out to see some of the more wondrous beauty of the world, like sunrise over the Tetons, or the most glorious fall colors in the forest, but it also has taught me to see the extraordinary in the more simple beauty of my local surroundings where a lone tree, curve of a path or simple reflection could make a stunning subject. 

Kristen Ryan is a landscape and fine art photographer residing in the Midwest suburbs of Chicago. All images can be purchased in the Fine Art Store. Kristen leads ladies landscape photography retreats in the TetonsChicago, and the Canadian Rockies, offers private mentoring and teaches an online landscape photography workshop twice a year.

Viewpoints ~ My Pond View

Welcome! I'm excited to be sharing the Viewpoints blog circle posts on my new website! I've got a little more work to do on the site, but so far it's looking more like I envisioned my website than my old site ever did.  This month, for our Viewpoints perspective, I'm sharing a few shots of the pond beyond our home.  I am pretty thankful for this little piece of nature in the suburbs as I long to travel and live near mountains or ocean. I do strongly believe beauty can be found everywhere though, and especially if the light is right. 


Winter can be really quite beautiful in Illinois...when it snows! I love when the snow sticks to the trees! 

Unfortunately this winter we really only got snow in early December and then not again almost all winter until we got a brief light dusting in the first half of March. It was cold enough to keep the snow on the ground for about a day and that was it. The light and sunset was beautiful the day after the snow and I went out to take advantage of it. 

Please continue the circle with my talented friend Nadeen of Nadeen Flynn Photography

New Projects

Welcome to my new website! It took quite a bit of time and experimenting to set things up the way I envisioned but I think I'm finally there. I'm so happy to love the look of my site and the way my recent images are presented. Check out the Shop Fine Art section to browse my recent and favorite images by category. Coming soon will be full details about my in person landscape photography workshop retreat in the Tetons!!! I can't wait to reveal all the plans!