Coming from her phone, Karen Grubb’s photos could be displayed in even the most respected travel magazines. Her feed became a visual odyssey recently when she took a trip through the southwest part of the States where the landscapes and rocks resemble scenes from the red planet. She has a super talent for capturing landscapes and doing it in dramatic ways. Her editing is bold, with lush blues and reds showered throughout. Her style is polished and consistent. A hidden blessing of Instagram is the opportunity to see beautiful relationships blossom. Through Karen’s daily photos we catch glimpses of a lovely connection between her and her daughter. Using Instagram as an avenue to adventure together, they photograph pretty places side by side, sharing memories in front of a screen that actually gets them out of the house. This sort of family interaction and hobby sharing is inspiring, even as much as Karen’s own dynamic mobile photography portfolio. This is @mrsgrubby, and she is an Instagram Legend.
Handpicked Questions for @mrsgrubby:
It’s obvious that you’re a fan of the outdoors. Have you always had an affinity for nature?
Yes. I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by mountains, several lakes, and the ocean. San Luis Obispo (“dubbed the Happiest City in America”, just ask Oprah) is such a beautiful area. I live where people come to vacation. The climate here is pretty temperate year-round so it’s easy to spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, biking, kayaking, surfing, boating, etc. Hwy 1 just north of SLO, is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in all of California. I spent a lot of time in high school and after, camping and exploring the area up there as well. If I don’t get at least a day or two each week outdoors, I tend to go stir crazy pretty quickly.
Why do you think there’s a connection between being in nature, and recharging your creative batteries?
It’s not just my creative batteries that are recharged in nature, it’s my entire psyche. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily routine, work, depressing headlines, electronics, and unnecessary fillers. When I’m out in nature, time slows down. The days are longer, any stress just dissolves away. My favorite place to visit is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Being up in those mountains, surrounded by giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old, crystal clear starry nights, seeing black bears, deer and other wildlife wandering around the meadows, the grandiose beauty and simplicity of it all ….it really helps me to refocus on what’s important in life to me.
I’ll be honest, as I got older I started to develop an anxiety about mortality and what, if anything, happens to us when we die. I’m sure that’s something most people go through. I think the fear arose after several of my friends lost a parent, and I began to dread the thought of losing my parents, especially my father. I was raised Catholic (my dad was actually a Catholic priest when he was younger), so I was brought up believing we all go to heaven when we pass. Eventually, I started to question that and wonder if when this life is over, that’s it, lights out. I still struggle at times with that fear of not knowing, and longing for something eternal, but when I’m out in nature that fear subsides. It’s not that I develop a stronger faith that we do go on in some form or another; it’s that I realize that’s not really what matters for me to find peace. What matters is what we have right here and now. This moment and this life is such a gift, and being deep in nature is the easiest way for me to be reminded of that fact. It’s a mental reboot that helps me keep my priorities in focus.
Do you have any rules for shooting? Or any little quirks when you’re photographing?
When shooting with my iPhone, I always shoot landscape, rather than portrait, and always with the AE/AF lock on. I tend to shoot images underexposed and then I brighten them up when editing.
We get to see a beautiful mother-daughter relationship through your feed. Has Instagram impacted that relationship at all? Do you two share a stronger appreciation for photography now?
Our appreciation for photography has definitely grown through Instagram, and provided us more common ground to bond through. It’s nice to share the same passion with Skye and to watch her creativity and photography skills grow as a result of using the app. She just got her first DSLR a few months ago, so I’m excited to see where she goes with that. It’s also cool that we share a lot of the same friends on Instagram. In addition to having my own awesome partner on photo walks, we’ve met some really great people together through the IG community.
What’s been your top favorite sights in the past 5 years?
We’ve taken a few really memorable trips in the past 5 years. Last summer we took a road trip through the Southwest for a couple weeks. We visited Zion, Bryce, Arches, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon. We planned the trip around Skye’s wish to someday blow bubbles into the Grand Canyon. It was something really special to see her joy in fulfilling that wish, and even cooler because Instagram featured a photo of her doing it on one of their weekly round-ups.
In 2011 we took another amazing trip to Costa Rica. Instead of a honeymoon, my husband Clint and I decided to make it a familymoon. Originally it was going to be just the two of us but we kept thinking of how much would be lacking if we didn’t have Skye with us to enjoy the experience. We visited Tortuguero, Arenal, and Manuel Antonio. Costa Rica is such a beautiful and ecologically rich country, like a real life Pandora. Monkeys and sloths everywhere! We definitely had a hard time leaving.
If you could photograph one place, where would it be?
My list is so long, it’s impossible to pick just one place. Iceland is currently at the top. I’ve wanted to explore that country ever since I saw Heima years ago. It’d be that much better if Sigur Ros joined me on the adventure. ☺
Tell us about yourself.
I’m pessimistically optimistic with a lack of tolerance for intolerance. Wife to the most amazing man Clint and mother to a real gem of a lady Skye (@skyelit). I’m the youngest of 4 children, and the only girl. I am bound to nature, can’t live without live music, and have a slight obsession with elephants, especially baby elephants. If I don’t get to meet one before I die, well…I don’t know what I’ll do.
How long have you been on Instagram?
I downloaded Instagram around May, 2011 but I didn’t really grasp the social networking aspect of it until November of that year. That’s when the addiction started.
How many times a day do you post on instagram?
Usually no more than once or twice, unless I’m on a trip then I try to post more. But a lot of trips I take are often to places without reception so I’m pretty big on the ‘latergrams’.
How are you inspired?
I find inspiration through the beauty of nature, listening to certain music, following the work of other artistic individuals. My daughter Skye and my brother Mike are both really creative and inspiring to me.
What do you love most about instagram?
I love the community. I’ve been fortunate to meet a handful of IG friends in real life and every single person I’ve met has been so solid. It’s funny when you meet for the first time in person and feel like you already know them so well because you’ve been following their life through images for so long. I also really love when I hear from someone that my photos have inspired them to travel and visit places that I have been. Last summer after our trip through the Southwest, another IGer @kikomattoso posted a photo of the Tower of Babel in Arches National Park, in the same spot where I had taken a photo of Skye, and he commented that he had driven all the way from LA to Utah because of my photos. Just recently I was tagged in another photo similar to one of mine, by @gantproductions who said my photo of a giant sequoia had inspired him to take the same trip I had to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, and that he hoped his photo would in turn inspire someone else. I think that’s pretty rad, to know that my photos have inspired others to get out and travel to these beautiful places.
How has IG changed your daily life?
I definitely make my husband pull the car over for photos A LOT more frequently since I’ve been using Instagram, and I spend far too much time with my phone in my hand.
What do you take pictures of?
How would you describe your style as an IG photographer/artist?
Hmm, that’s a tough one to answer because I don’t consider myself a “real photographer/artist”. Like my bio says, I’m just another girl with an iPhone. I take pictures of my surroundings and I’m lucky enough to live in a beautiful area and travel to scenic places as often as I can. I just really enjoy capturing what makes me happy (nature) and sharing it with others around the world through Instagram. One thing I can say about my ‘style’ is that I try to keep my editing to a minimum. A lot of the time the only edits I’ll make to an image are slight adjustments to the exposure and detail/structure in Snapseed, and I’m addicted to the Rise and Sierra filters.
Who are some of your favorite instagramers?
– I could list SO many people for so many reasons. I hesitate to name any for fear that I’ll leave some really special people out. Favorite IGers that come to mind:
– @skyelit of course.
– All the genuinely sweet and talented women that I follow whose kind words and positive attitudes stand out as being really sincere: @corrine_t @cpprice @whitjohns @michellenicoloff @erin_love @asheeps @jmeelin @worlddelulu.
– @brittneypanda is my (and Skye’s) favorite wood nymph.
– @jess_marvelous who makes the prettiest macaroons and has the cutest dog Bacon.
– @tonycross @n_cruz @theoreticalyield @benjaminedward and @kdkuiper are all such consistently good IGers and some of the nicest guys around.
– @reelpeet and @lauralawson make me laugh out loud (literally) on a regular basis.
– @artchang and @michiesharine consistently kill it with their images
– @roblutter who is currently cycling around the world, he is such an inspiration.
– @jodyjohnston is such a solid, positive person. He’s the real deal.
– And of course, the IG masters who I have admired and found inspiration in from day one: @colerise @selk @dirka @dankhole @moneal @curious2119.
How could instagram improve?
Remove the limit on notifications between logins. It’s easy to miss comments on older photos or tags on other people’s photos when they get cycled out of your notifications before you see them.
Is there an important photo tool to you that you have yet to see in an app?
The anti-duckface tool. It’s sort of like face recognition, only, if it senses a duckface it will stop the camera from working.
What are your 5 favorite photo apps?
I mostly just use Snapseed. Occasionally, Afterglow, VSCO, CrossProcess and sometimes I’ll try my hand at AvgCamPro.
What is the most underrated photo app?
I’m not familiar with enough apps to know which ones are underrated.
What are your feelings on hashtags?
#Heh. I think they serve a purpose for categorizing, like tagging locations or specific items, etc. I also appreciate humorous or witty tags.
Any instagram pet peeves?
I don’t think anything bugs me enough to be a peeve, but if you’ve followed me and unfollowed me more than 4 or 5 times to get my attention, trust me, it’s not the kind of attention you’re looking for. I’ve had that happen a lot lately where people won’t like any of my photos, but they’ll follow me and then half a day or day later follow me again, and this will go on for a few days until I eventually just block them. I think they’re missing the point of Instagram.
How do you choose those you follow?
People who inspire me and people who are engaging. IGers with consistent feeds or really genuine people who I get to know through comments. Obviously, I’m drawn to feeds with a lot of nature and landscape shots so lately I’ve been trying to seek out users with different feeds/tastes than my own.
What do you attribute your follower success to?
When I first started out, @benjaminedward and @melina90 both featured me in their Follow Friday posts, which led to a lot of new followers. Then @jayzombie added me to the Suggested Users listed for about 6 months and my follower count went through the roof. Other than that, I just try to be consistent with the quality of my images.
How have you benefited from IG?
I’ve met some really cool people through the app, and I’m learning a lot about photography and editing tips since I started using Instagram.
Do you have any other work we can see?
No, but maybe I should do something about that.
Do you want to say anything else?
I’d like to thank you and Claire for taking the time to provide Instagram.talk to the IG community. I really enjoy getting to know more about other IGers and it’s such an honor to be included in your list of “legends”. I’d also like to thank everyone that’s ever liked or commented on my photos. I wish I had the time to reply personally to every single comment. I really do appreciate all the constant support from this wonderful and creative community.
What do you do to pay the bills?
I’m a Project Administrator for an engineering firm.
How do you spend your leisure time?
We don’t have much leisure time during the week. On the weekends, I’ll usually head out to my husband’s vineyard (Wolff Vineyards) to walk the dogs and hang out. On days that we all have off together, we’ll usually do something fun like drive up the coast on Hwy 1, or go exploring the back country roads. In the spring and summer we take the boat out to the lake as much as possible. And I try to catch as many live music shows as I can with my girlfriends.
What musicians speak to you?
I’m a big fan of singer-songwriters. Playlists include: Pinback, The Shins, The Black Keys/Dan Auerbach, The Head and the Heart, French Kicks, Dawes, Band of Horses, Horse Feathers, Bright Eyes, Elliot Smith, Wilco/Jeff Tweedy, Bon Iver, Matt Pond PA, Neko Case, Calexico, Iron and Wine, Nick Drake, The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Miike Snow, The Postal Service…I could go on and on.
Share a happy moment from your childhood.
One of the best memories I have from childhood is a cross-country road trip I took in the 80’s with my dad and my 3 older brothers. We drove from California to Chicago to visit my dad’s brother and my cousins. We saw some pretty amazing places and I think that really helped spark my love for exploring the outdoors and my affinity for road trips. I can still remember sitting and waiting so anxiously for Old Faithful to erupt in Yellowstone, or being on the top bed of the camper and looking out the window to see the biggest moose I’ve ever seen in my life standing in the middle of the road, or being nick-named Calamity Jane after having the biggest melt down of the trip when we got to her gravesite. Those are some of the fondest memories I have of traveling with my family when I was a kid.
Give us your 6-word memoir.
Laughed the loudest, loved the deepest.
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