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The Mini Outdoors with @nowherenelson

One Photographer’s Isolation Creation

Many of us are currently finding escape and adventure through creative projects. One outdoor photographer, Kristen Nelson (@nowherenelson), decided to recreate outdoor adventures right in her living room. Inspired and amused by her work, we wanted to learn more from the artist herself. We chatted with Kristen to learn more about her recent work and how she’s staying busy during quarantine.

Backcountry: What inspired you to start this photo series?

Kristen: My series was inspired by three separate sources: The #ourgreatindoors series created by photographer Erin Sullivan (@erinoutdoors), a project I had done back in high school, and all the hours spent wishing I could be outside.

When Erin challenged her Instagram followers to create a photo for the #ourgreatindoors series, I thought back to an old, high school project where I merged photos of shrunken people interacting with everyday objects—one was of a friend swimming in a pool for Fruit Loops. Only this time, inspired by my desire to get outside, I created images that were strictly outdoor adventure-focused. Thus, “The Mini Outdoors” was born.


Backcountry: How do you come up with each scene?

Kristen: To jumpstart my imagination, I start by creating two lists: One list is of everyday objects that have distinct colors/shapes, and the other is a list of outdoor adventures. I then combine the two by deliberating which everyday objects resemble an outdoor location, like pencil mountains, ice cream avalanche, or the milk waterfall. Sometimes I find inspiration in puns, like turning a bunch of cans into a can-yon.

To create the actual image, I take a photo of one of the objects and a separate photo of my roommate (sometimes my roommate takes a photo of me), and then piece them together with some Photoshop magic.


Backcountry: What does your editing process look like?

Kristen: I try to take photos of each component of the scene in the same room with the same lighting, so that the scene will look more believable when edited. Using Photoshop, I then edit out the background behind the person. I need to zoom in and carefully select the background, trying not to accidentally clip off a toe or nose. Then I scale the person down and put them into position on the everyday object photo. Sometimes I’ll use the burn/dodge tool in Photoshop to adjust the shadows to make the scene look more blended.


Backcountry: What “Mini Outdoors” project are you working on next?

Kristen: My roommate is going to hike up Half Dome (a clothing iron). I’ve always wanted to hike Half Dome so why not create a scene I’ve never done? I walked around my apartment trying to decide what everyday objects might resemble the famous mountain and found that an iron is the perfect shape!


Backcountry: How has the quarantine affected your creativity?

Kristen: The quarantine hasn’t dampened my creativity but it has changed the way I tap into it. Normally, nature is my source of creativity, but since I can’t go out I have to tap into other sources, like writing, playing my ukulele, and this photo series. In many ways, the lockdown has taught me to get creative with my creativity!


Backcountry: What type of camera do you use? If you were starting all over, would you make the same choice?

Kristen: I use a Sony a6000, but I started out with a Canon Rebel. While both are great for beginners, if I were to start over, I’d probably go straight to the Sony a6000. It’s lighter and smaller, which makes more sense for extended backpacking trips.


Backcountry: What are your favorite outdoor pursuits? And where would you be right now if it weren’t for the quarantine?

Kristen: I’m mostly into hiking, climbing, and camping. I’m practicing to become a better climber and backpacker so I can challenge myself with pursuits like climbing the Grand Tetons and trekking the Huayhuash circuit in Peru. With the mountains still packed with snow, right now, I’d be out climbing if it weren’t for the quarantine.


Backcountry: Where’s your next adventure taking you after quarantine ends?

Kristen: When this is finally over, my first adventure will be going home to see my family. We’re a close family and it’s hard living in a different state than them. Then it’s back to the great outdoors. I’m hoping to go on so many adventures starting with the W-Trek in Chile. I also want to explore Washington, Northern California, and Nevada. But until then, I’ll continue to go on adventures in my kitchen with the help of this photo series. The world needs us all to stay home right now but that doesn’t mean the adventures have to stop.