We caught up with 2022 Outward Bound Field Correspondent in Oregon, Isabella Moriones, to talk about her journey with outdoor photography.
When outdoor photographer Isabella Moriones and I hopped on our video chat, she was mid-adventure. Sitting in her light-filled 2006 Sprinter campervan in Marathon, Texas, as she prepared to explore Big Bend National Park before driving to Oregon via the California coast.
Isabella’s path to photography as a career hasn’t been a smooth or glamorous one. She started off by photographing friends’ weddings for free. Shortly after moving away from home, she lost her camera on a backpacking trip. Earning $7.25 an hour at the time as a housekeeper in Teton County, Wyoming, it took a year of saving up before she could afford a new camera.
Now in her mid-20s, she has leaped fully into outdoor photography, with her portfolio showcasing people, especially women, getting outdoors across the Western states- in Death Valley, the Alabama Hills of the Eastern Sierra, the Rockies and Monument Valley in Utah, among other places. This summer Isabella will be a Field Correspondent with the Northwest Outward Bound School (NWOBS) in Redmond, Oregon. Her role will include storytelling and sharing about Outward Bound courses through photos, blog posts and video. She will spend time in the field with groups interviewing students, capturing their experiences and communicating those stories to a wider audience.
Our conversation ranged from practical tips for budding outdoor photographers to what first inspired her to get into photography, being a 5’2” Latina in the outdoors, empowering women/BIPOC/people of all body types in her creative work and finding representation and positive role models on social media. If you’re attending an Outward Bound course in Oregon this summer we hope you get to meet Isabella!
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Caitlin Standish (CS): What got you interested in the Field Correspondent position with Outward Bound?
Isabella Moriones (IM): It feels like a dream, honestly. I’ve been shooting weddings for about seven years now. I made the transition [to adventure photography] in mid-2020. This is what I’m passionate about, it’s all I want to be doing. It also ties back to my childhood and wanting to do an Outward Bound course.
Being able to photograph people on Outward Bound courses, getting to go on these courses myself, getting paid to do it with a rad [organization], it’s beyond me. Ever since I made the switch [to adventure photography] I’m getting opportunities that feel so much more important. This journey is meant to be.
CS: Tell us a bit about yourself. What sparked your interest in outdoor photography?
IM: My journey with a love of outdoor photography started with National Geographic, adventure films on Netflix and lots of YouTube videos, just seeing all those images of people all around the world and places that I really wanted to go. I was a big Tumblr girl so I used to cut out a lot of magazine pictures and things that inspired me and put collages on the wall.
I wanted to get out of my tobacco-growing town in North Carolina; we were pretty far from anything cool. I left at 19 to go to Wyoming and got started with weddings. A friend let me use her camera and it was like a REAL camera. I was like, “this is a powerful tool!”
I’m a big fan of people, specifically people outside. Especially going back to the people who stewarded this land long before us. It’s such a privilege to get to know these places [national parks, wilderness areas, etc]. Telling the stories of the people in an area and my journey in that area is really important to me.
CS: What advice do you have for Outward Bound participants who can’t bring their phones with them on their course but still want to get good photos (with a disposable camera, digital camera, etc.)?
IM: 1. Shoot from lots of different angles. Get down low, climb up on a rock, shoot from above, shoot from below. There are so many fun different angles that bring a different perspective, like, what would the trail look like if you were a toddler? What if you stood on this rock and photographed camp from above. My favorite shots are always ones where I move around a bit and try to get different angles.
2. The best camera is the one you have on you. 24 shots [in a disposable film camera] can go by quickly but if you’re too careful you’re going to have half a roll left and never develop it. Don’t be too conservative, don’t be too liberal.
3. Photograph what you love, and what intrigues you.
4. Ask a friend to take a photo of you.
5. Before your trip, have a list of things you want to photograph. Some examples: A color study like photos of everything you see that’s yellow, every time you laugh really hard, every time you cry. Have photo projects.
6. Keep your camera out of the rain. And don’t take it with you to the bathroom!
CS: What thoughts do you have for Outward Bound participants who feel vulnerable being photographed [while you’re out with them as a Field Correspondent]?
IM: Being photographed is very vulnerable. My first thought: what a privilege it is to have photos of yourself. I have just a handful of photos of my grandmother when she grew up in Colombia and I really treasure those photos a lot. I have photos of me up until when I was about nine or so because it was all on film and we got boxes of those prints. But as we were transitioning from film to the digital age we didn’t know how to store photos so I don’t have photos of me from age nine to 17 maybe.
Photos provide documentation that you were here, that you were beautiful, that you tried, that you existed. To paraphrase the words of the character Moira Rose from the TV show “Schitt’s Creek,” in 30 years you’ll look back at yourself with much kinder eyes and think, wow, what a beautiful thing I was.
CS: Any practical tips for Outward Bound participants getting their photos taken?
IM: Yank a friend into the frame with you and say “let’s take this stupid photo together” you’ll just end up laughing.
CS: In your website bio you talk about “lifting up, empowering and supporting women of color” through your craft. Can you talk more about that?
IM: There’s a lot to it, a lot that I still need to put into practice. If I’m shooting for a brand and doing a “talent call,” being intentional about the talent that I’m reaching out to. With a clothing brand, seeing if they have inclusive clothing [for different size bodies including bigger bodies] and finding people that can fit that clothing. I have the idea of requiring the brands that hire me to donate a certain percentage/amount to the indigenous tribe of the land that they’re shooting on. If I’m in Zion National Park, finding out who did/does that land belong to/still belongs to? Seeing this money not as a thank you but as a requirement since the company is making money off of it.
Making sure my talent is paid just like I am paid…especially if [the company] is going to be profiting off of diverse bodies. Inquiring what these brands’ team looks like, the invisible side; most of the time it’s straight white men. I see a lot of vaguely diverse bodies that are being hired in front of the lens but there’s not a lot going on [other than] checking off that box.
It’s going to take a lot of that really intentionally and kindly calling out those brands to let them know “yeah, we’re watching [what you’re doing].”
CS: Do you have any thoughts to share with teens who don’t see themselves represented outdoors but want to get into the outdoors?
IM: The internet is such a powerful tool. There are so many incredible groups – Facebook, Instagram – where you can find so many resources and the more you reach out to those people, the more you talk with them, the more that you can meet up and brainstorm together, the more people are going to come out of the woodwork.
If there’s nothing in your area, start a group. My friend Luz co-founded LatinxHikers in Atlanta, Georgia. They’ve gotten so many people outside and done so much. It turned into a movement!
It can be draining to be on social media all the time but if you’re going to be, you might as well be intentional about who you’re following. I would not have found @callmeflowerchild if I hadn’t been intentional about following Latinas in the outdoors.
Want to see Isabella’s work and follow some Northwest Outward Bound School courses this spring and summer? Check out the following:
In her own words: Isabella Moriones is a full-time traveling photographer focused on bringing more diverse women+ to the forefront of the outdoor industry. She spends her time driving with the windows down, jumping in lots of bodies of water, and documenting life in as many ways as she can. She also is most definitely in need of a shower on any given day.
About the Author
Caitlin loves spending time with people in the outdoors. She aspires to help others cultivate the connections that can happen when we are away from distractions and able to be authentic. Caitlin has been involved with Outward Bound since 2007. She’s worked at Outward Bound California and Colorado Outward Bound School as a Logistics Coordinator/Intern, Instructor, Course Director and Student Services Manager. She also works for Inward Bound Mindfulness Education and Stanford University’s Adventure Program. Caitlin calls the West home and has lived, backpacked and climbed throughout the Western US including Joshua Tree, the Sierra Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Western Washington, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.
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