Globetrotting for business might sound exciting, but the reality is a lot of time spent staring out of plane windows.
It’s a sentiment that business travelers across the world relate to — including Adobe employee Julieanne Kost.
“When you travel a lot for business everyone thinks it’s very glamorous, because you get to go to all these places,” Kost tells CNN Travel. “But most of the time you’re in a hotel or a taxi or a conference center.”
But for California-based Kost, the airplane window seat became her biggest inspiration.
The traveling executive began photographing the sights she saw out from the window. The photos formed the basis for an ongoing project: “Window Seat,” documenting Kost’s aerial views of the Earth below.
Kost initially started photographing on board airplanes to tackle her fear of flying.
“It was wonderful to be able to put the camera between me and the ground below,” she says. “It really helped me to disassociate from it — I became an observer instead of a participant in the scene.”
Kost was searching for an outlet for her creativity to complement her busy job.
“Most creative people go into a creative field because they have all these great ideas and they want to do all this creative work, but that’s not always the reality,” she says.
“It’s really important for people to have these projects they work on just for themselves to stay motivated and to stay engaged and keep growing and learning.”
Kost quickly realized how much she enjoyed photographing her aerial vistas.
She started to plan her flights based on the time of day — to ensure good light — and picking her seat based on the view.
“Sometimes it was successful and sometimes you just get the seat that you get,” she says. “I really tried hard to get in front of the wing because behind the wing you get the rippling effect from the engines.”
This was back in the days of film, she explains. In this pre-smart phone age, fewer people photographed the view from the plane.
“The interesting thing is no one ever asked me what I was doing, I think they thought maybe it was my first flight ever and I was just so happy!”
Kost’s top tip for taking good photos on commercial flights? Think about the reflection from the multilayered window.
“You have to make sure there aren’t any reflections,” she says, “I would always try and wear some kind of black jacket to reduce the reflection from, say, a white blouse.”
Kost took the photos with her SLR camera, adjusting the lens to avoid photographing the specs of dust on the glass.
Showcasing her work
Kost began curating her collection of Window Seat image is the early 2000s, before social media had truly taken off.
“They were just personal, ” she says. “It was before I had a blog.”
Gradually she started accumulating a body of work and considered sharing the images online.
“Back then it was much more expensive because you had film and then you got them developed,” she recalls. “Then I bought a scanner and scanned them in. “
But she was proud of the finished products — and even enjoyed her repeat trips.
“I’m always amazed — I’ll take the same flight from San Francisco to LA, and the flightpath will be so different, ” she says. “Just because of weather or air traffic control, you see something completely new.
“Every time you go out you look for just something unique and different. One day it might be clouds and the next day it’s mountains and the next day it’s farmland, while you get this larger and larger volume of images.”
From film to digital
Kost, who runs regular Photoshop workshops for Adobe, decided to publish the photographs in a book: “Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking.”
The book showcases Kost’s collection, but is also designed to help others find a creative outlet if they are feeling unfulfilled.
Now Kost has branched out into digital photography — and her aerial photographs have taken a step up too.
She occasionally hires a helicopter or small plane with the doors off and photographs the local California landscape from the sky. But she still travels frequently on regular flights for work.
Kost is grateful for the opportunities her business travel has afforded her — particularly the privilege of seeing the Earth from the air:
“We don’t see the world from that vantage point often, I’m so fortunate I get to see it and I feel so fortunate that I can share that with others.”
The beautiful ordinary
Kost is also active on Instagram, but she eschews the false glamor of social media in favor of finding: “Those little moments in the day that are beautiful and meaningful.”
“I think social media has a tendency to change what people post if their primary goal is to get likes,” she reflects. “I think there’s a lot to be said for just the normality of day-to-day living, those little moments.”
This mantra is the crux of Kost’s work: “Getting to point A to point B, that’s not always the most exciting thing,” she says, “But you can find something.”