Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Chelsea Yamase Kauai, a Hawaii-born creative, freediver, and Acro Yoga teacher. She is not only a photographer, a model, and a visual artist, she is also an adventurer that travels around the world. She inspires us and makes us discover new places to explore.
At the end of 2020, she hit 1 million Instagram followers. With more time at home during the pandemic, she launched a recycled swimwear collection with Away That Day, as well as her own Presets.
Partnering with brands like Canon, KEEN, Adobe, National Parks services, she sets out to lead a more purposeful and less stagnant life by documenting her purest intentions. Chelsea loves seeking extraordinary experiences, all through a lens of mindfulness and eco-innovation.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Clever, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.
Practice Courage To Boost Your Creativity with Chelsea Yamase @chelseakauai – The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast
Pierre Lambert owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
This interview was transcribed by Descript.com.
Pierre Lambert: Good morning podcast and welcome to the Pierre T. Lambert Show. You are listening to the first episode of 2020. So, let me wish you all the best for this year. I hope all your projects will go through and that you will have a blast through them. Remember, the process is the most important part. Now, with that being said, we’re going to start this year with an amazing podcast that I’ve been waiting for, for a very long time.
I finally made it happen. We finally made it happen. My guest today is Chelsea Yamase. You might know her as @ChelseaKauai on Instagram. I’ve come to discover Chelsea’s work while I was on the world tour with my wife, and we always felt there was a huge authenticity in whatever she was sharing. It was not only visually attractive with beautiful photos, but also the message behind it was strong and impactful.
That is exactly why I wanted her to come on this podcast, share her story and share how she got started in life. Chelsea is not only a photographer, a model, and a visual artist, she’s also an adventurer that travels around the world. She inspires us and makes us discover new places to explore. And most importantly, she encourages us to experience the outdoor experience nature.
So, this episode is going to be packed with values. And at any point, if something resonates with you, please tweet us, Instagram us, and let us know in the comments or anywhere possible – how you are feeling, what is the most impactful part of that conversation because we’re going to be talking about her story.
How did she leave her longtime dream of becoming an architect to lean into something unknown, uncertain, and had no direction at the beginning? How did she get to where she is today? What were the struggles? How did she overcome those? That is a part that will speak to a lot of you, in my opinion. And then, we’re going to be talking about creativity. Where does she find creativity, how does she use it, and how does being more vulnerable and sharing how you feel with the world actively help in her career and her community. Long story short, this is a dope conversation. I think you will love it.
Let’s get started. Let’s welcome Chelsea to the podcast. Welcome to the podcast, Chelsea.
Chelsea Kauai: I am so excited to be here. I’m so happy that it finally worked out.
Pierre Lambert: I know, right. First, before we start anything, I want to thank you for taking your time. That’s the only thing we cannot buy in life, so, thank you so much. I wanted to share with you that I was checking the notes that I took down for my podcasts, and I realized I had the list of guests I wanted. I wrote down Chelsea after a bunch of other cool people. I wrote Chelsea, parenthesis, send a DM, wrote it in the comment, ask in the comments, and now, I just discovered it, so, a year and a half later, this is happening.
Chelsea Kauai: I love that. And that really speaks to the power of perseverance and always asking, and I appreciated that. I know you’ve asked me a few times and I actually told you that I just don’t feel ready, or I was thinking about starting my podcast and you were so willing to help me through that journey and stuff, and when you finally asked, what was it a few days ago, one more time, I said that sounds fun. Let’s do it. So, as a message to everyone out there, it’s putting in that time and perseverance and you never know when you’re going to get the yes. So, I’m happy. I’m so stoked to be here.
Pierre Lambert: Well, on that topic, it’s a little difficult, and maybe you can share your experience and you can be honest. I don’t care. There is always a point where I was wondering, is it too pushy to ask again? Or is it normal?
Chelsea Kauai: That’s a really good question and I think part of it is the way that you approach it. With yours, I felt that it was not something that you felt I was obligated to do. You said, “Hey, this is something that I do that I am passionate about. I would love to have you”. But those requests were made in months, if not, years apart, and so it gave that space and time for growth and for it to not feel an imposition, or to not feel overly aggressive. I think, if someone’s sending multiple DM requests, all in one week, or quite a few emails, and it’s just gauging that process and knowing that it does sometimes take weeks, months, years for these things to align and to feel good for everyone. So, I guess you just have to be mindful of that and that’s a really good question.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. I imagine you must have a lot of DMs, and a lot of them must be requests. I appreciate your answer. It does tell that it’s okay to ask, I guess if you space it out or make it not pushy. On that note, a lot of people, I know, try to get either to me or to other people and they ask questions right away, and I feel that’s something that I try to be mindful of with others, especially, for example, you or people with very big audiences like you do. I know having a fraction of that audience, how it feels already to have those requests. So, how can you make it actually an enjoyable experience for the other?
Chelsea Kauai: Yes, completely. So, you know how it is, and I think it also taught me how to say the power of no, but how to do that in a way that is really honest, truthful, and compassionate. I used to think I have to make a bunch of excuses and it just didn’t feel right to tell this person I’m busy because being busy is just a reflection of our priorities, right? So, it’s never that you don’t have time. Everyone has time for things that they care about and finding ways to express that this thing that you’re asking from me is not in alignment with my top priorities right now, and maybe here’s another resource or here’s a person that could help you, or just a plain, “I’m sorry, I just can’t commit to that”, and learning to try to do that in the best way possible. It freed me up to pursue and put time into those things that I truly care about.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, definitely. Do you have throughout your career, someone you try to reach out to, or a situation that you would think of that really helps you to look after it?
Chelsea Kauai: Okay. Off the top of my head, I’m going to go with a no, only because I haven’t done it. I hadn’t done a lot of outreach in terms of two bigger photographers or bigger social media influencers, because this was just such a path that I didn’t expect that I didn’t even know. They’re needed mentorship at that time. I didn’t have one of those types of goals. It just happened, and then things started rolling and, I had to find guidance along the way. I’d say the only time I made a list was when I was thinking about if I were to start a podcast, whom would I want to have on as some of my top guests and things, and one of them was Chase Jarvis who runs another creativity podcast. And, it was crazy that the first podcast that I’ve ever been interviewed on was on his, and I said yes to his podcast, not too long ago. So, it was a weird, full-circle thing that happened to me.
Pierre Lambert: That was awesome. I saw that in your stories and that’s when I was thinking, maybe I’ll ask her again.
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. You caught me at a good time. I felt that podcasts are actually fun. Let’s do this.
Pierre Lambert: That is awesome, Chelsea. You just mentioned that things started rolling. Why don’t you tell us a little bit of your original story, what’s volume zero, and your hero’s journey? What did you start on there?
Chelsea Kauai: Okay. So, in this narrative story arc, it’s less of a beautiful hero’s journey and more of a very roundabout way of everything coming together as is all of all things in life, but I just laugh when I look back on my journey. I always thought I was going to be an architect. That was my dream, and that was what I thought I was going to do. I got early accepted into architecture school. That was my entire life. And after a year, I realized that it wasn’t for me and, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. So, I went through quite a hard time for a few years of working multiple jobs, doing different courses, classes, and community college, and just loss of what my life was going to look like. I knew certain things that I cared about. I really wanted to travel, I loved the arts, and I loved graphic design. That was a big part of my life, but I just didn’t see it as a viable option at that time and, it’s funny to think that now, but it just didn’t seem an option for me and, I ended up doing quite a few different things. But eventually, I was doing journalism school and also working as a graphic designer on the side.
That was right around the end of college and it just happened to be right around my starting point of social media and I was sharing different things about nature, the outdoors, and my life here in Hawaii. And, it all started when I started freediving. I had a friend that was getting into underwater photography. I was just getting into freediving and I started sharing those images and now there are 500 people who saw them and that’s crazy, then a thousand people, and I’ll never forget that moment where I had a thousand likes on a photo and that is so odd, especially, for a girl who comes from a small island. This island is tiny, it’s 25 miles wide and it was a very strange feeling and I never really expected anything from this but, it just kept growing from that point until I think it was about a year and a half later where I was still working full time, but I kept taking all these breaks to do these photo shoots or to do little travel jobs and things. And, I distinctly remember having a conversation with a girl friend and saying, I think I’m really dividing my time a lot and it’s really hard for me. Maybe, I’m just going to try this social media thing for a little bit and she always reminds me of that conversation. She said, “imagine if you hadn’t had done that, you were so uncertain” and I said, “I know. That’s just crazy to think. I almost didn’t do it. »
Pierre Lambert: That’s amazing. I want to get back to a few points you mentioned because I think that’s awesome, how you got into it and the first thing that really pops in my mind and the reason that I dig into the story is that I think it gives context as to where you are now, who you are and what you share, because it’s so easy with social media, or even, let’s dump social media. You take any book and a newspaper, you look at someone and you think everything about them just from that article but what you miss out on is the whole background story. That’s why maybe you told it a thousand times. I just like to give a little bit of context and I picked up something you said when you had your dream of being an architect, you were saying that it didn’t occur in your mind that art was even an option, or what you’re doing now was even an option. Do you have any clue why was it? Is it because of the way you were raised, or the environment you were in, or why was it not an option for you?
Chelsea Kauai: I think for me, it was two things. So first of all, to give context, this was in 2006. I don’t even think I was about to start. I had an iPhone 3G and social media wasn’t present the way it is now in our daily lives. I thought I didn’t really need people to model different life paths for us, I thought it’s very hard for us to imagine things outside of our normal sphere of thinking, or at least it was for me. And because this wasn’t a life path that I had seen modeled for me in any type of way, in any capacity, it just didn’t occur to me that I could have something where I worked for myself. I traveled and I made money and I got to promote sustainability and talk about things that I care about. I didn’t know a single person who ran a podcast. I didn’t know a single published author, it is just different. Now, I have a bookshelf of 15 books that are written by my friends. It’s more accessible now than it was 10, 15 years ago. I guess when I was in that stage of being a teenager and figuring out what to do with my life. So, I think that gap in having examples around me was a big one and my childhood was very academic and the typical looking up to math and these traditional paths, I suppose. And it felt inherently risky, I guess. It didn’t seem advisable to be a graphic designer or something of that nature seemed a little bit scary. I didn’t really think of it. I just valued high academic achievement and those things in my own mind, I think just narrowed my realm of possibilities.
Pierre Lambert: Got it. That makes sense. Especially 2006, I feel that the world has changed so much in 15 years, not just ourselves, but if I look at smaller artists, what they’re exposed to and the options they get exposed to is immense. Back in the day, maybe it’s the same for you, but in France, we have a saying that artists struggle and starve, so, when I was raised, I hear very similar words – get good grades, get a good job. If you want to be an engineer, be an engineer, maybe you should be a doctor or whatever you want to be. I remember one day having a mind shift towards actually I could do something else, but it was later, it was 2014. It took me a while.
Chelsea Kauai: In a while. I don’t know if you experienced this, but I had so much guilt and weird, almost like an embarrassment when I first started pursuing more things like photography and things that were creative because in my friend group, it’s not that they weren’t supportive but, “that’s what you’re going to do with your life?” It just didn’t matter as much as being an engineer, being a doctor, or these other types of a very well-respected life path and that was really hard. I’d like to be proud of the path that I’ve taken now, and as you said, it’s changed so much even in the last five years that I really don’t feel that way anymore and it’s quite normal to have a deeply creative life. But, at that point, it was definitely, a little bit of a struggle for me.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, I can imagine. That’s awesome. I read somewhere because I did what every great podcaster did, which means I Googled your name before. I’m just joking but, I did read somewhere and I did Google your name just to see. You were talking about a trip that you took to Europe and I was wondering, was there a specific moment, for example, during that trip, where you felt that you were changing completely direction, and you felt that you had a direction that you were going to lock in and go into because something that I feel a lot of, myself included, and maybe other people, whether you’re a photographer or just anyone in general, I feel that every time you start taking your direction, you always have doubts as is it the good one? And then you have more options. Do you remember if you had a feeling at one point where you’re, “I’m going to go in that direction and that one only.”
Chelsea Kauai: No, I don’t think I had that moment of clarity. That would have been nice and I think to this day, I don’t think I’ve felt that more in alignment now. But, at that point, I think it was almost the opposite where I just got to this point where I felt lost, for lack of a better term, and did what I was going to do. And, it was almost hitting that bottom point and just going okay, well, I don’t know. I just love graphic design. I had always loved photography and cinematography and to this day, I have no idea why I just remember late night I was on online going well, wonder if I went to Italy and did designs or something and, I just started looking up schools and I found one and I emailed them and they said admission’s close and it was that week or something. So, it was more of a feeling totally lost and being willing to go out on a limb and just try something that I thought I might like. That was really what started propelling me in that direction. And then, it was just little pieces coming together and coming together after that.
Pierre Lambert: That’s awesome. I love how that works, how life works out. It’s really cool. Well, we’re going to move into photography and your art and what you do today. But, when I was meditating this morning, I had that funny thought, that kept coming because I felt, maybe I have a question coming up for the party. I spent one that was reflecting on because I also had a ton of video ideas dropping in my mind and I said, “you know what? Dare to dare.” And that sounds bad. But, in a way, what you’re saying is, almost identical. We have a very difficult time to dare because we don’t dare daring. If that makes sense. You’re putting that constraint into, “I can’t do that.” But what if, you could, what would that look like? And then, its meaning, the first step in to changing anything or imagining it’s something new. It’s really giving yourself the liberty to even think about it and I feel that so many people just block themselves from it.
Chelsea Kauai: Totally. Well, we’re not really taught how to manage loss, manage failure, or all of these really scary emotions. And, we tend to play it very safe and I’m only speaking from experience here because it’s something I’ve done. So many years of my life where I haven’t dared enough in so many aspects of my life, and I guess I always thought that the way will be clear and know what to do or I’ll know, I’ll feel ready and just that point, it never really happens and, I love this quote. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Seth Godin, but he’s an author that I really enjoy. And, I think it was, he said something along the lines of, “if you don’t feel like an imposter, you aren’t working hard enough.”
Pierre Lambert: I remember that.
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. That uncomfortable feeling that I’m always feeling, it’s just because I’m pushing into the edge of what I’m hoping for and what I want to do in the world, and what I want to create. And, that is that feeling in my chest, but it doesn’t have to be a negative one and those are the places where I think offer us the most growth and the most transformation.
Pierre Lambert: And I guess no one teaches you that because everyone’s lost anyway.
Chelsea Kauai: Yeah. It’s just there.
Pierre Lambert: Your parents have nothing figured out when they have you in this world.
Chelsea Kauai: Exactly. That’s okay. I think there’s so much beauty in that. I have so many people that just come to me and they would say, “I’m unhappy and I’m lost. I’m young, I’m old…” and the universal thread through that is, we’re waiting for someone to give us an answer or to give us permission in some sense. And I’d say “I’m like you guys, I am figuring this out as I go too.” There’s no angel that descends from the creative heavens that tell you how to do this, so it’s fun. We’re all figuring it out and those times that I think we feel the most pain or the most lost are the gateway moments because that’s when you’re willing to take a big risk. It’s not about when you’re on top of the world, it’s to keep everything the way it is and it’s when we are searching and grasping and you don’t know what to do, that your container is empty and you’re ready to receive all those new things in life. I just try to tell people to be super excited about those moments that feel weird and uncomfortable.
Pierre Lambert: I started feeling that way, I guess. At one point in my life, but something changed everything for me when I started looking at my life, like a book or like a movie and every single one of those experiences. Good or bad. Define my story. Define my book, makes the movie interesting. The guy who is currently depressed for six months, that time, that moment in his life is the most important because it will define when he’s 90. If he gets to 90, that’s a moment he will remember as a turning point for something else, and the moment I just switched that it was very interesting. I have a lot of imagination in my brain and I always said that brick and mortar is for me, a fun show where I felt that someone connected his own imagination to some TV screen and it just randomly appeared on it and it was fun to watch. And if I look at my life as a movie or as a story, I actually feel it’s easier to go through it because when it’s hard, you just tell yourself, that’s the hard chapter. Let’s see what we do with that one. What’s going to happen to that character who is me.
Chelsea Kauai: That’s such a good way to look at it and I think that ties into almost the meditation or mindfulness way of looking and being an observer of your thoughts and feelings versus being, “I am this thought or, I am this feeling or, I am this failure or, whatever it is.” So, that’s such a beautiful way of looking at it. As like a book or a movie. And it is, I think, I don’t know how old you are. I think you know how old I am?
Pierre Lambert: I actually don’t know.
Chelsea Kauai: I’m 31.
Pierre Lambert: Oh, same, ‘87?
Chelsea Kauai: ‘88.
Pierre Lambert: Oh, okay. ‘87. You’re 88.
Chelsea Kauai: Folks, I don’t know. But I think that is one of the gifts of age and of time is being able to look back at those chapters and moments in your life and, they make so much sense to me now. I look back on being sad, depressed and, lost in certain phases of my life and feeling an immense sense of shame over being a college dropout, leaving architecture school, and so many different things, even heartbreaks or happy times. All made sense and I don’t understand how it works out this way but, it really does, especially if you can just look at those and take the lessons from whatever it is teaching you. I think when we start to feel that we’re going in circles is that’s when we’re just not quite learning and applying those lessons that are there. They’re there to teach us.
Pierre Lambert: I see, do you have a recent turning point or a point where you felt uneasy with it and, you felt that it wasn’t right, but you leaned into it. Is there any recent experience that you would like to share and just walk us through your process? I’m fairly curious.
Chelsea Kauai: For sure. I mean, there have been so many. I think, I’m constantly a work in progress, but I’d say the most recent one was, separating from my boyfriend, Sam, and we had dated for about two years. He’s also creative. We traveled extensively together. We were living together and for various reasons felt that we needed to part ways. We had made videos and photos together, done all these things together and I think a part of me was just obviously very uncomfortable and very immensely sad to go through that process of splitting with someone that you love. But I was at this point in my life where I really trust the process, and it’s actually led to so many really cool, beautiful changes in my life from really personal things, it actually prompted me to switch and to try being vegan and, that’s been a really cool part of my journey in the last few months that I don’t think would have happened if I didn’t lean into this breakup. So, that’s more on the personal side, I’ve gotten way more into mindfulness and meditation because I needed those tools for myself coming out of that experience because it was heartbreaking. So, I felt, “what are you now? How can I create some structure in my life so that I can really feel good?” And now, those are practices that I think will carry with me through the rest of my life. But, I guess on a business level, since most of the people on here are probably, photographers. I had an experience more in the beginning of my career where I was traveling full-time with a photographer friend of mine and this was when I wasn’t as confident in my abilities with photography and videography. And in my head, he was the creative and I was just there, and when it came time that our businesses were going in separate directions and our friendship was going in a different direction, I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to create on my own. Even though I already knew how to use a camera, I knew how to edit, and do different things, I just felt very dependent on this partnership and on this collaboration. In that separation, I really had to step into my own in terms of business, in terms of owning my creativity, in terms of owning my vision and being able to translate that to other people, and not feeling that I wasn’t capable of doing that, of taking my own photos, editing them myself, doing all these steps that I really had always been doing. I was just giving away so much of my creative power at that point and I didn’t realize it. That was a really interesting learning point where I felt so scared to stop that business partnership and, I thought, the quality of my work is just going to go way down and I’m not going to be able to do this thing and I’m going to have to find someone to replace him and my mind’s going a thousand miles an hour and then to take that step back and say, “okay, I am capable of doing this, these aren’t skills that I either learn or don’t already have. So, why do I not feel confident in my ability to do it myself?”
Pierre Lambert: What gave you that confidence? What was the trigger that made you think « I can do this »?
Chelsea Kauai: I think a part of it was the necessity and they say confidence is born through action, basically. And because I was already in this place where I had to be putting out certain types of content and doing different photoshoots and I did my first commercial shoot by myself. I just remembered scrambling in the week before that. I was trying to find anyone to come on this job with me. I said, “please, just someone come with me”. I’m just so scared to do this on my own and it was just one of those things where no one could come, it was last minute and I had to just step into that place and be okay. I’m just going to have to try to do this. And then, through that process of doing, basically, came out the other side, being that much, a little bit more confident until I realized fairly quickly, I’m not going to be perfect at this. I’m not going to be the best overnight, but I am capable to a certain extent and I’m capable of learning. So that was really, I think, a gift in disguise of forcing me to grow because I don’t think I ever would have done it on my own. I was just too timid.
Pierre Lambert: That’s amazing. I mean, it’s amazing!
Chelsea Kauai: “You can do this. You just don’t know it yet” And, I said, “I’m scared. I don’t want to.” And then they felt, “Well, you’re going to”, it was one of those moments for me.
Pierre Lambert: This is so relatable for so many people, especially in the creative space where we might have had a mentor, we may have had someone good next to us, and the moment you have to fly on with your own wings. I don’t even know if I have wings, so I might just crash and die. But then, you jumped off that cliff and it might work out. So, I’m very happy that you shared that because I do receive a lot of messages because my YouTube channel is all about photography and how to get better or I’m sharing my own adventures on photography. And a lot of people are saying, “Can you look at my photos? Are they good? What do you think is missing? I think people, in general, don’t feel confident enough in their own work or need external validation and it’s not a bad thing. It’s totally normal, but being able to have that experience that you had, where you get into it, let’s not call it a bad situation, but not ideal and you come out stronger with a good outcome. It’s awesome.
Chelsea Kauai: For sure. No, I love that. And that’s I think in one of my favorite videos that I’ve made. It has this quote in there where I say, ”I want to be constantly practicing courage” and that’s just something in the last few years.
Pierre Lambert: This is so hard.
Chelsea Kauai: It’s so hard, but it’s so good. It’s so good when you lean into that.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. I want to dig into that. Tell me what, first you have almost 900,000 people following you on Instagram. So just to give context to people and there is one thing I don’t know if I told you, maybe I told you in the past that my wife introduced me to your account the first time, that we always felt with you is a sense of authenticity, especially maybe when it shifted more or less from your small work that was there or shoots, whatever you want to call it nowadays, where it’s more of you. I don’t know how to call that, but where it’s more of you and there was always that sense of authenticity and I would say that in your caption, you always put a lot of effort into them. Can you tell us more because I, even me personally, want to know? I struggle to share my own story. I struggle to share my struggle because sometimes I might not even recognize them in a way where I just either get over them or try to dismiss them. How did you come to share everything on your social media where you’re more open, and did you have a huge blockage. How was it? Any tips?
Chelsea Kauai: Well, I think for me, it was about right around maybe, two, three years ago now. I don’t remember even the exact timeline, but it was that shift that you were talking about, where it went from “these are my adventures, or these are my shoots or, my travels, too,” I felt quite burnt out internally with that whole process. And I wasn’t excited to be on social media and I just realized that it was because I was putting myself in this little box where I was trying to be just outdoor adventure and that was my brand, that it wasn’t really feeling like a reflection of who I really was and I think because I got into this all pretty much by accident. One of the blessings of that is I don’t really know how to do it any other way. I didn’t even think of it initially as a business, it was just, this is just me. And so, I’ve tried to keep that as a throughline through everything where if someone knows me in real life and they know me online. Those two things are pretty close to who I am as a person. So, I decided at that point that the only way for me to be excited about this, or the only way for me to continue this in just a way that feels good and sustainable to me is to be able to be completely myself and, I’m naturally a very open person. I love connection. I think part of that is because I grew up being really shy and not knowing how to connect with people and not feeling a sense of belonging in the community. So now that I’ve cultivated more of those skills, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world to feel connected to people and to feel seen and to make other people feel seen. So, I think at that point, I just decided, I’m going to really be open about everything. I just want to share things, and I’m learning things – that I’m struggling with and not feel that I need to create this persona. That’s like, “look at her, she’s always traveling and always living this amazing life, which is cool.” That’s great. But I felt that “no, there has to be more of a purpose behind it” and, I think with anything, no matter how fun it is, no matter how much money you’re making with it, if you’re not connecting to some purpose or sense of purpose behind it, it’s just going to start feeling draining. And, I think that’s a point that I hit and I realized that I really want people to leave my page feeling really deeply empowered to strive for things in their life, in this completely messy, imperfect process. And the only way for people to walk away feeling that way is for me to be thoughtful in what I’m sharing and to share that part of my process and just share a part of that journey with them when things are brilliant, vibrant, and amazing. And when I’m just starting out and I’m shaking and scared and not as much knowing what I’m doing. I think once I started down that path, it became so clear to me how universal those feelings and emotions are and it’s become one of my favorites, just like touchpoints, I guess, with people is to just be that reminder for them that we said to be practicing that courage and to just show up in the world as your most authentic self because that is really your singular gift to the world.
Pierre Lambert: That’s a great piece of advice right there that I will try to integrate. Definitely. I highly suggest anyone, especially if they’re trying to connect with others, if they’re just trying to share for sharing or for their personal embellishments, then we can’t do much for them, but, if you’re trying to connect with other people, I think that’s amazing.
Chelsea Kauai: And I mean, social media is a really interesting little beastie where I think a lot of it is we come to social media for a few reasons, but I think one of them is for entertainment which is totally valid as we all love to be entertained and I think one of them is for this sense of connection. And when people are just trying to share purely, like photos. I think there’s just such an overabundance of beautiful things that don’t really have any depth to them. It’s going to be really hard.
I mean, everyone has access to just such incredible levels of equipment, knowledge, and all those things. It is going to be very hard, I think, to stand out as a person or as an account or whatever that is as a business. If your sole strategy is just to take really pretty pictures, or make pretty videos or something, because that’s only going so far and you have so much competition in that, versus when you’re sharing your unique voice or unique struggles or whatever that is. You’re automatically almost removing yourself from the competition because there’s only you.
Pierre Lambert: Did you feel that there was maybe an increase of engagement, but a decrease of likability? When I said likability, is you have a post when you do those, but do you have deeper connections with the people? I’m curious.
Chelsea Kauai: I think, there is, definitely. So, I have essentially sacrificed growing really quickly or having higher engagement possibly, or just different things in that sphere because I have opted for other values of quality and things like that. So, the way that I share it’s just like you mentioned, it just takes so much more time, to go into my own thoughts and to digest those lessons and then to put it in a format that’s maybe, applicable to other people and that they can learn from as well and so that I wouldn’t say, I don’t know, you can never know, what my engagement or whatever would have been or would be. But I think that, in general, perhaps I haven’t scaled as quickly, but I feel a much deeper sense of connection to the audience that I do have. And, I feel that they really get me and I’ve always been more about how can I serve really well, the smallest viable audience versus, I want to grow because I know that there are tactics for that and I just decided that that was not what was important to me basically.
Pierre Lambert: Well, kudos to you, because I think it’s awesome. I will say, there is you and Chris Burkard who have been to really deep examples in my social media journey of keeping engaged with your audience, and one of the reasons is that I can’t remember at what side, I started following and discovering your work, but it was probably during World Tour in 2017, I would say. And I remember that seeing your stuff and my wife said, look, that’s a supermodel doing outdoor stuff. It’s really fun, it looks also very real. And, that’s true. Chris Burkard, I’ve been following him for a very long time, but I remember he does reply to comments. Then one day, I even DMd him, I dared and the guy even replied and my question was probably very annoying at that time because it was around gear and nowadays, I would say, “another question”. But I was that guy at one point. I remember even when I didn’t do, I wasn’t really expecting anything and you did reply to comments, you did reply and, no matter how big, you guys reply. Even Gary replies to random comments. And I said that’s a good example that I want to foster for my own community versus, some people I know have friends, you might be commenting five times or you DM them and they see things, but then just never taking the time to reply. And it always makes me wonder why are you here? What are you trying to share? What do you want to share so much if you don’t want to connect?
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. And I think different people also have different personalities and I think Chris and I share that sense of love for humanity. Chris’s awesome, by the way, he’s just such a good human with boundless energy.
Pierre Lambert: He’s still my number one podcast, so far.
Chelsea Kauai: So awesome. He is just his fantastic human I think we’re both very blessed in the sense that we’re very energized by the community and we’re very energized by that interaction and, I just know, I have some friends that are so deeply creative but aren’t very good with people. And I do feel for them in a certain way because when they get DMs, it is really overwhelming for them and it is overwhelming for me too. But I think I just see it as such a privilege, I guess, to connect with people in that way. And then, also comes down a little bit to the context of, I probably, I have no idea what our first interaction was, but generally I’m responding to people who are saying something either really meaningful or are asking a question that they really don’t have access to, in any other format. So, if it’s just something that they could easily Google, I’m personally, just because I do have limited time. I’m not going to respond to those ones because they just being a little lazy versus if it is something very much that I could be of service and help them with, then I’ll try to take the time and answer that.
Pierre Lambert: That’s awesome. I just checked and our first interaction was made in 2018. First real interaction is after I mentioned you in the story, actually in October 2018, and then you were just, “Oh, Thank you, etc.” And that opened the discussion in the DM world and that happens all out with me also where people send me stuff and I’m cool, I read it. And that’s it. And then something a little bit more meaningful comes out and I’m actually, you know what?“ You took the time to write more than great. So, then let me take the time to reply more than great.”
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. It’s all just an exchange of energy. Right? You just want that to feel that gets in alignment with what someone’s putting out there. So, if someone sends me this thing about how I’m an example for their daughter and that she started doing her own beach cleanups and all this, I’m not just going to be, “Oh, great. Thumbs up.” It just doesn’t feel good.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about your creative photography side and maybe a little bit of video. Where would you feel that you’re at in your photography? Do you feel a hundred percent empowered and where do you stand? You shoot everything yourself, or are you working on it actively? Sorry, let’s start again. I have the first question. I’m super curious. When you go out with photographers and yourself, you edit your photos. You all even take your own photos, etc. but, do you take their raw images and edit yourself? Do you wait for them to do it and send it to you? What’s your philosophy?
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. So, for me, I do take all the raw and, or a lot of times people are also shooting on my camera too, but for every photographer that I work with, I take the raw. We double back, I’ll take one copy. They’ll take one copy, obviously. And, then I’ll edit them. That being said, as a caveat that is very rare for the creative industry. In some ways, especially if someone is more trained as classically as a photographer, versus, a social media personality. I don’t want people to go out expecting that of photographers because I don’t think that is by any means the rule of thumb. I tend to shoot with the same group of people a lot and we’ve built a rapport and trust and they know that I’m very respectful of the right, that I have those images, and that also I am running a business as well, and I can’t be waiting for someone to send me photos or to be editing in their style. Whereas, I’m just very particular about how I edit and I want that to be reflected. So, in general, that’s the way that I work is I am taking and keeping all the raw.
Pierre Lambert: That’s good to hear. And it’s nice that you explained that you build a rapport with those photographers.
I do have to say the first few times or even other creative friends and we’re unsure. And they said, “Hey, can you give me the raw”, a part of my photographer, maybe it’s because I used to work with private clients and stuff and you would never give them raws, always feels that I’m giving a little piece of my soul. I’d think, “please don’t put a fake rainbow in my photo.”
Chelsea Kauai: Exactly. And I think that’s something that if you are starting out on this journey. I’m someone who’s seen both sides of being behind the camera and in front of the camera is talent. I just think that whatever you are, and however you are contributing to that creative vision, it’s really nice to have some of those things discussed ahead of time or to just check in with people and just make sure you’re on the same page, because I definitely had growing pains with that and with not being on the same page with someone and having them feel offended or I feel offended or although all those things have definitely happened in so many different forms. So, yes. I totally feel and know, what you mean by that, but it all comes down to communication.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, definitely. And if you can trust, if we were to shoot together, I know your feed. I know how you edit. I’d be happy to give you the raw. Some people, I will be iffy because I don’t like it, right? And I just don’t like the end result. And you’re giving something that you liked that you created, and when someone makes it ugly to your own eyes. And then, you’re like, “Ugh”, but if that person, like you, if you have rapport and you like to start and everything, that’s good. I really like that. What do you shoot with, and what’s your gear go-to right now?
Chelsea Kauai: So, my gear go-to is the Canon 5D Mark IV. I’ve recently been just so in love with the 51.2, I shoot, I’d say, a good portion of my photos on that lens. It’s just so beautiful. And I think when I was more in just shooting landscapes and stuff, obviously, the 16 to 35 is an amazing lens and just great for all-around stuff. But I’ve been really digging the 50 and then I have quite a lot of other gear. I think I have three other cameras, but I would say 90.7% of my images are from the 5D, and then for my drone, I still like the Mavic Air, which feels that it sell-out easy because I was in the Mavic Air cover. But, for me, just the fact that I don’t do a lot of drone work, that one’s just super portable for me to bring on hikes and stuff and weights, it’s always a big issue for me being a kid, smaller girl, and human being, but, yes. So that’s what I’d say, my minimal kit would be those two lenses, my 5D body and the Mavic Air, and its minimal.
Pierre Lambert: Have you tried the EOS R, yet?
Chelsea Kauai: The what, EOS R?
Pierre Lambert: The EOS R. Yes.
Chelsea Kauai: No, I haven’t actually. Have you tried it?
Pierre Lambert: Yes, I did once, it has a very good grid. But it’s much smaller. I mean, it’s a good amount smaller than the 5D Mark IV and lighter.
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. I think mirrorless is the future. I can’t really see it going in another direction for me. It just makes more sense. But yes, I did shoot a campaign for Canon last year, I guess that was using a different mirrorless, the M50 that they have, it was like a revelation, traveling with that thing. Nothing in my backpack because the 5D has some weight behind it, which feels nice sometimes. And look at my camera. I got this traveling with the M50 and shooting that. I think that was maybe there are quite a few months where I was pretty much just always opting to only bring that camera to just make myself shoot with it and be able to give better images and feedback for that campaign. But also, because I really genuinely enjoyed it. And I still, to this day, recommend it to a lot of people. If they have the beginner’s interest or just amateur interest in photography, it is just such a fun camera to use and I had a lens that was an 80 to 150 and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I never even have to change lenses. This is amazing.”
Pierre Lambert: That’s amazing. A lot of people overestimate how much a camera will make and having a smaller footprint is more important.
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. I mean, that was definitely one thing. Looking back, I wish I knew that it’s not about the equipment. It’s a hundred percent the ability to tell a story or evoke emotion and so many other things, but the gear helps obviously, but it’s not the full thing.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, I felt it’s funny to a higher level. Let’s call it the photographers or the videographers I’ve interviewed. The less they’re able to speak about gear and the more to just talk about the story and how they want to tell stories of those people, that’s a crazy story of empowering that thing. I just found it interesting because I love gear. But more and more I distanced myself from it in the sense where it’s fun, but I want to share something that’s a little bit deeper or actually the most of my work. I want to spend it on deeper things versus just worrying or thinking about the gear and it’s an interesting discussion to talk to really famous people in that world, and they barely know what they’re using.
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. That’s such an interesting lesson to learn from having all those conversations because, obviously, I only know my experience. I mean, I have three other cameras sitting back here and I have an entire gear closet that I’m so grateful and so blessed to have. And over the years, I think I’ve just part down and part down and useless even then I used to. And, once you find the system or find the things that work. You do get a little bit more divorced from that, like gear, excitement and, you’re just, I need the tools to tell the story, and if that means I need a gimbal stabilizer then cool. But, if I don’t then I’m not going to use it. I’m not going to bring it. Whereas I used to just get so excited about what I wanted to have all the bells and whistles and all the things and I need all the things. So, it’s funny.
Pierre Lambert: In a way, it’s like life, you try everything. When you’re a kid, every sport possible, I don’t know that was my life, but you try everything like every kind of sport. One day, you want to be a karate champion the next day, you want to try Kung Fu, after its mountain biking and, as you grow older, you start honing down into just a few.
Chelsea Kauai: Pretty sure. I feel that I’ve been slightly opposite in the sense, or actually, I guess, I carried that love of finding new hobbies with me from childhood until now because I feel like every year I’m going to try this hobby, I’m going to do this one now, too. But I totally get what you mean. With other aspects of my life, it’s been a process of simplification and finding what works, and just moving forward.
Pierre Lambert: On that note, were you always into the outdoors or adventurous stuff, or is it something that came up later?
Chelsea Kauai: So, I was always into the outdoors. My parents are both very active outdoor people, especially my mom and she had me hiking from when I was really little. But it’s funny, all the things that people know of me now, like freediving, slacklining, Acro, highlining, backpacking, all those things, surfing even, I didn’t start until in these last few years or in this last decade of my life, there wasn’t anything that I was doing growing up. So yes. I always had that outdoor tendency, but the way it’s come together now is very new to me.
Pierre Lambert: That’s awesome. So, those are things that can grow and that you can develop later on. It’s interesting.
Chelsea Kauai: I’m such a big advocate for it is never ever too late to learn something new. I know that’s so cheesy, but I really feel that to my core, it’s so true. And, my mom is 64 now, maybe even 65. I should know this, but she horseback rides and she’s just getting into barrel racing and she just has this course that it’s a form of an event in a rodeo where there are three barrels set up and you do it for a time where you have to go as fast as you can without hitting the barrel down and there are different events that you can do basically on horseback.
Pierre Lambert: Okay. Did your mom go? I’ve seen those people put themselves into a barrel go down the hill. That sounds really cool.
Chelsea Kauai: Hilarious. I had such a great visual of my mother with her blonde hair streaming in the wind going down some gnarly ravine in a barrel. Yes. I love it. Not that one, not that adventurous but she’s pretty adventurous. But all these things I’ve learned, I’ve learned in the past year and I’m so happy that I started sharing that journey when I sucked at it and highlighting the same thing. I like the first video I posted up; it was me crying and just to show that in a year and two years, you can make immense progress and strides forward in these things.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, I mean, you just mentioned is that weird thing where you look at someone working on it and you’re cool, let me try and, you think you will be able at least to stand on it and then you start shaking and fall. How is that even that difficult? What happened?
Chelsea Kauai: Totally. My favorite thing is when the first-time people get on the line and I specifically say “okay, you have to try it at least once on your own because I want you to know what it feels like” and, everyone will just get this look of l absolute horror. What is my leg doing? Why am I shaking like this? And I said, “no, you don’t get it. Everyone is like this and, it’s so awesome.”Then, “Ooh, wait. I think I just took one step. I’m so hooked. This is so much fun.”
Pierre Lambert: Yes. That’s basically the learning curve summarized. That’s true. That’s amazing. I love how you’re sharing and advocating for the outdoors. I’ve been surrounded in my life with both a lot of outdoors when I was a kid. Not the great outdoors, but my parents would make sure that we always go into the forest or, we go on the mountains or, go skiing or whatever, whenever possible. We’ve been very blessed to have those opportunities and it has a big impact on me now. So, when I spend too much time in the city, I go crazy. but I also have friends that also define themselves as, “I’m more of a city person.” And in my head, combat change and that’s always, what do I have to do to show those people how fun it can be to do those things?
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. I mean, it’s to each their own, but definitely, I feel you in my heart and soul. I mean, I’m sitting here looking at a tree right now because nature and the outdoors makes me so joyful. And, I couldn’t even fathom a life where I couldn’t be connected to nature in so many different ways, shapes, and forms and to the ocean. And, I get really grouchy if I haven’t been underwater in a certain amount of time. And I try not to be, I just feel weird. I just don’t feel good and, I don’t know why. And I just need to go swimming. It’s fine.
Pierre Lambert: Vulnerable for that one, my YouTube channel has been around photography and stuff, but lately, it’s been a lot around city and street photography. And I love it, but I have that fear at the back of my mind that I’m building an audience a lot around that and, I cannot switch it or, I cannot lean too much into what I also really love, which is outdoors and shooting on the water or whatever. And, it’s interesting because it allows me to have the life I have right now, which is good. But a part of me also wants to connect back to nature a little bit more and I just stopped shooting on the water. I’m in Chicago right now so, the lake is freezing, but the water is clear blue turquoise. Right? It’s weird. So, when I looked at it the other day, I felt that I need to find a friend who is ready to go with me in the water. So, I want to go shoot underwater in Chicago and I have to find a model or someone who’s ready to be in the water with me. That’s going to be very difficult because it’s freezing water, but I really want to do that and part of me is just afraid that as I go forward, if I do too much of one thing, then at least with the social media thing, it’s going to be more difficult to showcase other areas.
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. I mean, I definitely know a lot of my friends that are in this, or have very successful social media businesses or online presence and, they feel a little trapped by the work that they’ve put out in the past and that they can’t pivot into a way that would feel really good to them and that’s just really hard. It’s a conversation I’ve listened to, for so many people. And, is there a reason? Do you just have great interest or a wider audience when you do those street photography classes? I’m just curious what the impetus is behind sharing that, versus, sharing landscape photography.
Pierre Lambert: Mostly, because I don’t have access to nature as much as I want to, I mean, not in the position. We just got a baby in November. So, thank you. It’s been really intense if you ever think of one, I’m just joking. No, actually it’s true. It’s just easy for me to do it, right? It’s somewhere, I feel that cities, at least for me, places where I always find other people I can connect easily with friends. I don’t have the so-called very outdoorsy. I haven’t been able to build that circle and, that’s also where I reach out to people like you and I have them on the podcast, etc. So, selfishly at the back of my mind, I’m also trying to build that tribe where I can actually get inspired by and that is not necessarily in what I’m doing every day here. So, that’s my selfish answer.
Chelsea Kauai: That’s the best. What is it when we scratch our own itch, right? That’s what to embarrass advocates for doing things that are a little bit selfish, in that way, because it’s the knowledge that you want to have or something, and I’m also going to hold you accountable for doing that photo shoot in the lake because that would be so wild. So, my friends actually live in Chicago and they took this crazy drone shot when the lake had been frozen over. But then, it was starting to break up and they basically took a drone shot of paddleboarding the lake with all these icebergs, I guess. And it was cool. You just never would have even guessed it. It was in Chicago and people were blown away.
Pierre Lambert: I might have to ask you to put me in touch with your friends if they are ready to go in there.
Chelsea Kauai: Yes. I can put you in touch. I think one of them is now living in California, but let’s connect afterward about that.
Pierre Lambert: Well, I know there are people surfing in Lake Michigan in the winter so, I won’t find someone, I will be accountable for it, and do it anyway. Otherwise, it’s one of those things that if I didn’t do it, I’d probably be saying, “What am I living for?”
Chelsea Kauai: I think we all have so many beautiful ideas and that I just want people, myself included, to just take those actionable steps, doing the things and getting them done and it’s such a reward itself just to have a creative goal and to execute it and I think that’s one of my favorite feelings.
Pierre: Do you have a 2020 theme or saying you want to lean into?
Chelsea Kauai: This is a really good question. There are a few things that I’ve told myself, that I want to be better at, but I don’t think that’s so much your question. I think my theme for this year is realizing that I, at the core of what I do, more than travel, more than adventure, more than anything else, is I love creating communities and I love enabling people. That feels that they don’t have that, to connect to other people, and to feel that sense of belonging and stuff. And, I think that that’s something that I’m really going to lean into this year. I just finished recording a little video for a retreat that I’m about to launch, with a girl friend and I’m super excited about that to be able to cultivate more in-person experiences and it’s the same reason that I’m taking three weeks off and paying to do an Acro yoga teacher training because I want to be able to take that knowledge back and teach it to my community here in Hawaii and then, also hopefully with other people around the world. So yes, just serving that idea is going to be, I think what leads me through this year.
Pierre Lambert: That’s amazing. Well, I think you’re going to do really well at that and I’m excited to see where it goes. Do you have anything that helps you creatively, a go-to, whenever you are a little bit stuck or you need new ideas or you’re saying, “I feel that I’m doing too much of the same thing?” Where does your mind go? What do you do to find something new?
Chelsea Kauai: That’s great. I think for me is when I’m feeling burnt out…
Pierre Lambert: Yes. Either you’re burnt out or I guess, it’s a form of burnt out or you might not be burnt out, but you’re a little stuck, you’re saying, “I don’t want to do that thing again. I want to find new ideas.” Where do you go?
Chelsea: Kauai Yes, I mean, I guess I’ve always just approached it with the idea of, I’m going to do a few things that I’m excited about and, I know sometimes, you can find that excitement a little bit lacking. And, I think one of the really conversely fun things that I’ve enjoyed doing is shooting in just radically different environments than I normally would because I think I did get to a point where I was, “hmm, all right, here’s a waterfall. I’m going to stand here. This is going to do like this. It’s the perfect ruler. Awesome, cool, check. That looks great”. And it is really, in a very strange way, with these beautiful mountains, landscapes are beautiful, everything, it starts to look the same objectively. I still maintain such a deep appreciation for nature but, just objectively, you are scrolling through all your images. You’re saying, “everything looks the same.” And so, one thing that I’ve been trying to do, and I’ve really implemented in this last year was just the idea that you can make art anywhere and even when conditions aren’t good, I’ll be, “what could I do that would make this cool or what prop could I introduce that would make this more interesting” and, it enlivens the process for me. And I’m actually been pretty baffled at the results that some of my favorite images have come from these weird experiences and weird places and things that I never would have been, “Oh, I’m going to plan a trip around, shooting at a truck stop in Louisiana.” You just don’t know, it’s just really been tuning more into that idea of, “Oh, how can I make this thing more unique? Or how can I contribute?” More of my thoughts and personality to this process versus showing up to a location and snapping a picture thing. Whether that is implementing more of a narrative or more of an emotion, going back to storytelling has always, what’s that meaning behind it, or is it just going on this road trip that I went on from Florida to Texas. It was pretty random, a lot of the time, but every day I was, “all right, it’s super rainy out, it’s super cold. A lot of the locations we wanted to go to, we’re not going to get to go to, how can I still flex my creative muscles every day”. You interviewed Quinn on this podcast, right?
Pierre Lambert: Yeah, he’s the last one of 2019 and you will be the first one. That’s 2020.
Chelsea Kauai: Perfect. So yes, that was a really good example is going with Quinn and me. We have really different approaches to photography and stuff and, I think he blew his mind. Some of the things that I wanted to shoot, he was saying, “you want to shoot what?”. But it was so game and it was so much fun. One day we went to a thrift store and just looked through what different things that we could get as props for this, the location that we were going to, and that made the shoot so much fun for me. I found this vintage suitcase and that became a central part of the shoot and the driving force of the shoot versus just showing up to this tree tunnel that everyone’s already shot and just doing the same thing. It was just what’s that little, 5% extra that I can put in that will make me feel more excited about the process.
Pierre Lambert: That’s really interesting. That suitcase photo for everyone, you can just see it on Instagram. I remember seeing it, I thought it was really cool. And now, that we talk about it again, reminds me of Walter, maybe the movie. Yes. I think I remember the poster has the guy with the suitcase that’s completely out of place compared to the environment. And you’re shot now, I think about it, kind of links that, I’m not saying it looks like it, it just links those parts, which is funny how the mind works. And I love what you’re saying. Do you have an example of something that you would do on a rainy day if you were home or something you did where you’re really impressed by the result?
Chelsea Kauai: I think one. Well on that same trip, one that we did was, actually, this one was a complete failure. So, I guess I’m not going to talk about that one, but it was really fun to shoot. I made a shirt out of it.
Pierre Lambert: No. Please, talk about it.
Chelsea: Well, one of the days I was really inspired by all the foliage and stuff around is the end of fall at that point when we were taking the road trip. And I said, “Oh, hey, can we just pull over and find a bunch of really cool leaves?” And as we’re driving, I spent an hour taping the leaves all to my upper body and face. And, we just took a bunch of leaf portraits we found a truck stop. I think it was in Alabama but it had this really cool yellow tree out front that all the leaves had fallen down. So, it’s 40 degrees, that’s in Fahrenheit. So, this is probably just above zero in Celsius. And, I’m lying in the front yard of this truck stop with all these leaves covering me. And, it was so much fun to shoot and to figure out different things with the contrast of the leaves and the shapes and my body or different things. So, that was super fun. I didn’t end up really doing anything with the photos but it was just something that was such a fun thing to do on a rainy day and I think you can try being so willing to try to experiment and be actually purposeful in trying different things. It’s so easy for me to go out and shoot really clear underwater images or whatnot with beautiful sand and things. But probably my favorite underwater image that I’ve been part of lately is on that same trip. It was in the swamps in Florida, it was super murky. Literally, a few feet of visibility. We had gone there to actually shoot photos with manatees and then didn’t know that, there are certain rules that they don’t want you diving down with the manatees. You, I guess, hang out near them and snorkel but, they don’t want you diving down. And, they were just not really many manatees around anyways. So, a lot of people will be saying, “Oh, that was a bust. We didn’t get anything.” But I sort of asked Josiah, another photographer friend who was with me, “do you think we could just try to shoot something right here.” And he said, “I don’t know, the clarity is really bad.” I said, “I know”, but he was game for it and he looked and he’s saying, “this grass is cool. It’s a cool texture.” I mean, it was the only thing around was this grass and it’s a textured seagrass but we ended up taking these very dreamy, surreal, underwater images that we only got one usable frame because there was stuff floating in the water. There were bubbles there. Just the clarity was not ideal, but it’s one of my favorite images, and that purely came out of curiosity and a willingness to experiment in these conditions that were very not ideal in a lot of ways.
Pierre Lambert: It feels like “I’m trying when it’s not ideal” is the best way to succeed at something that you haven’t expected.
Chelsea Kauai: Exactly. And, I think in all these lessons, a big thing for me has just been the people I surround myself with because it can get a little tiring. If you feel that you’re doing the same thing over and over and, I’ve just been super grateful to have people that are so down to try these weird different ideas. And also, on the flip side, taking time to just go shoot solo and throw and have a lens that’s a 150 to 600 and, I had never used it really. And it was for the things I’m shooting realistic of what am I going to use that for a lot of times. And I just went out one super rainy afternoon by myself and I was, ”I’m going to shoot these waves.” And, this is cool. And then, I got so excited in this process that I literally was running around so much that everything fell out of my pockets and I had to go collect them on the beach later because photography is fun again. So, I think, I know everyone does get burnt out or sometimes we feel like we’re shooting the same things, but, if you can either lean on the people around you or just radically change something up, that’s your lens or the environment or whatever it is and just know that spark will come back.
Pierre Lambert: That is the best advice. It happened to me yesterday with the snow. I just ran out and that’s going to be actually a video from me on YouTube and, whether it does well or not, I don’t really care, but the excitement will definitely shine through, I think, in the video. And, it’s good to reconnect and just try things that might not work or, just do them not because you think it’s going to look good, but because you want to have fun. And I think with photography, especially, maybe nowadays, more than back in the days, because we have so many examples of great photos, we’re inundated with good stuff. It makes you feel like you cannot take, you should not take a bad photo or you should not share anything that is not perfect or visually appealing. But in actuality, this is the fun part for me.
Chelsea: A hundred percent. I think. I only share, 0.1% of the photos that I take and so many of them are just for the joy or for figuring things out or that they just didn’t work or, it was just a learning experience. But, we have so many examples of great photos and of landscapes, beautiful things that I think it does get really easy to fall into that thing of feeling. That should be your style or, that is something that you should replicate or do the same thing. I would just follow a lot of weird, very artsy accounts that don’t even really shoot, quote-unquote, like the “Instagram style” because I find more inspiration from that and from paintings and from just books or whatever it is that I actually get so much more inspiration from people that are doing things a little weird and a little different.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. If I’m correct, you know, Sorelle Amore, I think you guys spent time together and I remember, I messaged and discovered her before she blew up on YouTube just before that, three days before she blew up and after I never got to meet her, but I remember we were both in Bali and I started seeing her accounts and what she was doing. And, in a way, that was different because it reminded me a lot more to what I would use to look at in the fashion world or when I wanted inspiration for shooting with a client where it was very edgy or very artistic in a way, I use that word because I don’t know how to define it. But I remember she really leans into it, whether or not it’s “Instagrammable” or people like it, I feel that she’s a little bold with her photography, which is really refreshing for the social media environment that I evolve in. I’m sure there is another again, it’s just like everything.
I’m sure there is another scene that is all about it. But then, the one that I evolve, I don’t see that much. So, I think it’s great.
Chelsea Kauai: A hundred percent. We’re siloed these days because you like a certain thing and then the algorithm will give you more of that until the point that you are just trapped by your own things that you like, and it’s hard to get a fresh perspective or get out of that. And, that’s one thing I’ve always just so admired about her and been really inspired by is when I’m shooting around her or something, just the way her approach to photography. So, it was so radically different than mine. And she seems an old doc with some textures and she’s saying, “Oh, this is great. This is amazing.” I’d say, “Really? I don’t see.”. It’s cool to see what inspires different people. I think that’s been such an amazing blessing in my life and my career is having access to so many different people in so many different genres of photography that are more purely landscape or, more commercial or, self-portraiture and fashion. It’s just neat. It reminds me of when I went on this hike with a guy that he specializes in harvesting wildflowers and wild leaves and things to make into perfumes and hydrosols. This is a little bit of a weird tangent was going to come full circle and we went on this hike that was visually the least interesting hike of my life but, it was so fascinating to be with him because he is over there, telling me about the three different kinds of Sage and then the smell of this dirt and why this barrier is this way because of this bird and it just the nuance that he saw in that environment. It was looking at this place with a completely different set of eyes. And you notice things that I wouldn’t have ever noticed purely through someone else’s perception of this thing or this place. I’ve always tried to remember that when I’m in a place where I’m saying, “Oh, there are no angles or the light sucks or the there are no good photos to be had here.” and, “no, that’s just my perception of the place because someone else could be here and it would be their habit”, and I try to just channel that and know that there’s always something to see or something to discover at that moment.
Pierre Lambert: That’s amazing. It’s something that is, in a way, you want to change your universe, start by changing your eyes and how you see the universe. And, it’s so true. In life but, especially for photography. So, I started, I think last year, I built a class, a course over 30 days. And, it’s interesting because the only thing that I thought that I was like, there is all these courses on photography, which is great, but very classic, what does this do?
What’s this year? How do we do that? Learning my first week of the class has no camera. I said, “guys throw you away. I don’t want to see a phone. I don’t want to see anything. I want you to change your eye.” And once you change your eye and you’re able to perceive all those nuances in light, the photography, the images, or the stories that you might see will change drastically. And, you’ve seen it. You’re hanging out with someone who’s picking up wildflowers and he sees something different and you’re saying, “Wow! Interesting.” Then you hang out with a photographer who does street and you’ll see, I see him look at things very differently than a landscape photographer, but if you’re able to change your eyes and pick those nuances, then I think that’s when you’re able to create better or, have more ease in creating even in boring places.
Chelsea Kauai: Hundred percent. I just resonate with that so much because I never wanted to be in a place and it’s not worthy or whatever. And photography has made me just appreciate things either at the macro level or whatever it is that there’s always something to see and to notice. And then, that’s translated I think in the way that I look at life and that every moment can be infinitely beautiful.
Chelsea Kauai: Understand where the story asks a better question. It’s all on us. Every person, every place is interesting. It’s just what lens are you looking through.
Pierre Lambert: That’s amazing, Chelsea. I think we can leave people with that because I think we’ve been going on for a very long time and, I want to be super-mindful with your time. I think it’s very interesting so, let’s keep sharing. I just want to ask you, where should people find you online and, what do you want to leave them with? Maybe a thought for the weekend or an action?
Chelsea Kauai: You can find me at Chelsea Kauai. That’s Chelsea K-A-U-A-I on Instagram. That’s probably the best place. I also have a private Telegram group where we chat daily about creative struggles and just different pain points in our lives and challenges. Even outside of creativity, more around mindfulness and self-growth. So, there is a link in my bio, on my Instagram to join in on that, which is, I’d say the thing I’m most excited about right now is just being able to connect in that way with people, and then, we’ve had a hundred minutes of talking and wisdom that we’ve laid down here. I’m trying to pull one thing to leave people with but, I don’t even know. I would say I just have to go back to my roots. I just hope everyone out there listening feels empowered to be constantly practicing courage and know that you can show up in this world and you can create in whatever capacity you desire. So, from a small girl on a small Island, it is all possible.
Pierre Lambert: Thank you so much, Chelsea. I think that’s a full circle.
Chelsea Kauai: Thanks, Pierre. Have an amazing day.
Pierre Lambert: Thank you so much for listening. I’m very grateful for your time and for Chelsea’s time. So, please, everyone go say hi to Chelsea on her Instagram and other social media accounts and tell her what you thought of the podcast.
The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast is where Pierre interviews the best creatives in the world to share their tips and stories. Enjoy & spread the word to your friends about this podcast! Pierre T. Lambert is a travel & adventure photographer & YouTuber followed by over 600,000 people. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.