More to the Story: Kim Mock,
By Taylor Harrington 2/2/21 6:00pm ET
Kim Mock is an award-winning photographer and phenomenal human being. Originally from Edison, New Jersey, her heart of adventure brought her to beautiful Colorado. Hiking miles with her equipment on her back, Kim is always searching for the next best shot.
You took off from New Jersey to Colorado and have created this amazing new adventure and job for yourself. So can you tell us what started you on your photography journey?
I think it was before I even left New Jersey, I bought my first camera because we were driving cross country to move out here. I wanted to document the entire experience, you know? We were going to be seeing all these national parks along the way. So l bought my first camera off Amazon, it was a refurbished one, and it was not a very good camera, but it got me started. It got me familiar with how to use the camera and set up taking pictures. Basically, it just got me started on my journey, that little Nikon D 3300. I don’t even think they make it anymore.
That’s incredible! I love this for you. You’re a big inspiration when it comes to just taking the chance and rolling the dice when life gets hard. I know that your dad, John Mock, passed away right before you and your husband Tim moved to Colorado. That just had to have been so impactful. Your dad would have wanted you to take these chances and he would be so freaking proud.
He knew all about how we were going to move out here, but then it kind of got pushed back because we were taking care of him. Yeah, I just wish he was here to see it. I think he’d be really proud too. That’s why I picked up a camera. I needed something to distract me from the grief. So even still, I try to get out every day and take a couple of pictures just because it helps me relax. Just finding beauty in the little things brings me peace.
You’ve taken this grief when it could have pushed anybody into a downward spiral, and you’ve created something so massively beautiful and exciting. The sky is the limit for you. Literally. So what’s your favorite spot for getting your Milky Way pictures? Is there are certain hike or spot you visit that gets betters shots?
I go to Mount Evans a lot because you can just drive to the top of it. There are certain spots where there’s not a lot of light if you’re facing away from Denver, so you really just have to get away from the ambient light on the dunes. Great Sand Dunes National Park is amazing for taking Milky Way photos, and Guanella Pass is another really dark spot close to Denver.
The Great Sand Dunes are so wonderful. I remember going there as a kid and just sledding down those things!
Boogie Boarding! Yeah, its so much fun there.
What is it like be a woman in the photography industry right now?
I’d say it’s pretty hard. Photography is a mostly male-dominated industry, especially the concert photography industry. I’ve just had a lot of bad experiences in the concert photography industry, and it’s left a sour taste in my mouth, especially for bands that I really like, you know? So when I shoot for a band I really like and they happen to treat me poorly while I’m working for them, then it kind of makes me not want to go see that band ever again. Right?
How did you end up photographing concerts?
I would just contact bands, small bands in my area, a lot of venues, a lot of little small venues. I would just go in there and bring my gear and you know? There’s really nowhere for photographers to set up in tiny venues. You’re pretty much just part of the crowd, you have to do the best you can to move past all these sweaty people.
I know from going to shows with you, that you have years and years of experience getting to the front of concerts…
Yes, I do have that going for me, and I do I go to a lot of concerts, so I was thinking, “how can I get into these shows without paying for them?” Sometimes that would be my way. I would take a picture of your band if you just got me into the show, so that would kind of be like my payment. Now, it’s just like so much work goes into it, especially shooting big events like 311 Day and the 311 Cruise. It is a lot of work and a lot of gear. My gear cost a lot of money, and just the time it takes to edit. I don’t think people realize how much time goes into it.
Yeah, a lot of people think they can just buy a camera and will suddenly be a great photographer, right?
Yeah, “I bought this camera, but none of my pictures look like yours.” Someone told me that once.
That means you’re doing something right when people are trying to emulate your pictures! How do you choose the locations that you go to?
It’s a lot of research and a lot of finding places through where other photographers have been. I look up locations on Instagram and Facebook, social media is huge. So if I see someone go to an amazing place, of course, I want to go and I’m all about people getting outdoors. I don’t want to, “hide” a place from someone, and then they can’t have access to it. I feel that’s kind of like gatekeeping the outdoors and nature should be for everyone. So if there’s ever a location tag available, I usually try to tag it. I have an app called “All Trails” that I use to find trails and they have pictures and stuff. You can filter by anything through the app: difficulty, mileage, anything you want.
When you’re heading out to take your photos, do you go out in your car to get to these locations? Or are you putting your equipment on your back and hiking to these spots?
Most of the time I am hiking to these spots with all the gear on my back, so I try to keep it simple. I won’t bring my entire camera setup, but I will bring a certain number of lenses depending on what I’m trying to shoot that day. But yeah, usually Tim and I hike about six miles or more to get these shots. We’ll wake up at like one in the morning and wait for the Milky Way to come out.
That is so cool, Kim! What’s better in life than when you’re enjoying what you do? Everything you’re doing is so perfect for you.
I think so too. Hopefully one day I’ll just live in a van and take pictures.
So that’s the dream, right?
Yes, that’s my American dream. Yes.
I think I think you’re headed right in that direction. Hopefully, we’ll get you a van down by the river Kim.
Yes, exactly. I’m about it. I’m here for it.
You had a picture win the People’s Choice Award for a year. What was that like?
That was one of the first falls we really adventured out here in Colorado. I took a photo I thought looked alright, so I decided to enter it and I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t think I was going to win. But I guess I have a lot of friends and family who are psychos, and they literally like kept voting for me. I did get some votes from regular people, too, and it was really cool to win. I got a free Colorado State Parks pass for a year, so Tim and I have been able to go to a lot of the parks.
Having a season pass to all these state parks must be so beneficial to your work! I have to ask, have you been to Paonia yet? My Mom’s hometown.
Every time we drive through it, I always think of you. It’s such a sweet little town, I’m like, “Do people really live there?” It’s really cool. Yeah, I love it over there.
Where is your dream photoshoot location? I know you’re loving Colorado and astrophotography, but I can see you out in Iceland shooting The Northern Lights.
Yeah, that’s a bucket list. The Northern Lights. New Zealand is high up there. A lot of bears. Bears are my jam. I love them. I love all kinds of bears: black bears, brown bears, grizzly bears. I’d love to go to Alaska or even like up in the Arctic and find some polar bears. I just love bears. I would love to shoot more bears.
So it’s not about location, it’s just wherever the bears are?
Yeah, wherever the bears are, and then The Northern Lights and New Zealand. That’s like, that’s like a huge bucket list.
Do you have any other long-term goals with your business?
I’d love the van life, it’s definitely a goal. I mean, I’d love to be published, especially in Nat Geo. I’m working on some things now with some brands for 2021. So I’m super excited about that, but I can’t say anything about it yet.
Besides your concert, environmental, and astrophotography, is there anything else you do when it comes to your artistry?
I do shoot portraits and weddings, but I like to keep it down to elopement style weddings. I don’t shoot big weddings, I’d say like 100 people or less, but I even like to keep it lower than that. I just love the intimacy of elopements and adventure elopements. One couple actually eloped at St. Mary’s Glacier in Colorado. They jumped off the cliff into the freezing cold water in their wedding attire.
So how can people find your photography?
On social media. I’m @Kimbo_Explores on Instagram, and @KimboExplores on Twitter. On Facebook, you can find me at Kimbo Explores Photography. I mostly post a lot of my content to Instagram, and you can also shop prints on my website, www.KimboExploresPhotography.com. Thanks so much Taylor, it was good to see your face.
Kim’s photography journey is only just beginning, and we can’t wait to see what adventure she goes on next!