Alum Named an Adobe Rising Star of Photography

Kelly Stefanski at Yellowstone National Park capturing stunning features of Earth.

Kelly Stefanski at Glacier National Park capturing stunning landscape and wildlife imagery.

(Sept. 6, 2019) – USF St. Petersburg alum Kelly Stefanski has been named one of Adobe’s 2019 Rising Stars of Photography, a distinction shared with only 10 other up-and-coming photographers from around the world.

This is the third straight year Adobe, a computer software company focused on the creation of multimedia and creativity products such as Photoshop and Flash, has developed such a list. The Rising Stars of Photography highlights the work, careers and stories of emerging photographers “from foodies to globetrotting environmentalists.” Since photography is more accessible than ever, this was the first year Adobe opened up the list to smartphone photographers, making selecting just 10 even more difficult.

Stefanski is a landscape and wildlife photographer, as well as an ecosystems restoration engineer during the day, who explores human’s relationship with nature by capturing stunning features of Earth. Her photography spans the diversity of ecosystems and wildlife on the planet, from the sparse setting of Joshua Tree National Park to dramatic waterfalls in upstate New York to stoic bison and elk grazing on the plains.

She was shocked when she learned she was selected for this honor.

“It means so much to get this recognition. I am really grateful and hope it will motivate my work in building a platform that will do good for the world,” said Stefanski.

Stefanski came to USF St. Petersburg in 2013 and graduated in 2016 as a biology major. She credits the university with opening many doors for her.

“There were limitless opportunities and possibilities at USFSP and I just got involved with so many groups and made such close friendships along the way. The intimate setting and the amazing support system surpassed anything I could imagine. It was a great community to be a part of,” said Stefanski.

She went on to get her Master’s in Engineering from Cornell University and eventually a job as an ecosystems restoration engineer, where she works on projects throughout North Carolina that improve watersheds and drinking water quality.

It was her studies in biology and engineering and her early career as a scientist that shaped her photography.

“I really didn’t start out as a photographer, I started out as a scientist. Photography gave me the tool to document the problems that I was uncovering in my work and really explore the relationship we have with nature and how we built around that nature,” explained Stefanski.

She hopes being recognized for this honor will bring greater awareness to the issues she is documenting with her photography, spurring people to experience these pristine places and encouraging them to protect the natural world.

“I want to continue spreading the message that if something is wrong in the world, we can do something about it,” Stefanski said, “and act with the urgency needed right now.”

Snapshot of Stefanski's photos from her Instagram page.

Snapshot of Stefanski’s photos from her Instagram page.