Kat Gebauer went from being the shy kid in class to running 35 miles at a time through Glacier National Park in a hot-pink tutu and a pair of fairy wings. And she’s usually doing it with a camera in her hand.
Her journey started when a friend asked her to run a half marathon, enticing her by turning it into a girls’ weekend. Gebauer loved the running community that came with it and hasn’t stopped running – or adventuring – since.
The 1994 Sturgeon Bay High School graduate has run 140 miles through the Glacier National Park wilderness, traveled to India and hiked to Mount Everest base camp during a 17-day trek, climbed volcanoes in Ecuador and hiked to the peak of Aconcagua: an Argentinian mountain that’s the highest peak in the world outside of Asia.
But Gebauer didn’t set out to live a life of adventure. After high school, she went to UW-La Crosse, thinking she’d become a physician assistant. Instead, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in arts and photography and landed a job taking senior portraits and wedding photos.
Eventually, Gebauer moved to Whitefish, Montana, got a job at a ski hill that also had a photography business and eventually bought that business – only to realize that there’s little value in buying an existing business in the arts. You have to do it yourself, she said.
Now she makes her living in Montana through real-estate photography, serving about 80 clients last year. A typical day starts at 7 am and can go as late as 10 pm as she shoots photos of four to 10 homes a day, then returns home to edit them. Gebauer is also a partner in a wedding business called Hitched406. She handles the photography, and her business partner offers a variety of wedding services: officiating, sewing wedding attire and cooking.
Along the way, Gebauer has learned that a career in the arts means that you must cultivate your own excitement to avoid burnout. That includes dreaming about doing more adventure photography: taking photos of adventure weddings, adventure-filled family vacations or people in their natural element. If a person’s favorite thing is to rock climb, for instance, she’d go along for a day to capture it.
For now, Gebauer aims for a balance between work that pays the bills and her passions.
“I learned that if you want to do something, your mind can carry you a lot further than you’d think,” she said.
She has transformed from a shy girl into an adventurer with a camera in her hand, chalking it all up to keeping an open mind about people and experiences.
“I like to make people laugh or smile at any expense,” she said. “I don’t care, even if it’s making myself look stupid.”
Gebauer’s journey is a lesson in forging your own path and knowing that it’s never too late to change direction.
“If you put out into the universe that you want to do something, it might not give that to you, but at least you’re giving direction to yourself,” Gebauer said.