Dana Bjarner | Visual Storyteller 

From Ecuador

What is your role in the Salty Souls Experience?

I am the Photographer and I also lead a Conscious Expression workshop.

My role as a photographer during the retreats is to capture the raw, unfiltered moments. My personal mission as a photographer is to not only enable the girls to relive their incredible experiences through photos but, more importantly, to help them reconnect with the emotions they felt during those moments, allowing them to carry those feelings into their daily lives.
The Conscious Expression workshop is designed to help participants navigate their emotions through movement and sensory experiences. We often carry emotions within our bodies without knowing how to release or express them without words. My goal is to provide a range of exercises that empower people to achieve this release and emotional expression.


What’s your background and how did you acquire those skills?


I began my journey as a dancer at the young age of 4 and continued to dance until my early twenties. After completing school, I moved to New York to pursue a professional dance career. I was awarded a scholarship to attend a contemporary dance program at the Joffrey Ballet School. While dancing held a special place in my heart, I soon realized it wasn’t my true calling. This realization led me back home to Ecuador, where I continued to dance and teach for a period. However, I began to feel a sense of loss as I stepped away from the art form I had known for so long.
In search of a new connection, I decided to explore other passions, particularly my love for nature, especially the ocean. I completed a scuba diving course, and during my very first dive, I had a life-changing encounter with giant manta rays. It was at that moment I knew I had found where I needed to be. I continued to dive and explore the underwater world, and then started working in marine conservation.

Yet, I felt something was missing. It became clear that I needed to bring back my artistic side. I had been taking photos with a camera, initially as a hobby. However, my perception of photography shifted when I discovered underwater housings. When I finally had the resources to invest in one and submerged my camera, it was like discovering a whole new world where I could merge my passion for the ocean with art.
Fast forward, photography has become my full-time occupation, and underwater photography has opened doors to collaborate with renowned brands like GoPro and  Reef and explore destinations that were once only dreams.


Biggest challenge within the Salty Souls Experience?

My most significant challenge during the retreats is resisting the urge to capture the ‘perfect’ photos and putting so much pressure on myself. My ultimate goal is to document raw and organic moments, and I sometimes find it challenging to let go of perfection and just trust my art.

Ninja super skill people don’t know you possess?

Maybe this is not a super ninja skill but I can learn the lyrics to any song super quick, even if it’s not a song I like. I can also quote a LOT of movie dialogs or funny videos!

Favorite place in the world?

I believe I still have a long list of places in the world I want to explore, and even with my travels, it’s challenging to pinpoint a single ‘favorite’ place. For me, a place becomes a favorite based on the emotions I experienced there or the specific details that remain tattooed in my brain.

It could be a smell, a breathtaking view, the way light illuminated a moment, a specific sound, people I meet, etc.  This is why you might hear me say ‘it’s my favorite place in the world’ about various locations like the Galapagos or French Polynesia.

What gets you the most excited in life?

I’m a very sensitive person, I’m deeply attuned to the details in life that create memories and emotions. It’s the sound and, particularly, the smell of the rain, the sight of crystal-clear water with white sandy bottoms,  a full moon, the exhilarating sound of thunder, the sensation of swimming through a school of fish, and even the evocative power of movie soundtracks.  The list could go on endlessly…

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

The craziest thing I’ve ever done is confront my arachnophobia head-on by embarking on an expedition with friends to explore and camp deep inside a cave known as La Cueva de Los Tallos for two days. I was determined to go, even though I was well aware that thousands of spiders awaited (and I was right :s) It ended up being one of the most special and epic experiences of my life. And I would even dare to say the cave became one of my favorites places in the world.

I’m very proud of that one. 
And no…. It it did not cure my fear of spiders