Interview: Chris Burkard, Outdoors Photographer
Chris Burkard is an action and outdoors photographer. If you’ve ever explored the side of Instagram with stunning landscape shots, outdoors vibes, and the most majestic, remote locations you’d only dream to visit, chances are you’ve seen some of Chris’s work. His eye for the outdoors goes beyond snapping scenery: he captures his connection with nature and evokes a certain yearning for adventure in his audience. Over 1.6 million people follow his Instagram alone!
Whether he’s managing his online presence or shooting in far-off locations, Chris stays prepared with a solid EDC. In this interview, he shares what’s in his pockets, the inspiration for his work, and must-read advice for aspiring photographers.
What's in your everyday carry?
The list is long, but I’ll try to pare it down to just the essentials:
- Sony a6300
- iPhone 6 with Lander Powell Case and LoveHandle Strap
- Olloclip Lens
- GoalZero Venture 30 Solar Power Bank
- Bose QuietComfort 20i Noise Cancelling Earbuds
- PeakDesign Camera Strap
- Field Notes Notebook
- KarasKustoms Bolt Pen
- Nomad ChargeCard
- Petzl ZIPKA Headlamp
- All Good Lip Balm and Healing Balm
- Gerber Crucial
- Northern Lights Optics NL6 Sunglasses
- Tsovet JPT-NT42 Watch
Could you tell us about your job, and what you do?
I guess I’ve never thought of my job as a profession. I am a photographer. My work is mainly rooted in adventure and I try to seek out moments that are meant to inspire and bring people joy, while at the same time, motivating them to get outside. I currently travel about 6 months out of the year. I shoot, speak, and direct amongst a host of other random things. Other than that, I am a father and husband which is by far my most important and rewarding role.
You go the extra mile to capture photos that really inspire others. How do you find inspiration for yourself?
It’s pretty simple. I find my inspiration in nature. Heading out and spending days off the grid and away from civilization is where I feel most relaxed. It lets me really see things in a different light. I used to draw a ton of inspiration from magazines and photo books, but now it’s more from music, architecture, paintings, poetry—really anything that opens up my senses in a new and interesting ways.
I've always tried to approach subjects with caution and humility. I never want to be running around taking photos without a clear purpose. So I try to really take in the places I go and make sure that I am feeling some connection with them before I get to work. It’s an important part of my photographic process.
Some of my top influences are Alex Strohl, Paul Nicklen, Michael Fatali, Ron Stoner, and so many others. My faith is a huge influence next to my family as well. My mom gave up a lot for me. She never traveled and practically had me as a teen, so when I travel, I do it for her.
We can see what's really important to you by the subjects you shoot, but behind the lens, what else are you passionate about?
The ocean, and everything that has to do with it. I go on these long trips, and most of the time I find myself just craving the ocean. I’m always wanting to get back home to go bodysurf and smell the salt in the air. It’s kind of an addiction in some ways. I never leave on a trip without a pair of fins and board shorts just in case I get a chance to jump in the water somewhere. Honestly, you can usually find me in a river somewhere… hahaha.
I also love lending my voice to help protect wild places. I enjoy having a platform to share, so I usually EDC a notebook with me wherever I go. It allows me to jot down anything that come to mind. I’ve found find that I have my best ideas in 2 places: traveling on a plane, and hiking on a trail when I don’t have cell service or other distractions pulling me away from the moment. I really try to respect those times and use them as great opportunities to think out loud.
Why do you EDC?
In a lot of ways, it’s crucial to living a creative life. The ability to document your life and share it has never been easier. When moments pass by and I don’t have these items, I feel like I missed out on something. Maybe it’s just a bad case of FOMO, but I feel like the iPhone in particular is one of the my best tools for video, photo, social, etc. It’s such a unique tool that I can do most of my work on, while at the same time, allows me to share it with millions of people. That brings me a ton of joy.
I can tell by your carry that you're pretty savvy when it comes to good gear. What's next for your EDC?
I really want to get one of those Nomad carabiner/iPhone cables. They look really simple and rad.
Any recently completed projects you want to let us know about? What can we expect to see next from you?
In the past year, I was lucky enough to achieve a longtime dream of mine and published a children’s book. I have published 5 books centered around my photography, but making something specific to kids was super important to me. Also, I recently finished shooting a film about surfing under the northern lights. It was insane. So cold, brutal and wild. It really tested my resolve. I shot with the Sony A7Sii which is specifically optimized for low light. It was the only way possible to get the images we capture. I can’t wait to share it!
You mentioned earlier that it's never been easier to document and share your life and your work with others. Given your success, what advice do you have for people looking to explore a field like yours?
To all you hopeful photographers out there: love what you shoot. I spent a ton of time early in my career serving the needs of editors, magazines, etc. But once I finally focused into shooting what actually made me happy and brought me joy, my career skyrocketed. I also realized what I was good at and stopped trying to convince others that I could do everything. That is really important. Don’t try to show an editor tons of images that reflect a broad variety of work. Focus on what is most important: your best work. The stuff that shows what you specialize in. It will help you become a better curator and editor for your own work. The worst thing you can do is try to tell people you can shoot everything well. You’re hired because you are a specialist in a certain area, so the sooner you realize that the better.
Photos courtesy of Chris Burkard.