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.
Tom Medvedich is a New York-based commercial photographer who’s had some of the biggest names in basketball and hip-hop on the other side of his lens, such as LeBron James, Eminem, and 50 Cent, to name a few. Besides portraiture, he does still life photography for some of the finest luxury brands around. His unorthodox concepts impart character and complexity to his still life shots to produce stunning, well-executed, and compelling visuals. Join us in this interview as Tom walks us through his work, shows you how a pro takes an EDC photo, and speaks on his favorite gear in fantastic detail.
Since you shoot for so many different clients and you’re constantly changing it up between still life and portraiture, a day on the job must be really demanding. What’s it really like?
Being a still life and portrait photographer means I'm my own boss and I'm doing a lot of work day and night to keep the gears of my business moving smoothly. During the day, I'm at different studios and offices pretty much daily. I can be in Manhattan shooting for J. Crew on a Monday and then fly out to another state to shoot a basketball player the next day, come back that same night, and be shooting for Gilt Groupe on the following day. At night I do a lot of emailing, retouching, and paperwork. You really have to be focused, organized, and driven to succeed in this business. Photography has taught me so much about how to be better at life.
What influenced you to get your photography to where it is now and how do you stay on top of your game?
New York is pretty hectic and there are a lot of people working very hard to succeed. I feed off that energy. I love looking at other people's work and thinking, “Man, that's awesome” and “Now, I need to top that.” Also, since so much of my life revolves around work, I really focus on working with people that I enjoy spending time with. I strive to deliver the absolute best product to every client on every single job because I truly believe in putting your best self out there every day.
You’re really focused on your work and the effort definitely shows. What do you use your time and talents for when you’re not shooting on the job?
Obviously I'm into photography, but there's occasionally time for other things than work. I like travel, organization, and home projects, so I wanted to start documenting things I've done and I started a fun side project called Tattooed Yuppie along with an accompanying YouTube channel. Although it's still in its infancy, I'll be dedicating more time to it in 2015. I’m looking forward to having that as a new outlet for myself.
What's in your everyday carry?
Moleskine Weekly Planner - This particular planner has the days of the week down the left page and an empty, lined page on the right. That's my favorite format because I can make notes for jobs on the right as well as right down things I need to get done for the week. My entire life is on my iPhone 6. I'm a heavy iCal user, but I like to have my day to day on paper so everything is at a glance. Plus there's nothing more satisfying than putting a line through something on your to-do list.
I've been using a Leatherman Wave for about a decade on set and more recently a Surge, but I also just picked up the Juice S2. It's a really great EDC tool because it's small enough to not be noticeable, but big enough to handle business.
Eneloop batteries - I carry between 1-4 AAA and AA Eneloops on any given day depending on what I'm doing. Work does not happen without power.
Rolex GMT-Master II - My wife got this for me as a wedding gift and it's my favorite thing on the planet. It reminds me of her and our awesome wedding. The bonus is that it looks great with a t-shirt or a tuxedo.
Spyderco Dragonfly 2 - I'm not the biggest knife fanatic, but I do have a need for cutting stuff pretty much daily. I wanted something that was tiny because I don't think it's necessary to have a Crocodile Dundee knife as an EDC blade. I also liked the orange because I think it's a little easier for non-knife people to digest than an all-black tactical knife. At 1 oz, it's so light you forget you're carrying it.
Boo-boo Box - I have some back problems so I carry Aleve and Excedrine Migraine is the only thing that helps my headaches. I've got some Advil as well. I keep some extras because I like to have them on hand if someone I'm working with is in need.
Paracord Keychain with Black Diamond Spring Gate Biner - Ever since I had house keys or a car I've had a keychain on a carabiner. I recently added this paracord so I don't have to take the carabiner off my belt loop to open my door. After almost 2 decades I've settled on this really strong spring gate carabiner because there's no gate to get misaligned like with the D shaped biners. Works incredibly well.
Anker 6,000 mAh Battery - My phone rarely dies but there's days where I can't plug in to a computer or I'm running around a lot and constantly emailing or making calls. This unit recently replaced my Mophie Juice pack which is much thicker and heavier with the same mAh rating. The Anker is also a fraction of the price.
Incase 6" Lightning Cable - Sometimes it's nice to not carry 3' of cable.
Fisher Space Pen - I had heard so much about these pens that I almost hated them without ever trying one. Kind of like how my old roommate ruined Seinfeld for me before I ever saw an episode. And then after giving it a chance, just like Jerry Seinfeld, I LOVE this pen. It's another thing that's so compact that you don't even realize it's in your pocket. The best part is that when you open it, it's a full size pen — and you always need a pen.
Olight i3s EOS - Another great item that is invisible in your pocket but gets used a bunch of times a day. I was on a plane two days ago rummaging through my backpack and I couldn't see anything — until I remembered I had my flashlight in my pocket. Barely larger than a AAA battery, this light is bright enough to hang with the AA lights. It’s under $20 so there’s no excuse to be left in the dark.
Titanium Pico Widgy Pry Bar - Another example of a very hyped up item that lives up to its hype. How many times are you tearing your fingers up trying to open something? This weighs as much as 5 pennies and is only 2" long. I hate key clutter, but this can hide on a keychain all day and comes in handy so much it's ridiculous. Pays for itself when you realize how much less frequently your fingers hurt.
Why do you EDC?
Being a photographer means you're somewhere different almost every day. I need to make sure that I have what I need to get the job done wherever I go. I really focus on making these items as compact and lightweight as possible since I have to carry so much gear on any given day. On a light day I've got a 20 lb backpack and on a more intense day I've got a 40 lb camera bag with 2 huge Pelican cases of lights and stands, etc. So of course, these items I've listed are part of a much larger system involving different cases and bags, but these are some highlights of what really makes my life easier.
Over the years, I've learned from my mistakes. When I was just starting out, I didn't have enough batteries and then I'd have to leave a shoot to run down to a convenience store to get batteries. Stuff like that. Then I realized how much easier it would be to just have everything I need on me wherever I go. They say two is one and one is none, and that's 100% true. Like when my almost brand new camera died on me for no reason and then I had to figure out how to get one within the hour. Now I just have a spare in my camera bag and I've never had a problem since.
Carrying so much random stuff as well as back up items definitely feels excessive at times, but when you have a bag filled with zip ties, velcro, multiple types of glue, etc, there's really no situation you're not prepared for.
You’ve clearly put a lot of thought into your setup. After years of refining your EDC, if you had to narrow it down, what would be your single favorite item in your current rotation?
My favorite item is definitely the Olight i3s EOS. I love having such a compact but incredibly useful tool on me at all times. It's great for regular applications (not night time) because of the cycle of modes. When you turn it on, it starts in medium brightness, then high, then moonlight. This is really helpful since this is one of the only multi mode flashlights that doesn't start on the dimmest setting.
What are some things that you’ve wrapped up that you’re most proud of, and what’s next for you?
Besides getting married in 2014, I had some really memorable shoots that made for an awesome year. I started off the year shooting Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Jimmy Iovine in LA for the cover of XXL, along with Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent for other XXL covers. I also got to shoot Lebron for the cover of SLAM which was such a great experience. The Chia Co. sent me down to Nicaragua to shoot their CEO on a chia farm which was incredible as well. I always try to push myself to do more, so I'm hoping that 2015 will be a big year for me career-wise.
You’re your own boss, you get to travel the world and your talents are sought after by prestigious clients. What would you tell people who are striving for that kind of success?
First you have to do something you really love. There's no such thing as job security anymore, so you have to find something you enjoy spending a lot of time doing, and turn it into a sustainable business. If you get good at something, eventually people will pay you for it. Then, work hard and be nice to people.
See Tom’s portfolio at his website, and follow him on Instagram for even more of his photography.
Photos courtesy of Tom Medvedich
Nigel Barker is a massively successful photographer who has been impacting the fashion world with his creativity and innovation for the past 20 years. In addition to his renowned fashion and portrait work, he also works in film and television as a director, producer, and personality on shows such as America’s Next Top Model, and most recently, The Face. He’s just finished his newest book, Models of Influence, and had some time to turn out his pockets for us and share his everyday carry. Join us as Nigel, a creative and leader in his field, details his day-to-day, the kit he EDCs to get the job done, and some inspirational insight for aspiring photographers and anyone trying to take their work to the next level.
Between your work as a fashion photographer and your television roles, every day on the job must be interesting but challenging. Could you walk us through your day-to-day?
While my day-to-day varies enormously, I’ll mention a few things as they define me: I get up every day at 5:15 AM to hit the gym before I feed, dress, and take my 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter to school. After, I’ll normally get to set by 9 AM where my assistants are setting up gear and equipment for that day's shoot. I shoot 4-6 times a month, with each shoot taking 1-3 days, plus many days of production before or after.
One of my favorite parts of this business is the creative brainstorming around a new campaign and brand. Thinking outside the box and pushing boundaries are what we are known for both in fashion and television. I normally shoot around 6-12 shots a day. Some require multiple experts, such as set designers, make up artists, stylists, and photo technicians to help me achieve the desired look and feel. A small shoot is about 3-5 people, and a larger one can involve over 100. Most jobs come through my website from clients and businesses all over the world seeking our help with branding, creative direction, and promotion for their newest collection or season. A wonderful thing about working in NYC is that most people love to come here to shoot, but when work requires me to travel I spend on average 4-5 months of the year abroad shooting on location.
You mention one of your favorite things you do is creative brainstorming. From where do you draw inspiration to stay as innovative as your work demands?
I draw inspiration from the beauty I see in everything: from the exotic to the mundane, from politics to the weather. New York City herself is an inspirational place to live in, full of contradictions. You can feel her heartbeat at all times, which is both exciting and sometimes terrifying. When a new client approaches us with a product, we think of how we can do something completely different for them visually or in marketing, or with some luck, both. My greatest love is undoubtedly using photography and film to change hearts and minds about world issues. I’m an ambassador for several charitable causes, such as the Make A Wish Foundation, EDEYO Foundation, the HSUS, and many more. My aim is to win society over by celebrating life and the world we live in, rather than with shock and horror, by telling intimate stories that a viewer can connect with and showing them how they can make a difference. For example, with the HSUS, I successfully lobbied to obtain a complete ban on the import of seal fur. My film, “A Sealed Fate?” and exhibition of photography was used extensively in the campaign. Similar strategies were employed for other campaigns for the EDEYO Foundation in Haiti, and EGPAF in Tanzania.
Besides photography and film, what else are you passionate about? What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?
I’m lucky enough to have a job that many people consider to be a hobby, so I still take lots of photos for social media in my spare time. Most recently, I launched an Instagram for my wife and her twin sister, who are extraordinary yogis. I have lots of fun photographing them in unusual contortions juxtaposed with both urban settings and country landscapes. Other than that, I am an avid wine collector and enjoy making things with my hands, such as wood working and rock carving. My son Jack loves all this too, so I have the perfect apprentice to work with.
What's in your everyday carry?
I stuff my pockets with all kinds of things. My Mum loves to tell my kids that she would refuse to empty out my pockets when I was a boy in fear of finding snakes, beetles, and spiders in them! These days you won’t find any more creepy-crawlies, but I do have the same watch my father gave me when I was 11 years old — a stainless steel Rolex Oysterdate. I prefer shirts with French cuffs, so I normally have cufflinks (Tracey Mayer designs my favorite pairs). I carry a damascus steel pocket knife, not for self-defense, but because as a photographer I always have things that need to be cut, opened, or whittled! As a music lover, I never leave home without my old school iPod (160GB version to store my collection). Obviously I carry a camera, and sometimes several, but my go-to is the Sony RX-100. It’s small, sleek, and takes photos the way I see them. I usually carry a flash drive with the last few weeks of work on it just in case. I love the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth for this — it’s water proof, shock-proof, and looks cool! Speaking of cool, I love my Persol Film Noir sunglasses too. To keep all my tech (including my iPhone) alive, I always carry a Mophie external battery while I’m not near an outlet. Lastly I carry a keychain, but mine has a bottle opener, and a Citibike keyring in case my Land Rover doesn’t start. While I carry a lot of things, I don’t really use a man-bag, but rather, I stuff all of this into my pockets.
Why do you EDC?
When I head out every day, I need to be prepared. Not that I am a survivalist, but I like to be able to get the job done — whether signing a check or cutting tied up plastic cords on set. I grew up with a Swiss Army Knfie in my pocket and I love the idea of preparedness, except now I have to keep a backup battery in my pocket too! I have a deep sense of loyalty to my belongings, like my watch, which I have worn for 32 years. When I find something I like, I stick with it (often buying more than one at a time in case it gets discontinued). In general, when it comes to the overall style of the things I like, I opt for timeless rather than fashionable. I love the concept of being iconic, and I would say that most of the things I love would be considered thus.
Is there a particular item that you’ve been meaning to add to your EDC?
I’m fortunate enough to have better than average eyesight. Despite having 20/10 vision I’ve been meaning to get a really good pair of pocket binoculars for years now. I love looking into the distance and trying to discern what’s what, whether in the Atlas Mountains or out sailing with my father-in-law.
While you’re often recognized for your photography, you’re an author too. Could you tell us about your new book?
I just completed my second book, Models of Influence, published by Harper Collins and on sale in February. It’s about 50 women who reset the course of fashion from the 1940's to today. The book celebrates these extraordinary ladies and delves historically as well as anecdotally in to why and how their specific beauty and personality epitomized an era, giving shape to their generation and affecting the pop culture zeitgeist forever. It's a coffee table book illustrated with hundreds of photographs by many of the worlds leading shooters and a few from me. If you are interested in fashion, beauty, and supermodels, this is the book for you. If you aren’t, check your pulse! You may be dead.
Given your decades of experience in photography, what advice would you offer to aspiring creatives and photographers who are just getting started?
I am asked on a daily basis by young photographers and film makers whether their pictures are good, if I like their portfolios, what they could do better, or what they’re doing wrong. Ultimately, as with any art form, you have to love what you do, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I am not suggesting conceit, but rather a passion for what you are creating that supersedes any single compliment or pat on the back. If you want to be a success, you have to own what you do — or no one else will. While I am happy to give you my two cents on your pictures, that is just my opinion. The bigger question is: do you really like it? Personally, I like images and films that tell a story, that have rich narrative, leading you to fantasize. I believe that it’s possible whether shooting a 6-foot Amazonian supermodel, a boulder in Death Valley, or a crashing wave in Montauk… but you need to approach the shot with the story in mind, rather than hope there’s a story in there after the fact.
See more of Nigel's work at his website, NigelBarker.tv, and connect with him on Twitter (@nigelbarker), Facebook (NigelBarkerOfficial), and Instagram (@nigelbarker).
Photos courtesy of Nigel Barker