Interview with Chris Burkard
May 8th, 2020
We asked legendary outdoor photographer, writer, and explorer, Chris Burkard, how he got his start in photography, what initially attracted him to pursue a life in the outdoors, and advice he would give to aspiring photographers. Check out our interview with him below!
OA: Was there a certain point in your career when you realized that this [photography] is what you wanted to do?
CB: I started shooting photos when I was 19 years old. I realized that it was a way to explore and adventure, and show people the beauty in the world around me. It led to an internship at Transworld Surf magazine which was an incredibly valuable experience. It helped me in so many ways. Through trial and error, I taught myself and began to develop a style. Hard work, persistence, and having passion for what I do has taken me a long way. In the beginning it was just about traveling. That was all I really wanted to do, but now I think it’s really evolved into telling stories about places that can't necessarily speak for themselves.
OA: How do you balance having a family while also travelling the world for work and fun?
CB: My family means everything to me. The most difficult part about my career is the amount of time I am away from my family. I have a wife and two boys, and being on the road half the year definitely takes its toll. I miss them every time I’m gone, but I have their full-support and love which makes it so much easier. When I am home, I try to spend as much time as possible being around my family. Going to the beach, climbing, small road trips up to Big Sur, and day hikes are regular around here. I’ve learned to balance it all but I certainly miss them when I’m gone.
OA: If you could live in a hut anywhere in the world, where would it be?
CB: I have lived on the central coast of California my whole life. I love it here and I am still discovering new and amazing places around here. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
OA: Are there certain elements you always try to capture in a photo to "tell the story" of the place? Perhaps the geography, the human relationship, the history even? Do you have a system or method when taking photos or would you say it's more of an organic process?
CB: One thing I have done is take time to cultivate an individual style with a few guiding principles in my photography. Lighting and composition are, of course, extremely important. For me personally, natural lighting is everything in my photographs. In most of my photos, I have a pulled-back composition, so I can show the whole environment. It is important for me to have a well-composed foreground, a subject in the middle ground, and an epic background to tie the whole image together. I am usually shooting into the sun, towards a mountain range, or into something monumental. I want to transport the viewer directly to where I am shooting so that they get lost in the picture.
OA: As an adventurer and explorer, you have an intimate relationship with many of the places you travel to. How does your relationship to an area change after you have photographed it? Do you think you capture your experience with a place in your photos?
CB: I would say the only way it changes is that it grows stronger. Photographing an area makes you think deeply about it and what you want your photographs to show. I definitely think my photos capture my experiences because that is how I decide how to take photographs, they really go hand in hand. I base my photographs off of my experiences and use them to show what I saw and felt. For this reason, photographs of the same place change with each visit because each experience is different. The more time I spend taking photos of an area, the more I learn about it and the more of a relationship I form with it.
OA: You have built your career on photographing the outdoors, how do you give back to nature?
CB: I have always desired to give back in life, I do not think it is wise or healthy to only take take take. I think as I carry on in my photography career I desire more and more to protect the landscapes I visit and educate the viewers on how they can do their part to give back.
OA: What did support look like from your friends and family in the initial stages of your career?
CB: When I first decided to pursue photography I was 19 years old and working at a magazine. I quit and decided to buy a camera and go for it. It was a shock to many people to quit my job to pursue a career in photography, but I had the support of friends and family. I met my wife in high school and she has been my support through everything, honestly since day one. It's a bit of a bummer to not be able to travel with her as much now so I come home from a trip I always go straight home to see my wife and kids, they are really the only reason I come home. A Lot of my friends are on the trips with me, it's great being able to travel with them and share the experience of visiting the unique locations.
OA: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring outdoor adventure professionals or photographers?
CB: The best thing that you can do as an aspiring photographer is to identify a style that represents you well, develop within that style, and keep shooting to perfect it. It’s super important to have your images be recognizable by editors and others who are looking at your work. With the large number of photographers that are out there now you must find ways to stand out. Another great tool is reaching out to photographers who have a similar style that you are going for. Always reach out and ask to intern or assist with them. It was one of the best things I did early on, and the holistic experience is no doubt worth every second. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know my photography work instantly when they see it.
*All photos from Chris Burkard Instagram
Remember to adhere to local orders, practice social distancing, be smart and stay safe. Adventure Responsibly!
1025 Ext. Circle Dr.
Davis, CA. 95616.