Chris Burkard is an award-winning, self-taught photographer who climbed to the top of his game by seeking out remote surf breaks in the wildest places on earth instead of hitting up the usual spots. In other words, he would happily freeze in Iceland, submerge in the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic, or drop into the 42-degree volcanic water of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to shoot surfing over going to the beaches of Hawaii. He calls this his own personal crusade against the mundane.
In what has now become known in adventure photography as Burkard-style, he tends to incorporate a human element into most of his photos. Whether it is surfing the most dangerous seas, hauling a surfboard through knee-deep snow, solo-kayaking throughout nature’s raw beauty, or foggy skateboard runs through the wet mountain roads of the Faroe Islands, his subject matters prove that adventure is a lifestyle, not just an activity. Perhaps you could say he has a sense of prepared spontaneity when it comes to shooting, being prepared enough to be ready for anything – rain when expecting sun, fog opposed to snow, or flat waves when the reports call for swell – and then steps back and lets life unfold around him while nature goes head-to-head with chance. Whatever the secret is, his photos have the ability to make us believe that camping amongst Grizzly Bears in Siberia sounds like a great way to spend our next vacation.
Where did your love of photography come from?
When I was in high school I did a lot of painting and art, but it was difficult for me to be stuck behind an easel. Photography has allowed me to do art while being mobile and exploring the world around me. It immediately became a huge passion of mine that has allowed me to experience things I never imagined.
What motivates you to continue taking photos?
In my photography I often try to put a human element to create a sense of attainability, and inspire people to go out and have their own adventures. I think my love for creativity and passion for adventure are some of my greatest motivations. A camera can be such an incredible tool to create experiences and make memories.
Where did your love of the wilderness come from?
I absolutely love landscapes that are untouched by human hands. It's becoming harder and harder to find places that have been completely protected and preserved. When I'm on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, it forces distractions and trivial things out of my mind.
What are some of your favorite places you have been to so far?
Iceland would definitely make it to the top of my list. It's one of those places that truly has it all -- from mountains to waterfalls, the Icelandic landscapes never cease to blow my mind. There's a ton of gems around every corner.
What was the most challenging experience you've had on the road?
Every trip seems to have its share of challenges. In cold environments I have to be careful not to get frostbite, and due to the nature of my work I'm constantly having to work around the weather. Sometimes I fly across the globe, only to wait for a storm to pass, or the surf to change. Most people don't realize that there's so much work that goes behind every photograph.
Tell us about some of your most hair-raising moments…
There was that one time that I nearly slid off an icy cliff in Norway. Another time I had grizzly bears right outside my campsite in Russia. Didn't get a lot of sleep that night.
What is the one item you wouldn't think about heading into the wilderness without?
My camera, and a bottle of water!
There are significantly more people being drawn to the wilderness. Do you feel that your images are inspiring this movement?
I really hope so. My greatest goal is to inspire people to appreciate and experience this incredible planet.
What advice do you have for those who want to follow their passion and do what they love?
Don't worry about what people say, and take steps toward the direction of your dreams, no matter how small they may be. Never underestimate the power of determination and discipline.
Where are you looking forward to exploring next? Any upcoming adventures?
I'm heading back to Iceland soon; there's never too much to explore.
Using only five words, describe yourself.
Passionate, driven, enthusiastic, adventurous, creative.