Destinationbetween with Chris Burkard

First off, what do you do? 
I am an explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author. Traveling throughout the year to pursue the farthest expanses of Earth, I work to capture stories that inspire humans to consider their relationship with nature, while promoting the preservation of wild places everywhere.

You live a life pretty much always moving. What does home mean for you? 
For me, home will always be on the Central Coast of California where I was born and raised and continue to live. However, as I’ve gotten older, home has really meant being with my family. Whether at my actual house, spending time exploring, or in Iceland where I try to spend a few months a year, as long as I’m with my family (my two boys and wife) I feel at home.

When your on the road there’s always so many temptations. Do you have any tips on how to focus when you need to get the boring stuff done? 
Oh man, this is a hard question. It’s always so difficult for me when people think my job is just traveling and shooting photos because there is so much work that has to go on behind the scenes. I think for me, I’m just really internally motivated to get the boring stuff done because I know the result is getting to go on these epic adventures. A huge key for me too is getting exercise and getting outside every day - that helps me focus at the desk a lot easier.

What do you always bring on your travels? 
What I bring always changes depending on where I’m headed. I always bring my camera kit - a Sony mirrorless system, drone, and my film camera. I also have a little sleep kit (eye mask and neck pillow) that always comes with me and is a huge help for getting rest on the road.

What would you tell yourself as a teenager? 
Good question... I probably would say something like.. Don’t settle for just being “content” you gotta find what you're passionate about and risk everything for it. I would also say to try and enjoy the process .. when you are in it, it’s hard to appreciate, but ultimately you will look back and really miss those moments of growth.

Which is your favourite destination? 
Iceland! No doubt. It's such a magical place and no matter how many times I go, I keep getting drawn back. I'm actually writing this in Iceland right now. I’ve been here over 50 times and spend as much time here as I possibly can. It’s an amazingly diverse country with some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. The people here are amazing, they’re so kind it’s hard to believe, and some of my closest friends now are from here. This country just has so much to offer and keeps me coming back time and time again

What would you tell people who would like to follow your path? 
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. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know my photography work instantly when they see it. I would also tell them to understand how much work has to go in behind the scenes - it isn’t quite as glamorous as people may think from social media. There’s no escaping time behind the computer to make this lifestyle possible.

Have you studied? 
I never formally studied photography - I actually dropped out of college to pursue it. I wouldn’t say that means I’ve never studied. Being self taught, I learned almost entirely through trial and error. Practicing and working at what I loved to shoot was a big part of it. I interned at Transworld Surf under Pete Tares which was a great opportunity that furthered my career. I also interned with landscape photographer Michael Fatali which really influenced how I look at my own work. These guys never picked up my camera and showed me how to shoot, they just led by example. The goal was that nobody ever told me, “ you have to do it this way.” I was able to experiment and able to just learn in an openly creative state, which I think is really important for an emerging creative.

What was your first job? 
My first ever job was working as a landscaper - long hard hours of manual labor. After that, I worked in an auto shop changing tires and helping out wherever I could. I later worked at a magazine store and spending time flipping through pages of travel magazines is largely what inspired me to pursue this life.

Which stuff brings creativity to you? 
I think it comes in many forms.. I used to draw creativity mainly from other people's photography but I now I find it almost anywhere. In music, architecture, drawing, and so so many other places. Traveling to new countries and seeing how other people (in other places) do things. Experiencing new landscapes always sparks creativity too for me.

Do you have any packing trick that you use while always on the move?
The biggest easy tip is to use packing cubes. I never ever travel without them - they’re so helpful for keeping everything organized and neat. It’s so nice to know exactly where everything is instead of having it jumbled in a big pile in your bag.

What was the most nerve-wracking situation you and you’re camera equipment ever got into?
Haha the time I flooded $30,000 worth of camera gear on a boat in Chile certainly comes to mind.

Strategic packer or more last-minute take it all?
I’m most definitely a strategic packer. In fact, an obsessive, detail oriented packer. A lot of the trips I go on are multi week adventures in remote areas and every item I bring is carefully thought about and packed as efficiently as possible. Usually space is limited and I want to be able to access everything easily, so I spend a lot of time getting everything dialed in.

Are you sometimes thinking about a “normal” life (without all that adventurous stuff) when being in stressful situations while traveling?
Not really... I guess there’s no other way to put it other than this is my normal life. I'm seeking out how to make life an adventure everyday .. exploring tiny unknowns and aspects of my day to day that challenge me. I don’t think you need to travel far to make your life feel like an adventure

How would describe the effect social-media had on your personal life and profession as a photographer?
I can definitely say that when used correctly, when used positively, it can be an incredible blessing and has introduced me to so many amazing people. Some of my most intimate and special moments have come from relationships I've made on social media... I can certainly attest that it’s an amazing tool for experience. It can also be a waste of time and an incredible drain on your life if you use it to endlessly scroll.

To see more of Chris's work, give him a follow.

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