PHOTOS: Chris Burkard

LOCATION: Alberta, Canada

“I’ve had a deer run into my car and completely destroy it. You never know what is going to happen to you out on the road but you have to be prepared for anything and don’t let the speed bumps keep you from enjoying it to its fullest.”

Where to begin with Chris Burkard? His name evokes insane images of vast expanses, and monumental bodies of water that make you question whether they could possibly exist on the same earth that you stand on. Given his powerful, widely-circulated work, we were struck by his humbleness when we bumped into him in Santa Cruz for the first time. Although there were crowds of people trying to snap up any chance to talk to him, he was so attentive, with a stillness in his eyes despite the hustle and bustle around us.

Chris’ generosity in time and energy made this exchange a delight, so we felt compelled to explore the mind behind the awe-inspiring photography from the Alberta photobook, from his trip to the Canadian Rockies this year.

How did the cold nature of Alberta compare to other trips?
Alberta was an incredible journey. I knew it was going to be a rugged and beautiful place but I didn’t expect the vastness of it all. I’ve travelled to many places with this same quality, but not all are as accessible as Alberta is. This trip revolved around an RV that two friends and I drove (which we did a ton), slept, and ate in (which we did very little). It was amazing to see so much wildlife and to see somewhere intact by the human hand. Pure natural beauty. It was one of the coldest places I have visited but it was well worth it. We were lucky to have had incredible weather on this trip.

How did seeing and shooting Alberta from above compare to from the ground?
It was unreal. I still dream about it. I was like a kid in a candy shop as soon as we took off. When we showed up to the helipad the war veteran pilot told us to put on every layer of clothing we had. We thought he was joking, but he wasn’t! Once we got in the air it was -100 degrees. I couldn’t feel my hands but I knew I had to continue shooting. We got perfect lighting from the sun with little cloud cover and when at sunset it just got better and better. Seeing it all from the air was so unique and gave us an opportunity to see the huge mountains and deep valleys from a completely different vantage point.

What were the surprises and highlights of the trip?
There was one morning where we were woken up by some noises. I was worried it was a bear or something coming for our food but I looked up and saw deer cross the river. It was an incredibly humbling experience to witness just as the sun came over the mountains. Incredibly humbling.
As always I do an “Arctic Plunge” at every cold destination I go to. But watching one of my assistants do it for the first time was definitely a highlight.

What do you wish others cared more about?
I wish people cared more about each other and less about their own selfish endeavors. I wish more people took time to spend time with others, instead of taking time for themselves. Lastly I wish people cared more about this planet and taking care of it as it gifts us with her beauty.

What is at the top of your bucket list?
I want to do the Pacific Crest Trail before I die. Its 2600 miles and is no joke. I am ready to do it whenever… I just need to find the time.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To be prepared for anything. I’ve dropped cameras in lakes. I’ve had a deer run into my car and completely destroy it. You never know what is going to happen to you out on the road but you have to be prepared for anything and don’t let the speed bumps keep you from enjoying it to its fullest.
What are your thoughts on how Instagram is changing the way people are seeing the outdoors?
I’ve always said that Instagram is a great thumb exercise unless you are actually going out there and seeing things with your own eyes. I try to bring these places I document to people who don’t have access or can’t see these destinations. However there are people who can go out there and go to these incredibly humbling destinations. At the end of the day I’m not trying to get these people to go to the exact location, I’m just trying to show the world through my eyes because we are all visitors here. This planet will be here long after we are gone, I want people to see it while they are here! I just want to inspire people to get out to their local beach, go camping at the closest national park, or hike on a nice trail. Instagram is such a great platform to share and inspire people to do that!

How do the plans look for your trip with Charles and Meg? What are you excited about for this trip that might be different from the past?
I am super stoked to go on the trip with Charles and Meg because I don’t think that they have been here before! I can’t wait to show off this place to them and get them up in the air, on a hike, or jumping into a glacial lake! Some things I want to do differently are longer hikes and longer kayaking trips. I want to see the land with the power of my own two feet.

What kind of goals have you set for the future?
At the beginning of each year I write down 5 clients that I would love to work for that year. These are personal goals of mine that I have done every year since I started picking up a camera. We’ll just have to wait and see how next year pans out : )