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Chris Burkard is a self-taught photographer and artist, based in Central Coast California, whose work is layered by surf, outdoor, lifestyle and travel subjects. 

At the age of 28, Burkard has established himself as a known name in the surf and outdoor industries, accomplished a deep body of work, held staff and senior photographer positions and has been recognized continually for his distinct creative compositions. Currently, Burkard serves as Senior Staff Photographer for Surfer Magazine. With ocean as his main muse, Burkard has consistently captured this subject in timeless and expansive photographic impressions, utilizing the tool of surfing to approach the ocean’s intricate personality and then extending out to include the human personalities that draw meaning from this same source. Searching for wild, remote destinations and offbeat landscapes, Burkard portrays the humble placement of the human in contrast to nature.

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The Inertia: What’s your gear of choice?

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Chris Burkard: My gear of choices is really dependent on where I’m traveling. When there are super tight deadlines, you have to get the shot in super remote places. This usually begs the question, ‘what is the lightest, quickest, and highest quality?’ I am a firm believer that the best camera is the one you have with you. To that end, Olloclips are my new favorite piece of equipment. They slip onto my iPhone allowing me super quick and easy access to a camera in some very inaccessible places. For my main camera body, I use the Sony A7s. It’s epic in low light and being a mirror-less camera, it is super light and portable. I use the full-frame Sony a99 for my tight action shots where keeping moving objects always in focus is a must.

Who do you look to for inspiration on Instagram?

I look forward to seeing the work of @forestwoodward @alexstrohl @ladzinski on my feed. They really bring something different to the table and help get my creative juices flowing. They are my dose of daily inspiration.

What do you look for in a photo?

A good photo for me is one that really flows throughout the frame. Your eyes really enjoy every part of the image. There are a few things that I try to keep in mind when I’m shooting. I think a huge part that can make or break a photo is the use of rule of thirds as a rough guide for framing. Dramatic lighting really gives some depth and dimension to an image. And, lastly, I like to have people in my images – even a lot of my nature shots, because when you put a person in the frame, it shows a sense of scale which otherwise could be missed.

Your favorite filter?

Favorite filter…. hmm thats a tough one. I don’t really use filters, but I do use the sun blaster feature every once in a while. In otherwise dull scenes, it can really make an image pop which helps catch a viewer’s attention. During this era, we see thousands of photographs every day, and the key is to find out what is going to make your image stand out from the rest.

Your favorite image of all time and a little backstory on it?

With no roads to the ocean, we relied on ATV to travel the distance from the village to the coast. As we crested the final hill, we were treated not only to a view of the distant snow-covered volcano but to a point with waves peeling down its right side. It was a moment I had hoped for but didn’t expect to see. Clean waves and a clear day in a place known as the “cradle of storms.” Surfer Josh Mulcoy carves on this wave, a speck amidst the empty Aleutian coastline.

To be honest, I would bet that a majority of the year this place is not that photogenic and plagued with bad weather and storms, but when the conditions come together just right, it is nature’s masterpiece. The remoteness of the places I travel in Alaska often leave me to searching with a boat or by mix of planes, cars, and ATVs. It was pretty surreal to trek a few hours through some of the most untouched nature I’ve seen only to stumble upon waves. Whenever you are in a place with such a remote nature, every angle and spot you shoot looks like another planet. Part of why I love traveling to these remote destinations is it puts nature as the star of the images and the surfers as just small objects within the beauty that surrounds them. The fact that the Aleutians seem to only produce perfect waves also helps add some photogenic qualities to the images.

Your favorite location to shoot?

My favorite location to shoot has to be Iceland. I have been there 13 times, and I have another trip planned in March. There is something visceral about it. With so many visuals going on, it can sometimes be overwhelming for a photographer. The lighting is always so gorgeous there and, with it always changing, there are always new shots to be had.

See more of Chris’ work on Instagram: @chrisburkard, his website and Facebook.

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