If you’re pursing a photography career, you’ll want to lean into my latest conversation on the Chase Jarvis LIVE show with Chris Burkard.
I have had the great privilege of knowing Chris for darn near a decade now. As an accomplished photographer, explorer, author, creative director, and speaker, he has travelled to some of the most remote places on earth capturing stories and images that connect us to nature and the importance of protecting it.
In our conversation, we dive deep into Chris’ career path, and the wayward journey he’s been on. After nearly 20 years as a professional photographer, he feels like he’s finally hitting his stride. That might sound odd considering his work has been seen by millions, but the truth is there’s rarely a straight line to our career growth.
Of course, a long-running debates in career development is whether specialists or a generalists have a higher career trajectory. I know often, I’m asked if creators need to find a niche or if they can pursue a combination of their passions.
There is no clear-cut answer. There are areas where specialists thrive more than generalists and vice versa. That’s one of the reasons employers hire both.
“Being a specialist is incredibly valuable,” Chris writes in his new book, Wayward: Stories and Photographs.
However, being a specialist doesn’t disqualify expanding one’s craft into different avenues. Consider what hiring managers need and are looking for.
Be a specialist in your subject and your desire
When working with clients and hiring managers, you want to show that you’re knowledgeable about the industry you’re working in and the job you’re considering. You can’t tell an employer that you’re a talented generalist who quickly learns how to do a specific, technical task. Very few people will send you on an assignment that you haven’t first demonstrated you have some level of mastery over.
Go deep and immerse yourself. You’re hired by clients, brands, or whoever because you’re the best at what you do.
“The one piece of advice I give everybody starting out is: Go deep and immerse yourself,” says Chris. “You’re hired by clients, brands, or whoever because you’re the best at what you do.”
Remember, specialists are often hard to replace and better paid because they’re able to perform challenging tasks and solve high-level problems using their deep technical knowledge and specific skills.
Because of their vast experience using their core competency, specialists can also streamline their workflows and do their jobs more efficiently. This leads to higher productivity and fewer errors.
Another reason why it’s very valuable to be a specialist is that you can focus on your area of expertise and thus come up with more creative ideas. Also, you can hone your intuition as a result of being immersed in that world. The power of intuition cannot be underestimated.
The last reason specialists thrive: they become trusted experts and leaders in their industry.
Be a generalist in your skills and approach
Chris continues, “that doesn’t mean I can’t expand my craft or understanding of other things. It just means the way I do it is go all in. If I’m going to study aerial photography, I’m going to spend years doing it prior to even putting out a portfolio where I can claim I can do it”
Gaining technical experience and mastery in your specific role, you can still learn broader skills that will help you advance in your career, especially if you aspire to a leadership position.
For example, your ability to communicate well with people, lead a team, plan and manage budgets, train new employees, and forecast or model scenarios.
This doesn’t mean you’re a jack of all trades and master of none. It means expanding your horizons and equipping yourself with new tools that will help you do your job much more efficiently while growing as a person.
Such an attitude will help you lead a fulfilling personal and professional life. It’ll also allow you to help others when needed.
While your desire being specific to the role at hand is important, but you don’t want to come across as inflexible or narrow-minded.
Instead, show that you’re flexible and through a variety of tools and draw on your (seemingly weird and random) experience to get the job done.
It all comes down to who you are
“Generalizing specialist” is a term some experts use to describe people who have a core competency but are eager to gain a working knowledge of other relevant areas. In other words, they have a deep area of expertise and some shallow ones.
While this may sound ideal, the truth is that specialization can be more of a prison than a blessing for some people. There are people who are naturally curious and don’t want to be pigeonholed. They want to try their hand at as many professions as possible.
Chris Burkard tries to shed the pronouns, and really just considers himself a storyteller. “I don’t make money from my camera every month.” Whether he is speaking, being a brand ambassador or helping direct a film, those are completely different skills.
“I come back to the broader narrative”, he says. “I like to tell stories. Whatever format that takes on, I’m willing and open to it.”
Listen to the Podcast
Chase Jarvis: Hey everybody. What's up? It's Chase. Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis Live Show here on CreativeLive. This is where I unpack the most creative and talented people in the world where I unpack their brain with the goal of helping you live your dreams in career, in hobby, and in life. And my guest today is the one and only adventure photographer extraordinaire, Chris Burkard.
Chase Jarvis: Now, I have had the great privilege of knowing Chris for darn near a decade now. And to watch his career blossom and transform has been one of the great joys. Obviously, my background as a photographer plays into that, but the ideas and the stories behind photographs that you've seen all over the world, I know you've seen Chris's work. It is very powerful. And he unpacks a lot of this stuff in his new book called Wayward, which we cover in depth in the show today. More important than the material in particular is Chris's view on life and his ability to share the ideas around pursuing your dreams, living the dreams, and what it takes to have the courage to go for it. It's a very, very important episode. If you are a creator or you want to become one in your lifetime, Chris's story is absolutely invaluable. So whether you're here for the adventure, the photography, or the stories around pursuing your dreams, this episode is for you. I'm going to get out of the way. And again, enjoy yours truly in conversation with Chris Burkard.
Chase Jarvis: Mr. Chris Burkard, welcome back to the show for your second appearance. Thanks for being here, bud.
Chris Burkard: Honored to be here, my man. It's always a pleasure. It's always good to find time to connect with you. I feel like we are always keeping tabs on one another on the social sphere. But yeah, I really am sad that I'm not in person there, because honestly last time we chatted at the studio was just incredible. It was so cool to have that interaction and play off each other a little bit. And yeah, I appreciate you taking the time.
Chase Jarvis: Oh man, happy to be it. And I got to get the first tour of your new van at the time, the gangster adventure mobile that you have. That things incredible.
Chris Burkard: It's pretty rad.
Chase Jarvis: All right-
Chris Burkard: Sadly, I've since sold it. 2020 was the-
Chase Jarvis: Oh no.
Chris Burkard: Yeah, it was the year for kind of, I think shaking and moving. Dude, people were just looking to travel around the state. And I was like, "Well, I'm never going to get a better price for this thing" so I sold my sprinter, got rid of it. Kind of sad, but it had to be done.
Chase Jarvis: Oh man, that's by low, sell high. That's peak investment strategy there.
Chris Burkard: Yeah.
Chase Jarvis: Well, obviously I'm a big fan of your work. I wanted to have you on the show for a handful of reasons, not the least of which is a new book that I'm very excited to talk about, Wayward. Congratulations, it's stunning and beautiful. And as a veteran of the show, you have been on before, but for the handful of people who have the join community of the show since the last time you were a guest here, why don't you, if you'd start off by just giving us an overview of who you are, what you like to work on, how you spend your time in life. And then I will dive in on a few of the topics that I want to chat with you about today.
Chris Burkard: Yeah. So my work kind of oscillates between pure expedition type of projects where I'm out in the field exploring some new waves, some new cycling or out there skiing or whatnot. And then a lot of commercial work that we still do, shooting catalogs and branded content for people out there. It's a bit of a given push and pull, trying to find the time to give attention to both. And beyond that, I'm obviously a dad to two young boys. I have my family here. We have a small like kind of farm with a bunch of random animals and alpacas and sheep and other things.
Chris Burkard: I'm busy, to say the least. I have a studio space in California Pismo Beach, where we kind of work on a lot of our production shoots and whatnot. But I definitely fill my time up. I love the idea of exploring kind of the relationship between human beings and landscapes and oftentimes trying to explore that through human powered adventures in some way. And it's been a good run. I feel like I've been really grateful. And as odd as it sounds, doing this for 15, 20 years, I'm just finally hitting my stride into figuring out what it is I love and the sort of recipe for success within telling those stories.
Chase Jarvis: There's two things embedded in there that I want to extract. One, this fact that having done that for 15 plus years and just starting to feel like you're getting footing, that seems to someone who's listening to this right now and on year two, it's got to sound crazy overwhelming. But I know that to be true as an artist. We're always sort of finding new footing. What might you say about that process of figuring it out, figuring yourself out, your career, your path? Because I'll tell you, the people who are watching and listening right now are at various points on their journey. Some just starting, some veterans, but a lot of people trying the courage to start. So that might sound intimidating that legend Chris Burkard just now thinks he's figuring it out and he's been doing it for... I don't know. What are you? 29 now? So half your life?
Chris Burkard: Yeah. I mean, the truth of the matter is you're spot on. I definitely have no clue what I'm doing at times. I think I took a text from your book about trying to really explore different avenues of creativity. I mean, I obviously was a huge fan of what you were doing prior to shooting a lot of commercial work, shooting, being really immersed in the ski world. And then all of a sudden, I remember I'm kind of in the beginning of my career and I'm in Seattle and I'm like, "What's this portrait book that Chase did? This seems so out of the ordinary." And I think that, again, I took a text from that thinking that, "Well, if I want to tell more deep and meaningful stories, I need to expand beyond what I'm comfortable with." And for me it was a matter of, "Well, can I still use the backdrop of adventure, of landscape, of all these things, but tell something that's about addiction or parenthood or indigenous cultures or something like that, to, I guess just expand our human experience," right?
Chris Burkard: And I think that I don't necessarily need to totally give up everything that I love and care about in terms of documenting, surfing and growing up within this action sports realm, but I can still try to probe a little deeper to explore a little more. And so nowadays, the recipe that I'm kind of talking about is, it's about like giving time to each one of those things. It's about, if I'm working with a brand commercially and they want me to do something for them and support them or promote them, I want to advocate for a project that's going to speak both of our languages and do something meaningful, do something purposeful, not just kind of like, "Yeah, I'll just share some random product." If I'm shooting a commercial project for a brand, they obviously know what they're coming to me for. And they also know what they aren't.
Chris Burkard: I think that the last time we spoke, we talked a lot about saying no is really saying yes to what you want. It's funny because with that, comes this other thing where as you get more mature, as you get older, you start to realize really what you enjoy and what you really don't. And in the beginning of your career, you might just be like, "I'm going to say yes to everything. I'll figure it out. Fake it till you make it." And yes, faking it till you make it is epic. But at a certain point, you're like, "I don't want to fake it because I don't enjoy that. I want to know what I'm good at and what's going to push me and what's going to be hard for me, but what I'm going to be excited about'" because there's nothing that can replace that excitement.
Chris Burkard: There's nothing that can replace the goosebumps on the back of your neck or that feeling of your stomach up here in your chest when you're shooting something or when you're creating something. And I strive for that now and I try to find the balance between those things throughout the year.
Chase Jarvis: This idea of exploring and expanding and not stagnating is something that resonates deeply with me and I think with the world that we are in right now as tools are ever expanding, more accessible, more affordable. But it's interesting. And as I was replaying your description of your work that I like to start off most of the shows with for people who are unfamiliar with the guest, it occurred to me that you just started talking about creativity and projects. You didn't actually say, "I'm a photographer or I'm a film maker or I'm a break dancer," which I think is fascinating. And I know you're all of those things. But what are your identifiers in the realm of creativity? Do you have some or are you completely issuing those as constraining labels? How do you think about that? What do you call yourself?
Chris Burkard: I definitely have tried to cast off all the pronouns in the creative space and just be like "I'm a storyteller." It sounds cliche to be honest, but it's the truth of the matter. I don't pick up my camera every month and make money from picking up my camera. I will help direct films obviously, and be hired for that position where I'm not touching a single camera the entire time or I'm going and speaking on behalf of an environmental issue in a country that I've documented or advocated for. Obviously within the social media realm, there's this kind of ambassador or influencer status where you're at times promoting or supporting a brand initiative. And by doing so, you're oftentimes creating something with them or for them.
Chris Burkard: So it does transcend that. And I think that there's a small part of me in the back of my mind that still thinks I'm like an athlete of some sort so I immerse myself in those athletic pursuits from time to time with the intent of telling a story, right? Everything I'm doing is meant to kind of come back to this broader narrative. Like, if I want to talk about this specific place or civic person, what is the best way to do that? Is it through a photo essay? Is it through photography? Is it through making a film? Is it through writing an essay or interviewing them, or a podcast, right? Like you are an incredibly talented photographer, but your podcast is one of my favorite things that you do because you ask great questions and you have this skillset that is kind of based upon those years and years and years of working with people and shooting portraits and interacting with them.
Chris Burkard: So I think that in the truest sense of the form, I like to tell stories. Whatever format that takes on, I'm willing and I'm open to it. If I have to be one of the protagonists in that story, great. If it gives me a more immersive, more personal intimate connection, great. But yeah, I kind of don't answer the question like, "Yeah, I'm a photographer. I'm from California." It just kind of sometimes puts me in a box and I get claustrophobic there.
Chase Jarvis: I love it. I think maybe you could comment on one further point there, which is, do you think this is useful for others? I feel I had the same sort of epiphany at some point and then I started writing books and building companies. The idea that a label, it was useful culturally, but it didn't capture me or my spirit. So I think of my own experience, I just listened to what you said about feeling boxed in. Is there some advice that you can give to others? Should someone who's just starting out refuse to be boxed in? Or is there some virtue of going deep in a couple of things and becoming an expert? What's the Chris Burkard prescription?
Chris Burkard: I would say absolutely. Going deep, immersing yourself, being a specialist is incredibly valuable. It's actually like the one piece of advice I give to everybody when you're starting out. I think that's important. You're hired by clients, by brands, by whoever, because you're the best at what you do. You're not hired because you have a resume that's this long and you could do all these things okay. Nobody's looking for the portrait and wedding and wildlife photographer and product photographer that can do it all. You're hired by the Nat Geos and the Outside Magazines and the Apples of the world because you're a specialist, right? So I try to hone that specialty as best I can. I try to really sink my teeth in and understand it.
Chris Burkard: That doesn't mean that I can't expand my craft or my understanding into other things. It just means that the way in which I do it is I go all in. If I'm going to study aerial photography, I'm going to spend years doing it prior to even putting out a portfolio where I can claim, "Yeah, I know how to do this." And now that's a portfolio that after spending tens of thousands of dollars investing in time and money and hours of learning how to fly and whatnot, I feel proficient, right? But this idea that everybody's just going to, like, "What's the quick thing?" You get this asked all the time I'm sure like, "What was that moment that you knew?" I'm like, the moment that I knew was when I realized that I didn't know anything and that I truly had to put in my 10,000 hours. And I think that that restarts every time you want to pursue something new.
Chris Burkard: So I guess what I'm saying, is in the beginning, trying to really focus, focus in, hone in. I want to have a whole set of knives that are all really sharp. I don't just want to have one knife that's like a small thing that I know how to use. I want to have a whole set so that when I come to the table to prepare a meal for somebody, I can do it all. And I think that's how I look at things now. And at a certain point, once you figure out what your mantra, your thesis, your goal of your work is, I think that's the point at which you start to explore different avenues to share it.
Chris Burkard: So for me, the biggest eye opener was when I wrote a children's book, it was called The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth. I made this children's book. None of my photos are in it. I wrote it and I used images as an inspiration piece for this artist. And point being is that, if I, as a creative person, had this goal, this focused message I wanted to get out to the world, and I realized that there was a huge audience that I wasn't reaching kids and/or parents who are trying to teach their kids, I want to serve them, I want to provide them something. It doesn't mean that photography's going to get the message across. So I had to look at other avenues. So I guess what I would say is that, once you figure out what that, again, that mission statement is for you, then you can start to look at all the ways in which you can try to push it out into the world. And you might find that photography, creativity, maybe isn't served by that so you have to think of other ways in some capacity.
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. Yeah, this idea of, at first you got to figure out how to work with one knife and sharpen it and get good at that before you start juggling, flaming chainsaws like you're doing now, ninja level expert there. I think that resonates. I give similar advice and it's advice that I never got and I had to figure it out, especially early on in the career where someone says, "Do you want to do jumping jacks and get paid for it?" You'll say yes. Do I want to fly to the moon? Yes. Do I want to dig a ditch? Yes. Anything, yes, because you're in love with the idea of getting paid to share a vision with the world.
Chris Burkard: Yeah.
Chase Jarvis: I think what I heard from you there is that look at, get good at one thing and hone your understanding of yourself, your message. And that will be actually a springboard to go into some of these other areas, which I think you rightly called out that you've become an expert at. So I want to just pick off a couple of those areas. You talked about starting off as an adventure or an adventure photographer. Of course, that requires a certain amount of... This is a thing that most people don't realize that you and I haven't come from this universe. You have to be an athlete in order to even get in the place to take a picture there, right?
Chris Burkard: Right.
Chase Jarvis: We're skiing the same shit that the people we're photographing are, but we're just skiing with 50 lbs on our back. So there's a concept of a photographer. There's a concept of an athlete. There's a concept of Chris, the director or the filmmaker. There's Chris, the author, the children's book author, and the author of a new book which is an excellent gift by the way. I've given a couple gifts and it is very, very well received. So we'll talk about your new book Wayward here in just a moment.
Chase Jarvis: So you're an author. As you mentioned, you are an advocate for indigenous cultures and a handful of other initiatives that are near and dear to you, environmentally, sustainability, culturally. This is quite, the cornucopia. You have 15 years in. You said you're just figuring it out. Does figuring it out look like adding more feathers to the arrangement? Or is there something different? Is it about depth?
Chris Burkard: Yeah, I think it's about depth. I also think it's not about... I just want to be clear. It's not about picking off creative assignments just because you want to put your name on it. You want to do the service. I've never pursued a project that I wasn't intimately connected to. If I'm telling a story about a friend, that person is somebody I know, that person is somebody I'm connected to. And I just so happen to be connected to a lot of amazing people because I care about human interaction and I prioritize those friendships and I try to see where they can go. And if they go to place where they can actually provide a cool and meaningful story, then my friends know the first thing I'll do is I'll suggest them for this project or for this thing. It's been rad. I've been able to take amazing groups of people on photo shoots and bring them to places I love like Iceland.
Chris Burkard: I think that the way I is very similar to the way I look at projects. I'm not the person who's trying to fill up my passport with just stamps of every country. In fact, I haven't been that many places. I've been back to the same places over and over and over. Iceland, like 53 times, in Norway multiple times, in Alaska, because I found something special there. And I would rather go deep to these places than just try to touch on everything. Because by just going somewhere new, it's like a dopamine hit. It's exciting. It's like a drug. You're so overwhelmed by all the sites and sounds and everything, but it doesn't mean you're going to immerse yourself in that place.
Chris Burkard: I think with my relationship, it's the same way. I want to give time to those. I want to see how they grow. And I understand full well that the responsibility of having a lot of plates spinning, right? There's a lot of things going. We're selling prints. We're shooting this and we're directing films and I've got this project in the background and I'm trying to get funded and yada, yada, yada, yada. I think that the one thing you got to keep in mind is it doesn't mean that every year you're going to be held with the same standard as you were before. I fully understand that sometimes some years your focus is on this thing, it's on this one project. Some years it's going to be, for me around an environmental or a sustainability project where I'm going to be pouring my time and energy into. I think that it's okay to kind of shift focus and move a little bit. The biggest and most important thing is just making sure that you don't start a project that you're not willing to see the through.
Chris Burkard: Projects do die. Projects have a lifespan. Sometimes the hardest thing we can do is learn when to let go or learn when to give it to somebody else, because maybe it will come to life that way. But I do know that when you're able to find the ones that are really meaningful, you go all the way. And I think that you got to have that commitment. And this is what you and I, we relate to this. You said this right before the podcast started. You're like, "This book, this is for love because you're not making money doing this." And that's the truth of the matter. You don't make some of these long term projects out to be these money making, get-rich quick schemes. There's a lot of other ways to do that. You do it because you enjoy the process.
Chris Burkard: And so the older I get, it seems like more of my projects take longer. They actually take longer because they're more involved. I'm more creatively involved. I'm writing the treatment. I'm helping write a script. I'm directing it, I'm getting it funded. So you become more involved in that process and that teaches you new things. But yes, to kind of to your point, there's a lot going on, and at times I have to give myself permission to just take a step back and/or let certain things go or realize that, "You know what? I don't have the time and attention to make this the very best that I can so I'm going to put that on ice for right now." And that's the point of maturity that's been hard to kind of come to.
Chase Jarvis: You mentioned earlier identifying as a husband and as a father some of these other, I just say roles that you've taken on in life. I know that there are a lot of people listening and watching a right now that are like, "Cool. Well, that sounds incredible to do what Chris is doing, to travel the world and work on sustainability projects." And so how does the family part fit in and the age old question about balance? I like to talk about in terms of harmony, because balance has never been possible for me. It's more like-
Chris Burkard: No.
Chase Jarvis: ... some of this now and some of that later. But I'm dying to hear you talk about it because again, as the father of two boys and you're very active in your community, you're a husband, how do you manage those aspects?
Chris Burkard: Those are great questions. And honestly, that's the stuff that I love to talk about. That's the important stuff. Those are the types of conversations that I think actually really help young creatives because it's challenging. It's challenging to be in a relationship with someone you love, whether that's through marriage or your partner or whatever it is, and know that one person's goals or ideals might be slightly different than the other person. You might want to travel and see the world or it's being asked of you to do so through your work, it could create tension. And I actually would hate to even address this without saying that a big portion of this conversation really is, my wife should be a part of.
Chris Burkard: I actually made a podcast. I made one podcast ever that I did personally. It was just with my wife. It's a two hour podcast and it actually addresses all of this. So I would say that if people really want the deep dive, they should go there because it's so great to hear it from her perspective. But in terms of quick kind of the field notes version, there's a few things that I feel like I really try to consider when it comes to having a family, having people who you're responsible for whilst out there in the world. The first thing is just you have to really define why you do what you do, right? Again, I don't go on vacations out there in the world. My work is what I travel for. And if I'm going somewhere, it's with my family. When I can bring them along, I will. But oftentimes where I'm going and what's being asked of me just isn't really compatible with the two young boys and my wife.
Chris Burkard: But that being said, the most important thing is that when I go out on a job, my cup is filled up. I have to fill up my cup. So when I'm home, I have to make sure that I'm giving myself the time to do the things that I love, whatever that's health and mental wellness and/or spending time with my family and feeling like I'm connected to them. There's nothing worse than going on a trip when you feel disconnected to the people you care about.
Chris Burkard: If you want a recipe for disaster, go on a trip feeling like there's some unanswered emotions feelings. And I think that that's important. I think every day before I leave, I'm actually leaving on Monday for a month long trip. All I'm thinking about is, how can I spend time with my kids? How can I spend time with my wife? How can I make sure that time is quality time? It's a part of why I live in a more remote part of California. People can't grab at me. But in terms of actual communication, I would say that my wife and I have realized that text messages are just not the best form of communication. If you want one piece of advice, one kernel of truth you take from this is like, you need to hear people's voice. When you hear people's voice, you can empathize with what they're going through. And everybody knows that your significant other can tell you "I'm fine," 25 different ways and it means 25 different things. So just maybe a in texting.
Chris Burkard: It requires me to have a sat phone to be available, to have an international cell plan so that I can be available and in touch and communicate even when I'm in remote places. I think when it comes to my kids, the most important thing too is like, if I come home from a trip and they're asking me, "Dad, where have you been?" I've already failed. I need to be thinking of them throughout the experience. If that means filming a little clip of like a lizard or something that my son might love and sending it to him, that shows that while I'm there, I'm still thinking about him, I'm still thinking what he's got going on and I'm trying to include him in the experience.
Chris Burkard: And I guess I would say that the biggest thing with this is like, you get it, you come back from these experiences, a trip somewhere.there are times when you're like you just want to unload all of this mind bending experience you've had. You're so excited. And it's oftentimes our partner, we just want to kind of like drop it all on, like, "Oh, I was here. I saw this stuff. It was this and this." I think that at times it requires holding back from that. And I've realized that when I come home from a trip, the biggest and most important thing is that I advocate for my partner to go out and have a very similar experience in her own way, something that was out of her comfort zone, because that's what I was doing, right? That's where the growth happens. I experience something on the road or in a remote place and it required growth.
Chris Burkard: So what we always talk about and what we've come to the conclusion of, is that when I come home, it's my hope is that she gets to... It's not like going on a vacation. I'm not swapping her so she can go on a vacation. I'm trying to say, "Hey, if you've been wanting to do that mastery program for equine therapy, or you've been wanting to do this course, or you want to go out and train with your horse, I'm going to make sure that I provide the time for you to go do that" so that she can then meet me at a similar place so that we're meeting each other on an equal playing field, having both had experiences that opened us up and allowed us to grow and learn. And I think that, again, this is the cliff notes version, but this is what I've learned in some capacity.
Chase Jarvis: That is pure wisdom as someone who's lived it. That is absolute genius right there. Speaking of genius, I'm going to shift gears and talk about your latest book, which is also, in the words of Dave Agar, it's a staggering work of genius. It's called Wayward. To the point that you made just a minute ago about the point that I made before we started recording, this is as someone who's done this sort of work before and I have a huge amount of respect and also an intimate understanding with how much work goes into this stunning book, which again, is if you want to be inspired, get the book. If you want to inspire others, share this book with them, because it is true, especially people who love the outdoors. So you said it earlier, it's putting 10 or 15 years of your life into a book and taking the pictures and writing stories in there. It's not a get-rich quick scheme. So what was the impetus behind packaging all these amazing adventures that you've been sharing with us into one bound volume?
Chris Burkard: Yeah, that's a great question. To be honest, I was very insecure about making this book. I was sitting with my agent and I was talking to a new publishing agent, her name was Katherine, and she was like, "What you really need to do Chris is write a memoir." And I was like, "I'm not writing a memoir." I don't have anything worth sharing, yada yada, yada. I had read a lot of beautiful memoirs, but I was like, I don't feel like that's something that I can put on the table because most of the books I had made were compilations of my images mixed with other people's writings, the travel writer who joined me. Or it was maybe my images with short captions. I've never before put my own thoughts behind the images, behind the experiences into a book.
Chris Burkard: And obviously, this isn't necessarily a traditional memoir. This is a bit in between. But it felt like maybe this is the right time to do it. It felt like there was a lot that was learned in a lot of these places. In the depths of remote Russia or Norway or the pharaohs or Alaska, I felt like there was something to be shared from that. And so it kind of pulled at me in a lot of different directions. It was the most challenging book I think I've ever ventured to make, only because you're putting your heart on a plate a little bit and you're trying to say like, "What I've learned is worthwhile and what I've learned might help somebody else." And I think that was the quintessential thing that got me to do it, was like, "Well, if this book can support somebody else's path, somebody else's knowledge, somebody else is learning, then it's worthwhile, then it's worth doing."
Chris Burkard: But I struggle with that. I mean, I struggle with that every day. It's hard to put your life's journey out there in the hopes people can relate and understand. I called it Wayward because I've never been good at taking the most direct path to places. So the journey of Wayward is really to kind of get to your end goal. Like, this is my end goal. This is what I've always wanted. I just didn't really know I wanted it in the beginning. And in doing so, I struggled a lot. I made a lot of mistakes. I burned bridges. I got stuck in Russian jail cells. I've had some pretty crappy experiences along the way, ones that ultimately taught me and made me who I am. And I'm grateful for every single one of them. And so that's kind of the point, is that some people just they have to take the hard path, and I'm one of them.
Chase Jarvis: Well, is there an easy path? This is the thing that... It's interesting, I'm in the process of working on another book right now and I'm writing on the fact that there's an idea that you can make wise choices and things can go well, or you can make difficult or bad choices and things can go poorly. But I actually think as I'm recounting my own experiences, that some of the worst choices that I made maximized my learning. So maybe this idea of Wayward, is there a truth that through choosing or being willing to explore and being not necessarily bound by the shortest distance between, as you said earlier, like, "I'm doing this to make this amount of money, or I want to check this box." You've alluded to it several times about your travels. You're not going to 85 countries, you're going to 25, but you're going to each of those places 50 times. There's sort of a depth there.
Chase Jarvis: So is it fair to say that we are trapped by this idea that we can go from where we are to where we want to be as a straight line? Because your life doesn't seem to match it. Mine doesn't seem to match that. I don't know anyone.
Chris Burkard: Yeah. I personally don't know any other way. But I do know one thing, and that is that many people are held back by the idea that in order to get to where they want to go, they want defined results, they want a guarantee. They want a surety. They'll take all the CreativeLive classes and all the workshops and take all the advice they can get without actually just submitting themselves to the fact that the world might have a different plan for you. And I relate it to being tossed in the sea. I've been tossed in the sea most of my life. I've been subjected to the waves of the ocean, pushing me here, pushing me there. And at a certain point, what you realize is the only way to fight that is to not fight it, to let yourself go.
Chris Burkard: And I think that what I recognize with a lot of young people starting out that scares me is that they want to travel to Iceland and they want to hit all these spots. They define success by having gone to all those places that they've seen. And so what's happening is that there's this new form of exploration that's based around constants and guarantees in the hope that "Our trip is going to be successful if we get to all these locations." We used to talk about going down dirt roads and exploring the unknown in more than just a romantic way. We used to actually do it. And so I think that there's something to be said for thrusting yourself into situations where there is no guarantees, where the mystery of the experience is still there.
Chris Burkard: And I really hope that people understand that there is no fast track. I mean, yeah, maybe you can find success by copying what someone has done or following what someone has done and trying to redo that, but that only lasts so long. I think that those who are truly willing, they're the ones that are kind of reinventing the wheel over and over and over, because they're just willing to thrust themselves into the unknown and fall face down and get back up and figure it out. I feel like that's what I've done over and over and over.
Chase Jarvis: How do you build that muscle in order to be able to trust that you won't completely fail?
Chris Burkard: Yeah. Risk is a part of this. I feel like I've had a developed a healthy relationship with risk. And I don't mean like risking my life. I just mean like there's a lot of other risks we could take. Financial risks. I've taken many, many financial risks. Gone to place where the magazine that I was working for was like, "Oh, we're not going to pay for that." Or "If you don't come back with images, we're not going to pay for any of that." So being in my life at times where my bank account was depleted, I was newly married at 21 years old, trying to tell my wife that I'm going to basically go on this trip to this remote place, I don't even know if the surf is good in the hopes that I'll come back. And yes, I benefited from some of these trips, but also I made some huge mistakes along the way.
Chris Burkard: And so I think that being able to know that when you've done every ounce of research you could, the more you know, the less you need. That's always been my mantra when it comes to like taking risk. And I feel like I can justify certain risks when I feel like I am prepared, when I've gone that extra mile. And what that requires is discipline, like severe discipline. I mean, it requires sleepless nights where you're researching. It requires being on a phone with a Russian fixer trying to figure out what gear you need to take, what you need to bring, et cetera, et cetera so you don't blow it. And I think that's really what it requires. And I see people kind of come into certain situations a bit lazily with the expectation that somebody's going to prop them up or support them along the way.
Chris Burkard: And maybe you can find that in now, but when I was starting out and I think when you were starting out, there was nobody there. There was nobody to guide me. There wasn't somebody extra to call to say, "Hey, you've been there. Can you give me this advice?" And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. That's actually very awesome that there is now. But I would say that looking at all the tools in front of you and using every single one. Using all the tools, I don't care if it means calling the crazy grandpa who served in this remote part of the country where you might be going to, and going to your library and going online, nowadays everything you really need to know is right here, right? It's on this phone in front of you.
Chris Burkard: So I would just say that at your fingertips there's so much knowledge. I've always been an advocate for taking advantage of that knowledge and learning to use that muscle over and over. And as you do, it gets stronger and it can bear more weight and it can bear more burden. And as you know, the funniest thing about this is like, you'll be on an assignment or a job and you're like, "Oh my God, I've never been so stressed out. It can't get any worse. This is the hardest thing I've ever done." And then all of a sudden you're on the next one and you're like, "Whoa, that last one felt like chill." And your tolerance for these things just get so high, you know?
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. The repetition of discomfort strikes me as something. I'm at the risk of sounding trendy. I've been into cold water for years and years and years as have you been surfing in some of the coldest water in the world, right?
Chris Burkard: Yeah.
Chase Jarvis: And this idea of regularly getting comfortable being uncomfortable, it's really to overstate. And whether that's in cold water or in a job that you haven't done before or going to a place without certainty, yet I love this idea of sort of mystery and understanding risk. I don't think I've heard it put as elegantly as you just did. Thank you.
Chase Jarvis: More on Wayward. So, hundreds of photographs, and there are handful of corresponding stories. Of all of the stories that you have across your life and adventures to the farthest corners of the globe, how did you choose the ones that are in here? Is there one in particular that you would like to tempt our audience with here so that they are inspired to check the book out?
Chris Burkard: Yeah. You know what? That's a great question. I definitely... In the beginning I just wrote all of them down. I had 140,000 words and I cut it down to about 30 or 40,000 with a handful of good editors and ghost writers. Ultimately, it was challenging because I wrote a lot of stories that were really personal, that leaned towards the personal side of things, that dealt with the emotional and the relationship side of life. Again, I wanted to address what you asked, which was like, how do you balance these relationships and what were the struggles you found? And then I touched on a lot of the stories I thought that the young aspiring photographer might be excited to hear, might be lifted up by, buoyed up by.
Chris Burkard: I think that the one story that was interesting to me... I've shared a lot of them over the years on podcast and whatnot. So nothing's necessarily new, but I think the way it's piled together and compiled is really special. But I remember being in Chile, it was one of my first trips, like first year or two of traveling. I have had found some success, right? I have had... Finally, I was making a little bit of money. I was putting that money back into equipment. I was getting the right cameras, the right this. I think at the time I was shooting Nikon and I had a full frame body and an APSC body as a backup. And then I had this killer 200-400 zoom that I was shooting surfing with. It was an awesome lens. And then the 70-200, 2.8, except all the things you need, right? All the tools. I felt like I had finally gotten to the top of that mountain and been like, "You know what? There's nothing holding me back now."
Chris Burkard: I remember going to Chile, and it's funny because all of my stories are usually about me wanting a little more, pushing it a little harder, and then kind of being slap on the wrist type of scenario. I remember being down in this little tiny town called Lebu, I think it was called, way south, kind of way south of Butchupureo and those areas and whatnot, south of all the point breaks. We went there because I had been researching this one on remote way that breaks out on the edge of this harbor and kind of the wind pushes into it. It's like offshore big kind of outer [inaudible 00:42:42] I guess you'd say, where it comes from deep water and hits a shallow reef.
Chris Burkard: We got into this town late and I was all excited. I'm with these surfers on an assignment for Surfer Magazine or for Surfline at the time actually. I remember going to the local bar and just trying to... I speak no Spanish, like muy poquito, very little. I'm trying to find a boat driver who's willing to take us out there for sunrise. It dawned on me later on that maybe going to the bar wasn't the best place to find a boat driver, but nobody else know where else was open. And so I go there and I'm looking for a boat captain, and I'm like, "Hey, we have four people we need to go out. We want to sit on the side of the wave and shoot this thing."
Chris Burkard: I found a guy, he's like, "Cool, I'll meet you at the harbor at, whatever, 8:00 AM." I get to the harbor the next morning, all the guys are ready, got our boards. We can see the wave. It's not that far out. You could have just swam out there if you wanted to. But this dude's kind of stumbling a little bit and getting into the boat, grabbing fuel and blah, blah, blah. I'm sitting there, I've got all my gear, I'm in the front of this pontoon thing. The conditions look great. Big shoulder, wide channel. There's a great spot to park the boat. No big deal. And there was a moment that kind of dawned on me like, "Maybe this isn't the right person to go with." And I was like, "Nah, whatever. Don't care about that. That's not a concern. My concern is getting the shot. My concern is doing this."
Chris Burkard: We had had like a week of good waves, great waves. It was towards the end of the trip. And we go out there. The guys jump off the boat, they're starting to get waves. It's sick. It's offshore. Beautiful wave. I'm just sitting there with all my gear. I brought everything with me on the boat for some reason. I had my long lens out, shooting. Put that away. Grabbed my 70-200 up, shooting. And all of a sudden this something bigger comes. It's funny when you were looking at waves, because sometimes you'll see the waves. They're breaking, they're breaking, and all of a sudden a real set wave comes in, like an actual one from a swell and it's way bigger. And this thing swung wide, like way wide around this point, this headland. And all of a sudden I'm looking at where we are and I'm like, "Holy cow, our boat is pointed this way. The wave is coming this way. We need to flip it. We need to either go in."
Chris Burkard: I look back and the boat captain is just sitting there with his hand on the motor, head down. I couldn't tell if he was sleeping or drooling or whatnot. And I'm like, "Hey, hey, buddy, we got to go." And he wakes up and he doesn't know which way to go. He doesn't know whether to cut this way or this way so he just guns it right up the face of the thing, thinking that maybe we're going to make it over this wave. Which by the quick math I'm doing in my head, I'm like, "There's not a chance in hell we're going to make it over this wave. We're about to just absolutely smash into this thing."
Chris Burkard: The only thing I can relate this to is when we impacted that wave and I sat in the front of the boat, I just hunched over all my camera gear. Everything I own I was like putting in here. I didn't have time to even close up any waterproofing closures or anything like that. It felt like I was on the edge of a Shamu tank and the thing had just taken all the water from the tank and spilled it over. It was a deluge of water. I'm actually surprised that I didn't just come flooding out of the boat. I had my hands wrapped around the ropes on the side.
Chris Burkard: And right after that moment, I was like, "This is it. I'm done. My career is over. Everything I own just got so soaked." I can't express the amount of water that was there. I mean, I was pouring it out of my lenses. Salt water just trickling out of my cameras. Got rushed back to shore, went straight to a bathroom, turned the heat on all the way, put everything out, tried to wipe it down with fresh water, tried to sweat it all out. I have never in my life gone home early from my trip, but I went home about four days early because I had no equipment. I had nothing to shoot on. Nothing was working. My cameras were busted. My lenses were busted. I flooded every piece of gear that I own. And it was roughly to the tune of like 30 to $40,000 worth of gear, right?
Chris Burkard: That was the moment right there where I was like, "This is it. My career's over." It took weeks, I was calling my editors, telling her, I'm like, "I'm sorry guys. I don't know what to do. I think I just quit surf photography. I think I've done." Luckily, I had the brains to get insurance and I filed an insurance claim, an ungodly insurance claim. And then right after they basically refunded me for the cameras, they dropped me from the insurance plan. I was uninsurable for about six years from anybody. I couldn't get an insurance plan to save my life from anyone, right?
Chris Burkard: So that was probably one of the more eye opening experiences. It happened at such a young age that I just felt so vulnerable. I felt like, how in the world could this happen to me? I'm the over planner, the overthinker, but I have this problem. Sometimes I don't always listen to my conscience, you know? And I try to justify thinking that, "No, this is worth it. This situation that feels a little dangerous, a little scary, I'm just going to go for it." And I think that over the years, I've gotten a little better at that.
Chase Jarvis: Isn't it weird how that also is a muscle in a weird way? The ability to listen to your own intuition, having had that in many mountain environments where if you ski this and it doesn't go well, you die kind of thing.
Chris Burkard: Yes.
Chase Jarvis: These types of adventures, I think they are seductive for someone who's sitting home on the couch. I want to talk to those people for just a second. I want you to talk to them. In order to figure out what you wanted to do way back when there was a time where it was not Chris Burkard storyteller, or Chris Burkard photographer, or there was Chris Burkard with a dream and an uncertainty around what to do with this one precious life, I want to go back to that Chris and I want that Chris to talk to the people who right now are going, "Man, it sounds so cool to know what you want to do and to be willing to spend all your money and communicate clearly with your family what your ambitions are and then go chase those dreams."
Chase Jarvis: But let's go back to Chris before you had it all figured out. What was it like in that moment and were you trying various things? Did you say, "Yep, computer programming, that didn't work. Whatever video game tester, that didn't work"? What was the process for you to fall in love with the thing that you would ultimately make your living in your life doing?
Chris Burkard: Right. And I didn't know what it was. I didn't know right away that it was photography and it was travel. I think that we are all a byproduct of what we experience in our youth as a kid and then what we also don't have. And what we don't have is sometimes almost more meaningful, it's almost more kind of subjective that can almost define our path a lot. And I didn't grow up traveling or going anywhere. Again, I didn't have a passport until I actually started working as a photographer. My first passport I got and I went on a trip for work. So I didn't know what was out there beyond the Sierra Nevada mountain range, right? That was the furthest extent of my experience. I grew up wanting to go out and see the world, because as any kid, you want to know what's out there. You're excited. I lived at the beach and I would go play at the beach and it was a babysitter at times just to get kind of dropped off through the day.
Chris Burkard: But I really desired to know what was out there in the world. And so I think that what ended up happening was that I did try a couple other career paths. I was going to be a mechanic. I had a full ride scholarship to WyoTech University to work on cars. Had a couple other job ideas lined up. I ended up picking up a camera at 18 after going up and down the coast of California with my friends surfing where we could drive to in the afternoon in Big Sur and San Simeon and these places near where I lived. I just felt this sense of connection with these people and this place and this sense of adventure that I wanted to document it.
Chris Burkard: It's funny because photography wasn't the goal. The goal was travel. The goal was to see more of that, to see more of the world, because I didn't have that, I didn't come from that. Again, I never went on vacation anywhere on a plane. So when I picked up a camera, I thought that this could be the way. This is the ticket. This is the access point. I never thought of a photography as a way to tell stories or a way to document beautiful places. I just thought maybe this could allow me the assignment or somebody would be willing to send me there if I got good enough.
Chris Burkard: When I started shooting surf photography, it was honestly because landscape photography didn't really work out. I loved landscape photography, but I had no idea how to do it. I didn't have the time or the money or the gallery space or the equipment. I had rudimentary crappy equipment. I was shooting on like a Canon 20D at the time after shooting film on A Nikon N90s kit lenses. Surf photography was like... It made sense to me because I was a mechanic. I was very much worked with my hands. When I got in the water, it was like, "Okay, I understood the mechanics of a wave." It was rudimentary. It was almost industrial in some way. It was like, I stand on the beach, the person goes up, they do a turn. I shoot that moment. It wasn't suggestive, right? There wasn't this like, "Okay, I get back behind this rock and then I shoot a wide angle. And then I use a grad filter." It wasn't all this kind of chemistry, I guess you could say.
Chris Burkard: So I came to it because it felt blue collar and it felt like something I understood, and I was like... Well in my mind, in my monkey brain over here, the kid who was turning wrenches on cars for a living, changing oil, I was like, "Well, hell, I don't need to be the most creative person. I can just be the person who's willing to submit myself and subject myself to the longest hours possible. I'll be there before everybody else, before the sun rises. I'll go home at the end of the day after the sunsets. I'll work all day." That's all I had to offer. Literally it wasn't brains. It was just like brute kind of strength, I guess you could say. And with that, I'll just say an extra added measure of kind of ignorance it was with that.
Chris Burkard: So I think that's how I actually got into it. I know that's probably not the answer that people want, but it did force me to really understand and realize what I could bring to it. Because in the beginning, I didn't feel like I could offer photography anything. And my intentions were different. And what happened was this beautiful process unfolded. When I started to shoot more and more and more, I started to develop something different. I started to see things slightly differently. When I started to travel, I started to pick up on unique things. I started to pick up on the way that people interacted with the world. I started to pick up on different cultures and religions.
Chris Burkard: And all of a sudden, my intention shifted from being about collecting a paycheck and getting stamps in the passport and just seeing the world, to like, "No, there's more I want to share. There's people and places. And there's this guy in Oman that drove through the whole night and helped me find a place to stay. And then there was this person who got me through the customs line when I was having a mental breakdown and had no idea." There were these moments of pure humanity that allowed me to see more, and this is why I attribute travel to the greatest gift I've ever been given because it taught me, an uneducated kid who was a college dropout, what the world had to offer. And it was beautiful. And I think that time gave me that and it allowed me to define my mission statement to be more about sharing these experiences and these places and these people and these initiative, rather than just the pure performance of some athlete in some remote place.
Chase Jarvis: Thank you very much for that. This question is.
Chris Burkard: I'm sorry. It's a long winded one. I'm sorry.
Chase Jarvis: No, this is not TV. We're not here for a soundbite. This is a perfect place to share that kind stuff. So this question is for the parents out there, aspiring parents or current parents. You clearly have learned a lot. You just talked about your upbringing relative to what you decided to pursue. You spoke about... And anyone who follows you on Instagram knows that, say Forest, your son loves lizards. What are you doing differently for your kids? The parent in you, how are you approaching parenting based on what you've learned about travel and about the world, and about being empowered to do the things that you want to do? How are you imparting that to your kids?
Chris Burkard: Totally. I can't urge people enough to... For me the biggest and most important thing, kind of the pinnacle of the mountain, is that I don't want to pass on to my kids some inherent fear of the unknown. That's the most important thing. I want them to develop their own fears. I don't need them to have mine, right? As a kid, I was afraid of certain things because I grew up not knowing them or being afraid of them, or I lived in a very condensed childhood where I was given the local news and the six o'clock news and the dinner table conversations. I want my kids to come to their own understanding of places and not be given and sort of pass down some inherent fear. So that's the most important thing, is that they form their own opinions. And I'm always happy to share my perspective, but it's just my perspective.
Chris Burkard: I remember when I first and foremost told my family that I was quitting school, quitting college and pursuing photography, there was a lot of pushback. There was a lot of fear. It was a big moment of strife. I felt like I was letting them down. I felt like I was letting down the people that I loved the most. It was really challenging. I would say that was almost a more significant decision than to pursue photography in general, was to make my own choice as a young man and not follow in the footsteps of what my own family wanted.
Chris Burkard: So for my kids, I want them to pursue the things that they're passionate about. I, in fact, don't care if they ever pick up a camera. I don't want them to be compared to what I do or to compare themselves. In fact, it's the same thing with my wife. When I come together with my kids, I want them to teach me something, because then they feel empowered, they feel intelligent, they feel smart, they feel like they've got something to offer the world. I don't want it to always be like, "Oh, well, let dad teach you what I learned about this remote place or whatever." I want them to teach me something. I want them to take me on adventures and show me what they care about. And if I can support that and if I can allow them to go up and be their own person, and if they find creativity, photography, filmmaking on their own, that'll be awesome. I'll be so stoked.
Chris Burkard: But my goal as a parent is to foster their interests, expose them to everything, and then allow them to make their own decisions and just support them in a way that I would've wanted to be supported and was support. So that's kind of the process that I've taken and it's important. And I also would say that with that, my wife and I are trying to raise our kids in Iceland for three months out of the year because we feel like it's important to show them just how another part of the world lives, how another part of the world functions and operates and seize the world and just getting outside of your comfort zone in simple things, like not hearing everybody speak English every day and whatnot. Those are great, great tools for kids to put in their toolkit.
Chase Jarvis: Brilliant. Brilliant. What next? So we've talked about everything under the sun, from photography to producing films and writing children's books and your latest book Wayward. Interesting things that are on the horizon. Are there a handful of things that have captured your heart more than things you've done in the past or things that are new and on the horizon you could share with us?
Chris Burkard: Yeah. I'm working on a feature length film that's sort of an adaptation from an expedition I did through Iceland. I rode my bike with two other incredible people through the interior of Iceland in winter, like dead of winter. It was a crazy, brutal, super gnarly expedition. But we found out after the trip that one of the people on the trip was fighting with addiction and had a relapse afterwards. Just all these kind of things kind of piled up and we really want to try and tell this sort of parallel story that discusses the sort of the trials that somebody goes through, dealing with eviction whilst also trying to be the best version of themselves. And with the Olympics and things like that, we've seen a lot of people have this kind of post performance let down where there's this severe depression that sets in after you go and you perform at the highest level.
Chris Burkard: And athletes, just like anybody else, they have those same kind of ways of coping. And so we're trying to work on this story. It's a challenging narrative to tell because it kind of has two timelines that coexist and we're telling this story that jumps back and forth a bit. But we've got a lot of interest and I think we have a buyer. And so we're looking at finishing shooting that in this coming year. And then I also have a handful of other personal projects, expeditions, things that we're shooting for brands and whatnot through this year. But yeah, I'm just hoping I can get out and ski and ride my bike a little bit more and be at home and enjoy it.
Chase Jarvis: Give me one more little snippet on deciding to put down some roots in Iceland.
Chris Burkard: Yeah. I mean, that never was the goal. I never thought that was going to be something that I would be able to do. In fact, I kind of sit there at my apartment right now and when I'm there and I just pinch myself, I'm like, "How did I land here?" It all just kind of happened. I think that it's the byproduct of just not fighting it, realizing that, "This is a place I want to be. This is a place I love." Don't question it. Don't question, "Does it make sense? Is it financially yada yada yada," because you can talk yourself out of it. It's so easy.
Chris Burkard: I just decided to move in the direction that my heart is taking me. And although it's painful to at times not be here, I have so much here in California that I feel responsible for, but working there enough throughout the year that it makes sense it was a big part of it. And now the fact that my wife loves to be there and my kids love to be there makes it all that much more easy. I just feel like the best version of myself comes out when I'm there and I love the people and I want to advocate for them and advocate for that environment. And, yeah, weird.
Chase Jarvis: Isn't it? Isn't it weird? I want to also... You mentioned the people and the people there in Iceland. You've referenced several times having the people in your life that are close to you. Before we started recording, I shared some condolences about a friend of yours as you talked about learning aerial photography and someone who'd flown you all over Iceland yeah and his recent passing. Prior to our recording this idea, and I think you said it right before we hit go is just like, yeah, it's not always flowing at you. Sometimes things flow away from you and we're going to lose things and people that we love. And I'm wondering. It just was really eloquent. And then we jumped right into recording. So I'm wondering if you can...
Chris Burkard: Yeah.
Chase Jarvis: I guess I have a similar experience. And listening to you talk about processing it seemed inspiring to me. Many of the people that I photographed are not alive anymore. They pioneered base jumping and skiing in a way that had no one had ever skied before or lines that had never been skied. When you lose enough people there or come close to death yourself, you talked about the surfing accident, and I've got several stories that are not dissimilar, lost is an important part of that. And having just come off of very public sharing of your respect and gratitude for this particular human, I'm wondering if you can just share a little bit of your thoughts on that.
Chris Burkard: Yeah. I feel like it's imperative to honor my friend Haraldur Diego in the best way I can. The truth of the matter is, it's like I can't avoid it, right? My office is basically a shrine to our experiences together. I've got images all over the walls. I have books. Many people have their prints in, I would say of my best work, if not my best work, definitely my most meaningful work was created with him. I've thought about it a lot. At first, it was anger and grief and this and that.
Chris Burkard: And then I tried to change that to gratitude and to realize like, in so many versions of life as Chris Burkard, I could have not met him or I could have just never interacted with him or he could have just been an acquaintance. But I got to have a really good friend. I got to have a friend that shared with me the beauty of a place that I would've never fully appreciated if it wasn't for him. And I feel like how lucky am I to have had that. And that's the perspective I've tried to take.
Chris Burkard: I think it's not so much that I'm sad about not being able to fly there or not being able to go see those places, because I could always hire another pilot. It's about not being with that person because of what they brought to the experience. And I guess the one thing I'll say to just kind of summarize it is that, a lot of people pass. We both lose people all the time. Occasionally, there's that really special person where they make you take a step, take a moment and think about what it means to be a good friend, to be a confidant, to be somebody who cares and loves and whatnot.
Chris Burkard: Something that's so special about him is so many people that visited Iceland, they would ask me, "Where should I go? What should I do?" And I'd be like, "You got to fly. You got to fly. You got to go with my friend." And to think that most those people, that day flying with him, they would come back and say or they would post it that, "It was the best day of my life. It was the best day of my trip. It was mind blowing." So to think about his life and the fact that every day what he got to do for a living was to take people on their best day, their best day, I mean, I've had a couple best days with people but I've never had the amount that he has, and that is truly special. That is so unique. When you really think about that, you're like, "Damn. You know what? I can't think of a better way to live." And so I've tried to really take that in and process it. Yeah, I miss him.
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. If we could all do more of that, the world would be a better place.
Chris Burkard: Yeah.
Chase Jarvis: Thank you for sharing your time with us, some stories. You do have an amazing class on CreativeLive around making your way as an adventure photographer and getting started in photography. Generally, I want to give another shout out to your most recent book called Wayward. Highly recommended out of Abram's photography. There's stunning, some brilliant fun and sometimes funny stories. Is there anywhere else where you would want to direct people to learn more about you or your work? I know you're there in Pismo Beach, California. But how about for people who don't live in Pismo Beach, where would you steer them?
Chris Burkard: I mean, if I'm ever offering a workshop, come and join me, I love to share real in-life experiences with people. It's not often I do that, but I thrive on human connection. That's what I get off on. That's what I love. I want to cultivate experiences where we can see something together and make something and make something tangible. So yeah, I would say that obviously all the channels, my name's out there. You can find me. It's easy. But my dream, my hope is that I get to really interact with people in real time.
Chase Jarvis: Awesome. And Instagram is obviously a very easy follow and it's very inspiring. Again, Burkard, B-U-R-K-A-R-D for those out there curious.
Chris Burkard: Yeah.
Chase Jarvis: And thanks again. Congrats on the book. You're always welcome here. We love hearing your stories. And I consider you a good friend and I appreciate your time. I hope the book continues to go well, and thanks for inspiring us and so many others.
Chris Burkard: Thanks brother, appreciate it.
Chase Jarvis: All right. Until next time, everybody out there in the universe from both Chris and I, we bid you all adieu.
Chris Burkard: Cheers.
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