Exploring the World’s Last Wild Places With Photographer Chris Burkard


Imagine an indigo night sky filled with stars, streaked with glowing northern lights. Now switch to another scene of a surfer riding a too-perfect wave in front of snow-covered mountains. For me, this is what came to characterize Chris Burkard’s photography, and it’s what has kept me checking back for new photographs following each of Chris’s adventures.

Standing under the northern lights on Sólheimasandur beach, Iceland, 2014 SKOGAFOSS WATERFALL

Standing under the northern lights on Sólheimasandur beach, Iceland, 2014 SKOGAFOSS WATERFALL Credit: Chris Burkard/Massif

As a self-described adventure photographer, Chris travels all over the world and is lucky enough to, in his words, capture the beauty of “some of the world’s last wild places” along with talented athletes, like surfers. Chris started his career as a surf photographer in his hometown of San Luis Obispo. Slowly but surely, he ventured away from the refreshing waves of central California to even colder waves in places like Iceland, Norway, and Russia. His love for the feeling of being in some of the last truly “wild places” is what has kept him going back.

Chris Bio Pic

Credit: Chris Burkard/Massif

Chris’ latest project, a short documentary called Under an Arctic Sky, chronicles the struggles and triumphs he and his courageous crew faced on their quest for the perfect wave across the harsh landscape of Iceland. From the insanely beautiful scenery to seeing how stoked* these guys were catching waves under the northern lights, I was smiling for every second of it.

After following Chris on social media and talking to him at the Under An Arctic Sky showing in Encinitas, California, I was curious to learn more about the connection between his work and the preservation of the “last wild places” on Earth. Check out what he had to say in our interview below:

Q: In an age of “slacktivism,” (a term which refers to a form of activism existing only in online spaces – Facebook posts, signing petitions, etc, but goes no further than the couch) Do you actively try to get people to get off their phones and take action?

Chris: For me, it’s more about sharing your work in a way that’s meaningful and if it can have those benefits, then that’s awesome, but it’s not ever something [that you can guarantee]. By sharing intimate parts of yourself, I think people have a stronger connection to who you are and what you care about.

Q: How does your work and career connect to the environment?

Chris: I’m not really the person that wants to stand up there and tell you what to vote for, or what to care about. I’ve realized that my generation just doesn’t respond well to that. I think that what I’ve always tried to do is immerse myself in the places that I fear losing the most. I aim to basically try my best to share these places in hopes that you might go and experience it yourself, as I feel that’s really the only way lasting change can ever happen.


Last book you’ve read? The Emerald Mile, a book about the Grand Canyon. It totally changed my perspective on that place.

Spirit animal? Probably a horned lizard, horned gecko, a horny toad. I love those things.

What would your last meal ever be? There’s this soup I always get, Mexican pozole soup, one of my favorite dishes of all time.

Favorite beverage? I’m a kombucha person. I love tea, I love kombucha. Those are the things that get me the most psyched. Something like a really good lemonade or lavender kombucha.

Listen to one band for the rest of your life? Jose Gonzalez or Modest Mouse

Q: At your screening, you spoke about feeling the weight of global issues like the need for clean water, for example. How do you deal with the pressure of feeling like you need to “do more”?

Chris: You can offset it by having yourself engaged in a good cause. If you are doing something you can stand by, then you’re always going to be satisfied. For me it’s all about conservation, sharing the world’s adventurous landscapes is backed by the goal of preserving [those] places.


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About Author

Caroline has found inspiration and peace in the outdoors for as long as she can remember. Growing up in places like Boston MA, St. Petersburg FL, Toronto, and Singapore, she developed a desire to protect all of the beautiful places on Earth. She is now working on projects as a student at the University of San Diego studying environmental studies. Along with fighting for the environment, you can find Caroline taking photos of the stars in Joshua Tree National Park, meditating in her dorm room, playing in the waves at the beach, and cooking up some healthy food (or her famous vanilla berry cake). Caroline is thrilled for her third year as a part of the NYLC which is made up of some the most inspirational people she has ever met.