All images by Chris Burkard. Used with permission.
Photographer Chris Burkard is no stranger to surf photography. He is the senior staff photographer for Surf Magazine, and Nikon trusts him enough to beta test their cameras. We’ve talked to Chris before, and this time around he is shooting in Iceland. While the most common connotations of surfing have to do with beautiful warm weather, Iceland is known for its waves too.
Chris recently went to Iceland and Russia to capture surfing in a weird seascape with ice floes and all. We got to chat a bit with Chris about shooting in the cold and also a bit about staying inspired by new locations.
Phoblographer: You seem to usually shoot surf images in warmer temperatures despite having been to Iceland before. What logistical changes and problems did you encounter when journeying to Iceland and shooting out there, and how did you overcome them?
Chris: This is a funny one because I have actually been to iceland 10x, also including Norway/ Alaska 2x / Canada 3x / Russia 2x–so I think that honestly I have been more focused on cold water than warm in my career. But I think that when you go to warm locations you get the opportunity to shoot more surfing, so sometimes it seems you get more content from warm places.
As for logistics: The cold is severe. Your batteries last literally minutes, not hours. I have to keep them close to my body when not in camera. Also pulling them out of the camera when not in use. Staying charged is key, that is where Goal Zero comes into play huge for me. Also keeping my extremities warm (is important) whether in the water or on land. Touching cold metal of a camera when it’s -10 out can be brutal. I find that having layers of gloves helps; (preferably) something super thin and light at the base that still lets you adjust your camera settings.
Phoblographer: When a photographer goes to a new place, they either get inspired or feel that there is nothing that they can work with. Tell us about the inspiration that hit you and what your thought process when was creating the images.
Chris: Wow this is a good one.There are a couple things. Anytime before I got on a trip I try to learn as much as I can before I go. The more you know the less you need, and I think it makes you more prepared as a photographer as well to be educated about the place you’re going to.
For me inspiration is constant–but where I struggle is trying to capture images that look new or fresh or different from places I have either been before or I have seen a lot of images from. That is honestly the hardest thing: to put your own spin on these places. I find that for me sometimes I bring a different lens with me or maybe a different camera. I set out before my trip with a couple images composed in my mind already then I go from there.
I think the most important thing is to not have too much planned out because you want to leave room for inspiration–and for moments to just arise. Some of the best moments are the ones that happen all of the sudden, and if too much is planned out you won’t leave room for the unexpected.
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