Chris Burkard's Best Moments Of 2014: Top Ten

Words and photos by Chris Burkard.

As a traveling photographer who spends most the year on the road, my life can sometimes seem like a blur of passport stamps, airport terminals & crappy food awaiting my final destination. Usually once I get to where I am going, there are really only a few moments that truly stand out. The ones that resonate with me for a long time afterward remind me that the best experiences often happen way outside my comfort zone. That comfort zone is often ravaged by cold winds, frozen fingers and brutal temperatures that sometimes make being creative on the spot not as epic as it looks or sounds. Maybe it’s my passion for harsh conditions and distant shores. If there is one thing I have found, it’s that the better prepared I am on the outside, the easier it is to function on the inside…that’s where Arc’teryx comes in.

This is my collection of the best moments I was able to photograph in 2014. From the Slot canyons of Utah to Norway’s white sand beaches, and many places in between, these experiences are what traveling is all about….

1. Jökulsárlón Glacial Lake Polar Plunge


Jökulsárlón Lake is probably one of the most chilling places in the world in both a physical and an emotional way. House-sized chunks of ice break off from the glacier they have called home for hundreds of years. From there, they depart on a two-day journey into the Atlantic Ocean where they melt and become part of the sea. I try to make it here every time I come to Iceland. It is humbling to see this process when these giant frozen forms change so drastically, cracking, tumbling, and melting as they make their way to the sea. The water hovers just above freezing and you have to wear a dry suit to even kayak in it; jumping into this body of water seems absolutely mental. It is one of my favorite things to do in the world – I am not kidding. It feels so exhilarating and it is the best way to wake up!

2. Shooting the Canadian Rockies from a Heli in -100F


When a couple of buddies and I got to the landing pad for an aerial tour of the Canadian Rockies, the ex-pat pilot told us to put every piece of clothing on. We laughed and thought he was kidding, but we put on all of our clothes anyway. Once airborne, we quickly learned that he was not joking. About twenty minutes in, the thermometer reached -100 Fahrenheit and my fingers started to numb up as I was shooting. I couldn’t believe how cold it was! But the photos that I got from the air tour are some of my favorites from 2014.

3. Kayaking Camping at Spirit Island on Maligne Lake


I believe Spirit Island to be the most beautiful place in the world. Last September, I paddled 9 miles in a kayak to get to this unique place so that we could camp overnight. Usually, you can take a 30-minute boat tour to get to this location but you can only spend about 20 minutes there and camping is always out of the question. So, with every fiber of muscle in our body, we made the 3-hour trek through still water and I can confidently say it is worth the grueling journey!

4. Watching the Sunset Behind Sjellanlandfoss


Only during a certain portion of the year does the sun set directly behind Sjellanlandfoss like this. I was lucky enough to be leading a workshop tour here when the sun lined up so beautifully. Running a few minutes late, we sped to catch the sunset and then sprinted from our car through the misty backside of the falls. We barely made it but in the end the sunset was quite magical.

5. Scoring Perfect Surf in Norway’s Lofoten Islands


The Lofoten Islands lay in the northern end of Norway and since its creation, perfect waves have been peeling across Unstad bay. I scored some of these perfect waves with Chad Konig, Brett Barley, and Pat Millan last spring. It was absolutely astounding seeing set after set. The fine folks at SmugMug followed us on our trip to make a film, you can see it here:


6. SURFER Magazine Cover from ALEUTIAN islands


I knew I had a lot of gems when I returned from the Aleutian Islands – maybe even enough for an article. I had no idea that I would land a cover! It’s by far my favorite photo and the boys at SURFER said it was one of their best selling issues. While on the island I could tell that the spot had potential and it definitely shows!

7. Road Tripping the Entire Oregon Coast


I had been to Portland before, but I had never explored all of what Oregon had to offer. After exploring Crater Lake and Smith Rock, we shot across the state and drove the entire length of the coast. What an unbelievably beautiful journey! I couldn’t believe how amazing the waves, cliffs, and trees were that trip.

8. Hiking Along The Pacific Crest Trail and Climbing in the Cascades


Only a state above Oregon, the Cascades in Washington are a totally different beauty. High up in the Washington wilderness, we hiked 30 Miles or so along the PCT, made camp around a glacial lake, and a day later climbed the summit of The Golden Horn (Elevation 8366ft.). I love the adventure because of how quiet and alone we all were truly apart from the rest of the world.

9. Rappelling through Zions Slot Canyons


The slot canyons of Utah have a mystical presence about them. They are unlike anywhere else I have been with deep lines in the middle of a desert expanse. The rivers that run through them can change at any moment, becoming full and flooded, or the water level can even out and the pools can be still. The colors and textures down in the slot canyons are as amazing as they are challenging to photograph. I had a chance to descend many of them, but some of my favorites are the Subway and Orderville. There is a small side canyon off of Orderville that has the best beauty/accessibility ratio, in my mind. It includes about 800 feet of rappels, 12 miles of scrambling, and lots and lots of mud. Right now it is #1 on my weekend getaway list.

10. Seeing Northern lights in the Faroe Islands


The Faroe Islands are about 500-miles south of Iceland and are a place that is set in time. It is a green, magical place full of waterfalls, cliffs, and lots of sheep. I didn’t expect to see the Northern Lights so far south, but they popped out and played for quite some time! I was up for hours shooting the dancing lights over this waterfall that spills straight into the ocean. I feel so lucky to have seen them on this island!

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. Burkard’s images are punctuated by energized landscapes and moments of bliss, by adventure seeking and the lifestyle that ensues, by movement and intuitive light-working capabilities. With the 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.

We will be posting images of Chris throughout the coming months. Keep an eye on @arcteryx on Instagram and on Chris’ channels to keep up to date with Chris’ travels and imagery.