Meet RAD Artist: Chris Burkard

May 29, 2024 8 min read

THE BASICS
 

Name:
Chris Burkard

Hometown:
San Luis Obispo, California

Occupation:
Photographer, travelor, explorer and outdoor legend

Driving greater impact through bigger partnerships. 

 

Our Rumpl Artist Division (R.A.D) program has long been our platform for showcasing upcoming and accomplished artists on our one-of-a-kind canvas.

 

In 2024, we’re taking things a step further - Partnering with creatives firmly established and deeply rooted in our outdoor community and connecting them to action by supporting environmental non-profits that help protect the places we explore.

 

We’re beyond excited to launch this new approach with photographer, videographer, travelor, author and outdoor advocate Chris Burkard (@chrisburkard).

 

Together with Burkard Studio and The Conservation Alliance, we’re introducing a limited edition, photo-real print showcasing Chris’s work in aerial photography, specifically the transcendental beauty of Iceland’s vast glacial river system. 100% of the net proceeds from the sale of Chris’s print will go to The Conservation Alliance to help fund and advocate for the protection of North America’s cherished wild places and outdoor spaces.

We sat down with Chris to learn more about his journey, his inspirations and the importance of conservation and environmental protection as an outdoor creative.

 

Chris - You've obviously had a very accomplished career - What are you focusing on right now and what are you excited for in the next year?

 

  • Running a photography studio and being a dad definitely occupies the majority of my time these days, but I’m currently focusing on sharing my latest film, The Forgotten Coast and some upcoming glacier crossings on skis here in Iceland that have occupied my thoughts for the last few years. I’m genuinely excited to explore these glaciers in an immersive way, doing some multi-day rides on my bike, and spending more time with my wife and kids exploring Iceland together.

 

 

What drew you to Iceland? What made you want to stay there?

 

Spend enough time in Iceland… even a little, and you begin to understand that interacting with the elements, nature, is a way of life for its people and all those who visit. I first stepped foot on the island shooting a piece for Men’s Journal photographing a cold water surfer, Timmy Turner who abandoned warmer breaks due to a severe staph infection in his skull where cold waters presented a lasting opportunity to continue with the sport. Jumping around to different surf breaks, I quickly fell in love with the harsh beauty of the landscape where sweeping fjords meet the waters of the North Atlantic with only a few sheep to watch you surf. That began a little bit of an obsession where those remote waves occupied my thoughts and I kept scheming of ways to return.

 

Ten.. twenty.. fifty.. visits later I started to wonder what it would look like to live here and I started to bring my family over so they could share in the love I have for this country. I rented a small apartment for a year or two that enabled me to come back more often and after a couple of Icelandic summers with my family bouncing around to different corners of the country, we decided to buy a house and make the jump. Moving from California to an entirely new country has been a daunting task, but we’re so happy to be here now with a tight community of wonderful people and an incredible wealth of outdoor resources & adventures at our fingertips.      

 

 

A lot of your recent work is centered around aerial photography. What are some challenges to capturing from above?

  • Aerial photography is one of the most inspiring ways to really document a landscape and provide a greater context to your subject, but it’s no easy task. First off, you need to find a plane (and a willing, skilled pilot) with the ability to open the windows for a clearer shot of the landscape unobstructed by plexiglass that generally makes images a little too blurry for use. It’s often pretty cold once you open the small window in the plane, wind blasts in and it’s genuinely pretty tough to hold your camera steady and sometimes you don’t have the luxury of looking through the viewfinder. Aerial photography is also an expensive endeavor - I’ve invested thousands of dollars in these flights because I was passionate about documenting these landscapes and sometimes you don’t see a return on that investment.

"Thjorsa is my original love when it comes to Iceland’s glacial rivers [...] I felt like this image represents a range of what colors often emerge from Thjorsa and is part of an older collection I wanted to pay homage to by having it featured on the canvas of the blanket. "

Tell us more about "At Glacier's End" and the inspiration behind the project.

 

  • Iceland’s glacial rivers are an inevitable part of life for locals and tourists alike - whether you’re a farmer in need of a water source or a tourist crossing them in the Thjorsmork Valley for the first time. Aerial photography first drew me to see Iceland from a birds-eye view and I can remember my first glimpse at the rivers from the small window of a Cessna - it was truly breathtaking, seeing what genuinely looked like a painting cast by glacial melt off and hues I didn’t know that nature could bring together.
  • I was instantly drawn to return to the sky and continue to document them. Several years later and thousands of images in my archive, I started to envision a collection of images that were less focused on my usual muse - adventure, something a bit more abstract and based in fine art that could showcase these rivers and my best effort to display their beauty to an audience willing to engage with something that hopefully would inspire an urge to preserve them.

 

 

Your Original Puffy "Thjorsa" is based on that same Icelandic Glacial River system - Tell us more about the photo you chose and why it's so special.

  • Thjorsa is my original love when it comes to Iceland’s glacial rivers. I've flown over it hundreds of times and it continues to surprise me with its colors and beauty. Almost two years ago during my expedition bike pack/rafting across Iceland’s south coast, I had to raft across this particular river and it felt like a dream to actually sit among the sediments and pure runoff that had captured my attention for so many years from above. I felt like this image represents a range of what colors often emerge from Thjorsa and is part of an older collection I wanted to pay homage to by having it featured on the canvas of the blanket.

 

Tell us why you were excited to work with Rumpl and what drew you to the product as a great canvas for your work.

Having an insulated blanket to keep in my truck seemed like a no-brainer… It's a perfect companion for those chilly nights when you need to camp out and temperatures start to drop! Whether I’m out on a family trip with my boys, sleeping in the truck before an alpine start on a big ski-touring day, or staying up late to shoot astrophotography, the blankets are a perfect solution for extra warmth in addition to any layers I have on.

 

I’m excited to have a meaningful piece of artwork go on these blankets with a brand that is aligned with my lifestyle and values, in the elements where I find myself often.

How has the Thjorsa landscape changed over the years and what are the environmental implications of this change?

 

  • Being Iceland’s longest river at 230km, Thjorsa has unfortunately been restricted from its natural form with dams that provide hydroelectric power alongside geothermal energy that is more commonly associated with Iceland. Over the last few years, there have been proposals for additional dams and fortunately those have been prevented due to there now being a desire to preserve the river and its natural flow over each season.
  • You occasionally see these “conflicts” in local government between those who want to utilize Thjorsa for its natural resources and those who want to keep its waters from being diminished. Luckily it hasn’t changed a ton in the last ten years and my hope is that we continue to try and protect it when these dam proposals arise through documentation and awareness so that it remains as pristine as it should be.

 

 

Tell us more about your involvement in helping spread awareness around both the culture and environment of this special place (Thjorsa River specifically).

 

The Thjorsa river has found its way into several pieces of work I’ve put together over the years - mainly the At Glacier’s End book project where I feature aerial images of the river in different seasons. It also plays an essential role in my latest film The Forgotten Coast where I discuss flying over these glacial river systems and then my experience paddling across it near the end of my 8 day expedition.

 

In 2023, I released a limited collection of artwork that featured several images of Thjorsa printed in a special medium of wood & resin. My hope is that these projects, born out of my own passion for the beauty of this river, encourage others to value it as much as I do and perhaps take a flight to see it when visiting Iceland, or vote for the creation of the Highlands National Park in Iceland to preserve its headwaters and implement infrastructure for tourists to see it.

 

 

We're supporting The Conservation Alliance as part of this project. What is the importance of land protection and conservation to you? How can others get involved and do their part?

 

Conservation of natural resources & landscapes is hugely important to me.. I think awareness is the first step in the right direction - bringing attention to these precious places that we need to keep pristine for ourselves and future generations to enjoy. Small actions like picking up litter when you’re in nature, reducing your consumption of single use plastics, donating to non-profit organizations that are actively seeking regenerative & proactive practices and promoting good stewardship of natural resources. For some of these more remote destinations, considering the impact of tourism and making sure those of us who visit or encourage others to - are considering what sort of infrastructure is in place to support visitors or best practices to leave a destination pristine with the least amount of damage possible.

 

Overall, I think keeping the idea in the forefront of our minds that these incredible parts of our earth give so much to us in unspeakable ways and it’s our responsibility & privilege to give back by actively caring for them and considering our own impact.

We’re proud to be supporting The Conservation Alliance as part of this project. 100% of the Net Proceeds from the sale of the Thjorsa Original Puffy Blanket benefit The Conservation Alliance.

Follow Chris Burkard at @chrisburkard >
Learn more about Chris and his work here>

SHOP THE RUMPL x CHRIS BURKARD THJORSA

ORIGINAL PUFFY BLANKET

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