We’re super excited to shine our spotlight on Chris Burkard, one of the amazing 12 guest curators who’ve been sharing their favorite 500px photos on our Editor’s Choice page.

California-based photographer and studio-owner Chris Burkard is renowned for his incredible outdoor photography, his masterful use of lighting and composition, and his passion for capturing surf on camera. This self-taught artist took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down with us and answer some of our burning questions in the interview below.

For you, what makes a photograph good?

CHRIS BURKARD: For me, what makes a good photograph is lighting and composition. Lighting is everything in photography. Without light, you don’t have a photograph. Then, composing your photograph comes next. In most of my photos, I have a pulled-back composition, so I can show the whole environment. It is important for me to have a well-composed foreground, a subject in the middle ground, and an epic background to tie the whole image together. I am usually shooting into the sun, towards a mountain range, or into something monumental. I want to transport the viewer directly to where I am shooting—to get them lost in my photographs.

What gear do you like to shoot with?

CHRIS: For cameras, I use a Sony a7, a7s, a6000, a99. I also shoot with a Nikon aw1. For lenses, I use 16mm with fisheye converter, 24mm,10-18mm, 24-70mm, 50mm, 70-200mm, and 100-400mm. For software, I use Photo Mechanic and Adobe Lightroom.

How did you get started with photography?

CHRIS: The first camera I used was my wife’s mom’s camera. At that time, my wife was still my girlfriend. I would borrow it from time to time, and shoot things that I was passionate about—the ocean, waves, nature, and landscapes. Once I had enough money saved up, I purchased my own camera at a Goodwill store and continued to pursue and document my passions.

Out of all your photos, which one is your most favorite

CHRIS: Out of all the photographs I have taken, my favorite image is the one that made the cover image of Surfer Magazine from my trip to the Aleutian Islands.

CHRIS (continued): This trip was one of the most raw and intense trips I’ve ever been on. We had no idea whether we would score any waves on our trip. We were lucky to score on one of our first few days of the trip. This image has everything that I want in the image—a monumental snow covered volcano in the background with a rolling hill below it, and a surfer in high action in the foreground. After I captured this once-in-a-lifetime moment, I couldn’t help but smile and take a moment to soak it all in. I was stoked!

Are there any photographers in 500px whose work you admire?

CHRIS: 500px is an incredible social platform for photographers. There is so much great work on this website that I’m blown away every time I log on. If I were to point out some standouts, they would be Michael Shainblum, Lee Fisher, and Stefan Forster.

Chris Burkard’s Favorite Photos on 500px

Now that you’ve gotten to know him a little better, check out some of Chris Burkard’s favorite images on 500px, featuring the works of Lee Fisher, Michael Shainblum, Stefan Forster, Shane Black, and Conor MacNeill!


“This photo by Lee Fisher is awesome. I’ve been a fan of wildlife photography, but it’s something that I don’t do myself that often. I’ve seen deer out in the wild before, but something about this image brings a new perspective to them. I feel like this is something we can all relate to—waking up early and seeing the fog from out breath.

I love that this lighting is all natural and early in the morning. I’m an early riser myself, so I know the feeling of getting up early just like this deer does. Personally, I like that there isn’t that much processing in this photo. It isn’t over-edited. It makes feels like you were looking at the deer with the naked eye. I love how the fog from the deer’s breath is visible just enough for the viewer to see.

I believe this photo is trying to communicate something we are all familiar with: waking up early. I remember being a kid and being in cold places, seeing the fog from my breath early in the morning. Would sit there for minutes breathing hard so I could see more of the fog being made. Waking up early is something everyone can relate to, and we can see here that animals do it as well.”

Valley of the Cosmos by Michael Shainblum

“Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite places to go in California. Even though I’ve been there so many times, I always find a new way to see it and shoot it. This is a perfect example. I’ve been a fan of Michael Shainblum’s nighttime photography. This is just an incredible image that shows how vast the view is from Glacier Point. You can see the Milky Way with the right conditions very well. The processing in this photo is seamless. It is a panoramic shot, and Michael nailed it perfectly. The Milky Way is represented beautifully, and it looks just as stunning as a half-dome.

I believe this photo is trying to humble the viewer. Even if the viewer has seen Yosemite in all its glory, the Milky Way makes the viewer seem even more insignificant. I feel this photo is worthy, just because of how monumental it is. This is one of the best night shots I’ve seen of Yosemite.”

Droneshot over Iceland by Stefan Forster

“Stefan’s picture of the glacial runoffs in Iceland is awesome. I like this one, because I was there not too long ago taking the same pictures. But his was done completely differently. I was up in a helicopter, while Stefan uses a drone to carry his camera, which is something I am terrified of doing to my own camera.

The lighting in this image is very soft and harsh in all the right places. The clouds and afternoon light really bring out the colors of this valley. They highlight the glacial runoff beautifully. I personally enjoy how true the colors are in the surroundings. I have been to Iceland more than 10 times—these colors are exactly what I think about every time I hear or see the word Iceland.

Just like Michael’s photo, I believe this photograph is trying to communicate the size relative to the human viewer. This photo shows off the raw beauty this planet has to offer.”

Photograph Ancients by Shane Black

“Like Michael Shainblum’s work, Shane is also a great nighttime photographer. He has an incredible eye, and his post-production is spot-on. What I like about this photo is how well it is composed with the Milky Way above some ancient trees.

This photo seems to be a single exposure, with the painted light on the trees, which I am a fan of. The painted light is just enough to make it look like ambient light. The Milky Way is beautifully positioned between the two trees. I like how this photo is processed, because it isn’t over-edited. It looks as if one were to view it with the naked eye. Of course there is processing in this image, but it is not overdone.

Like most of the images I have chosen, I think it is trying to communicate significance between humans and nature. We are for less relative than we think.”

Skógafoss by Conor MacNeill

“I chose this image because I have been to Skogafoss Falls so many times. This is an incredible documentation of this beautiful waterfall. Black and white photographs really demand our respect as viewers. I believe this one fits that requirement. I love how moody this photograph is. There is much contrast between the shadows and highlights, but it’s a perfect balance. It appears to be a stormy day, so the black and white is a great idea. Incredible image. I’m kind of at a loss of words here.

This waterfall is an incredible sight to see. I love waterfalls so much, but this one has always made me feel so insignificant. That is what I believe is being communicated here.”

To see more of Chris’ own stunning work, you can follow him on 500px.

You can also visit his Facebook page, or connect with him on Instagram.