Northwest is Best: America’s most talented nature photographers
My three favourite things in life are probably Canada, cameras and boys (yehep, right in that order). After a road trip through the country of maple syrup, weed and flawless natural beauty last summer, I decided to move to Vancouver some time soon. But before all of that is going to happen, I’m keen on maintaining a steady flow of inspiration usually in the shape of a colourful Instagram feed and eloquent “Oh em geeee that’s awesome!” comments from my end. You may or may not be surprised that some of my biggest crushes are bearded Canadians who take landscape phone photography to a new level. Ladies, let me introduce you to the folk behind the #northwestisbest movement who made the impossible possible and became Instagram celebrities without taking any selfies.
I had a little chat about phone photography with Ben Giesbrecht whose specialty are the backs of cool, hat-wearing people in the wilderness, Jordan Voth whose earthy colour schemes and eye for adventure make my heart beat faster, Chris Amat whose ability to find and capture perfection in nature makes me want to give him a bear hug, and my LA girl crush Kylie Turley who will fill your timeline with dogs modelling sunnies and mummy-kid snaps with a serious “Awww!” potential.
So guys, tell us about the pacific north-west. What’s so great about it?
Ben Giesbrecht @bennnnnnnngie: I love the northwest mainly because of the landscape it holds. You can be on top of a mountain one minute, then submerged in the ocean the next. It’s also very quiet, and most people are super kind, relaxed and all have a mutual respect for the environment. My favourite place would have to be Vancouver Island. It’s so peaceful and there always seems to be something cool to check out around every corner.
Kylie Turley @kylieturley: There’s something magical about foggy coastlines and the fusion of mountain and coastal life. I love the trees and nature, and the lull of the sea. It reminds me of both the home I grew up in and the homes I’ve lived in the years since. It’s a fine balance of my life’s journey. My favourite place in the Northwest is definitely Big Sur, California and the Oregon Coast.
Jordan Voth @jordanvoth: It’s hard not to be fascinated with this place! Seattle is very unique in the sense that you have a major city but can easily be in the middle of nowhere in the mountains within an hours drive. The beauty that surrounds the pacific northwest is unlike that of any kind in the country which makes it such an awesome place to live in. There’s large mountains to hike, big waterfalls to see, beautiful rain forests to hike through and many more. My favourite place would be the Olympic Peninsula and some of the areas that make it up; La Push and Cape Flattery/Neah Bay to name a few.
Chris Amat @christopheramat: I am drawn to the beauty and diversity of the area. Within three hours in any direction of my house is a mix of Mountains, Lakes, Badlands and Prairies. As for favourite places, its constantly changing but right now I am drawn to Waterton, AB.
What has traveling (and travel photography) taught you?
Ben Giesbrecht @bennnnnnnngie: Traveling has really taught me to appreciate and immerse myself in the moment I’m in. It’s so easy to get distracted these days and rush through things. Sometimes you forget to just stop, look around and take it all in. Photography has helped me a lot in this way, forcing me to slow down and take in all the tiny details of wherever I am.
Kylie Turley @kylieturley: Traveling teaches me to see the world in a new light with a fresh perspective. Shooting travel photography reminds me to be brave, and to not shy away from incredible opportunities (like capturing that perfect moment where a baby wraps its arm around mama’s arm in a small Haitian village). When I look at the world I see photographs. I see moments I want to freeze so I can’t possibly forget. We are surrounded by so much beauty, I just can’t help but document it. To me there is something sacred about that process, collecting memories and re-living them later, over and over again. Photography is beautiful. There’s an emotional attachment to it and during my travels across the world and in the outdoors I try to portray that message in a natural and creative way.
Chris Amat @christopheramat: Enjoy the moment. Don’t live it through your lens, you miss out on too much when you do. That being said I still have to remind myself of that.
What impact do you want your photos to have?
Jordan Voth @jordanvoth: I want people to see my photos and feel like they’re there and a part of that scene as well give them a want to see it in person for themselves. No one owns the world and everyone has a right to see it. There’s so many people who are secretive about where they hike/travel to in fear that other people will go there as well. But isn’t that the point? To inspire people to travel and see the beauty around us? That’s what I would like people to take away from my photos. I’ve had a few people tell me they had no desire to visit Seattle until they had seen some of my photos and then they visually fell in love with it and that is super awesome to hear.
Kylie Turley @kylieturley: I want my photos to inspire people to appreciate their surroundings. In both people and places, there is so much to be grateful for and to marvel at.
Do you remember the scariest/weirdest/most beautiful story behind a particular photo?
Ben Giesbrecht @bennnnnnnngie: The most recent thing I can think of happened earlier this year when I was trekking through the Rockies stalking this small group of Elk. At one point they we’re all resting on a hill as I was creeping closer and closer, then the male of the group abruptly stood up took a few quick steps towards me whilst making some hostile Elk type sounds. I really didn’t feel like getting impaled by his antlers at the time so I slowly backed away to safety.
Kylie Turley @kylieturley: Scariest = getting chased by a man with a hoe in Haiti. Weirdest = taking a portrait of a Chinese woman and being expected to pay her for it. Most beautiful = anything capturing the precious moments between mother and child. I love the bond families share, and anything so intimate as that just pulls at my heartstrings.
Jordan Voth @jordanvoth: I recently went on a road trip with my best friend to Zion, Bryce Canyon & the Grand Canyon. Along the way we made a stop in Page, AZ to visit Antelope Canyon and right down the street from there is Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe Bend is a unique spot of the Grand Canyon where the Colorado River had carved out a U shape in the canyon. This was one of the places I was looking forward to most to seeing in person. I’ve seen it numerous times in photo but have wanted to see it for myself for so long. Walking up to it was indescribable. I’ve never been in a place where all I could say was “Wow”, there were no other words. It was much bigger than I had imagined but it exceeded everything I had in my head. I had planned that day where we would end up here at sunset and when we arrived it was pretty cloudy with no signs of any sun. However, right when it was about to go behind the horizon it poked out for 5 or 10 minutes and it was beautiful. This will forever be one of my favorite photos.
If you fancy some more timeline eye candy, I can highly recommend the Great North Collective (@greatnorthco) which is a collection of the best Canadian snaps and I may or may not be dreaming about becoming a part of it one day, Instagram celebrity Kevin Russ (@kevinruss), Stephen Alkire (@stephenalkire) and his girl Lisa (@lisaalkire), Brandon Alan (@brandonalan), Sam Elkins (@samuelelkins) and the beautiful Bethany Marie (@bethanymarieco). Yep, I knew these guys would spice up your feed a little… You’re welcome.