WHERE ARE YOU FROM? WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
I’m from the heart of American caving, a place we call TAG (Tennessee/Alabama/Georgia). More specifically Knoxville, TN.
WHAT IS YOUR FULL-TIME PROFESSION?
By weekday, I’m the Marketing Director for our local outdoor store Little River Trading Company (shameless plug). By weekend, I’m an adventure/cave photographer.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED IN PHOTOGRAPHY?
I have always had a interest in photography, but I think my interest was peaked in middle school when we studied photography in art class.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY? TELL US THE WHOLE STORY…
Aside from having my interest sparked early in life, I didn’t put much thought into “being a photographer” for several years. But in high school when I discovered caving things changed. We spent every weekend exploring our local caves and we would come back to school and try to explain to people what it was like. But how do you use words to describe a dark void deep under the ground we spend our days walking on? After destroying a few cheap point and shoots, we tried disposable cameras. But blurry, poorly lit photos didn’t help us explain why we would want to leave the daylight and explore the “underworld.” This led to researching ways (including going back to college for a degree in photography) to light sometimes enormous spaces and preserving the detail of these unique environments. After several cameras and countless flashes and many years, I feel like I’m able to come out of a cave and show people what’s down there!
WHAT’S IN YOUR CAMERA BAG RIGHT NOW?
A lot of dirt and mud… But under all the filth there is a Nikon D750 | 14-24 2.8 | 24-70 2.8 | 70-200 F4. Sony a6500 with a 19mm 2.8. DJI Mavic Pro. 3 Lume cubes and probably some smalls glass shards from spent flash bulbs.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT IN PHOTOGRAPHY?
Sign up for some classes or workshops. Have your work critiqued by other photographers. Find out the “dos and don’ts.”
Your work reaches across the full spectrum of adventure photography–caving, skiing, underwater photography, ice climbing, hiking, rock climbing and everything in between–how do you balance being in the moment of the adventure and making compelling photographs during the adventure?
Balance is something I struggle with on every trip. Sometimes I have to force myself to dig my camera out because I know that if I don't I will regret it, possibly forever. I say to myself “you carried all this extra weight so use it..”
WHY ARE YOU DRAWN TO THE EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS YOU CONTINUE TO VISIT? AND WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING BACK FOR MORE?
I have a fascination with environments that humans don’t belong in. Or environments that once you enter you are on a timer for how long you can stay. I love being able to photograph and share parts of the world that most people will never have a chance to see. Adventure is addictive and like any drug, each adventure creates a craving for the next one. I catch myself planning my next trip while currently suffering on one.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER?
Sharing places and experiences in the hope that it will inspire people to get out and explore our world, as well as sharing places that people may never get a chance to see.
PHOTOGRAPHER FIRST OR ADVENTURER FIRST?
Adventure first. My adventures are what drove me into photography. And I have to admit I have been known to leave my camera bag behind to help push and explore a cave.
WHAT DO YOU THINK HELPS YOU MAKE IMAGES THAT GO BEYOND PERSONAL RECORDINGS OF EVENTS INTO POWERFUL NARRATIVE IMAGES THAT OTHERS CAN CONNECT WITH?
Adventure photography is a group effort. Without a team of awesome people, none of it would be possible. I have been very fortunate to work with some awesome people. Most of the time when we head out on a trip, the story we set out to tell isn’t the one that end ups getting told. I hope that when someone scrolls Instagram and sees someone squeezing through a tight crack or climbing a raging waterfall they think “hmmm Mondays aren’t so bad…
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?
“Misery is memorable” –Me
The experiences we remember are not the sunny summits but the type 2 fun days when the wind is blasting and the snow is piling up. Those are my favorite stories to tell.
Movie: The Goonies
Book: Caverns Measureless to Man by Sheck Exley
CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU MADE YOUR FAVORITE IMAGE WITH A LUME CUBE?
Though cave photography is my passion I also love photographing iconic places on the surface at night. I wrangled my wife and a friend into hiking 13 miles in the cold and dark to Mount Cammerer in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to light up the fire tower at night. It was -10° with the wind chill and the skies were clear. We stood up there for a few hours soaking in the site while I ran around lighting up the tower trying to get the light just right.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME DETAILS ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT ADVENTURE WITH US?
I just got back from an expedition to Sistema Huautla in Mexico. It’s the deepest cave in the Western Hemisphere at -5,080’ deep. This was my 4th expedition to the Huautla area, and one of my favorites. We managed to connect a major cave into the system adding several miles in length pushing the cave to over 50 miles long. While I was there we climbed over 6,000 feet of rope and explored thousands of feet of virgin cave–virgin cave is cave that has never been seen or touched by humans. Sistema Huautla is unlike any other cave in the world, swimming, climbing, crawling and underground camping make for some epic stories and photos.
DESCRIBE LUME CUBE IN 5 WORDS OR LESS.
Bright, Light, Easy to use!
Rad! Thanks for sharing with us your amazing images, stories and insights.
You can find more of Chris’s work at the following sites: