Photography has been Chris Brinlee Jr.’s passion since he started studying it at 18. But it wasn’t until December 2013 that he started plotting his escape from cubicle land and out into the wide world to pursue travel and his own photography and storytelling. After working his way up within a large independent ad agency, it was a Honda campaign that finally put his photography skills to work-and Brinlee on the map, so to speak. For about a year, he was responsible for asset creation for Honda’s social media channels-and helped them grow their followers from next to nothing to more than 90,000. It would seem the guy can tell a story with images.
He enjoyed the work, but was still mostly creating web banners instead of focusing on the photography and storytelling he loved. Until he traveled to Costa Rica in December 2013 to shoot for a locally owned adventure company. “That trip got me thinking, ‘Why am I still sitting in a cube?’ So, I started planning my great escape and in August 2014 quit my job to go adventure the world.”
He’s been traveling ever since, creating content for himself as staff photographer for Gizmodo’s outdoor adventure subsite, IndefinitelyWild, and as a contributor at Huckberry. Follow him @chrisbrinleejr.
This is one of my most-liked photos on Instagram to date. I shot it right before reaching Annapurna Base Camp. The ABC trek is one of the most popular in Nepal, but if you go during the winter, not only can you find solitude, but you get amazing views like this. Winter can be a little tougher, but the cold is something I have always rushed to greet. Snow makes everything prettier.
Conditions during the trek between the lower MBC and ABC were perfect; there was just enough cloud cover to diffuse the light and crown Annapurna South. As soon as we started hiking back, the sky blacked out and dumped snow all night. Probably wouldn’t have made it up to ABC if I had waited to go until morning.
This is New Year Nepal, in Pokhara. I met up with another Instagram user, @plusomar, who happened to be in Pokhara for the new year. We were walking around trying to figure out if there would actually be a fireworks show; every local person told us no. We didn’t give up hope, however; around midnight fireworks started going off. We rushed to the roof of a Korean restaurant where we had stopped to catch a better view. I took a handful of test frames to prepare for the finale, but conserved my shots because the cold drained my battery and I didn’t bother to carry a spare. It was a good thing I took some test frames however, because there was no finale. After the last single blast went off, we stood around waiting for five minutes. It was done.
I cheated. This is actually a composite of pretty much every firework that went off. Half of them were duds and went off on the ground, or went BOOM! with no light. Third world problems. I like the composite, though.
@danielbrucelee took this photo of me lathered in clay at a natural blue lagoon up in the mountains in Iceland. This definitely wasn’t the Blue Lagoon that tourists pay $70 to soak in. This was way better. Our friends in @thewildnessproduction took us there on Daniel’s and my last day on the island. The experience was unforgettable.
Nepal has two major cities. Kathmandu is a madhouse. Absoltely insane. Pokhara, however rests along Fewa Lake and is relatively tranquil in comparison. This is the view outside of Mike’s Resturant – where the tables are about as close to the water as you can sit without getting wet. Mike’s serves an excellent breakfast; the view is impeccable.
This photo kind of represents a monumental moment in my journey. It’s a self portrait taken in the Bangkok International Airport. I had been traveling with @danielbrucelee for the past four months throughout Norway, Iceland, Nepal, and Thailand; this photo marked the beginning of my solo journey. There’s a nice post in Huckberry’s Journal about it.
This is one of @danielbrucelee from Thailand. We were on a longboat heading to Railay Beach to go sport climb, which would be both Daniel’s and my first outdoor rock climbing experience. My favorite aspect of this shot is the lighting. It looks HDR, but it’s not. The cloud cover provided really nice diffusion, yet there was still lots of depth.
My friend Dianne took this photo of me while we were hiking in Italy near the Dolomites, just outside of Aviano, north of Venice. Dianne is in the U.S. Army and all of her friends had seen a popular picture of me on the internet with a flower beard. She was like, “That’s my friend!” So, when I came to visit, we had to do a flower beard of our own; we collected the flowers while hiking. I wore them all day. Even to dinner.
I took this portrait of a Nepali woman on my first day of trekking from Jiri to Imja Tse, the Himalayan peak that we climbed. I’m not sure what she was saying, but she had the most incredible smile; she was so full of life.
Once @danielbrucelee arrived in Chukhung, we hung out for a couple of days to train and acclimate in preparation for our Imja Tse climb. The day before I took this shot, we scrambled to the top of Chukhung Ri, an 18,200-foot peak. On the way back down, I spotted a flat, rounded plateau with an astounding view of Ama Dablam (pictured) to one side and Lhotse (the fourth-highest peak in the world) on the other. The following night we hiked up to the plateau-about 17,000 feet-after dinner to shoot the stars. Conditions were perfect. But cold. Below 0°F cold. We froze our asses off, but I got some of my best night shots ever.
Back in the summer, I organized a sea kayaking/island camping/spear fishing trip for some friends of mine and @indefinitewild. It would be everyone’s first time spearfishing; we were also using pole spears, or “Hawaiian slings,” which are notoriously more difficult to use. Guess I was a natural, however, because I brought in about a dozen fish in a day; all 10 of us had fish tacos for dinner.
The story behind this photo, though, comes from a meme. When I first started growing my [ginger] beard, my buddy @slowcati_evo sent me this. I swore that if I ever found myself in possession of live fish, that I’d recreate it. This is that re-creation. So much better that I speared it myself.
Camping in Iceland during autumn is brutal. And we camped nearly every day. Each night and morning, you go to sleep to the tent flapping in 60 mph winds. The night before this particular shot, we caught our first glimpse of the Northern Lights after hitchhiking 50 kilometers in the dark. As soon as we got out of our ride, the sky opened up. As quickly as they came, the auroras were gone, replaced by the gnarliest winds we had dealt with on the trip to date.
The morning after; more gnarly winds. When they finally died down, I opened up the door to our tarp and was rewarded with this stunning view of JÃ¶kulsÃ¡rlÃ³n.