Anyone who has ever been on an adventure knows just how fickle plans can sometimes be. Being able to adapt at a moment’s notice is all part of the journey, but doing so behind a camera lens takes more than just a willingness to change course. It requires patience, skill and technique.
When the temperature was a sweltering 98 degrees last July in British Columbia, a day of mountaineering turned into a pack raft adventure when photographer Chris Kimmel, with friends Evan, Adam and Cole, decided to ditch the hiking boots for a cooler option.
We caught up with Chris to talk about this impromptu excursion down the Chehalis River in British Columbia, how it yielded some incredible photographs, and what he learned along the way.
Aurora Photos: How did you prepare for this excursion?
Chris Kimmel: This wasn’t what we initially set out to do that day, so I didn’t have all the right gear for photographing the water aspect of the trip – for example, my waterproof casing. I had to adapt and manage with what I had, and I was extra careful when getting my camera out while on the water. However, this prompted me to find different angles that I otherwise may not have gotten.
AP: How did the change of plans impact your photographs?
CK: The photos from the higher angles were some of my favorite shots because they required the most work. I had to scramble up the cliff face, bushwhack though the forest, search for a place to get a view, then hang myself over the cliff edge to get those shots. It would have been much easier for me to just stay on the shore or in the boat, but the results were worth it. It’s a unique perspective that gave me the opportunity to capture parts of the canyon I’d never seen before. At one point in the trip we were rafting down and passed two people climbing. I was able to capture the rafts and the climbers in the same shot. I love this depiction of the diverse opportunities available in our back yard. All you need to do is get out and explore!
AP: Do you typically use trips to motivate others to “get out and explore”?
CK: I love sharing my experiences and urging others to explore the world around us. I want to show people there are beautiful places that are close to urban areas, yet remote at the same time. One of the greatest things about getting outside is that you can adapt the adventure to your skill level. Our trip had a short hike in, followed by intermediate rapids and plenty of opportunity to hike the canyon or climb the surrounding cliffs. Every step of the way could be geared up or down depending on the adventurer’s skill and comfort level.
AP: How did you come to climb and rappel that section of the canyon?
CK: Visiting from Australia, Evan had his heart set on climbing a mountain that day. We brought the rope and harnesses along just in case we found an interesting route in the canyon. When Evan spotted this cliff face there was no stopping him from climbing it. Adam, Evan and I have climbed a number of peaks in the Coast Mountain Range together. Each climb seems to get more difficult so we always bring gear to set up an anchor and rappel just in case we get stuck or conditions get dicey. The climb and rappel off the canyon wall gave Evan a taste of the mountains for the day and Adam had some fun trying to catch Evan while battling the river currents below in his pack raft.
AP: What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
CK: This was my first time paddling this section of the river. It’s an inspiring place and I know I’ll be back. Adam, Evan, Cole and I learned from one another as well. As we went down the river on the pack rafts, we would give each other tips for the rapids as we went through each one. One of the biggest takeaways on any adventure is what you learn from those you’re exploring with, or people you meet along the way.
AP: What inspires you most as a photographer?
CK: I love exploring and seeing new places. It helps you find out exactly what you are made of when you are faced with different challenges. I also enjoy seeing and learning from how others react to adversity. If I could give any advice to someone, whether they are simply looking for an adventure or furthering that by photographing their experiences, it would be to take any chance you get to travel. As days pass, opportunities to learn from and grow from experiences pass as well. It’s incredible to see new places and capture something that you’ve never captured before.
About Chris Kimmel
Chris Kimmel grew up just outside Vancouver, British Columbia. He is passionate about finding remote yet accessible environments that he can photograph and share with others in the hopes of helping others enjoy the great outdoors. He wants people to understand and see the beauty in the natural environment that surrounds us, and he captures that in his landscape and outdoor adventure photography. Chris has been published by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, BBC, Backpacker among many others.