If you have followed KUIU for any length of time, you will be familiar with the amazing work of photographer Paul Bride. He has been the driving force behind the authentic imagery we use to convey the performance and inspiration linked with our brand. Based out of Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, Paul is one of the most accomplished outdoor, travel, and adventure photographers of our time.
Paul has shot more that 60 magazine covers, including, Alpinist, Pacific Yachting, Gripped, Climbing, Rock & Ice, Climb, Geographic Adventure, Powder, Outside Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Photo Technique, Photo Life, Photo News, and Wild Sheep. His resume’ lists work for the top brands in the outdoor industry: KUIU, Arcteryx, Patagonia, Red Bull, Lowerpro, Black Diamond, Five Ten, Julbo, Tyax Heli Skiing, and MSR.
Too modest to ever tell anyone, Paul’s work has garnered some of the top photography awards currently given:
• Red Bulll Illume Top 50 Photographers, 2013 & 2016.
• Soul ID Top 100 Outdoor Photographers in the World
• First Place, Extreme Sports Category, International Photographer Awards in New York City
• First Place, CVCE International Adventure Photography Awards in Spain
• International Masters Photography Cup Award Finalist, Landscape Category and Sports Category
With a career spanning nearly two decades and six continents, Paul has the willingness to go on the most difficult and dangerous adventures, and the talent to capture these pursuits on camera. He is the consummate professional, as tough as they come, and talented beyond words.
Name: Paul Bride
Hometown: Squamish BC, Canada
Favorite piece of KUIU apparel: Yukon Rain Gear
Vias or Verde?: Vias
How did you get started in outdoor photography?
Truth be told photography chose me. I never set out to be a photographer and never had any formal training past one semester in grade 10. It wasn’t until after I’d finished college and was leaving for a 6-month solo trip through Asia that I picked up a camera and even then it was only a little point and shoot film camera that my girlfriend at the time (now wife) loaned to me. Armed with eight rolls of Kodak print film I set off.
Upon my return home to Canada I had the film developed and was pleasantly surprised with my photos but more importantly noticed the composition mistakes I’d made and was curious how to fix them. I started reading everything I could about photography. Approximately a year later I bought my first SLR camera and it was as if someone turned on the lights: full manual photography just made sense.
I was always skiing, climbing, hiking, etc. and got a job bar tending nights so I could shoot during the day. I always had a subject because I was always in the mountains with friends. Digital didn’t exist at the time so you had to be very careful how much you shot. 35mm slide film was what the pro’s used at the time so I went out and bought a few rolls, nailed a couple images I was proud of and started submitting my work via the mail to outdoor magazines, and editors just started buying my work.
I remember getting a phone call very early in my career from a climbing magazine after my first submission to them asking me who I was and what kind of training I’d had. “None,” I said and then they let me know my image was going to be on the front cover.
I thought, “Wow– one of the magazines I read and love was going to print my image on the front cover!” I couldn’t believe it nor did I until I was holding the copy in my hand.
It’s now over 60 front covers later and on assignment globally for some of the top outdoor companies and magazines in North America and I’m still just as excited as when my career began.
Your career has taken you all over the world. Is there a place that has been your favorite? On the flip side, is there somewhere you wouldn’t want to go back to?
It’s hard to call one place my favorite because I love all the locations for different reasons but I’ve always enjoyed shooting in the Arctic.
I’ve had the pleasure of being there three separate times to different locations: Baffin Island, Greenland and Senja Island. Greenland really sticks out as I was there solo for 2 weeks living in the fjords, self-sufficiently photographing icebergs as part of an “Elements” project.
As for somewhere I wouldn’t want to go back I don’t have one.
How did you meet Jason and start shooting for KUIU?
This is one of my favorite stories.
I was headed to Yosemite Valley on assignment for Arcteryx to photograph one of their athletes climbing El. Captain. I was boarding a flight from Vancouver, BC, to Sacramento, and had a backpack of camera gear on and was casually chatting with this person I didn’t know at the time (Jason Hairston) about photography as I was walking down the aisle to my seat. It turned out we were sitting next to each other, which still blows me away when I look back on it, and we continued our conversation.
We were both telling each other a little about what we did and Jason shared a print ad he had just run in a hunting magazine. I’d never spent much time looking through hunting magazines so it was really interesting chatting with someone from a different background in the outdoor industry. We talked the entire flight, exchanged business cards, agreed to keep in touch, then went our separate ways. A week or so later I received an email from Jason saying he had checked out some of my work and asked if I would be interested in potentially doing some work for him as he needed a new photographer. I jumped at the opportunity, but reminded him I didn’t know anything about hunting which I thought might alter his decision on giving me the chance. But he said it was fine and explained the details of the trip he had coming up.
It was to be a 12-day backpack Dal sheep hunt at Arctic Red in the Yukon. He explained it would be a lot of hiking and I needed to be self-sufficient with all my gear. I told him, “Sounds good–I’ll be ready!”
Needless to say, we had a great trip and laughed the entire time. Jason finished the hunt with a wolf, caribou, and Dall sheep and loved the photos I captured.
For me, it was an awesome first hunting trip.
You have taken some incredible images. What makes a great image and do you know immediately when you have captured one? What is your favorite you’ve shot for KUIU? What is your favorite non-KUIU image?
Hmmmmmmm… (thinking for a long time….) What makes an image great is a tough question for me to explain as that’s a deep, deep rabbit hole but I’ll give it a shot. Simply put, in my opinion, it’s when you evoke a feeling of “wow” in the viewer. I’m not talking about shock value but something is awakened inside, a memory, laughter, envy, loneliness, a notion of crazy, wonderful etc. A moment captured so well it makes you stop flipping the pages and examine the image.
Do I ever immediately know if I’ve captured that? It seems that way sometimes but no, not really. For me photography is a process that begins many weeks before the trip. It always starts with a mental shot list, learning about where I’m going, how am I getting there, with whom I’m going, what environment will I be in, what lenses and camera body am I bringing, etc. Answering those questions is actually the real work behind the lens. The final step in the process is pressing the shutter button. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to create long before the photo moment ever takes place. The environment dictates how it’s going to look.
There are a lot of images I’m very proud of since having the opportunity to work with KUIU and my favorites have changed as I gain a better understanding of hunting. Currently I have an image of Jason Hairston and Brendan Burns on the home page of my website (www.PaulBride.com) that tops the list. It’s the two of them back at basecamp after a 100 + mile grind through some steep, unforgiving country and harvesting two incredible rams.
After multiple days of hiking through rivers and over mountain passes our final day was a 12-hour grind out of the mountains to our rendezvous point on the river at Bonnet Plume Outfitters.
The final 5 hours was spent walking down a raging creek up to our waist at times. Soaked and tired it was some of the most fun on the entire trip but our feet paid the price. This image brings back some amazing memories.
As for a non-KUIU favorite image, at this time, it’s an abstract art image from Iceland. I spent 10 days getting the shot. Patience is not a strong point of mine so when I planned a trip to photograph sea ice on the black volcanic sand of eastern Iceland in the north Atlantic, I brought my wife because she loves to travel and I figured I’d get my shots quite easily then the two of us would move on and see some of the country. I chose the month of November to assure dark skies and bad weather. To my surprise the sun was shining bright and strong. The locals were all in wonderful moods claiming it had been weeks since seeing the sun and how great it was. I, on the other hand, was the one person standing alone, surrounded by spectacular formations of ice, and yelling at the sun while my wife walked away in embarrassment. After 8 days of yelling at the sun I was finally rewarded with a cold, dark morning and I captured this image. We never saw any other part of the country but the image now hangs in my home at 8 feet in length.
You specialize in climbing and adventure images, and now hunting. How are the two similar and how do they differ? From your standpoint as a photographer, what are the biggest obstacles each type of shoot presents?
There is a saying “Same. Same but Different,” which I think holds very true when looking at the similarities between hunting and climbing.
One of the most notable likenesses is the dedication to the craft: both are more lifestyles than sport. Guides, outfitters, weekend enthusiasts in both disciplines share the same passion, mentality, and love for the outdoors; it’s the tools and objective that are different.
Years ago, as mountaineering and rock climbing progressed as a recreational sport, climbers would seek out local hunters to gain knowledge of the areas and to be guided into what could potentially be an objective worth climbing. There is a real connection between hunting and climbing.
As for the obstacles each type of shoot presents, nothing really sticks out. Yes, the packs are heavy and it can be uncomfortable at times or even scary, but honestly that’s part of the appeal. After years of shooting in all sorts of different outdoor situations, I actually find comfort in working through the day-to-day obstacles. I’ve learned how to manage them both mentally and physically.
Working in an office would be a much larger obstacle for me personally.
As a photographer, what has been your most challenging hunting shoot, and why? You’ve made a career out of shooting in conditions that other photographers would never consider working in. What conditions do you love to shoot in and what makes your job tough?
I would have to say my most challenging hunting shoot to date was moose hunting with Jason and his father in the Yukon.
As I mentioned before, I’m not the most patient person and this was my first experience sitting for hours not moving. Jason was actually getting pretty frustrated with me—(Sorry, Jason!)
Now that I look back on it I’m pretty proud that I sat there for ten days, and if I get the opportunity again I promise I’ll do better.
As for the conditions I prefer to shoot in, I love bad weather: rain, snow, heavy black skies… the worse conditions the better. I’m pretty hard on my gear and have been through multiple camera bodies and lenses over the years but the rewards far outweigh shooting on a sunny day, in my opinion. I’ve never looked at it as being tough shooting in those conditions because I enjoy it so much, but it can be very time consuming and you have to be careful when changing lenses and keeping debris off the glass and mount.
What type of hunting shoots do you enjoy the most? Do you have one that stands out as your favorite?
Hands down sheep hunting is my favorite! I love moving through the mountains and because those hunts are multiple days it provides me with the opportunities to constantly create without feeling rushed.
I’ve enjoyed all the sheep hunts I’ve been on but two really stand out. Stones sheep hunting at Golden Bear Outfitter with Greg Williams in northern BC and the other was Dall sheep hunting at Bonnet Plume Outfitters with Chis McKinnen in the Yukon.
Both hunts were with Jason Hairston and Brendan Burns and produced some of my favorite hunting imagery. They were incredible opportunities and experiences.
Not being a hunter yourself, how has your impression of hunting changed since you started photographing for KUIU?
I don’t know if my impression of hunting has changed but my knowledge and appreciation for the industry really has.
The term “hunting” is so broad and some practices I agree with and some I don’t. I was a meat eater long before I went on my first hunt and if we weren’t supposed to eat animals then they wouldn’t be made of meat.
There are two sides to every story and having the opportunity to observe and work in the field I’ve learned first-hand how much hunters care about the protection of animals and their lands. I think there is huge misconception about the industry and hopefully more non-hunters can be educated.
Shooting these hunts has given you the opportunity to eat quite a bit of wild game. What is your favorite?
Dall sheep back straps cooked over an open fire in the middle of nowhere.
You specialize in what is two of the physically hardest and least glamorous sports to photograph. Do you ever do anything less dangerous or extreme?
Ha! One might think, “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer eh?”
Yes, but it’s all photography based. When I’m not shooting hunting or climbing then I’m looking over maps and the internet planning my next photo trip, either with my wife or solo.
I’m away a lot for work but there are so many places I want to see for other reasons outside of shooting, climbing, and hunting. Photography provides the reason to visit places based strictly on culture and landscape.
Travel is something that my wife and I both share a real love for and she’s a great travel partner. Whether backpacking though the Himalayas or the Andes, living in a van, or sampling the good life in a beautiful hotel in some far off location, it’s all inspired by photography.
What motivates you in outdoor photography? What would you tell a young person looking to get into the business?
I’ve been asked what motivates me a lot over the years and my answer is always the same: I’m motivated by my own imagination. It’s that simple. I think you have to be if you want to work in any genre of the arts as a career.
As for advice to someone looking to get into the profession, I’d say to do it because you really want to and take a business course. Photography is a job and you have to treat it like one– there are no short cuts and you have to be your own worst critic. Traveling the globe and working with your camera is a fantastic life but It’s pretty hard to pay the bills and eat with just Instagram followers and giving your images away for free. Learn what your images are worth and learn how to license them.