Looking for a daily dose of inspiration or wanderlust? These six photographers’ work, dedication to craft, and active lifestyles will surely inspire you to get moving, or simply to get out there and take in the outdoors’ natural beauty.

Not only are these women talented artists, but they’re also incredible athletes. From strapping into an open helicopter door to braving rough waters or getting frightfully close to the action, they go to extremes for the perfect shot.

What’s more, their work is often driven by a mission rather than passion alone: to bring women and BIPOC athletes to the forefront.

We reached out to some of the best photographers across the outdoor industry to ask about their photo equipment, favorite non-photo gear, proudest moments, and more.

Christa Funk: Between the Waves

Christa Funk is a surfer and photographer. Based in the North Shore of Oahu, she’s renowned for capturing the excitement in and below the waves. Funk picked up photography in eighth grade during computer class when her teacher loaned her a camera so she could learn how to shoot and use Photoshop.

Hooked from then on, Funk now has some 17 years of shooting under her belt. Her photos have appeared in just about every surf magazine out there as well as in Patagonia, Hurley, and other major brand materials.

  • Favorite camera: Canon 7D MK II
  • Favorite piece of equipment that isn’t a camera: Nauticam Dive Housing — there’s a lot more to the ocean than what’s going on at the surface
  • Contact info: @instaclamfunk | cfunkphoto.com

5 Must-Haves for a Successful Photoshoot

  1. Db Backpack Pro with the CIA Pro insert — shameless advertising because it’s a fantastic pack for photography gear
  2. Canon lenses (8-15mm, 16-35mm, 24mm tilt-shift lens, 50mm, 24-105mm, 70-200mm)
  3. 2 Canon 7D Mark II camera bodies
  4. Waterhousing — either SPL (Surf) or Nauticam (Dive)
  5. Kodak No. 1A Autographic Jr. film camera — love seeing photos come out from a camera that’s over 100 years old — and bonus, it’s travel size

Interview With Christa Funk

What has looking at the world through the lens of a camera taught you?

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth” (Pablo Picasso).

I’ve witnessed that quote over and over again. Stunning moments can be found when the conditions aren’t textbook. Some of my favorite surf photos have come from days when there were only a few minutes where everything came together.

I’ve taken some of my best diving shots during murky sessions. The viewer can look at those images and get the impression that the whole scene was ideal when, in actuality, it was a mess. Life’s unruly periods hold moments of perfection.

One shot you’re most proud of?

There’s a shot I took my first season of shooting at Pipeline. I was using a Canon 60D with an 18-55mm kit lens. A photographer had looked at my setup and told me I wouldn’t get anything worthwhile with it.

One dark and early morning, I swam out to the lineup. Takayuki Wakita has spent years surfing Pipeline and has his own section named after him, “Wakita’s Bowl.” He took off from that zone and backdoored the section into Pipeline. Surfline ran the photo, and I remember thinking that I may have a shot at water photography.

If you could take only one more photo in life, what and where would it be?

I’d bend the laws of time for my photo. I’d go back to when my dad was alive and healthy and take a photo with him, my mom, and my two sisters. They’d be walking the canal by our house in the late afternoon.

The Book Cliffs would look like they always do in the background like a pulldown screen for an old Western movie. Cars would be a constant blur speeding along I-70 across the canal. The air would feel warm but crisp; the last hold of summer before the transition to fall.

My dad would say something ridiculous to make them all laugh. It would be unrestrained laughter which tends to lead towards unattractive snorting, a kind of bright joy. They’d have no idea I was shooting. Afterwards, I’d join back in to finish our walk. That would be my last photo.

‘Wild’ Gina Danza: Recordkeeper of our Planet

Southwest photographer Gina Danza is a self-proclaimed “recordkeeper of our planet.” She traded in a career in television for the visual arts, working as a full-time outdoor and adventure photographer and creative director with major brands and artists such as HOKA ONE ONE, David Archuleta, Backpacker Magazine, and more. Her Instagram is filled with adventures into high and dry places, and the moon makes frequent appearances.

  • Favorite camera: Honestly, my iPhone! I have a Sony and a Canon, but the iPhone is so fun, and you can get some easy shots without thinking about the techs of it. It’s more so focused on your eye and if you have the vision to create with a single lens on a mobile device.
  • Favorite piece of equipment that isn’t a camera: My tripod! I need it to shoot the moon!
  • Contact info: @wildgina | wildgina.com

5 Must-Haves for a Successful Photoshoot

  1. A camera you are comfortable with
  2. A vision or desire to create
  3. A camera bag to hold any filters, etc.
  4. An insulated water bottle
  5. A headlamp

Interview With ‘Wild’ Gina Danza

What has looking at the world through the lens of a camera taught you?

The sun and moon impact us more than just us waking up and going to sleep. I feel so connected to the sun today, and it’s something I never thought of before in my life. The lens is a tool but also a microscope of wonders to close your lens around one scene and make magic happen.

One shot you’re most proud of?

This one I took of a sunset in Arizona. Honestly, I have no idea how I saw this but this is also giving me facts that creative meditation or a photographer’s high is real. I zoned out and came out of it with this beautiful image!

If you could take only one more photo in life, what and where would it be?

It’s always of the sun. The sun moves so quickly, really you have a limited time — like concert photography with the first three songs) — to get the shot! Where? The coastlines of California with the sun disappearing behind the ocean.

Re Wikstrom: Photographer on a Mission

With a BFA in Photography and Visual Media from RIT, a stacked portfolio of magazine and commercial work from around the globe, and a 16-year tenure as a photographer and photo editor at Backcountry, we can’t even imagine the shutter count on Re Wikstrom’s fingers.

While her career is one built through decades of dedication and experience, it’s also been driven by passion and a mission. In the traditionally male-dominated space of outdoor and action sports, her work is focused on bringing women to the forefront of the outdoor world.

In doing so, she’s been a driving part of many “female firsts,” including all-women expeditions and the very first all-female cover shot for Skiing Magazine.

  • Favorite camera: Nikon D5 hands-down (or the new D6). I am not quite there on the mirrorless for commercial work, though I have started using a Fuji X-T2 as my around town/travel camera of choice, and I love it for that.
  • Favorite piece of equipment that isn’t a camera: My daily driver pow skis. Wood core. Sandwich construction. About 120 mm underfoot.
  • Contact info: @rewikstrom | rewikstrom.com

5 Must-Haves for a Successful Photoshoot

  1. Always: Good vibes only. Even if a shoot is starting to tank, it only gets worse with a bad attitude, and it’s amazing how you can turn things around with a little positivity
  2. Great people
  3. Great communication
  4. Fresh batteries and memory cards
  5. Great planning (though you might argue some successful shoots are a product of serendipity, I might argue that everything you did in life until then still counts as some level of planning or manifest destiny to make that moment a success)

Interview With Re Wikstrom

What has looking at the world through the lens of a camera taught you?

Teamwork makes the dream work. Does it sound cheesy? It’s 1,000,000% true. Always be open to a plan B or C or D. Magic happens in a one-thousandth-of-a-second increment. We are incredibly privileged.

One shot you’re most proud of?

The very first action shot that I ever had published in Powder Magazine holds a very special place in my heart. It’s a shot of Rachael Burks hucking a backflip, in perfect form, with perfect backlight, in the Alta Backcountry.

If you could take only one more photo in life, what and where would it be?

I am torn. My gut said a self-portrait with my mom, but I did that last month, so I’m feeling OK on that front. (Phew!)

So the next one would be to gather up all the badass women athletes I have ever worked with in the outrageous costume of their choice (a-la Claire Smallwood in the hot dog costume), or Rachael Burks in some bitchin’ ’80s metal-hair-band sparkle and neon (or dressed up like a beer can).

Then, capture them all dropping in for a party shred on some perfect bluebird pow day, ideally at Alta, otherwise British Columbia (but I’m not really picky on the location in this case).

This shot would be all about capturing an outrageous amount of fun.

Gritchelle Fallesgon: Diversity Is a Must

Portland-based Gritchelle Fallesgon left her graphic design career in 2016 to pursue her teenage dream of becoming a photographer. It took a few years to get fully established, but she’s in the thick of it now, specializing in active and adventure lifestyle photography and centering her work around diversity in the outdoors.

“As a woman of color, I know what it’s like to not ever see yourself represented in the media,” she said. “So when I started my photography career, I made it a priority to focus on diversity and inclusion. Because diversity is a must, not a plus.”

Fallesgon has worked with brands such as Specialized, Swift Industries, and Velocio, and her images have also appeared in Bicycling Magazine, Oprah’s O Magazine, and Travel Oregon.

5 Must-Haves for a Successful Photoshoot

  1. A good attitude
  2. A good team (riders/talent, photo crew, client)
    • That is collaborative and/or can listen and take direction well
    • That wants to have fun and are prepared for an adventure
  3. Plenty of snacks and beverages so that no one gets hangry
  4. A plan of action with flexibility to be spontaneous if needed
  5. A beautiful location with good weather

Interview With Gritchelle Fallesgon

What has looking at the world through the lens of a camera taught you?

I’ve learned to look at light in a different way. I now see how it reflects on surfaces or trickles through the leaves. Or how it can produce harshness or a soft glow. I’ve learned how to manipulate light or to just appreciate it in its raw, natural form.

One shot you’re most proud of?

One of my proudest moments is being published in O Magazine! I’m stoked for many reasons (I mean, seriously, it’s Oprah’s magazine!) but most importantly, I’m proud because the photo features three super-rad, diverse women adventuring in one of my favorite places in Oregon: the Painted Hills!

As a side note, earlier in my career, I told a fellow photographer that I wanted to pursue adventure photography, and he pretty much told me, “Nah, no one wants to see your friends in nature.” It stung, but I kept creating the photos I wanted to do anyway. So seeing this image of my three friends in nature published in a mainstream magazine is pretty gratifying.

If you could take only one more photo in life, what and where would it be?

It would be cool to do a project in Scotland. I came across a Bikepacking.com article about bikepacking in Scotland, and it looked pretty epic. It would be a dream to do an adventure shoot with a crew that is all BIPOC.

Emily Tidwell: Close to the Action

The daughter of an acrylic painter, Reno-based skier-photographer Emily Tidwell grew up as an art kid. She was given her first point-and-shoot film camera for Christmas when she was 8, which remains in her collection to this day.

Yet her interest in photography didn’t really spark until her senior year in high school, and even then she nearly failed her AP art portfolio because the teachers hated her photos. She turned her lens toward skiing in her 20s, and now, at 30, she’s been “making it on her own” for 2 years.

Her style is off the cuff and as close to the action as possible, which at times is a little too close for comfort.

  • Favorite camera: I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark IV right now! Love it, but I’m a sucker for a 1DX — the weight in your hand, and the way the shutter sounds, it’s my favorite in the world.
  • Favorite piece of equipment that isn’t a camera: My skis! I’m lucky enough that I get to consider skis as part of my essential equipment. My Moment Meridian 117s, they’re my love.
  • Contact info: @lynk_nation_photo | emilytidwellphoto.com

5 Must-Haves for a Successful Photoshoot

  1. A great connection with my athlete and my client
  2. A willingness to adapt and react on the fly
  3. Letting things happen as they go (rarely does a day ever go as planned)
  4. Someone to bounce ideas off of
  5. And have fun!

Interview With Emily Tidwell

What has looking at the world through the lens of a camera taught you?

There is constant opportunity. The real challenge isn’t in capturing beautiful landscapes, it’s making any environment look beautiful.

There’s still so much growth to be had with women’s representation in the outdoor industry, both in front of the camera and behind. But, happily, I’m already seeing those tides changing. Be tough, be sure in yourself. Keep going; there will be an infinite amount of bad days, but it’s how you choose to act the day after that will make you.

One shot you’re most proud of?

When it comes to my career, I’ve looked less at the shots I’m most proud of and more of the opportunities that I’ve worked incredibly hard to get.

I’m most proud of the moment that I landed my first contract, shooting for Timberline Lodge when I was 25, and of the first moment I sat down in a Barnes & Noble magazine section and opened a magazine to see my photo, and my name written down.

I’m most proud of flying myself to Italy, navigating Milan in a car, and shooting Nine Knights halfway across the world when I felt so infinitely small and out of place.

And I’m proud of the moment when I got to call my mom and tell her I was quitting my serving job to work full-time for myself, a dream I’d had for so long. The images that come along with those moments are just a part of the story.

If you could take only one more photo in life, what and where would it be?

I want to be chest-deep, wading through snow, shooting my athlete taking the absolute best turn of their life. It could be anywhere but, I know that feeling you get when you’re looking through the lens and know you’ve made something magical, and it’s the best feeling in the world. I’d want just one more moment like that … maybe in Japan … just maybe.

Ashley Gruber: Breaking Away

Georgia-based cycling photographer Ashley Gruber is one half of the husband-and-wife duo known as Gruber Images, or simply “The Grubers.” They’re among the best photographers in the cycling world today, and over the past 10 years, they’ve become a staple at all the great European races.

As a duo, they’re able to be at multiple places at once — be it inside the team bus or on a high-up lookout— thereby capturing all the grit, glory, and beauty of the sport of road cycling as well as the countries in which these races take place.

5 Must-Haves for a Successful Photoshoot

  1. A positive mental attitude. This No. 1 spot started as a joke, but as experience has taught us over the years, it is definitely not a joke.
  2. Basic logistics. You don’t have to know everything, and maybe it’s better to not have it all planned out, but having a loose plan of how you plan to execute a shoot makes things go much smoother. It doesn’t mean you can’t throw it all out the window when something starts to really work, but it is helpful to keep things moving.
  3. Food. Grumpy humans aren’t all that much fun to work with.
  4. Leg makeup
  5. A shooting location that is nearish to where you sleep

Interview With Ashley Gruber

What has looking at the world through the lens of a camera taught you?

That sometimes the most wonderful moments are not the ones that translate to the best photos.

One shot you’re most proud of?

I can’t really think of one specific, life-changing image in terms of career direction or one that I’ve taken. A feeling of contentment has come from small, incremental improvements.

If you could take only one more photo in life, what and where would it be?

I guess in this imaginary scenario, Jered and I would throw a big party with all our favorite people and make everyone take a group photo. At the end of the day, nothing matters more to me than the people in my world. No beautiful sunset can compare with the feeling I have of being at home (not necessarily in the physical sense) with people we love.


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