Outdoor photography is a powerful medium. It can capture incredible natural locations many people don’t get to see in person. It can enact policy change to preserve the great outdoors. And it can remind us of everything there is to be thankful for. While there are some big names that everyone knows – the Ansel Adamses of the world – there are plenty more who are doing incredible work in the genres of outdoor and landscape photography.
Below a list of some incredible outdoor photographers whose names you may not know, but definitely should. You may have seen their work in outdoor photo magazines like National Geographic, or heard about their conservation work, or maybe glanced their wildlife photography or travel photography in a gallery — or maybe they’re completely new to you.
Either way, add these folks — some iconic, some brand-new — to your must-watch list and discover some of the best images out there. Learn some photography tips from their beautiful photographs or simply allow yourself to be transported to a new part of the world via outdoor photography images that are sure to stun. No matter what, these outdoor photographers will confirm that some of the best photos are the ones that capture the spirit of our landscapes.
Alex Strohl is a Madrid-born, French photographer whose adventures around the world in places like Alaska and Canada have informed his unique style of photography.
Instead of creating contrived scenes, Strohl creates authentic moments and captures them as they unfold before him—continually blurring the lines between work and life.
Strohl’s photography has been featured in prestigious publications such as Forbes, Vanity Fair, and Gentleman’s Journal; his client lists includes dozens of household names. He is based in Whitefish, Montana—but spends the vast majority of his time on the road with his life partner Andrea Dabene; they often journey to their favorite places in some of the most remote reaches of the world.
Dutch photographer Frans Lanting has spent years living among his natural subjects in remote locations like Africa. “The existence of huge free-roaming herds of elephants in Botswana is a symbol for both the nature of this landscape and for the human decisions that must be made about the fate of wild places and wildlife both here and elsewhere on Earth,” Frans told National Geographic, “How we balance those interests will be the legacy of our time, the path we leave on the land.”
He’s won photo contests and awards including the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award and was awarded the title of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Erin Sullivan, aka @ErinOutdoors, is a travel photographer and writer who believes that images and words have the power to inspire meaningful change. Her photos of the great outdoors spark curiosity and her social media channels and blog create a space for connection with people of similar passions to this world and each other.
Erin is a Sony Alpha Ambassador based out of Los Angeles – but you’d be hard pressed to find her there for long. She’s more often than not traveling the world running photography workshops and sharing the incredible diversity that exists on our planet, and the connection each one of us has to it and to each other.
After more than a decade covering conflict, photographer and filmmaker Ami Vitale couldn’t help but notice that the less sensational—but equally true—stories were often not getting told: the wedding happening around the corner from the revolution, triumphs amidst seemingly endless devastation.
As a result, she re-committed herself to seeking out the stories within and around “the story,” and remaining independent, so that she would have the freedom to shoot what she believed deserved to be shared. Her belief that “you can’t talk about humanity without talking about nature” led her to chronicle her journey from documenting war zones to telling some of the most compelling wildlife and environmental stories of our time, where individuals are making a profound difference in the future of their communities and this planet.
Ami Vitale’s journeys as a photographer, writer and filmmaker have taken her to over 100 countries where she has witnessed civil unrest and violence, but also surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. She has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.”
Combining outdoor photography with fine art, UK photographer Ellie Davis creates rich, dramatic images of remote forested areas in ways that are strangely emotional.
“From an early age the notion of the forest is given a sinister and threatening personality in the form of fairy tales and children’s stories. Stepping inside the dense forest feels like entering another world,” she explains in an artist statement. “These sensory experiences often lead to the forest being used as metaphor. The wild and impenetrable forest has long symbolized the dark, hidden world of the unconscious.”
Michelle Valberg is a renowned explorer, adventurer and wildlife photographer. She is a Nikon Ambassador Canada, a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and was the first ever Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence. She started as a generalist photographer, picking up wedding and portrait gigs, but really found her stride in nature.
She now photographs everything from narwhals to ice bears to snowy owls to a field of 10,000 walrus. “As a photographer, it’s important to share with the world what we have to lose if we don’t take better care of our planet.”
Listen as she describes her first time making eye-to-eye contact with a polar bear and how photographing wildlife involves using all of your senses to anticipate the decisive moment in her We Are Photographers episode.
You have definitely seen underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry‘s beautiful seascapes in the pages of National Geographic, whether you knew it or not — but you may not be aware of the kind of change his images and work really are inciting. Illustrating important pieces like Joel K. Bourne, Jr.’s “How to Far a Better Fish,” Skerry says that he makes pictures to educate the general population about the environmental concerns facing the ocean.
“My hope is to continually find new ways of creating images and stories that both celebrate the sea yet also highlight environmental problems. Photography can be a powerful instrument for change,” he told National Geographic.
French photographer Vincent Munier was named the BBC’s Wildlife Photographer for three years in a row — 2000, 2001, and 2002 — and has had work featured in National Geographic and Audubon Magazine. He’s also the subject of Running Wild with Vincent Munier, a 2012 documentary.
Munier, who has been involved in environmental matters since childhood, says that one of the most difficult parts about photographing nature is being present, without harming it.
“Nature can be so fragile, and mankind can disturb — or even destroy — large swaths of it with very little effort, so when I am in the field, I try to leave the smallest footprint I can,” he once explained.
Author of The National Parks: Our American Landscape, Ian Shive falls squarely into that category of conservation photographers who are saving the world through landscape images. Through his work in conservation photography, which has been published in National Geographic, Outside, Men’s Journal, Backpacker, Sierra Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, National Parks Magazine, and Popular Science, Ian has helped chronicle and advocate on behalf of the U.S.’s national natural treasures.