12 Inspirational Photographers You Should Follow

Curated lists are big these days because they help cut through the noise and when used correctly they can be a phenomenal tool to introduce an audience to something new. While I'm not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of doing curated lists, I'm going to attempt to introduce photographers who have been inspirational in my journey as a photographer. Thank you to all the photographers for consistently putting out work that is exceptional and for all who responded to my email requests for this blog. My goal for this blog is to simply introduce excellent photographers who I find inspirational, not all of them are landscape photographers though that genre does make up the bulk of the list. Also, these photographers are in no particular order either.

1. Jeremy Cowart

Jeremy is a big-time photographer nowadays but back in 2006 when I was just starting out I was flipping through Relevant Magazine and saw his photo essay on Africa and was moved. The emotion in the peoples' faces was striking and I can still remember two specific photos to this day. Jeremy now works with everyone from Hollywood royalty to musicians and has started a few really cool non-profits too. I admire Jeremy's work because he's a passionate creative but also knows his humanity too, this sad but beautiful story moved me to tears when I read it.

2. Chris Burkhard

A long time ago I was trying to compete in a Red Bull sponsored photography contest called Illume and my photos didn't receive all that many votes, which isn't surprising considering that I was trying to compete against the likes of Christian Pondella, Jimmy Chin, and others. But there was an image by Chris Burkhard that inspired me quite a bit. I remember it well but it wasn't until years later that I started following him on Instagram, I was surprised to see how many followers he had but his content was out of this world. Phenomenal photography along with really cool travel stories, what's not to like about that? Shortly before I went to Iceland last year I found a bunch of his Iceland posts and was living vicariously through those while I waited to experience the real thing myself. Plus, he's been taking really amazing shots of Great Sand Dunes National Park which is about 30 minutes from the town I grew up in so it's cool to see him showing that beautiful region some much needed love. Also, if you haven't seen his documentary of an Icelandic surfing trip called "Under an Arctic Sky", you need to go watch it now.

3. Dan Carr

I cannot overstate the influence that skiing had on my photography journey, it's what helped get me into photography in the first place and it still inspires me like crazy. Flipping through skiing magazines and seeing the beautiful photography was always a special treat for me, seeing Mattias Fredriksson, Scott Markewitz, and others at the top of their game helped inspire me to pursue photography. Dan Carr is one of those names too, he's a very talented photographer but what separates him from some of the others that I have mentioned is his adaptability. I was introduced to his photography through skiing, but he also covers 24 hours of Le Man, shoots grizzly bears from his awesome kayak rig, and has even been getting into landscape photography too. He runs a super helpful blog called Shutter Muse too that is an excellent resource.

4. Aaron Reed

I often times laugh when I look through Aaron Reed's photography, not only does he get "the shot" often but everything about his images are exactly what I'd like my photography to be like. His post processing isn't overdone, he travels to unique locations in bad weather, and his abstract photos are really interesting! I've been following his work since back in the days of Flickr and it's really neat to see his development into a leading landscape photographer. He gives great advice too and has helped me learn and grow in my photography too, he took a call with me once to discuss the pros and cons of doing photography workshops and what permits I'd need. He's running great workshops too that I hope to take part in later this year as well, specifically about the business of nature photography. We both have a love for hip hop so that's always a plus too.

5. Chip Phillips

I've already talked about Chip Phillips in my 3 Landscape Photography Tutorials blog, his instruction videos have been very helpful for my development of my post processing. He's also a master at landscape photography and had inspired me to hike places because I saw photos that he took in those areas. I'm still planning my trip to Cirque of the Towers after seeing one of his photos from that region. His images from Lake Abraham during the winter blew my mind the first time I viewed those, and his photos of the Palouse region makes me want to visit that unique area all the more. Basically every time I view his photography, it makes me want to go travel to new places and that to me is the essence of inspiration.

6. Marc Adamus

Why I find Chris Burkhard inspiring is the same reason I find Marc inspiring, he creates beautiful photography in some of the most extreme places on Earth and shares stories from his travels. If I remember correctly there is one where he was flown into a remote area of British Columbia to capture the Aurora Borealis and he was essentially alone for a stupid length of time in the winter. It was more than a week if I remember correctly. His photos of the trip were outrageous and one look at his photography confirms that he's one of the top landscape photographers out there. While I don't follow his photography as closely as I follow some of the others on this list, I have a great admiration for Marc's photography and it's inspiring to see someone pushing himself so far to capture great art.

7. Mike Oblinski

Want to follow an Emmy award-winning photographer/videographer who specializes in storm chasing and wedding photography? Yes, you do. That's the answer to that question. At the risk of sounding like I'm gushing, I live vicariously though Mike's photos especially his brilliant images of lightning from the desert monsoon in late summer. Some of the best lightning photos I've ever seen have been shot by Mike! Now I'm somewhat of a storm chaser and love to take lightning photos, it's one of the main reasons why I like living on the Front Range in Colorado but Mike is on another level. As if that weren't enough he compiles his beautiful photography into videos and has many awards to his short films like the one below called Monsoon III. It's stunning and well worth a watch, and if you're anything like me you'll probably watch several times.

8. Ryan Dyar

Having the best first name in existence will get you far in life but that by itself isn't enough to warrant being listed on here. No, I'm looking for photography that fool me into believing the photos were taken in a fantasy world of soft features, vivid color, and deep shadows. I look for brilliant technical skill, fantastic presentation, and a spirit of giving back by offering tutorials. Ryan Dyar embodies all of the above and more, his photography is a fantastic exploration of what the world would look like if you never wiped the sleepy dust from your eyes. What I appreciate most about Ryan's work is that he's not afraid to highlight the shadows, to make a beautiful photo very dark and it brilliantly leads your eyes to what he wants them to see. Some of my favorite photos of his are dark, moody, and have that dream like effect that I mentioned before. Go check out his website, you won't be disappointed. It's a visual treat for your eyes. 

9. Erik Stensland

Erik Stensland hails from just up the road in Estes Park, Colorado and I've stopped by his wonderful gallery in Estes Park many times and it's always a treat to see what he has displaying there. What inspires me about Erik's photography is that he's local to this area, captures breathtaking photos of our shared backyard in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is genuinely a great guy too. What I admire about him work is also his persistence, I doubt I could do what Erik does and continually be inspired by Rocky Mountain National Park. Don't get me wrong, RMNP is a gorgeous national park and I want to explore more of it, but Erik will make a post on his Instagram from that morning at 8am of an eight mile sunrise hike. I've been following his work for quite some time and I'm always impressed with what I see because he does it all; his grand vistas are quite amazing! 

10. Mark Metternich

Mark is a tremendous photographer. That's it. 

No? Ok fine, I'll go on. He once took a photo of lightning, a double rainbow, a sunset, and at an iconic view in a National Park. That's like winning the landscape photographer bingo in one shot. Hell, I don't take all of those in one year. Nevertheless, he's very skilled at what he does and he also have a hilarious amount of impersonators on Facebook which is always good for comedy. His desert southwest images are particularly appealing for me and have been inspiring me for several years now, seeing his art of those amazing landscapes makes me want to be a vagabond and travel around the country in a van. Oh wait, he did that too. Being a top-notch photographer aside, he's incredibly knowledgable about photo editing and printmaking! He gave me a free consult a couple of years ago when I was printing a large night photo on metal, he gave me a few tips for removing the noise from the image to make sure it'd be on point. He was right, it was spot on and the client loved it. Give him a follow, he's a great personality and his art is jaw-dropping. 

11. Guy Tal

I don't know where to begin with Guy Tal, on one hand his landscape work is top-notch but it's not like many others on this list. On the other hand, he writes a phenomenal blog with insightful posts. But then his intimate  photos are so unlike what you see from other photographers, many others are often imitated but there's only one Guy Tal. His photography is inspiring to me because it's so unlike what I see and I try to adjust my thought process when I see a landscape, I mean I quite literally ask myself "I wonder what Guy Tal would do with this scene." Yes, I've done that. I have no problem admitting that because his work is just so different from what I see from a lot of landscape photographers. One of my favorite photos of his is a really simple shot but it's one that comes back to me all the time whenever I see a weather phenomena known as virga. And then there is this nonsense from the Badlands in South Dakota, I looked at this photo and before I could shout "fake news", I read his blog and he had a blog about the Badlands when they bloom. Crazy stuff! 

12. Sarah Marino

I've been following Sarah's work through Instagram, Facebook, and 500px for several years and one thing that I have noticed about her photography is the technical skill she possesses, I've tried to emulate her photos and I've failed every time. While I was in Iceland in 2017 I was gearing up for that trip and shared this photo with one of the girls that was going on the trip, it really stuck with me and impressed me. I got to try my hand at my own version of that photo and while I'm happy with mine, Sarah's is superior. This close up photo of corn lily is one of the most beautiful photos I've seen of corn lily, I've tried to take similar photos and they haven't worked out. Then there is this ridiculous grand vista while being in a snowstorm in Telluride. Sarah is well worth a follow, I downloaded her guide to Iceland before going and it was so helpful while we were there. Both Sarah and Ron from Nature Photo Guides are incredibly talented and knowledgable. 

That's my list of photographers who have inspired me in my photography journey, I hope you'll go visit their amazing work and keep an eye for some interviews that I'm planning with a few of them. I'm really excited to ask them questions and pick their brains about photography. Who inspires you in your photography?