We had the good fortune of connecting with Ross Bernards and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ross, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I used to think I was quite risk-averse. Even when I first quit my job and started pursuing photography full-time I didn’t think I was a risk-taker. Now that I’ve been out on my own for a couple of years I’ve begun to realize that making that jump was a huge risk. I didn’t have any business contacts, I didn’t have a huge portfolio and definitely didn’t have a diverse portfolio. I started looking at some of the other activities I pursue like backpacking, packrafting, and especially canyoneering and realized I am a bit of a risk-taker. I guess for the longest time I didn’t think any of these activities were risky and didn’t think that leaving my full-time job with benefits was a risk because to me anything worth doing isn’t risky at all. The only risk to me is not going for it. Not doing things that make you feel more alive. Not going for your dreams and doing everything you can to build the reality you want for yourself. Everything we do in life has a risk with it, in the next 1000 miles you have a .026% chance of getting in an accident, does that mean you’re not going to drive to the store? What I’ve learned is that when you take that risk, when you take that leap, you realize you can do a lot more than you thought you could. The best way to really unlock your true potential is to take that jump and believe in yourself.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
One of the best decisions I ever made was to move into a van and travel for a year. It really taught me how to scale down and live simply. It taught me how to think a little bit more creatively and problem solve. It taught me patience and that has all really helped me with my business. Being patient and persistent is the biggest thing that I’ve learned. Sometimes it takes 4, 5, 6 emails to someone before you hear back. It can be a bit disheartening but you just have to stick with it. I’ve learned that diversifying right now has been really helpful for me. Getting my drone license, shooting real estate, taking canyoneering guide courses are just a couple of the ways that I’ve diversified to help me grow my business and reinvest. My goal is to shoot full-time adventures and outdoor lifestyle. In order to get there I know I have to do projects that aren’t in that realm. The good thing is though is everytime I’m using my camera for work I’m learning something new, I’m learning something that I can use in other ways on different types of shoot. It’s taught me that if there’s a problem, there is a solution, as long as you can think creatively. You should never be scared to try something new. I’ve learned along the way that you have to suffer a little bit to get the great shots. Early mornings. Cold Nights. Rain. Snow. Not only that, but my favorite thing to shoot is slot canyons and canoyneering. That gear isn’t light, and then you throw my camera equipment in and my pack is always the heaviest. The suffering is worth it. The light and curves in slot canyons are absolutely spectacular. The canyons tend to be in areas that are also quite beautiful which has given me an ever growing catalog of stunning locations to fit any company’s needs for a scene.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Living in the Vail Valley means there are a lot of awesome activities all year long. In the summer there are some incredible hikes like Booth Falls in East Vail, or driving up and having a drink at Piney River Ranch. There are also some amazing sections of river that you can raft like the Upper Colorado that will get your adrenaline going in spots but also offer some amazing scenic sections. When you’re done adventuring you can grab some amazing food at The Craftsman in Edwards which is an awesome casual dining spot and a great atmosphere. If you’ve ever gone bowling, you know the food can be suspect. But Bol, in Vail Village turns that notion on its head. Their food is next level and you can get it served to you while you’re bowling in their very modern lanes. During the winter there is so much more than just skiing. You can go snowmobiling, ice skating, dog sledding, snowshoeing. There really is something for absolutely everyone up here. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
One of the most encouraging friends I’ve had through this is my buddy Frankie (Francis Spontelli). We both started out in photography around the same time and starting our own businesses. This guy works so incredibly hard and is a big inspiration to me. Not only that but he is one of the most encouraging people I know. Always picking me up on those days when I need it most.