Explorer Spotlight: Jeff Richards

Name: Jeff Richards | Age: 19 | Location: Boulder/Glenwood Springs, CO

What’s your day job?
Currently just working as a kid’s camp counselor during the summers. No real job due to college/transferring.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Hike and take pictures! I’ll take pictures of just about anything, but I definitely prefer mountains. The bigger the better. I got to do quite a few 14ers last summer, and I definitely hope to keep it up this summer. If I can’t hike, camping and climbing will do just fine as substitutes.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
Photography was a big part of it. I used to hate hiking with my family, but photography really got me to get out and explore when I got into college. Suddenly hiking became this great experience where I could truly just get lost in nature and soak it all in. Now the draw comes from finding the next cool shot or getting up the biggest mountain.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
Living in Boulder, there’s no short of adventures to choose from. I think my favorite would be climbing the Flatirons, however. They’re a fun way to get away from crowded trails and test yourself a little differently physically and mentally, but they’re easy enough to not pose a huge safety risk if you know what you’re doing.

Unfortunately I’m only 19, so no beer for me, although I’m sure it will be a local place called Oskar Blues when I am old enough. For now, I stick to Chipotle after hikes.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
I never leave house without my phone, my camera and my lenses as far as non-essential items go. As far as what I actually need, I always bring my 45 L REI pack, my Arc’teryx hardfleece, extra socks, a beanie, and now, my new Forsake hiking boots.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
When it comes to trail snacks, I’m about as non-picky as it gets. I’ll eat anything, although, if you have a vanilla bean Powerbar, I’ll always offer to take it off your hands.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
Anything on my phone I’ll listen to when I’m driving. It also kind of depends on the time of day. Early morning The Head and The Heart seems to do the trick, late at night it’s always Chet Faker or Flume, and during the day I love to blast some blink-182.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
For this one, the scariest thing is also the funniest thing, at least in my mind. My friend and I were camped out just outside of a little mountain town called Poncha Springs, with plans to head up and summit two 14ers the next day. It was about 9 or so at night and we were ready to go to bed, as we had an early start the next morning, and there were no stars to look at to keep us occupied that night. Right as we were about to call it a night, the trees around our campsite started moving, and branches started breaking. We couldn’t see what was in the forest, but whatever it was, it sounded HUGE. For about 5 minutes we sat by my car staring into the trees just wondering what sort of nightmare would come out of it (my money was on shark or T-rex). After sweating it out, and being sure we were going to die, we saw about 40 or so cows come meandering out of the woods, and post up for the night right around our campsite. Needless to say, we were relieved it wasn’t a T-Rex.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
I have a lot of answers for this, as I love to get out with anyone who is willing. But the number one person would have to be my buddy Mike Rea. He was a big reason I got into photography and the outdoors in the first place. He’s one of my oldest and best friends, he pushes me creatively, and I know he’ll always be down to take on whatever crazy hike I can find. For whatever reason people named Michael and I go together when it comes to hiking. Michael Matti has been one of my biggest inspirations as far as hiking/photography goes for a while, and recently I had the chance to hike with him a few times and go from being Instagram friends to actual friends. Then, there are legends like Jimmy Chin and Keith Ladzinski who are always putting out inspiring work.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
Out of the places I have been, the San Juans and Collegiate Peaks in Colorado stand out, as well as the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Anywhere in the Colorado Rockies I love, but the San Juans and Collegiates have the benefit of beautiful, impressive peaks, with vast valleys occupied by amazing little mountain towns. The Gorge is a completely different story. It’s unique because it’s right outside of Portland and just has so many opportunities to explore, get lost, and take pictures.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
The things that come to mind for this are the Mighty 5 parks in Utah. I’ve been wanting to go out there to hike, backpack and shoot for a while now, but I’ve never found the time or money. The Alps in Europe/Switzerland in particular are also on the list. As someone who loves impressive mountains, it’s pretty hard to beat the Alps, I think.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
This is my most memorable pic for a few reasons. The first is that this was literally the first time I had ever tried a long exposure since getting my first DSLR, and I’m amazed it turned out so well. The second is that I took it on one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done. It’s a very short hike in the Columbia River Gorge, but the entirety of it is through a river; there’s no actual trail. At one point you find yourself wading in freezing cold water that’s up to your neck! The night before I hiked it I had set up a hammock in two trees right over the river (it was horribly illegal), and the next morning I woke up at dawn to make sure I was the first one to the waterfall. This picture just reminds me of the fun times I had wandering around the Gorge by myself that weekend.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
My motto is kind of an odd one. It’s “Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce”, which means “He leads the world with light” in Latin. This is my motto because, as a photographer, I rely on light to get good shots, but I want to do more than just get good shots, I want to show people the world and truly try to make a difference. So I want to lead the world to a better place through the light that I capture in my pictures. For something simpler, it would definitely be “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” This is important to remember because it keeps everything in perspective. Everyone is just trying to do their own thing, and enjoy the world in the best way they know how, so don’t put yourself above them or think you’re better than them. Chill out, laugh at yourself, and enjoy the ride of life.

Discover all of Jeff's amazing adventures here.

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