The chaotic, dangerous life of an international adventure photographer

“Right now I’m overwhelmed. I bit off too much,” Krystle Wright tells GrindTV from the bar at a climbing gym in Boulder, Colorado.

She says she has a hard time saying no to new adventure sports photography projects because in her early years (she’s now in her 10th as a professional), she didn’t have the luxury of turning down paying work; she needed the money.

Emma Starritt takes a recovery swim off Mana Island, Fiji, after racing in an ocean swim event. Photo: Courtesy of Krystle Wright

“I’ve been a one-man band,” she says. “I’ve hustled really hard to market myself internationally. I’ve done so much office time that shooting has become a reward.”

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Wright has always had drive. Raised on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, she began her photography career while in university, capturing cricket and rugby for news agencies, and had her sights on shooting for the Olympics. But she hated school, and that frustration was a motivator for her to start her own career and get out in the field.

Having grown sick of the newspaper politics of working her way into the Olympics, she changed direction again and followed the adventure sports route instead — this time willing to do whatever it took to succeed.

Rush Sturges launches off Spirit Falls in Washington. Photo: Courtesy of Krystle Wright

Talking with her, you get the feeling Wright’s not the type of person who likes to be put in a box. She curses a lot, says things she maybe shouldn’t and has a clear, strong vision.

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She also lives on the road full time. Her Toyota 4Runner, which doubles as her home, is a disorganized mess, containing skis, climbing gear and a host of other toys. “I get into every sport I [try],” she admits. For 10 months of the year, the road is her home and she rarely makes it back to Australia.

Arriving into Sam Ford Fjord, Baffin Island, Canada, the team sets up base camp in blizzard conditions. Photo: Courtesy of Krystle Wright

Over the span of her career, Wright has photographed BASE jumpers in Baffin Island, Canada, free dived with whales in Archipelago of the Azores, Portugal — five whales came so close that she could have touched them — paraglided in Pakistan and captured kayakers bombing Spirit Falls in Washington.

“The world has no boundaries and she will do whatever it takes to shoot from her unique perspective,” John Summerton, editor of Sidetracked magazine, has said.

She’s also had her share of spills and crashes. She was knocked out cold for five minutes when a tandem paraglider takeoff went awry and she slammed into boulders. While on Baffin Island in 2014, she fell into a crevasse while unroped, and later that day she slid 40 meters down an icy snow slope before finally arresting her fall. It was on that trip that she also captured one of her favorite moments: a scene of glistening snow lit up by an inversion effect.

“And there was a day in Russia where the morning sky was pink and purple,” she says. “Then the storm hit us.”

All that hard work is paying off. Wright is internationally recognized for adventure sports photography and her work appears in National Geographic, Outside, Red Bulletin and many other outlets. She’s also sponsored by several companies. And she recently picked up commercial projects for both The North Face and Patagonia.

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When we spoke, she was wrapping up a film project called “Where the Wild Things Play,” which debuted in Carbondale, Colorado, at the 5Point Film Festival at the end of April. The project is a “mockumentary or tongue-in-cheek spin on ‘Where are the females?'” she says. The four-minute film profiles women saying they’ve been too busy to spray about their feats — which is why men haven’t seen them around — then it cuts to scenes of females ripping it up all day in the backcountry.

As cyclone swells hit the coast, a surfer walks out at Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia, as backwash collides with a wave. Photo: Courtesy of Krystle Wright

Part of what drew her to the film project is that Wright admits she’s sick of the discussion of gender in the outdoor adventure sports world. To her, it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male. Great content will always be great content. But she also admits that being a woman sometimes helps her land work.

“It can be to my advantage to be a female,” she offers. “I’ll roll with it. You can’t be PC all the time.”

To see more of Wright’s work, follow her on Instagram.