In 2017 Ross Bernards was climbing a slot canyon out in the Utah desert, when he lost his grip on the slickrock. He slipped and nearly fell, hanging suspended over seventy feet in the air, over jagged rocks that would have surely killed him — or at least, that would have left him permanently mangled.

It was a true near-death experience, and although he didn’t know it at the time it was going to change his life forever.

“It really shook me up,” he says. “I realized that I can’t keep planning for ‘someday,’ because there's no guarantee I'm ever going to actually get that ‘someday.’”

That was the moment that set him down his current path — the moment that inspired him to rediscover his passions, to create art and live every day like it was his last.

“I decided then that I was going to live my ‘someday,’ every day.”

Ross Bernards in his "Happy Pace." 

As a kid growing up in Oregon, Bernards had a deep passion for photography. He was a photojournalist for his high school newspaper, carrying his camera with him everywhere and eventually, he became the paper’s photo editor.

But when he got to college he says, he chose to pursue another life-long passion of his: golf.

“I enrolled in a professional golf management program at the University of Idaho where I studied business marketing and got my class APGA status,” he says. “And honestly, my camera just sat in my closet for close to ten years.”

He moved to the Vail Valley in 2010 and worked in the golf industry, which, he says kind of broke him and changed his relationship with the sport he loved. So eventually he transitioned into hospitality, where he was working 60-100-hour weeks, slogging it out without much fulfillment.

All the while his camera went untouched and unused, though he told himself that someday he’d pick it up again. Someday.

Then, Bernards almost fell to his death. But he caught himself at the last moment — escaping a deadly fall by mere inches. And when he climbed out of that canyon, alive and existentially unsettled, he made a choice: no more waiting.

“I decided, that if I didn't make this jump [into photography], then I was probably never going to do it, and would have always regretted it.”

So, he bought himself a Sony A6000 and started bringing it on all his adventures. He started taking pictures of the places he saw, of the people he was with and the things they were doing: backpacking, camping, hiking, canyoneering. And slowly, as his portfolio grew and as he slipped back into his passion for photography, he started to feel… better.

“I didn't realize what I was missing in my life,” he says. “But I really started feeling more fulfilled just being able to create. I didn't realize how much I needed that in my life until I started getting back into it.”

The very next year, he left his job in hospitality, said goodbye to those 100-hour work weeks and dove headlong into the life of a freelance photographer. Which hasn’t been easy, he admits; he’s had to build a client base from the ground up. But he says, it was nevertheless one of the best decisions he’s made in his entire life.

And he’s exceptionally talented at the craft. Often times, cameras (or photographers) fail to actually express the beauty of a real place; something gets lost in the translation to photograph and the result is subdued or watered down from reality. But not in Ross Bernards’ photographs. He has knack for actually capturing the essence and splendor of a landscape.

Skim his website today and you’ll find a colorful and poignant collection of nature, adventure and aerial shots of beautiful and striking vistas. It’s a collection that catalogues Bernards’s adventures in Utah, in National Parks like Yosemite, along the Oregon coast and in and around the Vail Valley.

But his favorite environment to shoot in, he says, is the south-eastern Utah desert. Where it’s pretty clear, Bernards spends a lot of time.

“That area is so vibrant and so alive and it just completely changed how I thought of desert landscapes,” he says. “It's my happy place.”


Photos all courtesy of Ross Bernards. Check out his website for high res versions and prints.)

Follow Ross Beranrds on Instagram (@rossbernards) to keep up with his adventures and the captivating photos he’s bound to take along the way. Or, if you’re interested in seeing more of his work or purchasing some his awesome prints, check out his website.