Our very own Canadian version of Indiana Jones- his photos are simply breathtaking. We sat down with KEEN Canada Ambassador Dax Justin to talk about the Alberta Badlands, photography and belonging in nature.
KEEN: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
DAX: For sure! I’m a born and raised Calgarian who spent a decade in the advertising industry working in branding and design prior to finding my path with exploration and photography. I have always been creative, always designing graphics and logos but never had any affinity towards taking photos or doing much in the outdoors. You could’ve labelled me a ‘city boy’ … which is literally the polar opposite of who I am today – myself.
KEEN: How did you first become interested in photography?
DAX: You know the weird thing is I never really consciously decided to start shooting photos, it sort of just happened. Let me expand on that – until a couple years ago I actually despised taking pictures, and never understood the purpose. Now that I look back, I was just being negative and holding myself back, which so many of us do without even knowing about it. Then one day (Dec. 26, 2013 to be exact) I woke up and had an out-of-body experience and went into the woods. By that I mean I felt compelled to go get lost in nature and for the first time in my life I ‘felt’ nature’s presence. It was weird and unlike me to randomly go into the woods but it felt pure, and somehow inviting though it was the middle of Winter. I began taking photos and posting them on Instagram. That would be the day my life changed forever, and I relentlessly began exploring after that, every day going further.
KEEN: How do you typically approach each shot you take?
DAX: I think of photography as the study of light and time. No matter where I am or what I’m doing the photos I take are always rooted in a feeling or an emotion. I now understand the meaning behind the capture, and photos how they gain value with time.
KEEN: What is your involvement with the Alberta Badlands?
DAX: I’ve been exploring in the Canadian Badlands an increasing amount the last two years. If you’ve never been to the Badlands it’s totally Indiana Jones stuff but in real life! My second expedition took me into the Badlands on a 6-day adventure across various locations in the region last Summer. This Summer I have had two campaigns extending my work in the Badlands. I’d have to say out of anywhere in Alberta I love the soul of this place the most – it is completely different than anywhere else.
KEEN: What else are you currently working on?
DAX: My work in the Badlands is being extended because of some discoveries my team and I made this Summer. There is great spirit of the land here. The whole premise of my work changed once I discovered these profound connections between the people and the land – their stories of grit and resiliency must be told. On social media these posts become lost, so I wanted to create a tangible keepsake, a book, to encapsulate the people and stories of this land, which I will be writing over the coming Winter months. I’m also in early stages of planning another expedition in the Badlands slated for next year or Spring ’18, which will include trekking the entire distance of the Badlands and will be positioned to raise awareness of this area to an international audience in the world of exploration.
KEEN: What is your inspiration to get outside?
DAX: At this stage my inspiration is the unknown, and that you will find value doing anything in the outdoors. I always come back a changed person wherever I go. When I’m on assignment or on a campaign things can get busy, so when I explore on my own I don’t like to plan where I’m going or what time I need to be there. No schedules, just exist and belong. I like to immerse myself in unexpected places at unexpected times – the further I can peel away layers of comfort the better.
KEEN: What is your favourite thing about the outdoors?
DAX: I think I just touched on it – existence and belonging. There’s something soulful and calming about being in nature. It reduces anxiety, stress, and allows you to enter a state of mind and body. You’re no longer “busy” and disdistracted. I feel that when we rush, we make more mistakes and we lose the vitality of life. Actually living in the moment means you’re not thinking about what’s next; instead, you’re absorbing what is around you and within you, and that’s where I find peace.
Follow Dax on Instagram and Twitter – @daxjustin, and on Facebook at Dax Justin Photography.
Learn more about the Alberta Badlands here: http://www.canadianbadlands.com/