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Erin Kunkel Photographs Sea Wolves: Orca Whales and Treehouse Tales

By Barbara Goldman


kunkel tiny atlas

© ERIN KUNKEL
 Sea Wolves: Orca Whales and Treehouse Tales on Nootka Island for Tiny Atlas Quarterly.


When lifestyle, travel and food photographer Erin Kunkel wants to relax, she  heads  to the natural beauty of British Columbia. It is one of her favorite places to work, travel and explore.  Kunkel is an award winning advertising and editorial photographer based in San Francisco who shoots around the world. She is known for being collaborative, optimistic, detail oriented and inspired by what she loves — exploring the world, fog and sun, planes and trains, dinner parties and bonfires, big productions and one-woman shoots.

Recently, as part of personal project, she pitched the idea of shooting at the remote Nootka Island, off of Vancouver Island to Tiny Atlas Quarterly  Founder and Publisher Emily NathanTiny Atlas Quarterly is a California-based magazine started by Nathan, who also is a travel, portrait and lifestyle photographer.  The publication can be described as an editorial retreat where photographers, designers, stylists, art directors, digital artists—the creative community — can come together to share their favorite places for travel with personal stories, pictures, perfect moments and adventures. It is the getaway for creatives or you might say the hole in the wall for the hired guns.

“I really didn't know what to expect of the remote little island off of Vancouver Island we would be traveling to, but Emily and I agreed that I'd just shoot and explore, and we'd see what came of it. You never know if the waves will be good for surfing, or  if we'd end up spending most of our time fishing or hiking, and what the weather might do,” says Kunkel.


This would be a shoot of exploration without pressure. Kunkel had no expectations and just decided to shoot and have fun in the wilderness.  “Nootka island ended up being an amazingly photogenic and unusual place — full of wolves, bears, great surf and a handful of really lovely people,” she says.  She even stayed in a cedar tree house in the forest perched on the edge of the ocean and spent her days roaming around on foot and by boat.


As pleasurable as it was, the shoot had its wildlife challenges, from trying to get surfboards and camera gear to fit on the tiny plane that dropped her off on Vancouver Island, and then lugging everything around in a tiny rental car on crazy logging roads to finally getting to Nootka Island by boat.  Her other major challenge was not falling into a river and being swept out to sea with all of her camera equipment. Other excitement also included an encounter with a giant timber wolf when she was all by herself and mid-stream in the surf trying to shoot footage.

Kunkel was careful with her equipment and made sure to bring lots of waterproof dry bags.  She shot with her Canon set up of Canon 5d Mark III x2, 24-70 II; 100-400 IS L for surf images; 50mm 1.2 and   90mm Tilt-shift lenses.

This was  a great  opportunity  for Kunkel to step back from a long succession of commissioned jobs, to do something just for  herself and to be able to collaborate with the inspiring and very talented people at the quarterly. “Erin is a perfect photographer for Tiny Atlas. She is super talented, always inquisitive, always shooting, always traveling, a surfer, and a soulful real woman,” says Editor Nathan.

“The response has been great,” adds Kunkel.   “Sea Wolves: Orca Whales and Treehouse Tales” ran in Tiny Atlas as a 19-page feature, with a great story and gorgeous illustrations that are online and will be part of the upcoming printed magazine.

You can see more of Erin Kunkel’s wanderlust, food and good company at her site, www.erinkunkel.com.  Tiny Atlas Quarterly will have its first annual print edition released in April 2014, and it will feature Kunkel’s work from Nootka Island.  Tiny Atlas Quarterly is available for pre-order now and will be available in stores in Los Angeles and Norcal in April and further afield soon. You can find more information for ordering  Tiny Atlas Quarterly here, and be sure to check out more fabulous imagery and stories at  #mytinyatlas on @tinyatlasquarterly instagram.  
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