IT’S REALLY TOO BAD that when we see an inspiring image on Instagram, we have to wonder if it’s real, if people really kayaked there, camped there, or if they just set up the gear as a prop and cropped out the nearby parking lot to make it look authentic. As an adventure photographer I find it incredibly challenging to create authentic and inspiring imagery at a rate that can keep up with the less authentic, mass-produced images that populate my feed. The best way to deal with it sometimes is not to ignore it, but to celebrate it. One of my favorite accounts — @Youdidnotsleepthere — looks at my industry through a lens of sarcasm and calls out the worst perpetrators of inauthenticity. Whenever I am conflicted, and want to set up an “easy win” photo, thinking about how it would feel to have my photos posted on that account keeps me honest.

There are a few feeds that I always check in on when I’m looking for inspiration. These are not branded, company accounts, and my choice to follow them is not based on the number of followers they have. These are personal accounts put together by inspiring people, curated feeds designed to inspire us to get outside and have our own adventures, travel the world, and be better humans. I try my best to learn from these people, and to apply what I learn to my own feed @BenHortonPhoto, which I hope inspires people to care about and explore their world.

1. @MikeCoots

It takes a special kind of person to take a personal tragedy and turn it into a blessing. Mike was surfing a remote break with some friends in Kauai, when a tiger shark bit off his right leg below the knee. Most people would never get back in the water after an encounter like this, but for Mike, it served as a reason to learn more about the animal that nearly took his life. In the process of learning more about sharks, he has become a major advocate for this species that we have demonized. On a legislative level, his work has led to a ban on possessing and selling shark fins in Hawaii. Although it’s less quantifiable, his work to promote shark advocacy through example has possibly had an even greater effect. Mike has since become a professional photographer and surfer, and much of his work involves sharks. Seeing an image of Mike, calmly swimming alongside a 10-foot shark with his single dive fin and a prosthetic leg serves to change our perspective more than any statistic ever could.

2. @gabatronix

Gaby is a woman who believes that to be beautiful and inspiring, it is not necessary to wear high heels and a dress. She started a feed called @dirtbarbieadventures that highlighted awesome women having epic outdoor adventures, getting dirty, and living life to the fullest. The feed wasn’t self promotion; rather, she understood that when women saw what other women were doing, it would inspire them. Gaby recently took a major fall while rock climbing and hit her head. She spent a number of days unconscious, and had thousands of people across the world waiting anxiously for her to recover. She’s now on a long road to recovery, re-learning to walk, read, and care for herself. Even with these hardships ahead of her, she knows where she is meant to be, and she knows that she will get there. She started her feed to inspire us, and now she’s inspiring us in a whole new way.

3. @Dosomethingcool

Merci beaucoup et Bon voyage Montreal! This ramblin' man is back in the road, next stop… Eh… Well… I don't really know yet. But yay! + Montreal is such a special city, I think I have 4 posts gushing about this place. So I'm gonna take a moment to specifically gush about my friend @mariephilippejean, the greatest friend a traveler can have. She called me out the other day and said "you have described so many people to me as being 'the kindest' or the 'warmest' or the 'most caring.'" You're right Marie, I give that title to too many people and its all a lie. Because YOU are the kindest, warmest, most caring person on this particular planet. You've been a confidant when I needed somebody to listen, an inspiration when I need motivation, and now a host when I needed a place to shower. You are one of the best co-pilots around, even with your severe navigational handicaps. Thank you for showing me your city. Thank you for showing me your friends, and thank you for being one of mine. J'amie toi. + See you very soon, friend. #Onward! #DoSomethingCool #TheJohnMuiracle #toyotachinook #adventuremobile #cometolife #friends

A photo posted by Do Something Cool (@dosomethingcool) on

Who of us hasn’t dreamt of selling our belongings, packing an RV, and hitting the road. Michael calls himself a “Directographer and Journeyalist,” and one by one, he’s proving all of my insecurities about living on the road as a photographer wrong. I’ve been following him for a few years now, and finally one day I saw him post a photo taken only a few miles from where I myself was camping just outside of Moab. Getting to meet up and swap stories for a few minutes, it became apparent that what he was presenting to the world through his feed was completely authentic.

4. @wearethehenhouse

The North Shore of Hawaii is known as a pretty grumpy place to surf. If you drop in on a local, miss a wave, or look at the wrong person in the wrong way, legend has it that you may never get to surf again. If this is the Yang, the Yin is the Hen House. Three girls from totally unique lives have created what I call “the happiest place on the North Shore.” The home is shared by @leahdawson @Surfchica6 and @ledarling, and let’s not forget their pet rabbit @lapaki_iki. It’s inspiring seeing how these girls have carved out their own space in the lineup of the North Shore. Whenever they are in the water, you can be sure that the entire mood will change and people will start having fun again! Hopefully one day we won’t need people like The Hen House girls to show us how we should all be interacting in the lineup.

5 and 6. @rambleonwild and @myhikingadventures

Sometimes life happens and shakes you to your core. Then you open your eyes to the light and see that despite the hardships you are immensely blessed in all facets of this wild life. For me, happiness lies within perspective and the utmost appreciation for all things; the love, encouragement and support received from friends and family, and also the difficult challenges that show you who you are and what you are capable of. Today I am feeling overwhelmingly grateful for all things, good and bad, that have brought me to where I am today. I am especially grateful for these incredible babies who challenge me daily and the rad community that has supported our wild dreams along the way. With all of my heart, thank you! 📷: @alynicklas @bornwildfilm

A photo posted by SHANNON ROBERTSON (@rambleonwild) on

Sand dunes lovin

A photo posted by Hiking In Wonderland🌙 (@myhikingadventures) on

There are a lot of “Instagram moms” out there, but there’s only a few that fall into the category of “adventure moms.” Of those, there are two that I feel stand out as authentic, and that’s @RambleOnWild and @myhikingadventures. These aren’t prearranged, set up photos, produced for maximum Instagram effect. These are real adventurers on real adventures. Every kid deserves to be raised in the outdoors, and if by chance I ever end up a dad, you can be sure I’ll be looking to these two feeds to guide me through taking a kid into the outdoors.

7. @VoyagesofAgape

A Voyage. To be guided nor misguided in love, nor brokenhearted. But to sail in waters — uncharted. #voyagesofagape #traveltrue

A photo posted by Voyages Of Agápē (@voyagesofagape) on

Josh and Rachel are probably the most attractive couple on the planet. Rachel is a world-class model who, when asked, says she works in the “advertising industry,” and Josh is the kind of guy you would introduce to your daughter, but not your girlfriend. Luckily for us, he’s married to Rachel. Together they have busted their behinds to save up and buy a sailboat, and in October are planning a five-year journey around the world together. They show us anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and dreams are more important than a successful career.

Honorable Mentions

I wanted to keep this piece short and sweet so that I could really focus in on some of my favorite accounts that I’ve been following for years. There are so many great adventurers out there doing amazing things though, so here are 6 more of my favorite accounts as a bonus, and I ask that you help me find more awesome people to follow by adding their Instagram handle into the comments below.

@jackson.groves
@Andy_Bardon
@HarmonyCalhoun
@Climbing_Is_my_Passion
@wademorris12
@tbfrost

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