Adventure Photographer. Daredevil. Flow Guru.
Raised on the island of Bermuda, spearfishing for dinner most evenings, Ben Horton has lived a life of adventure for as long as he can remember. He has based his career on going places that other people either cannot, or won’t go. Whether pushing through a blizzard on Baffin Island, in the High Arctic, or navigating the wreckage of Haiti after the massive Earthquake that leveled so much of the island, Ben’s passion is to use photography as a means to inspire people to take stewardship of the planet and its people.
Ben started his career with National Geographic by telling the story of the sharks of Cocos Island. He traced the illegal fishing industry from Costa Rica to China, and, as a result of his work, helped to increase the boundaries and protection of two of Costa Rica’s National Parks. He was awarded the National Geographic Society’s first ever Young Explorer Grant for this work, and he has continued to produce content for the brand through expedition grants, assignments and apprenticeships with some of Nat Geo’s most seasoned and storied explorers, including Polar Explorer Will Steger and Harvard-trained Ethnobotanist/Anthropologist, Dr. Wade Davis. Ben currently stars in the National Geographic TV series, Extreme China. In this show, Ben teams up with Chinese adventurers to journey into extreme landscapes in search of local communities that are not just surviving but thriving. Together the teams will put everything they've learned to the test, free diving, ice climbing and caving to rekindle the spirit of true adventure and discovery. Joining Ben in each episode are emerging Chinese explorers, alpinist Liu Yong, free diver Dou Dou, and rock climber Liu Yongbang. Together, they venture into China's formidable landscape, braving the elements and navigating through diverse terrains—sinkholes, frozen icefalls and the open sea—learning from each other, the environment around them, and the locals who call these extreme locations home.
Growing up so free taught Ben to resist being pigeonholed. So, as much as he loves shooting natural history, he also appreciates Fine Art, and he’s a highly sought after commercial photographer who brings his gift of nuance and storytelling to the world’s biggest brands, including REI, Nature Valley, Patagonia, United Airlines, Dyson, and Sony. He’s based in southern California, where he works primarily on adventure campaigns. In order to function at the highest level, pushing past fear and distractions, Ben has trained himself to operate in a flow state. Onstage he talks about the differences in how we perform when we are in or out of this state of ease.
Finding Flow in Work and LIfe
If there was a certification for “daredevil,” Ben would have it. In the meantime, he’s certified in advanced cave diving, paragliding, paramotoring, open-water and sidemount diving, and advanced kayak guiding. He’s also the guy you’d like to have along when things go wrong, since he’s certified in Avalanche level 1 & 2 rescue, Wilderness EMT & First Responder, and Swiftwater Rescue. His life and career have been an exercise in flow. In order to journey to the extreme places he visits, battling the elements and rough terrain, he needs to function at his highest level, both mentally and physically. He refers to achieving flow state as an active meditation and says that sometimes it isn’t obvious in the moment, but rather it is recognized on reflection. You’ve probably had that experience in moments of high adrenaline, when you just reacted before you had a chance to think; firing on all burners, in other words. Ben shares with corporate audiences the benefits of aligning purpose and vision and then placing talent according to passion and ability so that the organization has a chance to operate at flow and achieve its greatest potential. With general audiences, Ben talks about following your intuition and paying attention to those subtle whispers that indicate when we are in authentic headspace and when we are not.
Photos: courtesy Ben Horton