If you happened to find yourself stranded on, say, Matagorda Island, you’d want to tap the skills of someone who knows how to pitch a tent, rustle up dinner, and generally navigate the wild. That would be photojournalist Erich Schlegel, who has traveled the globe capturing the human story in outdoor adventure for the better part of 30 years. Who better to serve as tour guide for our outdoors issue? This month Schlegel heads out to document the grueling Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile canoe and kayak race from San Marcos all the way to the coastal town of Seadrift. For the remainder of the year, he will work with Ultralite Films on a documentary film titled The Disappearing Rio Grande, capturing the geography, landscape, and culture influenced by this historic Texas waterway from its source in Colorado to its end in the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville.
But photography wasn’t always the direction Schlegel’s professional life was headed. After completing his undergraduate business degree from Southern Methodist University, he thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps in international business consulting, a career that had Schlegel’s family stationed in Latin America for much of his young life. But before applying for a master’s degree in business, he was stopped short by his father, who suggested a different path.
“One day, he asked me what I’d really like to do,” says Schlegel. “I’d always been interested in photography, but I had never really thought about it as a career to pursue. I looked at him and said, ‘I’d kind of like to get into photography.’ And he said, ‘Then why don’t you do that?’”