2018 has been one hell of a year. Hard work, friendships and community building have been at the center of it. I want to share some images, most I have taken, that reminds me of the year I have had; with friends and community. This recap is as much a look back as it is a look forward. I have grown, I have learned, and I am excited to jump into 2019 with both an open hand of welcome and a clenched fist ready to fight. Our world needs warriors ready to defend good in the world. We must amplify those around us who do good. We must protect our wild places, animals and clean air and water. Without our wildness, we will starve.
This is a brief hunting story. It is written to inform on the topic of hunting ethics. It shares insight into an imperfect human being. I hope that the whimsical lyrics elicited by stunning wild country and humorous hunting partners deliver you a message worth sharing.
My hunting mentor would state, “If you are wondering about the outcome of the shot, then you should not take the shot”.
Dawn broke on the high alpine ridge and we struggled through the thin air at eleven thousand feet. We tiptoed through crackling pine understory onto a barren moonscape covered with a rainbow of lichens and cryptobiotic soils. Looking across the vast expansive mountainside it was clear the elk had moved on.
We sauntered over to the edge of the mountain and took reprieve too close to the edge. We set about drying the previous night’s rain off our tents and sleeping bags. I snatched at my tarp. It slipped. I watched bemused when the first bounce on the ground gave it a springing leap over any other nearby object and it cratered towards the valley bottom 1000 feet below. Luckily a smooth red kinnikinnick slope led to a scraggly catcher’s mitt pine. It stopped a brief 400 feet below.
We stoked the Jetboil and brewed an alpine blend. We settled into the craggy outcrop to glass the far side of the cirque. In a moment’s time we rejoiced at seeing a small group of elk feeding late into the morning sun, and quaked at the idea of falling down to the valley floor and then up the other side. We watched until the elk were engulfed in shadows and disappeared into a dark timber frame bed.
The day was long and ours to use. Our next engagement lay 9 hours, 2 miles, and 2000 vertical feet away. We cooked a lean breakfast of cookies and tortillas and set about trying to not fall down the mountainside. Luckily a smooth red carpet of kinnikinnick led to a catcher’s mitt pine, which held a wet tarp, which led to a break in the cliff face and we meandered through loose stone to find our way safely to the valley floor.
Midday found us near the creek, which hides its meandering banks under a mixed wood canopy. We sat and took in the shade of a large fir. Letting our guard slip we chatted about the treacherous descent we could now see in full view. A meandering cow slipped within ear shot and held our gaze. Out of sync with our mission we scrambled to put bow to hand and arrow to bow. She scattered away as wild things do. We had been reminded of our goal.
The daily patterns began to play and the setting sun whispered to the wind. He swirled his flow and set about cooling down the mountain side. We slipped into position and stood about waiting. The position of an archer is much different than that of a rifle hunter; a bow is best shot standing up and plenty of room is needed to move the bow side to side. A clear path ahead is mandatory as arrows easily ricochet. Standing and waiting without fidgeting might be the archer’s second greatest achievement.
We tire of waiting and begin calling. First, some soft cow calls which elicit only a howl from the wind. We let a bugle rip and almost on cue the bull responds, a deep guttural breath becomes a high pitched scream. This is the first time I am hearing such a voracious scream directed at me, enticed by me, coming for me. Our setup is not perfect. It's the first time my dear friend and I have danced to this tune. We are still stepping on each other’s toes as we try to dance with a bull. The bull comes to the dance floor on a string as if his favorite song was being crooned. He hits the edge of the dance floor and finds he is a little nervous to show his ability to shake a hindquarter. We call and he paces the perimeter. He circles into a small clearing and I see his antlers bobbing. He is getting ready. He lets loose another bugle, far from eloquent, but full of piss and vinegar. I am crouched behind a spindly 4ft pine. I can’t move much. I am starting to hear my breathing. I am trying to find the range of the tree in the middle of the meadow as a reference. I lock on, 54 yards. Now my mind races towards the end, the pictures we will take, the admiration of a eager community. More calling, he finally decides to gather his grit and come dance. He trots to the middle of the meadow and peers into the trees looking for someone to dance with. I know he won't wait long to find a partner before his courage will wear off and off he will go. He takes a step.
This is my first season as an archer. Having hunted for 8 years I have finally been coerced to pick up a bow instead of a rifle. A new friend had decided he needed a new hunting partner and delivered a used bow to my hands, ready for hunting. Months spent learning at the shooting range had yielded good results. I was confident shooting the decoy elk at 60 yards. I would consistently drop 6 arrows into the ethical kill zone.
Now I am in full-on young predator mode. My breathing is hard and labored, my position is crouched and shooting lanes are limited. I can feel my grip tightening on my bow handle. He takes another step. I stand up and move a foot to one side. I raise my bow, fist clenched. I draw back and take aim. I am guessing he has moved to about 60 yards. I want this successful moment more than my ethics concern me. A brief whisper glances over my shoulder, “Are you certain of the outcome?” “No,” I reply, and I let the arrow fly.
While the arrow and I are debating my skill set the bull has taken two more steps. My arrow punches hard into the rocks, grasses and lichens. It soared so far off its target that the bull glaces back and wonders. I watch him trot away and into the night.
I slump over, my grip releases my bow, and I am instantly bummed out. My ethics lost in a battle against wanting success. The only positive is that no animal suffered due to my lack of integrity. This first encounter has sealed the deal. I’m hooked, bugling bulls have taken the top step on my podium of fun, adventure and living wild. Now it's time to reflect and incorporate my learning.
Stay tuned for ethics 2.0
Put Down the Phone!
I say, Put Down the Phone!
There is a wild world in front of you.
Put it down and look up.
Look up and be amazed.
An ever-changing kaleidoscope is whirling in front of you.
The earth is magic.
It’s got every color and sound and whimsical serendipity waiting for you.
Go wander, get lost, who knows what you’ll see.
The pica chirp,
The lonesome goat scramble,
The rock weasel sneaking and peaking.
Put down the phone and listen.
The wind howls harmony with the mountain tops.
Pines creak with excitement,
Elk bugle with the turning of a golden leaf.
Listen, you just might hear yourself speak.
Put down the phone and know yourself.
Don’t be afraid to look inside, your soul has something new to share.
There is no selfie that will speak to you.
Listen to the lyrics that play along with your heartbeat.
That rhythm is yours and yours alone.
Put down the phone.
There is a constant drumming and rumbling in my ears as I careen through the congested cityscape. Its pulsing is like a rabid disco party gone haywire into the early morning hours. The city reverberates through my body, it causes stress, anger, panic. I flee into the mountains. They are my refuge of calm. We all seem to be fleeing into the mountains. As we do the cumulative disco beat is snaking its way up the trails. We cut through the landscape with knobby circular saws disguised as tires of mountain bikes. We pick at the earth with the dull shovel blades of hiking boots and trail runners. We slice over burrows with giant knife edges of skis eblazoned with art depicting the animals who we are displacing.
The mountains, the wild spaces, can offer up silence, peace, tranquility. But these days you have to run pretty far into the woods to get that. The amount of people fleeing the metropolis of Denver, seeking silence in the front range mountains is awe inspiring for sheer volume. It is also alarming and concerning, and it must be managed.
We go into the mountains hoping to silence our busy minds. However, it seems that most don’t ever silence their busy mouths. The lack of awareness to place as people careen up and down the trails is disturbing. Without quieting down they will never see their impact. To get close to the animals, to see your impact, you have to shut up. When you finally spot the elk, watch them stand up from a midday slumber or stop grazing and pick up their head to gaze in your direction, you will start to see the impact. When that elk stands up they have increased their caloric burn rate by 25%. Had you been to the only person to encounter that elk it may have had little impact, but when the entire disco party rambles through the woods daily and at nightly, you begin to kill the elk.
The energy that stresses us is making its way to the elk. They are not reproducing and if they do their offspring are not surviving the winter, in fact, the elk are dying, due to the disco party in the woods. You are killing the elk. Every person who steps onto the trail is consuming the wild spaces. The idea of a non-consumptive user is dead. It is a fallacy. If you enter wild spaces you consume them, literally. While elk is the easy example, as my home heard has suffered a 50% loss in the past ten years, there are many more examples.
We have reached a tipping point. No longer does it matter how you self-identify when you step into the wild places. It doesn’t matter what color your clothing is, what apparatus you are riding or sliding on, or what you are seeking. You have an impact and that impact must be managed and that management must be paid for. If you step into the wild spaces, you are going to have to open up your wallet wider than before.
I understand there are many opinions, critisisms and explanations, of how we got to this point and I applaud those who have faught to get us here. Now instead of arguing and discussing every detail that looks backwards, let’s look forward. Let's take an inclusive approach and establish unlikley allies. Lets regognize we all want to be advocates of public land. Having clean air, clean water, wild places, spaces and animals is a crucial factor for all of us Humans. No matter where you live, how often you enter a wild space, or see a wild animal. There is intrinsic value in all of it and if that’s not enough then you get the added benefit of breathing cleaning air and drinking clean water. So, let’s put on our thinking caps and create a model for financing the protection of our home, earth, that is equally paid for by every user.
The 2018 Legendeer Appalachia Expedition was a success. I pushed my professional edge and believe I am better for it. Officially I work for Legendeer as the Lead Guide. It is my job to oversee the adventure component and make sure everyone stays safe and has a peak adventure, described by scholar Simon Priest as the perfect amount of perceived risk coupled with competence. I enjoy this job because it allows me to build trust with the participants and trust is a key piece of my newly conceived project.
The side benefit of this job is that I get to push my inner edge as a human while I facilitate portrait session with the participants. These portrait sessions have been described by participants as a kind of therapy session. I work through a timeline: what brought you here, how have you grown while here, how do you use that in your work moving forward. The questions are personal; I dive deep and it is at times uncomfortable. The questions are demanding. This year I came to the expedition prepared to dial in my process. Creating this ven diagram and word map was a big part of crystalizing why and how I accomplish my portrait project.
Specifically, the Legendeer Portrait Project grew out of my desire to push my ability as a photographer. It morphed into a way to give back to the Legendeer community by creating a scholarship fund as well as pay forward a good deed done on my behalf when I was graduating high school. Last year's portrait project was my first official art show and we raised enough money to send Bronson Call to Appalachia. Check out his work - it's rad!
This year, due to life choices I've made, commercial photography has started to take a backseat to growing Hunt To Eat, my lifestyle apparel brand for hunters. However, having had another series of amazing conversations and capturing profound moments of growth of this year's class of Legendeers, I realized that this is when I see my best self in action.
Movement was the key theme in this years expedition, specifically conscious movement, so we explored it at lengths. A fantastic way to meld both internal and external conscious movement is deep water soloing. It demands that the participant focus on controlling the movement of their mind as it races around quantifying risk and demands that each outward movement is precise. Even the process of falling or jumping must be calculated. For many of the participants, I managed the risk by limiting the height of their adventure. Rhiannon, however, was an outlier.
Through multiple adventures and conversations, I grew to understand Rhiannon's level of competency as a rock climber. This was crucial because it allowed me to facilitate an opportunity for Rhiannon to have a peak adventure.
The beautiful aspect of the Legendeer program is that we meld together adventure and art. This brings a unique type of person to our program. In general, they are highly reflective of their process both as artists and as humans. As an example, I will let Rhiannon's words speak for her.
Our voice is our story. I am learning we must give voice to not just one story but at times many. We are not one dimensional. Currently, I am in the midst of giving ample voice to Mahting the Hunter, Mahting the Conservationist and Mahting the Adventure Photographer. It is a dance. Much like deep water soloing, it demands conscious inward and outward movement. Part of my dance is to create what I am calling Project Edge: Amplify Good. The goal of the project is to amplify the stories of humans who engage the inner and outer edges of life in order to do good in the world. If you believe you know of a person who has a story worth amplifying please let me know. I leave you with this: live a life you love. Be daring. Do Good!
I present to you, Rhiannon Klee. Through her exploration of self via climbing, adventure and art she is a powerful force for good. It is through adventure and art that she is able to come back into the world and work with women in a wilderness therapy setting to effect change. Soon she will be heading out into the Wind River Range to climb and document the adventure via journal-style art in hopes that it will energize other women to get out and get after it in wild places. She is still looking for support for this adventure. If you believe you or your brand align with Rhiannon and you'd like to support her please reach out to me and I can connect you.
I believe it is time for all public land owners to start paying for the conservation of our public lands, water and wildlife. It should not fall on one user group to be unfairly taxed to secure the funding needed to manage public lands. In fact, it should not fall on any group other than the American people as a whole. Our public lands are just that, all of ours. No matter if you live in New York City, the suburbs of Austin, TX or in Jackson Hole, WY this great experiment of Our Public Lands is set up such that every single person can enjoy them.
Recently I wrote another post which alluded to it being time that the Outdoor Industry start being taxed for goods similar to the way that hunters and anglers are taxed. I now see that as short-sighted. It is still exclusive. The park in New York, the river running through Austin or Grand Teton National park outside Jackson, WY all deserve to be fully supported and funded such that our public lands are as well maintained for the next generation as they were for us.
Many have heard my brother's grizzly bear encounter story but if you have not I will give the brief cliff notes. My brother is on a remote Alaskan island, home to the largest brown bears in the world. He is part of a TV show on which they are hunting elk. They successfully kill an elk. They hang half the elk in a tree and take the other half back to camp. The return to the tree to retrieve the rest of the elk. There does not seem to be a brown bear nearby, so they decide to eat lunch prior to returning to camp. While eating lunch a giant brown bear charges them full bore. In an instant chaos erupts. It is time for fight or flight. Most everyone chooses flight. My brother chooses FIGHT! He has a pistol and bear spray but instead, he chooses to fight with a pair of unlikely allies. He stands up, grabs a pair of trekking poles and swings for the fences. As the bear lunges at him, he catches the bear right across the muzzle. The bear, not likely expecting this, turns 180 degrees and chooses flight.
I tell this story for two reasons. First off, I feel like the public lands movement is my brother. We all: hunters, anglers, runners, boaters, climbers, backpackers, birders, ranchers have decided to stand up and fight the bear. The bear in this analogy is many people and it’s hard to put my finger on them specifically. But they are people who only see the trees not the forest. They see our public lands as something to be utilized and monetized right now. They want their Win. They don't have the long term (GENERATIONAL) public interest in mind. They don't understand basic ecology and think in parts, not whole systems.
The second reason for the story is to develop an idea of unlikely allies. It is not time for us to be divisive, it is time for us to be wholly inclusive. For my adult life I have lived in both the outdoor recreation community and the sportsman community. I have stood atop a steep couloir strapped into my skis and gotten that unforgettable feeling of awe and butterflies before dropping into pure powder skiing bliss. I have paddled up to large rapids and felt that feeling of awe and butterflies before successfully snaking my way through unscathed. I have stood on the start line of a 50mile ultra-marathon not knowing if my legs would carry me the distance and then run into the finish line sprinting with joy for the achievement. I have stood in a meadow and gazed at a vibrant meadowlark singing the songs of spring. I have climbed mountains by way of a first ascent and known the feeling of true exploration. I have stood in waist deep water meditating as I cast my fly into the mouth of a 5lb rainbow trout. I have killed elk and come to know an experience of God and filled my freezer, so my family could be fed all year. All of these moments have occurred on public lands and waters. And I wish them to be an experience every American can have for generations to come. And if you have experienced any moment similar to these then you can likely agree that all of us "users" of the outdoors should be allies. Because no one moment can be valued as more important than the other.
Being allies with other users should be a given. The real dream that excites me today is that we unite the entire American people. It is time for all Americans to see the value in Public Lands. In 2016, a year that will go down in history as one of the divisive our country has seen, in the state of Missouri the people came together to re-authorize a .01 sales tax to benefit the soil, water, and parks. Eighty-one percent of the voters voted in favor of this tax. This is on top of a 0.01 sales tax that creates a budget of 120 million a year. Imagine what we could accomplish with a 0.01 federal
When I was a really little kid my dad took me out into the woods. It was winter in Indiana. I sat bundled in a sleigh that he pulled around the woods. I am not sure the purpose of the excursion but on that day my dad instilled in me my sense of wonder and love of chocolate. As he trudged through the snow he stopped at a tree and dug around the base of it. He said that he had seen elves here before and thought they might have left something behind. When he pulled his hand out of the snow he was holding a chocolate bar. My sense of wonder was born. We shared the chocolate bar and I was hooked, on chocolate and the woods.
Now it is time for every User of public lands to go into their community and create that same sense of wonder in a friend, spouse, kid, or community at large. Go create unlikely allies and standing up to fight the bear will be as easy as picking up a pair of trekking poles.
Take a minute to imagine. You are waiting on the wings of a stage. Your staff starts the introduction and you can feel the energy of the crowd rising. It's palpable. As you come onto stage you've got to stomp your boots just to release the energy, it's a mix of happy dance and a powerful, shit kicking, get things done stomp! This is how Backcountry Hunters and Anglers CEO, Land Tawney, came onto stage Saturday night at this year's Rendezvous. The crowd roared to their feet, the eruption was a beautiful give and take between Land and all of us. Land has been a tremendous leader the last few years and we the people have risen to meet his exuberance. In one year the constituency grew 100% and is up over 20k members. It is the fastest growing conservation sportsman group in the nation. And at this year's Rendezvous we welcomed one of our most powerful allies Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia.
Over the last year I have tried to build a bridge between my first home the Outdoor Recreation Community and my second home The Hunting and Fishing community. This past winter, along with my friends from Wylder Goods and Argali Outdoors we threw a Venison Diplomacy house party during the Winter Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver. It brought these two communities together to talk about combining our love for public lands and being a force for good and positive change. With high level folks from various brands attending, it seemed like a real step in the right direction.
The week leading up to the Rendezvous I came to find out that Yvon would be attending and also be speaking at the Campfire Storytelling event Saturday night. That information was capped off with the fact that the Hunt To Eat booth was going to be right next to the Patagonia booth. As a business owner I have come to admire Yvon more. Before it was mostly about his mountaineering exploits, now it's for the way he has carried himself and his company forward. He has lived a life for which he does not apologize. While no one is perfect, he has led a life based on his principles and makes no qualms about it. And if the success of Patagonia is any measure, he has lived a damn fine life. I hope to look back at 80 years old and see that I too lived by my principles and had such a profound effect.
The Campfire Storytelling event was certainly the highlight of the Rendezvous. Remi Warren, a highly skilled, badass backcountry hunter, made us cry with a love story. And Yvon Chouinard made us all blush. Now I am a unabashed fan of Patagonia, but Yvon and therefore Patagonia have gotten a bad rap as many have perpetuated the lie that they are anti-hunting. They are not. Do you know that Patagonia makes a upland bird hunting jacket and pants? Yvon told us all real hunting stories. He started by telling how he raised his kids with two main rules to live by: Don't waste food and don't let something suffer. What followed were stories of his kids having life and death interactions with animals. One story included walking the beach after a big oil spill and snapping the necks of see gulls who were covered in oil so they would not suffer any longer. Another story included hitting a deer with a car, it wasn't dead, so clad in a cocktail dress his daughter wrestled the deer and snapped its neck and tried shoving it in the trunk of the car to take home and butcher.
After hearing Yvon's stories I truly appreciate his sense of humor. It is dry, witty and dark. I laughed so hard I slid out of my chair while he spoke. While he is mostly an angler and upland bird hunter, he does have a freezer full of deer and elk at home. In fact, he told my wife that during the massive California fires he had to go buy a generator and sneak back to his house to plug in his chest freezer because he did not want to loose his meat stash.
Speak truth to power. Now is not a time to be careful, now is a time to be dareful. Now is not a time to be divisive, it is a time to be inclusive. Now is not a time to worry about your bottom dollar, it's a time to stand up for the land and the animals and make sure that someone is speaking for them. With the Land and Water conservation fund set to expire we must rally. We must yell from the rooftops. We must come together: mountain bikers, climbers, anglers, birders, boaters, runners, backpackers and hunters to speak truth to power. We all must give more, more time and more money.
Often hunters are thought to be the only consumptive users of public lands but given the growth of recreational use in our country, every hiker has an impact. If you are the in the Outdoor Recreation community it is time for you to ask the very hard question, how do you give back. It is time for brands to step up and lead by establishing a backpack tax similar to the Pittman Robertson Act. A 0.5% tax on every piece of gear you buy could reshape conservation efforts in an epic fashion. From conversations overheard during this year's Rendezvous I know there is one who supports this type of tax, so for the rest of you, this is your moment to step up before they do. Thanks to the wisdom of my community my views on this statement have shifte. Please read Public Lands need Public Support to learn how they have evolved. Coming SOON!
As I move forward to deliver the Hunting and Fishing community apparel that is cool, know that every purchase will give back a little bit to help protect the land and the animals. We are working on many new collaborations with non-profits across the spectrum. We will also give you designs that help start a conversation and that give you a moment to speak truth to power.
Death seems to be a constant. It lurks in the background of every decision we make while out amongst the wild places on an adventure. I had the good fortune to spend a week wallowing in wicked good snow with the one and only Colin Zacharias. He co-taught, with Rob Coppolillo, a group of adventurous skiers how to manage avalanche conditions in a new Recreation Focused Level 2 Avalanche safety course. I listened closely while working as a photographer. Colin likely has many nicknames, but The Snow Yoda, stuck out as relevant and accurate. To be honest, I had briefly scanned his resume before meeting him but did not grasp the enormity of his accomplishments, position in mountaineering history, and overall bad-assery.
There came a night when most of the crew was tucked away in their beds, tuckered out from touring and sleeping soundly. A small group of us had gathered around the fireplace and the whiskey poured like the snow fell. Colin was holding court. It was a scene I would capture repeatedly as the week progressed. When Colin speaks, everyone listens. This evening around the fireplace the stories spilled out of Colin and my jaw stood agape as I took them in. Colin’s stories were not about him; they were about the many partners and students he had teamed up with for adventures. It just so happens that these partners, Barry Blanchard, Peter Croft, Doug Coombs, are icons of mountaineering history. The adventures they shared, have been written about, whispered about and held in high esteem by many aspiring mountaineers.
Colin eats humble pie for breakfast along with a great cup of coffee out of a super fancy little machine and one cool mug. He has seemingly been doing so for a long time. As with most long-time adventurers, Colin’s eyes hold the shadows of sun, smiles, terror and risk. He is a good decision maker; he has worked as a mountain guide for over 40 years and he is still at it. He is still alive to tell the stories of all those legends. The same cannot be said for those legends.
To call Colin a Mountain Guide and leave it at that is far from telling the whole story. He is the what I consider the whole package. He is what I think most people would aspire to be. He is part educator, part guide, part facilitator, part orator, part realist, part theorist. He knows when to let you fail and when to give the extra bit of encouragement. He knows when to step in and keep you safe and when to question you to allow you to keep yourself safe. He gives honest feedback; it’s never condescending, never personal, and always to the point. He knows steep rock walls, alpine glaciers, and deep powder snow. He knows himself.
Over the course of his life he has amassed more adventure trips than 50 weekend warriors combined could hope for. First ascents, remote mountain ranges, every type of snowpack- he seems to have seen it all. He’s come near death only twice, both times occurring outside of his decision making. Once, due to asthma, he battled a severe bought of pneumonia. The second-time rock fall struck his spinal cord while teaching aspiring rock guides. He went into convulsions and passed out. In between bouts of convulsions he would regain consciousness and instruct the students on how to lower him and not drop him.
All the pictures I took of Colin were taken while he was engaged as a Mountain Guide. I believe I captured the essence of what he is to the people around him. I hope to work with him again so that we can sit down and I can take a proper portrait of him, one that reveals to the world how he sees himself.
Long live the humble mountain guide!
We had a 6 hour layover in Tokyo and decided to take advantage of a new guide service. It is essentially an UBER guide. You can book almost instantly. You tell the guide how much time you have, types of things you'd like to see and how much time you have. From there, the system sets you up with a guide. The guide then dials you in and off you go. Our guide was a local who had travelled to over 150 countries. As much as we discussed Tokyo we wanted to hear about his travels. Here is our 6 hours in Tokyo.
My good friend Loic introduced me to street photography. His shots are always amazing. He has an incredible eye. Yet there are always times when I wonder how he got the shot. He informed me that there are times you want a certain shot but you don't want to engage the scene as it would ruin it. So you have to steal the shot. I try my best to steal shots like Loic does. The use of the silent shutter on my Sony A9 along with the flip screen and super fast shutter actuations I am able to preset the shot I want and then I walk through the scene and essentially shoot from the hip. Unless you are really paying attention to what my hands are doing you would never know that I am taking pictures. Here are a handful of stolen shots and others from a whirlwind in Tokyo.
The intersection between old and new. The moat around the kings castle sits next to the Business district.
WAR SURVIVOR, SUFFERAGE LEADER, LOVER OF STYLE.
My grandmother recently passed. No one could have asked for a more peaceful passing. After an evening with her daughters, she went to bed and slipped into an eternal sleep.
While the world engrossed itself into the first half of the Super Bowl we delved deep into the memories and influence of my grandmother, Aina Holland. This amazing women, at 17, taking the boots off a dead soldier, literally walked across Europe evading the terror of Stalin. She went on to become a leader within the Business and Professional Women Foundation earning a lifetime achievement award a few years back. She lived with style. A style born from the mind of an architect, artists and big city lover.
As the stories were told many simple truths that emerged about how Aina had lived. They were:
Put your best self forward - Aina cared not of what people thought of her she cared about herself. In the most simple terms she had an incredibly high level of self respect. She would never want you to show up unannounced as she would want to make sure she was ready to present her best self. Her approach is in direct contrast to the age of people wearing their pajamas ands house slippers to the store.
Upon dispersing her possessions one thing I took was a little plaque that reads "It doesn't matter what people say, it's matters what people". That piece of wisdom is something I am coming to understand in depth this year. Being in relationship with people is key. The overabundance of "likes" is no match to sitting across from a human and discussing life.
Speak your truth - There are three parts to this idea. The first is self explanatory, be honest to yourself and share that with the world. The second, is to respect and let others do the same. Aina always allowed for and participated in civil discourse. She would delve into your position seeking to understand while staying true to herself. Third, Aina was a pillar of her many communities spanning her long life. She lived by her truth and engaged her communities to try and make them a better place. We as individuals have to go be ourselves out in the world. We can't hide out behind computer screens.
Live with passion - Aina had more style than you would ever think could fit in her little apartment. As an lover of all holidays, particularly Christmas, Aina was an amazing hostess. Every single time I stepped foot inside her apartment the table was set. The amount of different complete sets of linens, glassware, tableware was truly astonishing. Mostly because you would never believe that it would all fit in her place. It was just her thing, she was so detailed in the presentation.
My grandmother, Aina Holland, lived a full and tremendously impactful life. May we all be better for it.
I rolled into a very snowy Revelstoke marveling at the height of the snow banks. I have never seen so much snow. The piles soared over roof tops and I wondered how they could keep plowing them so high. After a long day, sipping one coffee at Starbucks, finalizing my receipts and taxes for 2017, I asked the baristas for recommendations for a local pub. The Village Idiot came as the response.
I saddled up to the bar and was taken aback when all three bartenders introduced themselves and asked my name. Not only did they get my name right without a fuss, a true sign of respect, they remembered it. No kidding, the next two times I walked into the bar, as if on Cheers, they would call out, “Hey Mahting whatcha drinking?” The bar was crowded and they seemingly did this to everyone. Now that’s great customer service.
At the bar, everyone chatted with everyone, mostly about skiing. I quickly started up a conversation with Jeff and Trevor. Jeff, a Manitoban, was visiting longtime friend and now local to Revelstoke, Trevor. Jeff, a hobbyist photographer (a damn good one), and had just finished up an Avalanche Safety course. Trevor, an entrepreneur, with an eco-friendly business making cool sewn goods. They were both as engaging as they were friendly.
Not having a ski partner for the days, I was in Revelstoke, I convinced Jeff to go touring with me off piste, just outside the ski area boundary. Unfortunately, Trevor was dealing with an injury and was not yet allowed to go skiing. Friendship grew quickly between Jeff and I as we climbing high into the alpine. The trees, ghostly in their presence and hidden by rime stiff as ice, created interesting touring conditions. Flying down the mountain we met little resistance and procured large smiles. The snow was stable and soft and copious.
Being a photographer, Jeff was glad to stop often and take lots of pictures, even going so far as to set up shots of me skiing. Pictures of me are rare as I am always behind the lens. While I know, we discussed much, I am acutely aware of how many times we just looked and it each other, grinned, fist bumped, and shared our joy over the fantastic skiing conditions. We likely could have skied more terrain had we decided faster, but there was simply so much good terrain to choose from. Jeff is not only and great photographer, great snowboarder, but also a ripper on a mountain bike. Check out his Instagram and be inspired.
Trevor was incredibly welcoming. Having used up my one night of free parking at the resort, he quickly offered up his driveway for parking the van (Pablo), and shower and fireplace. Sharing the joys of entrepreneurship, we talked long and hard about hosting solutions, websites, shipping, product creation, and marketplace adaptation.
A real source of joy for me was connecting with another entrepreneur that makes something tangible. While I appreciate the technology the pervades our life, I am put off by all the tech-based entrepreneurs who get millions of dollars of investment to create vapor-ware. Not only are they taking the money they seem to be taking the mentors as well. As soon as I mention making t-shirts and hunting to a Venture Capital investor or C-suite mentor they draw a blank stare and recede from the conversation, as if technology is the only thing we can make and sell.
Craftsmanship seems to be dying in America, as our things seem to last but one season and then fall apart. But it is certainly alive and well in Canada. Trevor’s backyard shop hosts a handful of sewing, embroidering and cutting machines. Trevor owns and operates U.S.E.D, a company focused on creating goods; bags, panniers, and other accessories from old seatbelts. Trevor goes out and collects seat belts from the junkyard, washes and repurposes them. They provide a super strong and durable material that will seemingly last forever. Imagine your Timbuk2, over the shoulder, messenger bag, but made of seatbelts. If you want to support a great guy, craftsmanship, the planet and want a unique bag go check out USED. http://recycledseatbelts.ca
Rolling into Revelstoke the piles of snow hid the town in a blanket of white. I am eternally grateful that I could uncover the generosity, kindness, and craftsmanship that resides there. Being able to tour through all that great snow was also a big bonus!
I have never really been a facts kinda guy. In this day and age that seems like an idiotic statement given the number of people who simply disregard all kinds of facts and science. That being said I don't disregard facts I just don't store them well. I store a knowing. I'm more of a doing kinda guy. So if there are facts that I need to know in order to achieve a given task, I will know them. For instance, I need to know how hoar frost affects the stability of a snowpack so that I can climb a mountain safely in avalanche conditions. I, however, do not need to know the name of the peak or the names of the surrounding peaks, who climbed them first and when. But I appreciate those folks who somehow just store an infinite amount of knowledge in their heads.
On my current travels, into mountainous terrain, I have stopped off in Hailey, Idaho. I have been able to reconnect with an old college roommate, climbing partner, and knowledge keeper, Paddy. We got out into the Boulder mountains to do some skiing and content creation. He continued to amaze me with his store of facts. Every ridgeline, sub-peak, peak, and mountain range that we could see, he had facts to share. For as long as I've known Paddy, he's known the facts. In college, we spent countless hours in classes together, on rock walls, on mountainsides, and he would regale all of us with mountaineering history. The richness of his storytellin was fuelled by the copious reading he's always done.
These days he will inform you about any piece of gear you need when you walk into Backwoods Mountain Sports, in Ketchum ID. He also spends much of his time informing, coaching and generally educating the up and coming Nordic skiers of the valley. His willingness to share his knowledge is not lost on his community. You can see it in every interaction he has with a local. Everyone is genuinely excited to run into Paddy!
I too was excited to spend time with this good friend!
The lone tree forged from rock, wind, and drought is admirable. Yet it knows no admiration. Nature simply is. And we get to take and live into the story we create from knowing it. And so there are people who live by the rhythms and characteristics of nature. They work hard, they are passionate, and they sow kindness wherever they travel to whomever they encounter.
When you meet these lone tree people in the wild you admired them, you revolve around them, and you wish them the best. You wish them to find each other.
I've known Colin since I started my time at Prescott College. He's been an amazing person on my life's periphery every since. I was able to work with him and his partner Nancy in Jackson Hole. We shot some great images for a client of mine. I hope that when you see the work in the coming months you will remember, see past the cool clothes, and think wow, those two, are something amazing! If you ever need guides to take you safely into the wild of Wyoming look them up at Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.
Up before the sun, I'm hurdling the Elephant (the name of my van) down I-25 towards the Donut Shop. That may be the best way to drag me out of bed before the sun is up, DONUTS. I arrive at an almost empty parking lot, but the Open sign is flashing. With a giant breakfast burrito down my gullet and a 4 pack of donuts for the blind, I am ready to tackle the day. One by one, women clad in camo pour into the donut shop.
I was invited by Courtney Nicolson to join a group of women on a goose hunt. Lisa Thompson, whom I have worked with on a previous Cabelas photo shoot, and Donnelle Johnson have organized the day as part of Step Up Step Out. Step Up Step Out became an official non-profit last year. The mission of Step Up Step Out is Changing the World One Hunter at a Time.
Donnelle says "We focus on novice hunters, youth, and women. We are committed to encouraging and equipping others to have an encounter in the outdoors. In this, we challenge them to pick up a camera, bow, muzzleloader, shotgun or rifle depending on where their interest lies." Learn more about Step Up Step Out here: https://www.facebook.com/StepUpStepOut7/
With hunter numbers dwindling and conservation of wild places being so dependent on hunters I am glad to see women like Lisa, Donnelle, and Courtney taking an active role in mentoring a new generation of hunters. The day was filled with excitement. These first-time hunters were able to experience shooting at their first query. Some even shot and killed their first goose. They learned about safety in the blind. The learned about calling in birds and setting up decoys. And finally, they learned how to field dress and consume the animals they had just killed.
With the current threats to the environment, be it public lands or private, the air, water and earth need more people who are willing to stand up and speak on its behalf. So, I challenge you to step up and step out with a first timer. Whether you take someone on their first mountain bike ride, first ski tour, first hike or first goose hunt. We need all of those first-timers to have more and more positive experiences in wild and sceninc places.
Imagine you're hiking up a steep mountainside. You look up the mountain and finally see the horizon. You think you're almost to the top, but upon cresting the next bump you realize that it was only a false summit and that another summit looms in the distance. There is a moment right before you realize the false summit that you relax and a sense of accomplishment engulfs you. And as quickly that feeling is gone as you put your head down and march towards the next summit. I have found this same feeling over and over as I have grown two businesses over the last 3 year.
When we created Hunt To Eat, I had no idea how to make a t-shirt. We made a t-shirt and I felt the relief and sense of accomplishment. We sold a t-shirt, again, accomplishment. We reached 500 followers on Instagram, then 1000, then 18k, every time, a deep sense of accomplishment and relaxation. Similarly, yet slower, brands have come for photographs. First for social media, then a magazine, a magazine cover, and most recently I saw a full catalog of my work. The process is a is a catch 22. By standing on the false summit your world expands and the idea of what's possible grows. The next false summit arises before you. The next batch of shirt designs await, the next bigger brand looms.
And so success is fleeting. No matter the success there is another goal that arises for which I strive. It is a personality trait that can be seen as a positive attribute or a disorder. My goals are ever evolving. I trend towards setting realistic goals. I know that in the future I will annihilate the goals I set today. This year we donated $5,000 to conservation efforts. Next year I would like to reach $10,000. Ultimately I would like to be giving a million a year, I'd like to work in philanthropy full time. If today I set that as a goal I feel like the mountain would loom too large, I'd be terrified of it, but the false summits offer workable goals.
This post is inspired by a piece of art created by Semi-Rad.
A few weeks back I was able to reconnect and work with friends whom I've known since childhood. The interesting piece of working with my old friends is that the majority of them are Latvian and we all speak the language. While I don't often have Latvian language speakers in my daily life, for a week, I did. In order to be inclusive of the entire crew, we limited the Latvian during shooting, but bantering with each other is more fun in Latvian. The project was a TV pilot. I took on the role of Field Producer. In the past year, this has been a role I have stepped into more and more. When shooting adventure focused content I feel really comfortable guiding folks around and managing the situation. Combine that with an eye for details and camera angles and voila I'm field producing. I was also able to step into camera work as we were shooting a lot of varied Go Pro and Osmo X5 angles. Having a couple of exclusive product sponsors gave me the opportunity to shoot still photographs as well. Lastly, I was finally able to bring the new Mercedes 4x4 Sprinter on the road in a production capacity. Being able to have a camera truck provided a great working space. We were dragging around a lot of gear and two big camera packages. The 75lb Arri system mounted well into the rig to be able to shoot car to car shots. The van is now rentable for production. I will always come with the van as a driver at the very least and more if you need.
Hunter Hess is a skier who is known for taking flight more than the moments he's on the snow. As a freestyle half pipe skier his acrobatics are astonishing. Hailing from Bend, Oregon he started his ski season training in Colorado. He is an olympic hopeful and as such Bend Magazine wanted to capture him for the cover of the January issue.Read More
There are three focal points I have set my sights on for the foreseeable future.
1. Transformation - I want to engage humanity on a large scale to create positive change in the world. Starting small with one on one portrait shoots to writing books to influencing public lands policy, challenging people to transform to be the best versions of themselves.
2. Conservation - Without wild places and animals I cannot be the best version of myself. And so I will fight to protect those who cannot protect themselves.Read More