Category Archives: Photography

Last Minute Road Trip: Land of Enchiladas

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We were a little bummed last week when we found out our friends had a family emergency and we would have to cancel our trip down to Santa Fe for the weekend. Since we’d already scheduled time off from work for that Friday, we started thinking about alternative things to do or places to go.

With a clean slate, pretty much everything was in play. I scoured the internet travel sites looking for cheap airfare to places like Portland, Phoenix, Spokane, Boise and a couple of others but nothing popped out as a screamer deal. We considered staying put and getting some early season skiing here in Colorado since the some of the resorts have opened their “white ribbon of death” (one trail open with hundreds of people jamming it) but that held about as much appeal as it does every season. Moab sounded pretty good too until we found out that some kind of testosterone laden motorhead event was going on so that was quickly crossed off the list. We also thought about Jackson Hole but it was pretty cold and windy up there and we could easily get that down here.

After a couple of days of thinking about it, we finally decided we’d just do a mini road trip to Taos. We hadn’t done a trip down there in a while, it was close at only about 4.5 hours away, we could ride mountain bikes on warm, uncrowded trails, it was a ‘tweener season so the town wouldn’t be jammed with people working themselves into a turquoise buying frenzy and we could get our fill of New Mexican fare, which we were really looking forward to in our original plan. We thought we definitely had a winner!

We thought about camping but came to the conclusion we wanted “not cold”. We called around looking for cheap places to stay and discovered that because it was in fact the ‘tweener season, some of the places we’ve stayed in the past were closed. Then the idea of staying at the Taos Inn hit us. We’ve had an embarrassing number of margaritas in the Adobe Bar and heard countless bands there over the years, but only now realized we’d never actually stayed in a room there. Fortunately there were plenty of discounted rooms available so we booked a couple of nights, loaded the bikes and readied our GI systems for a weekend in the Land of Enchiladas.

The majority of the drive down to New Mexico from the Boulder Valley is pretty dull. First you have to fight your way through Denver, then there is the Indianapolis 500-esque, free-for-all stretch of highway between Denver and the Springs followed by the 100-year highway construction projects in the Springs proper. From the Springs on down to Walsenberg, where we turn west to take the back roads into Taos, it is pancake flat, barren and always windy…always, always windy. We had all day to get there so we decided from the start to kick back, dial up the iPod, drive in the slow lane and let the relaxing commence from the time we backed out of our driveway.

Let me clarify that the relaxing part actually started once we left REI where I had to buy a new lockset for our bike rack. I guess the last time I took my bike rack off, I laid the hitch mount’s lockset on my bumper and forgot about it. I’m sure it fell off somewhere along my route to work one morning and now it’s lost forever. I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but I can’t.

Once we got off of I-25 in Walsenburg and headed due west, we were immediately reminded why we love escaping to the desert from time to time. The sun was starting its final descent for the day and the colours of the desert, normally muted in the harsh midday sun, started to explode and the optical kaleidoscope commenced. It’s always a toss-up whether the sunsets or the food is the biggest allure of road tripping to New Mexico. Instead of debating that question for very long, we feasted solely on the sunset for the next hour knowing that the food and beverage part was not too far away.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the first thing we ate that evening was an appetizer of rattlesnake and rabbit sausage with a chipotle sultana sauce! Dee-freakin-licious. This of course was washed down with what Doc Martin’s Restaurant calls their “Perfect Margarita”…and it was. We won’t mention how many we had, but I will say they were all indeed “perfect”. Great food, great live music, great company…great day all around.

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I’m always stunned by the lack of people on hiking or mountain biking trails in New Mexico. I’ve ridden down there many, many times and seldom have I ever seen more than two or three people during a full day’s ride. It’s not like the riding is terrible either…it’s actually AMAZING. Maybe people are too interested in buying cheap turquoise trinkets to hop on a bike and explore the landscape? People certainly aren’t shy about packing the ski areas, but hiking and biking trails go pretty much unnoticed. I’m definitely not complaining here.

As we figured, there were only two other cars at the trailhead when we showed up at 10:30 a.m. This was late for us but we’d been busy stuffing our yaps with delicious huevos rancheros at the Bent Street Café while we waited for the temps to warm up. Keeping with our “just relax” theme for the weekend, we took our time getting our things ready knowing there was no need to beat the rush or worry about fighting through the throngs of other bikers on the trails. Also, before we left Colorado, I had realized that this ride would be my 100th ride of the season and I couldn’t think of a better way or place to commemorate it.

I love desert riding in and around Taos. Typically there are no long, protracted, painful, high altitude climbs like here in the Central Rockies. It’s still usually fairly warm during the day and even as people are skiing just a few miles away, I can generally still ride in shorts and a light jacket. And unlike riding in the desert around Moab and Fruita (which I love), riding around Taos and Santa Fe isn’t generally overly rocky, which can turn a half day on the trails into an exhaustion-fest. I’m not saying there aren’t some techy areas where you need to be on your game, but a lot of the trails out west of town are pretty straightforward, low stress riding.

We wound up only riding about 12 or so miles in and around the Taos Overlook Trail System. The Rift Trail, rated easy to moderate, pretty much encircles the entire area, with various other trails intertwined within it. I’d never ridden there specifically so was pretty excited to check it out. While riding we saw a grand total of one mountain biker (cool local guy named Roland), two hikers, one cute dog (named Moxxy), one bighorn sheep, one tarantula, a Redtail hawk, some mutant-sized crows, an ocean of sage, an epic view of the snowcapped Sangre de Cristos to the east, mind-blowing views into the Rio Grande Gorge and a bluebird blue sky that was immense beyond comprehension. It’s just crazy how places like this aren’t jam packed with mountain bikers and hikers, especially on such a typically beautiful New Mexico day. Again, no complaints whatsoever.

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For us, there is no outdoor activity in Taos complete without a stop at Orlando’s New Mexican Café afterward. We’ve been to Taos more times than we can count and eaten at tons of places, but Orlando’s is by far our favourite — bar none, hands down. Orlando’s has a genuinely friendly staff, consistently amazing home style, authentic, non-froofy food and a relaxed atmosphere perfect for reliving a day on the bike or skis. You may have to wait a few minutes for a table since it’s a small place with limited seating, but you can always grab a beer and sit out by the fire pit while you relax and make a new friend or two.

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We love New Mexico but it’s always good to get back home to Colorado. Although we didn’t get to see our friends, this little unexpected mini road trip turned out to be exactly what we needed to shake clean the Etcho-Sketch of daily life. Slow pace, no plans, no timetables, no stress, fun mountain biking, plenty of green chiles, tasty margaritas and a little touch of the funkiness of Taos.  Adios por ahora Nueva Mexico, pero nos vemos pronto.

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Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.

When It’s Not Fun, Well, It’s Not Fun.

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I love taking photos, especially when I travel or sometimes when I’m out riding my mountain bike, skiing and out road tripping. I also love taking photos of my friends doing what they do, or taking them for their Christmas cards and other such things. And sometimes I love taking photos just because I want to experiment with some creativity. The only times I don’t like taking photos is when I have to sacrifice a moment of enjoyment, like stopping during some amazing powder turns, watching life unfold in a foreign city or when I’m ripping some epic singletrack or basically when taking photos starts to feel like a job.

I seldom feel creative when I feel like I’m sacrificing one thing for the other. I’d rather enjoy the moment than alter it with hopes the altered moment will be better. I get lots of ski days in a season and ride hundreds, if not thousands of miles on my mountain bike in a given year, but the reality is that few of those days are epic powder days or mind blowing singeltrack adventures. Sometimes I have to decide whether I want to enjoy the moment, or capture the moment.

While I fancy myself a fairly decent photographer (when I actually do more than just point and shoot for giggles), I certainly don’t categorize myself as a “pro” photographer. I have a nice DSLR, have some cool mid-level lenses and I love trying to capture photos that will hopefully help me relive places I’ve traveled and spark memories of things I’ve seen. This especially applies to travel photography. I’m also the first to admit that I seldom share a lot of my photos with others because sometimes I want to remember them the way I want to remember them — without judgment, bias or critique from the general public. That may sound weird, but it is what it is. I did however start a website and do that thing for a while and even sold a few photos, but I haven’t been good about keeping it updated of late. http://barryreesephotography.com/index2.php#/home/

Anyhow, in the last several months it seems that I’ve fallen into that “point and shoot for giggles” rut and really haven’t flexed my creativity with the camera all that much. Here and there I will, but not as regularly as in the past. My buddy Jason is currently in grad school studying illustrative arts and is blowing my mind with his work. My good friend Jesse is of course crushing it with his amazing sculptures http://roguestudios.biz/. Similarly, my good friend Eleanor Moseman was just featured in an article in Nikon USA http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Article/hjbkuyyd/going-solo-a-two-wheel-photo-journey-across-asia.html. (No, I don’t even consider myself close to her level of talent!) My long time friend Marc Hudson http://marchudsonartgallery.com/, is also creating amazing things down in Santa Fe. My friend CJ, uber talented http://lathamjrphotography.com/. While they all serve as motivation for me to jump out of the rut and start creating again, I think it was more important for me to rediscover the spark for creativity from within. I personally think the best work always comes from within the heart, regardless of what art medium is chosen.

I had a fantastic mountain biking season, right up until the flooding here in Colorado washed away much of the local trails I loved to ride. I think a lot of the reason this season was so great is that every time I went out to ride, I focused on the ride and living in that very moment. If it was raining, I tried to enjoy it. If it was a day for lung busting climbing, I tried to get into the rhythm and enjoy the process. Blistering fast descents, well, let the adrenaline flow uninterrupted for a few minutes. Because of this, I seldom if ever took my DSLR along and mostly only opted to carry my little point and shoot. Part of that is because it makes me nervous to carry an expensive camera given my propensity to crash and harshly find the ground from time to time. Still, I just wanted to ride for the sake of riding and enjoy the scenery with my eyes.

This morning I was looking back at some of the snapshots I took while biking and stumbled upon a little project I did with my friend Bryan Kramer, who happens to race singlespeed mountain bikes all over the world. He’s a super cool guy who I always love hanging around with because he shares that live-in-the-moment attitude that I find so essential. I think being around him one evening back when I did this project sparked my desire to pick up the camera one morning and play around with some ideas. He fortunately humoured me and met me at sun up to take some photos and let me experiment a bit. Again, I am no “pro”, but it was a fun morning for learning a little about my camera — as well as how I could get my ass kicked by a guy with only one speed on his bike (I sport 30 gears by the way and sometimes would like another).

Looking back through these photos has gotten me back into thinking about formulating similar projects. Yes, I have some travels coming up soon and that is always my time to keep my camera at the ready and be creative, but right now I think I’m ready to narrow the focus and start learning some new things about photography and  some post shooting production methods. Who knows where I’ll take this line of thinking, but I think it’s safe to say I’ll be hitting up some of my friends to use as guinea pigs in the coming weeks. Now that I think about, there’s that living in the one of the most beautiful places on earth that could factor into photographic creativity as well.

Thanks Kramer for getting out on a cold morning back then.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.

Cha-Cha-Changes

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Had I taken the picture above two weeks ago, there would’ve been no whitish hue across the high peaks. However, every year about this time everyone here on the Front Range peeks up that way during their morning commute anticipating the first legitimate dusting of snow signaling the changing of the seasons. Yes, the leaves generally start changing colours a couple of weeks or so before the peaks get hit with white, but seeing the mountains change really opens the door for thoughts of the next season and all the powder days ahead.

Summer is always full of fun times filled with long days of hiking in the mountains amongst beautiful wildflowers, mountain biking along high ridges, strolling along Pearl Street with friends, music festivals, beer tastings and sitting outside at restaurants with friends long into the evenings. Then, invariably, come late August or early September, the wind will pick up one afternoon, it will smell different, maybe the rain comes and voila!, when you walk out the next morning to go to work, you feel that sharp bite in the air and you grab a jacket for the for the first time in three or four months.

When that scenario plays out, my little group of friends will typically kick into emergency mode and start getting all the season’s unfinished projects (mountain biking, climbing, etc) moved to front burner and completed before conditions dictate they be brought to a close. Just a few weeks ago we rode the Monarch Crest, a classic high altitude traverse down in Central Colorado, knowing that our window for dry trails (re:no snow) was closing fast due to the changing seasons. Sure enough, a week after we rode it, severe weather here across most Colorado pretty well closed out that opportunity for another year.

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Another way we “celebrate” the changes of the seasons is by sequestering ourselves into my garage for an evening to prep the coming season’s gear. For the change from summer to winter activities, we have come to affectionately call these little soirees our “Wednesday, Wax and Whiskey Sesh”. These are nights when we pop the top on a beer or sample a little whiskey while we wax and tune our skis. We also catch up on the latest doings in each other’s lives and in the case of this past Monday, start dreaming about all the powder turns we’ll make in the coming season. Of course during the actual ski season, these Wednesday evening sessions (about every 4-5 weeks) will convert over to reminiscing about all the powder turns we’ve made thus far and naturally, those still yet to come.

I feel bad for people who don’t get out each and every season and have things they love to do. If I didn’t ski, winter would seem way longer than it already is. If I only skied and didn’t mountain bike, trail run, climb, fly fish and camp when it’s warm, summer would just be a time when I had to mow twice a week until winter came back. Making the changes from season to season is easy when you fully throw yourself into life and just have fun with what Mother Nature gives us! Like the saying goes, “No such thing as bad weather, only improper gear and clothing”. Embrace the changes!

So, as you see, I’m usually not all that opposed to changes. In fact, I see changes as opportunities for new experiences, new views and new paths. However, sometimes changes can kick you right in the gut, like the loss of a friend or a family pet, both of which happened in my little household this past month. While the passing of life is painful for the people still living, it is one of the realities of existing we simply can’t escape. Sitting along the Bagmati River in Pashupatinath, Nepal a couple of years ago, watching pyre after pyre being built and seeing the steady stream of the deceased being cremated right before my eyes brought this reality home in very guileless and unnervingly graphic terms.

While adapting to changing seasons can be fun, changes like losing the people and things you love is certainly tougher to adapt to. When this does happen, my therapy is generally to get on my bike and go for long, long rides, maybe strap on my skis and go for a nice, long tour in the mountains or simply go camp by a river and just have time to think. The point for me is not to escape, but to experience ALL the emotions fully, without filters. My meditation is to fall into the arms of the places I love and simply let go. When I do this, I can honestly  learn to accept and more importantly, sincerely learn to heal.

Because of my spiritual and philosophical beliefs, I fully accept the reality of change and accept that there is nothing I can do that will ever stop it. What I can do though is live every day to the fullest, tell the people closest to me how much they mean to me, never let an opportunity for fun pass me by and sincerely live with no regrets. I’ll always miss my friends who have passed and definitely will miss the pets that I’ve loved, but I will always have the comfort going forward in knowing I’ve amassed an over-stuffed cache of good memories because I never let a day pass that I wasn’t up for a bit of fun.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live big.

I Didn’t See It On Facebook, But I’m Pretty Sure it Still Happened

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Exactly one month ago I decided to go on a Facebook fast, and I’m feeling better about it daily.

Not really a bold step since I had been paring down “friends” for a while in order to get it down to the people who I actually knew, who I actually had an interest in, and yes, eliminate some people who basically annoyed the crap out of me.

So, being that I found myself having to partake in that culling exercise, one evening I decided to completely deactivate the whole thing — without first posting that I was doing so. I unceremoniously cut the cord and let it drift away. However, after my quiet liberation, I emailed about a dozen of my close friends and told them to just call or email me for a while and let me know what they were up to.

Maybe my idea of what Facebook is supposed to be about is wrong but I thought it was a platform where I could access topics to be entertained, to be amused or to catch up on the latest offerings from businesses I’m interested in. I always like seeing the latest skis, mountain bike gear or seasonal movie premieres from Powderwhore, Teton Gravity, Warren Miller, etc. Instead, it got to the point where all I saw was a constant flow of political and religious opinions (most hateful and bigoted), updates on people’s latest dietary malaise or endless diatribes about why a particular sport or activity is far superior to anything else on earth.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with loving what you do, I guess I just don’t understand why if it’s such a huge part of your life why you would stop doing what you love to log on to a device to let other people know you are doing it. Does it matter if they know? If people love hiking or backpacking “to get away from it all”, why would they stop and reconnect by posting on Facebook that they’re currently hiking or backpacking and getting away from it all? If a person does yoga in order to center their mind-body-soul, isn’t it counterproductive for them to break out of that “centerdom” in order to snap an Instagram photo, key up Facebook and let people know they’re currently in the middle of being centered?

In the last week or so here in the Boulder Valley we’ve had rains that have since been described as “biblical”, “epic”, “historic” and “500 year in nature”. My little neighbourhood had an official total rainfall of 16.8” in a matter of four days. A neighbourhood in South Boulder actually had over 22” in that same time period! It’s been crazy to say the least. News footage of scenic mountain roads getting completely destroyed and seeing people’s homes collapse and fall into raging torrents that were once just babbling mountain streams has been both shocking and heartbreaking. And even more tragic is that people have lost not only their livelihoods, but their very lives.

I admit I was tempted to reactivate my Facebook account to try and get as much information as I could…really tempted in fact. But before I hit the button to open that world up again, I decided I wouldn’t. To be honest, I wanted to keep the experience inside my small little circle of family and friends and sadly, I didn’t want to open myself to the pissing contest I knew would be unfolding where people would be trying to post the most shocking things in order to get “likes” or comments.

I called the people closest to me who I thought might be in harm’s way to make sure they were safe and accounted for and assured them if they needed anything I’d be available. I then watched the news on television and on the internet in order to stay abreast of what was unfolding around us and to keep apprised of the events in my own neighbourhood. Even though I wasn’t dialed into Facebook, I never once felt disconnected to the situation. In fact, I’d say I was more connected because I wasn’t distracted from what was actually happening to me personally. Furthermore, I never felt compelled to post a picture of myself checking our window wells and sump pumps in the basement every half hour to make sure the water wasn’t flowing into the house just to let people know I was experiencing a flood.

After a couple days of positively pouring rain, we got a little break where the flood water began to recede and the sun actually tried to break through for an hour or two. I took that opportunity to jump on my mountain bike and go out to survey the damage in the community as well as a few of the open space trails where I typically ride. It didn’t take long to see just how random and widespread the destruction was since Mother Nature hit our communities hard and without mercy. As I left my house, part of me said to leave my camera at home and just go experience it, but part of me said to take it. As much as I love taking photos I decided I’d take it, plus I could show Donna some of the area when I got back.

It was sad to see our community hurt and bleeding. The trails I normally ride were heavily damaged and in some areas they were completely gone. Creeks that normally had beautiful tree-lined paths and lush parks were completely wiped out. A picturesque turn-of-the-century ranch just down the hill from us had been completely inundated and the land surrounding it scarred deeply. A meandering country lane with nostalgic concrete bridges, reduced to ruins.

This was my community, the one I love and call home and this was how I was seeing it first hand — with my own eyes. Yes, I was shocked. Yes, I was heartbroken. Yes, I saw hope and perserverence as my neighbours were already picking up the pieces though the threat of even more “epic” rain was imminent. I did stop here and there to take a photo (about a half dozen over the couple of hours I was out), but I never once felt the need to validate my experience and emotions by posting them on Facebook. I knew what I had seen and it made me sad. Would a “like” or a comment make it more real? Would it make me feel better for people to feel sorry for our community? Would it make me feel important or add validity because I was “there”? The fact is I felt more connected to the experience by being disconnected. I was free to see it as I needed to see it — see it without filters.

I’ve debated this Facebook thing now for a month and most likely I will reactivate my account in a few weeks, but with a strict set of rules. I want to be entertained and not be preached to, competed with or told incessantly how one thing is far superior to another or how one thing or another is ruining our lives. I know this sounds mean, but if I truly want to make Facebook a tool to entertain me, I myself have to make it what I want and not let it be the dictator. I know getting to that point might mean paring down more “friends”. It’s like watching television. If I don’t like the content on certain channels then I have the very real option to turn it to a different one or discontinue my cable service altogether.

I really do want to see what the people I know and care about are doing, I do. But when looking at my news feed starts to resemble watching reruns of the same old tired dramas or sitcoms day after day after day, well, it’s then that I have to decide whether to change the channel or discontinue my service and catch up the old fashioned way — over a beer.

Although I didn’t see our flood on Facebook, I’m pretty sure it still happened and I didn’t need to “like” it.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live big

I Just Want to Live a Real Life (in more than 140 words)

Photo by Eleanor Moseman

My good friend, Eleanor Moseman (www.wandercyclist.com and www.eleanormoseman.com), and I recently had an interesting conversation about her current project of solo cycling around the borderlands of China and this other dude’s project who rode a motorbike along all those same border countries as part of a television series.

Both he and Ellen have covered more than 20,000 km, she on a bicycle him on a powerful BMW moto, have seen some amazing sights, had interesting adventures and explored incredibly diverse cultures throughout their travels. However, as correlated as these two projects may seem on the surface, I find one far more meaningful than the other. Yes, I’m naturally biased since Ellen is a friend, but I also have some valid arguments for my thinking.

Ellen is an amazing photographer (this is the biased part I referred to above) who has been cycling solo, as in completely by herself, for the better part of two years exploring the vanishing cultures of remote areas of Asia. She’ll hopefully take her photos of these vanishing cultures and her associated adventures and use them as an invaluable educational tool to people who are truly interested in learning more about the region and peoples of where she’s lived and traveled. Seriously, check out her work. It’s honestly pretty amazing.

The guy on the motorbike, who obviously had an entourage of cameramen, fixers and producers, completed his journey in a blisteringly fast 65 days. His journey will now be edited down into six 30-minutes episodes of which 10-12 minutes of the half hour programme will undoubtedly will be festooned with his sponsor’s commercials.  Yep, I’ve watched the trailers from his show and yep, they’re pretty darn cool and have sooo  much promise. However, and this is my opinion only, these are going to be nothing more than shows geared toward our increasingly ADD-prone society who can only take adventures crammed into an amount of space which won’t overly detract from the other 100,000 things coming at us at mach speed. 

A few weeks ago I decided to divorce myself from Facebook and every other form of social media or “connectedness”. Basically I got to that point where it felt like life, as I mentioned above, is being lived in sound bites or collapsed into 140 words or less. And furthermore, Facebook has become not much more than a platform for people to spew their ignorant and irrellevant political opinions, cast out to the masses for reaffirmation of their religious views or a tool to keep us all abreast of their latest riveting trip to the toilet, what they ate for breakfast or what music they’re listening to via Spotify…or whatever else the “app de jour” is.

One of the things Ellen and I talked about (okay, mostly me) was how it seems that people do things now based solely on how cool it will sound in a post on Facebook or twitted or tweeted or whatever the hell a person does with that thing…maybe twatted? I’ve never followed anyone on that and never will. Part of my point was that I believe there is a monumental shift in the motivations people have to live the way they do. With Facebook or Twitter or whatever, everyone now has a megaphone and the race is on to see who can shout the loudest or be the “coolest” amongst their peer group. Pathetic. Remember, being cool on Facebook is like sitting at the cool table in the cafeteria at a mental institute.

It wasn’t too many years ago when I could go climbing, road tripping, mountain biking or skiing and my friends and I would spend a whole day hanging out, talking and doing the things we loved just for the sake of doing it. I have a core love of telemark skiing, mountain biking, ice climbing, long distance running, world travel and road tripping in my increasingly used 10-year old Toyota truck. The love of these things existed long before everyone was handed their cyber megaphone and they’ll exist long after the next app falls from favour. I do these things because I love to do them, period, not because it’d be cool to post something about it Facebook.

True story. I went hiking recently and literally before I could get back home, my friends on Facebook already knew I was out and about and had commented on it because the person(s) I was with had posted a picture on my page using their cell phone app. I’m going to be honest here and say I don’t want the world knowing what I’m doing every second of the day. I don’t put personal things on Facebook and for the most part I don’t want other people “outing me” regarding my whereabouts without me knowing about it first. That said, I was then forced to wade through the ocean of crap on Facebook and figure out how to make my settings such that I will now have to approve what my friends say about me or tag me in. Stupid.

Anyhow, my point or argument to Ellen about the documentary series was that society as a whole will undoubtedly eat it up because it doesn’t require much in the way of long commitment or require much in-depth thought. They can sit down in front of the tele, get 20-minutes of awe-inspiring footage with enough commercial time for them to check and update their Facebook status during the show, then move on to the next part of life that can be reduced to 140 words or less.

The other side of my point to Ellen was that her project will most likely appeal to people like me, who value the mortar holding all the trials and tribulations of solo expedition travel and the corresponding striking images together. I’m equally as interested in what it was like to be there as I am in what came out of it. In our conversation I actually posed this question to her, though I already knew her answer. “When you roll into a remote village, do you look first for the photo ops, things that will “sell”, or do you immerse your soul in the moment and let the photos come to you organically?”. Take one look at her work and you’ll see she’s actually living her life first and foremost. Her work is from the heart and it shows.

I’m glad the few people I ride, ski, climb, philosophise and roam around this planet with see the importance of just letting the moment be what it is and living life on boundless terms… not in 140 words or less.

Gallery

To Me, So Much More.

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Before I left for my travels to Asia last fall I knew some things for absolute certain, and some things I gladly had absolutely no certainty about whatsoever. The things I had no certainty about were many, vast even. For … Continue reading

Simplicity, Honesty, Validation

I was looking back at some of my journals recently and found tons and tons of spirited entries about lots of things that were simple yet extraordinarily moving. Sitting in markets in a faraway country, sitting on a high pass absorbing 360-degree views, eating strange foods from street vendors, sitting with my coffee watching a foreign city awaken to a new day are just some of the things that I’ve wrote countless and countless pages about. It’s the simple things that always pull me back to “center” so much of my travel is spent trying to go as simple (sometimes dirt bag is the correct term) as possible.

I like to think that my appreciation for those simple things filter into most aspects of my life, from the way I live day to day to hopefully the way I capture images with my photographic pursuits. In fact, I try to keep my photos as simple as possible in order to convey that very thing, simplicity.

On Monday of this week I received an email which, for me, validated my efforts and passion for capturing some of these simple images. The email informed me that some of my images were going to be used in a globally recognized publication, one I personally have a great deal of respect for, one of the extremely few.

The best part about this is that I can honestly say that in getting those shots I stayed true to my desire and passion of capturing the simple side of life. I didn’t go looking for the shots, it’s what came at me at the time. I didn’t manipulate the situation, only embraced the moment and let emotions, my own included, dictate the shot. I’m not the best photographer in the world, far from it, but I know my own emotions and perpetually look for simplicity in life and that’s where I think I can make my photos capture something a little different, if only to me.

So getting word from that publication was definitely a nice highlight in my work as a photographer/journalist. However, the day before I actually received something I’m far more proud of and certainly hold as a higher form of validation. I humbly received the Devon Award completely out of the blue.

I don’t know who said it but there was once a quote that went something like “Cats and kids are very much alike, they both know who they can trust in the first second they meet a stranger”. I think we all have that gut instinct about the people we meet but as we become adults we learn to fake our way through uncomfortable interactions so as not to hurt feelings, offend or downright piss off others. Naturally that’s a matter of courtesy and I’m not saying we should stop being nice, but the unfiltered honesty of a cat and a kid can deliver a stinging blow, especially if we take the time to reflect on that honesty.

So, on Sunday I met with a good friend who founded and directs a non-profit organization called Mountain2Mountain www.mountain2mountain.org. Because of our schedules and life, we hadn’t seen each other in quite a while so needed to catch up. Shannon brought her daughter Devon along, who I’d never met until then, and a couple of my best friends also popped over the pass from Vail. It was so incredibly nice to step away from everything for a couple of hours, have a leisurely brunch with great friends and just enjoy life in the mountains.

While we were having brunch, Devon busied herself with her drawings since all the adult conversation was likely about the most boring thing a six year old could possibly endure. As we talked, she quietly went through page after page, filling her sketch book full of amazing drawings. It was pretty impressive that she endured well over an hour of our talk and never once asked to leave or do something different. So dialed into her drawing was she that she even turned down breakfast AND hot chocolate.

Then, just as we readied ourselves to leave and go out for a walk, she handed me one of her drawings (and an envelope) and told me it was “for me”. I was also instructed that the envelope was not to be opened until I got home, to which I promised I wouldn’t…and didn’t.

We walked around town for a while and sat in a park to continue our conversations from brunch. Devon engaged herself again with climbing on rocks, putting shards of sandstone into fun designs and stopping by every once in a while to point out the chipmunk (through she was convinced it was a ferret) sunning himself. As we sat there I thought a lot about what it meant to have received that drawing from her. I actually thought about the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that goes something like, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Naturally I had my camera with me and several times there in the park I wanted to pull it out of its case and snap some photos of Devon. Every time I thought about it, I couldn’t. Not sure why actually, but I couldn’t. Maybe it was that I knew all to well I could never capture the emotion I had of being accepted as a person through the unfiltered eyes of a six year old. Any photo I took wouldn’t do justice in my mind. Or maybe it was just one of those moments where the camera needed to stay holstered and I needed to enjoy life for what it was in that moment.

This was on Sunday, word came about my photos on Monday. While Monday’s news was amazingly validating for the photography work I’d done, receiving the Devon Award the day prior definitely put everything into the context it needed to be put into. Yes, I had captured simplicity of emotion in a couple of photos and it was luckily recognized by a publication I respect, but to live my life honestly enough to have it recognized by such an awesome kid is far greater validation to me than any publication, buyer, critic or editor could ever bestow upon me.

For a person who laothes the thought of putting any awards in my office or hanging my diploma for all to see, I have no hesitation at all at proudly displaying my Devon Award.

Thank you Devon. I hope I can always live up to your expectations.