Portraits are some of the most difficult things for me to shoot and at the same time some of my favorite. While there is a wide range of subject matter within my work the focus for has always been authenticity. Is it natural and believable? These are the same questions I ask when I shoot people. Are they smiling for the camera or is that a genuine look? If a loved one saw the images would they recognize them as being true? Natural or strobe lighting, close-up or environmental, the goal is the same.
I have strange feet. Morton’s toe, sixth toe, fat toes, and eeee width. Usually I don’t notice them, but when it comes to putting them in climbing shoes, boots and ski boots I am well aware of them and have tried to take care. This past January I did a terrible job.
It was during an outing in the Tetons. We hoped to snag the first winter ascent of the Triple Glacier Route on the north side of Mt Moran. On day one our group skied across Jackson Lake and climbed up to a camp on the north shoulder. No feet problems.
The second day we woke to fierce winds and sub-zero temperatures (in Jackson they reported -20). Bundled to the max we made our way to the Triple Glaciers, spied a possible path from the glacier, up the snow tongue to a section of rock that connected to the upper snowfields. If we could make it there we hoped to make it to the summit. Above the glacier we wallowed in waist deep faceted snow in a 50-degree couloir. We searched for protection and positive edges in the glacially polished rock next to the couloir, but never found any. The guidebook had described the rock as unpleasant. After some back and forth and up and down, we chose to retreat. So much standing around and my toes had gone numb.
Going up had been relatively easy, but for my friend from California, going down was a bit more daunting. He deliberately set each of his limbs in the sugary slope. Left foot, right foot, left ice ax and right. I marched in place trying to will the blood back to my toes and spoke to him calmly about sunshine and women. I didn’t want him to rush. An accident up there was out of the question.
Eventually we were back on the glacier, moving, blood pumping and out of harms way. In the tent I found my toes to be white and insensitive. The next morning the big toe of my right foot was swollen. I gritted my teeth and stuffed my foot into my boot. There was only one way back to the car so I grinned and went down. It hurt.
The following night, in a warm bed, I didn’t sleep. My toes throbbed. Closer inspection revealed a blister beneath my big toe nail and two pea-sized white spots that eventually turned black. The rest of the toes were still numb despite being warm to the touch. This was not happiness.
As a child I was told not to run. Being an asthmatic it took several attacks and a couple of visits to the emergency room to get the point across that, no, really I shouldn’t run. It was a time before rescue inhalers and treatment was simple. Be sedate. As you can imagine for a kid this is fairly impossible to do, but I did my best. Anything that put distance between the uncomfortable bouts of my body trying to suffocate itself was welcomed.
When it came to athletics I had a note from my mother excusing me from running activities at school, but when I learned that in order to receive the Presidential Physical Fitness Award you had to finish one mile in a given time I made up my mind that I would run.
After finishing my first mile I was surprised that I hadn’t struggled to pull air into inflamed lungs. The second time I ran faster. The school course was loops around the building. Each time we ran the mile I’d increase the intensity with every lap pushing myself to the point where I couldn’t feel the asphalt beneath my feet. It felt like running in the clouds. I received the award in 5th grade and have not stopped running since.
Turned out that it wasn’t the exercise that triggered the attacks, but certain substances that irritated my lungs. I haven’t outgrown the disease, but have learned how to manage it with the right treatment and knowledge of the possible triggers. Today I rarely run on clouds, but it still feels #$%? good. Anyone want to go for a run?