I believe in wilderness. What about you?

larevalo_perch_0814_0214-2In 2014 the Wilderness Act celebrated 50 years with 109,511,966 million acres of protected wilderness in the United States.

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” Lyndon B. Johnson

This August I had the chance to head into the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho for an alpine climbing, backcountry camping and hiking experience. Joining organic chemistry PhD student Shiho Kobayashi and English Professor Bo Earle at the Redfish Lodge near Stanley, Idaho we boarded a motorboat carrying packs filled with food, camping gear, ropes and random items to see us through the next few days. Dropped at the Redfish Lake Inlet we entered the Sawtooth Wilderness Area and began the approach to Saddleback Lakes home of Saddleback Peak, aka Elephant’s Perch.Shiho Kobayashi and Bo Earle backpack into the Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.

On the trail our conversation drifted from literature to poetry to philosophy and even to beliefs. When asked what I believed in I could only respond, “Energy.” Personally, I lean toward the Buddhist thought that everything in the universe is connected. I even wear a tattoo on my back of an endless knot as a reminder.

In the morning twilight we awoke in camp high above the lowest of the Saddleback Lakes. Coffee was brewed and our spirits were high. Up to the golden wall we started up the line named Myopia. Climbing as a party of three could have been a struggle, but it wasn’t. “We’re a well oiled machine,” became our mantra as we managed the constant cluster of two ropes, dehydration and nerves while committing to the climb.larevalo_perch_0814_0031

Looking out from the belays we could see the other lakes and marveled at their marine color rimmed by a surreal turquoise. The jagged ridgelines surrounding us held occasional pine tree that stood in utter defiance of the inhospitable terrain.larevalo_perch_0814_0051

The next morning had us up early and to the rock for another route. I traveled only a couple pitches up before descending. I’d climbed the Beckey route before and with a forecast of afternoon thunderstorms I didn’t want to slow Shiho and Bo down.larevalo_perch_0814_0103

From camp and the lakes I watched their progress as clouds rolled in. A brief shower fell from the sky.larevalo_perch_0814_0171 Thunder rumbled from the unknown to the south. Pitch after pitch they continued up. The thunder ceased and the ceiling of clouds lifted some. As they disappeared on the summit dome a gust a wind rippled over the dark surface of the lakes. Hail fell from the sky then the sun appeared. The west face of Saddleback Peak burned amber in the late afternoon light while they made their final rappel.

The following day we managed one pitch before being rained off the wall. We rolled our camp into our packs and shouldered the weight. Walking down, out of the Sawtooth Wilderness we wore content smiles. I was still thinking about the question of what I believed and recalled a quote from Aldo Leopold.

“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.”

No Worse… Thoughts on photographing people.

Yoga, City of Rocks, Idaho.
Yoga, City of Rocks, Idaho.

A few years back I attended a presentation by Dave Stoecklein. (If you are not familiar with his work you should check it out.) As a photographer of western lifestyle Dave has thousands of authentic images of people living their country ways. Wrangler jeans to handlebar mustaches he’s got images of beautiful people and full-on characters. Somewhere in the presentation the subject of model releases came up and he pulled up a slide of a “photographer agreement” that he had been asked to sign by some the folks at a ranch he was shooting. It was humorous, something about not making them look any dirtier or more ugly than they already were. Once the laughter quieted Dave explained. As a photographer you have a responsibility to represent the people you are shooting in the correct light. Most if not all of the folks he shoots are real-life ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, horse people, etc. Being allowed into their lives he explained it would be in poor taste to show the awkward images that are part of the job. (We’re talking about the shots where their eyes are closed, mouth mid-word, weird stride, or the stuff between that makes you look off. He wasn’t talking humor.) For Dave it’s about building trust.

Mike Kaserman climbs Center Trinity, LIttle Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.
Mike Kaserman climbs Center Trinity, LIttle Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

This is a subjective guideline, but it’s something I constantly consider in my work. From portraits to skiing I recall Dave and try not to make anyone look any worse than they really are.

Eddee Johanson, Murray, Utah.
Eddee Johanson, Murray, Utah.
Story Von Holzhausen running in Plattsburgh, NY.
Story Von Holzhausen running in Plattsburgh, NY.
WWII Vet, Ted Olson, wraps up lunch at Big Apple Pizza, Salt Lake City, Utah.
WWII Vet, Ted Olson, wraps up lunch at Big Apple Pizza, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Amanda Fox practices yoga in Chatauqua Park, Boulder, CO.
Amanda Fox practices yoga in Chatauqua Park, Boulder, CO.

Outdoor Retailer Summer 2014.

Bryon Weddell makes his way toward the summit of Mount Kemmell, British Columbia.
Bryon Weddell makes his way toward the summit of Mount Kemmell, British Columbia.

The semi-annual Outdoor Retailer show is in Salt Lake this week. This signals one of my least favorite things about my work… Self promotion.

While the show offers me a huge opportunity to meet new people and stay connected with ones I already know it does feel a bit daunting at times. Putting myself out there is completely out of my comfort zone.

For this show I will just imagine it’s another day in the mountains, taking one step at a time, slowly, slowly getting closer to the distant summit.

Hope to see you there…