Aurora Photos is proud to support and stand with Access Fund in their fight to support Bears Ears National Monument. We hope that by providing visuals, we can create context for people who have never been there, and positively impact decisions to protect our public lands.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In contrast to some other national holidays, Thanksgiving offers us the opportunity to focus on our selves and our place in the world as something more than just passive consumers. Amid the frenzy of food preparation, cooking, and table setting, I choose instead to take the opportunity to consider the place that the food has in my life, and my place in the food chain. Whether you eat animals or not, Thanksgiving, with its focus on sharing a central meal, offers an opportunity to reflect on the roles of hunting, agriculture, and human interdependence.
Our modern food supply chain bears more resemblance to the idealized “simpler times” than you’d think – even in the 17th century, there was specialization of roles. I reflect during this meal on the ways we rely on our local farmers, our own gardens, and for some of us, the hunters, fishermen, and foragers in our families. I like to give thanks for the people who care both for and about food year round, and who make sure we have access to healthy meals. It’s also worth reflecting that there are many people in our own communities that don’t always have the same access.
The fresh foods and garden veggies are not the only opportunity to increase and share healthy habits with our loved ones. Thanksgiving gets its name from the giving of thanks for our bounties, and recent studies have confirmed that just the act of giving thanks has myriad health benefits for our selves and our communities, increasing pro-social interaction, physical health, and sleep, while reducing the aggression that is in so many ways encouraged and fostered the very next day – the capitalistic feeding frenzy known as Black Friday.
The outdoors provides us with so much, it’s hard to pick just a few things to feel grateful for. The opportunity to connect with history by growing and stewarding lesser-known heirloom varieties of crops; places to explore, both large and small; an escape from constant electronic stimulations and distractions; (hopefully) safe interactions with, and observations of wildlife; and inspiration. Our photographers, and the outdoors, are the pillars of Aurora — without open, wild spaces, the quiet refuge of the woods, the mystery of the sea, or even a space for recreation in their backyard, they’d be unable to work or play. Here are some of the things our photographers are grateful to the outdoors for.
– Nate Adams and Larry Westler, Aurora Photos
“I’m thankful for the ability to enjoy the public lands that surround us. From paddling out to surf at 7am in the Pacific Ocean, to skiing endless powder in the backcountry of the Wasatch Mountains, to hiking around the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m grateful for these places that have had immense impact on my life and business.”
“My job takes me around the globe to some of the world’s most beautiful and interesting places. I climb mountains and ride bikes and go for runs for a living! I’m always meeting new people and being challenged by friends I know in the industry. While hours in airports and security lines can be annoying, all I have to do is sit back and think about how I’m not in a cubicle 40 hours a week. For this I am thankful!”
(EDITORS NOTE: Chris is ALSO thankful for the staff at Aurora Photos who do have to spend some of their time in an office, albeit not a cubicle)
“I am thankful for the mountains that surround my home, and for the cold storms that bring in moisture off the Pacific and dump meters of snow. I love to explore the mountains in all conditions, but am extremely thankful to be able to explore them in the winter season, snowboarding powder with my camera, capturing everyone’s excitement. Snowboarding keeps you young at heart and it shows, when you see full-grown men with a child-like grin shining through snow-filled beards.”
“When I was 26 years old, my body started attacking itself, and I was told by doctors that I needed to accept that, learn to manage it, and find a new normal. I decided to fight back instead, for five excruciating years. Every year, the anniversaries of the onset of the symptoms, the final treatments, the loss of my law enforcement career pass, and I am grateful. I’m grateful for health restored completely, and grateful for an experience that made me focus on making life more of what I love and less of what I though it “should” be. I’m grateful to be able to see and document places that I can only access under human power, when that human power was almost lost to me 14 years ago. I guess I found a new normal. . . a life of adventure and beauty and gratitude. . . because even the roughest experiences can hold within them the greatest lessons and outcomes.”
“I’m thankful for the sea which has inspired and amazed me since I was a toddler. It is the sea that has allowed me to have such a long career as a photographer. From living in Australia to living in Hawaii and traveling around to so many other places in the world, the ocean has always been the one constant that I could always rely on. I add to my photographic archive from the sea on a usually every other day basis. It’s my daily exercise routine as well as my spiritual place. I am one with the sea.”
“I am thankful for the seasons in Hawaii. Folks who don’t know any better assume that because the weather is nice all year, we don’t have seasons. Incorrect. My two favorite seasons here are Mango Season and Big Wave Season. I often crave sweets after coming out of salt water, and it is really hard to top wrapping up a fun surf or free-dive session by picking and cutting into a fresh, sweet mango. The feeling of being in massive, powerful surf (or even being on shore witnessing it) is one of the most humbling, awesome (and at times unsettling) experiences I know. And the fact that these cycles only come around for a short time each year make them even more precious.”
“I am currently on a one year trip around the globe, and it’s hard to express how amazing and diverse our world is, when limited to words. So far, I have explored mountains, oceans, forests, and savannas, and all of them have inspired me and made my heart beat faster. I am grateful for the ability to see this beauty, to feel the wind on my skin, and to smell the fresh air. Thanks, the world! You are fantastic!”
“I am thankful for the extreme diversity of natural ecosystems that create a stunning mosaic-like landscape in the tiny corner of SW British Columbia that I call home. I am well-travelled, yet every time I step off the plane at Vancouver International Airport I am thankful to be back; back to a culturally rich, melting pot of humanity, that has more outdoor adventure opportunities than your brain can handle. Where else can you indulge in world-class skiing, mountain biking, fishing, scuba diving, climbing, camping, canoeing and kayaking in one day…if you could fit it all in? The landscapes that surround me inspire exploration, creation, adventure, and a passion for conservation. They instill in us a greater responsibility to care for the place we all call home.”
“I am thankful for my local farmers, especially at Thanksgiving time. I appreciate those who toil to bring us sustenance, who turn the soil, pick the produce and milk the cows, so that we can nourish our bodies. The farmers I know – who don’t just work the land but work WITH the land, whose livelihoods depend on the cycle of the seasons, whose lives are intertwined with those of their plants and animals – have a different connection with the earth, with life and death, and with the sacred than the rest of us. There is a part of me that thinks we all should be farmers, at least for some part of our lives, and that might help us transform our relationship with the earth from one of dominion to one of stewardship.”
“I’m thankful for the personal connections that grow through working as a photographer. It might be slogging into the backcountry with a crew, hanging out by the campfire with an art director or shivering in the cold while sharing a belay with an athlete; these are the moments that grow into long-lasting friendships. Exploring and appreciating the outdoors brings us all together. So I send out a huge thank you to all the amazing people that I get to work, play and hang around with. Have an extra slice of pie on me!”
Robert van Waarden
‘Today, looking out the window, my 1 year old son says to me, “I can see the larch.” The rest of the trees have lost their leaves and the yellowing larches stand out like a child’s sore, but beautiful, thumb. He reminds me of the importance of little things and the small details of changing seasons. Of details that I embrace and capture through my lens that remind us this planet, our only home, is worth fighting for.’
In 2012, the first International Highline Meeting festival was held in Monte Piana, Italy, and attracted “thrillseekers,” eager to showcase their slackline skills in a more extreme environment and feel a sense of community. Austria-based outdoor adventure photographer Sebastian Wahlhuetter teamed up with hammock manufacturer Ticket To The Moon to add a rather distinct twist to the event, and to help put on the event in various locations each year. We sat down with Sebastian to learn more about this ongoing unique event, his involvement with it and what makes someone climb into a hammock thousands of feet above land.
Aurora Photos: Unfortunately, it looks like this great event was canceled this year. How long have you been involved with Ticket To The Moon, and how long have you been involved in planning these events?
Sebastian: Yes, unfortunately the “Monte Piana Highline Meeting” was canceled this year and last; however, we still created hammock gatherings those 2 years. In 2016 it took place in Bosnia at the “Drill and Chill,” and this year we moved back to Italy again but to a different place, a festival called Bismantova. So far there have been 5 big gatherings. I have been involved with Ticket to the Moon for around 6 years now and planning these events for around 4 years.
AU: How did you first get involved with the event and the hammock company? How do you choose the location for each year?
SW: The manager of TTTM Europe, Igor Scotland, is a good friend of mine and also a highline athlete. That’s how we initially met – through a highline photo shoot many years ago. When I heard about this hammock project I was totally taken by the idea and together we developed the initial project further. There is no fixed plan for where and when the gatherings will happen, but since the organization takes a lot of time and energy, we usually combine it with festivals that highline athletes are attending anyway. This makes it easier, since these athletes usually know what they are doing on such a set up and how to deal with the exposure and still have fun. And fun is an important part of this whole thing!
AU: I imagine organizing something like this is a huge process. Are there any special permits you need for the hammocks? I believe there are a few places it’s illegal within the US to slackline; are there any places you’re unable to slack / high line in Europe?
SW: There are no special permits for the hammocks, outside the permits we’re already getting for the high lines as part of the festival. Highlining itself is quite a gray area. It is mostly tolerated but there are also places where it is not so easy. Further, in Austria you need to clear every single highline a couple of days in advance with the aviation authority since there are a lot of rescue and supply helicopters around that need to know about such obstacles. It’s pretty simple though and just an online form to be filled out. Other countries have other rules. One of the more problematic parts is building new anchors since you can not come everywhere and just bolt a couple of anchors to set up your line. There are also areas like Saxon Switzerland, where bolting or any use of cams, etc. is prohibited, so you can only set up highlines with natural anchors (usually loads of slings around a tower). So there are different regulations for different areas.
AU: Last year, you said there were 17 hammocks with 19 people, and the majority are professional athletes who are all pretty comfortable in this situation. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen someone doing at this event?
SW: Hmmm…craziest thing? Not sure about that. I don’t think that there were lot of “crazy” things happening. Once one of the participants tried to surf the line while all the others were in the hammocks. That looked pretty sketchy. The coolest, most impressive thing I’ve gotten to witness was the live performed music at the rainbow gathering in Monte Piana 2015, where some people brought instruments and actually jammed incredibly well together!
AU: Most people think of high liners as daredevils. On the other side of things, it looks to me like they are calculated risk takers who prepare extremely well for an adventure. Can you tell me a bit about what kind of personality / makeup / skills a person needs to be successful at highline or slackline?
SW: Yes, I totally agree with the latter. Highlining is probably one of the safest sports I know. Since they have to take so much flak for being risk takers the whole sport is extremely well calculated, down to every last detail. I don’t believe there have been any fatal incidents. So as long as we are not talking about free soloing or the hunt for the next world record (probably something like 2 miles), I am confident to say that this sport is solid safe. However, that does not mean that highlining is not totally mentally demanding. Sitting on a one inch webbing exposed hundreds of feet in the air and thinking/trying to stand up is psychologically still one of the most challenging and intense things I have done. Even though you know nothing can happen.
For example, the setup for the hammocks on the highline is a quite sophisticated rig with multiple redundancies to keep the whole action extremely safe. There is also live force measurement done with a force cell to always see how much workload is on the line. Bottom line: It’s safe and all the people involved are secured and attached directly to the line. No one is “just” laying in a hammock.
About the personality – well I think this depends as in any sport on ones ambition. If you want to make a career as an athlete (not that there would be many who did), you have to train and practice and step up your mental game quite a bit with a solid strategy and training. In general, literally everyone can step on a slackline and learn to walk a decent amount of meters. However, before you try to step on a highline you have to be quite solid in your ground skills – otherwise you have no chance to even get up. In my career I met all kinds of athletes – those who treat it more as a hobby and enjoy the mere art of balancing. For those people distance and records are not important. But there are also those who are totally focused on getting better, higher, longer and who follow more the competitive approach just like in any sport.
AU: All adventure sports require a unique mentality / different gear set ups to capture great photos. Do you have a favorite set-up?
SW: That depends on the project. I usually have to carry my gear some distance in an alpine environment or even climb with it so I always think twice what I take. Basically I work with a Canon setup of fixed (35, 50) and zoom (16-35, 24-70, 70-200) lenses and I usually bring some external lightning. Recently I started using two Elinchrome ELB400 setups with Spot-Reflectors since they are small but powerful and fit together with my other gear in one backpack (yes it took me awhile to find that position where everything fits in one bag!). I work with several Mindshift gear bags since they have a great line up with different bags for different needs (hanging on a rope, hiking long distances, etc…).
AU: Do you slack line or highline yourself? If so, how did you first get involved in it?
SW: I used to slackline pretty much in my past several years ago and did it long before most people here in Europe even knew what this is. It all started when a climbing colleague came around 15 years ago with a photo of someone walking the spire in Yosemite and so we did some research and built our own version of a slackline. I also walked some short highlines in my life, mostly so that I can say I’ve done it! But nowadays I almost don’t slackline anymore since the photographic part consumes most of my resources when on such projects. Also, my personal focus shifted more towards climbing over the years.
AU: Have YOU ever gotten in one of the hammocks?
SW: Yes – if you managed to get on the highline in the first place than being in a hammock is not the problem 😉 Probably the most difficult part is to get into it but once you have managed that you just enjoy the view.
Sebastian Wahlhuetter is a professional editorial and commercial photographer based in Austria who has been featured on National Geographic’s site, Red Bull Adventure and Illume, and in magazines like Rock & Ice, Men’s Health and Outdoor-magazine. His personal focus is on the outdoors, and environmental themes ranging from alpine photography to urban adventures. See more of Sebastian’s adventure photography, including highline, urban slackline, and free running here!
Autumn is one of our favorite times of year, for many reasons (NOT the proliferation of pumpkin-spice-everything): Apple picking, hot cider, root vegetable harvests, crisp air, explosions of color, World Series / NBA opening night, holidays that bring us together, pumpkin carving, and let’s not forget, mocking pumpkin spice products. Our photographers shared their own list of favorite places and activities in autumn, and what makes their spot the best spot in the fall months.
Upper Owens River near Mammoth Lakes, CA
The water flows quietly, meandering around wide, sweeping turns where Browns and Rainbows are sometimes coaxed from small pockets of deeper water. Fishing the Upper Owens River near Mammoth Lakes, California, is like spending time with your best friend. It’s a place of solitude and comfort where no one needs to talk to understand the magic of being together. Set amid beautiful views of the Eastern Sierra range where faint glimmers of the idle lifts on Mammoth Mountain can be seen for miles, it’s where I’ve returned time again to create memories with my wife and son. As the summer crowds thin-out and the winter crowds still a few months away, fall is the best time to visit “The Owens,” as my family affectionally refers to the river. Tall grass, long shadows and silence, minus perhaps the moo of an errant cow grazing nearby, is what draws us to The Owens each fall. My son (pictured) learned to fish here as a youngster and loves every chance to return. He says it’s for the fishing but, of course, I always said the same thing. The truth is, no one in my family cares if we feel the tug of a trout as we wander along the river in a cool breeze. It’s about the warm feeling you get when you return to that special place every year. – Todd Bigelow
Illal Meadows, BC
The hike in to Illal Meadows, in southwest British Columbia is well worth the reward for effort. There are numerous tarns and mountain views in all directions with plenty of great options for lakeside camping. I try my best to make it up to the meadows at least once a year, ideally in autumn. I love wandering through the colorful alpine meadows, feeling the crisp cold air, watching the golden sunsets and eating the plethora of late season blueberries that can be found here! The three peaks of varying difficulty accessible from the meadows (Illal Peak, Jim Kelly Peak (pictured) and Coquihalla Mountain), combined with the stunning landscape and scenery, make this area a great weekend destination for hiking, climbing, and camping. – Chris Kimmel
Humphrey’s Ledge, North Conway, NH
North Conway is an absolute zoo between mid September and mid October. Europeans, Asians, mid-westerners and anyone else within a days drive descend on out neck of the woods. They also loose all common sense and driving etiquette. I’ve seen a bus load of people standing in the middle of the highway taking selfies with the fall foliage on the side of the road.
So this time of year requires locals to run for the hills, cliffs or remote spots to stay safe. Even a five minute walk off of the road cuts the crowds dramatically. One of my favorite local retreats is Humphrey’s Ledge a short drive from town, it’s got some bouldering under a canopy of maples that turn bright orange this time of year. A bit further up the hill is the cliff proper and it’s a bit scruffy but it faces south and stays warm on those chilly fall days. After one pitch up our little valley stretches out, blanketed in a crazy mix of colors only New England can produce. – Joe Klementovich
Cranberry bogs, Cape Cod, MA
Every fall, the cranberry bogs in my small town on Cape Cod are transformed from dull fields into exquisite bogs of floating red berries. To harvest the berries, cranberry growers like Ray Thacher, whose crew is working in this photo, flood the bogs with water and the berries float to the top. They can then be “racked” together and then vacuumed up into a waiting truck. Ray’s family has been growing cranberries for over 60 years on Cape Cod and I love the visual transformation their work brings about. Visitors as well as local residents often stop beside bogs this time of year and watch the cranberry growers at work. And while most of us associate cranberries with Thanksgiving, there are so many things other delicious things to make with cranberries besides a sauce for turkey like cranberry scones, cranberry pancakes, cranberry butter, cranberry granola, cranberry smoothies, cranberry-glazed ham and even cranberry margaritas! – Julia Cumes
Mount Superior, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
Mount Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, is a hike I had always wanted to do but never seemed to find the time. On my last day living in Utah a friend and I finally made it out to do the South Ridge of Mount Superior. This is more of a scramble then a hike. Lots of exposure and expansive views are encountered along the way as you gain over 2600 feet to the peak at 11,040 feet. The route we took on the way down (The Cardiff Pass Trail) was much more mellow. The elevation gain was still intense over a short distance, but much less exposure and risk of falling, but still an amazing viewpoint of the Wasatch Mountains, especially as the setting sun casts its yellow glow on the nearby peaks.
Fall is the perfect time to do this hike. The summer heat is gone, with the cool crisp nip of fall in the air. The Aspen trees in the canyon have started to change. Vibrant yellows shine all over the mountainsides and even little bit of snow has started to cover the north faces up high. A quick jaunt up from Salt Lake, hiking Mount Superior is a perfect afternoon activity if you find yourself in town for a weekend, or for an entire season. If you are searching for a solid work out and amazing views of Little Cottonwood Canyon, a hike up iconic Mount Superior is a great way to get both. – Ben Girardi
Door County, WI
One of my favorite roads in our entire state of Wisconsin is at the very tip of Door County, a favorite vacation spot for many folks (quite possibly due to the numerous apple and cherry orchards). Often simply referred to as “the winding road in Door County,” this unique must-see landmark should be attributed to Jens Jensen, the famed Danish-born landscape architect that influenced this amazing spot. Jensen founded The Clearing, a Door County school for landscape architects. I always wanted to go in the fall and got lucky when a trio of corvette’s came through. The curvy road looks like it goes on forever but it actually stops where you can board a ferry to Washington Island. To get this shot I compressed the curves using a long lens and had to stand in the middle of the road. My wife had my back! – Jeffrey Phelps
Lake George, NY
Much may have changed since Thomas Jefferson described it as “… the most beautiful water I ever saw”, but Lake George in New York’s Adirondack Mountains remains among the most beautiful lakes in the U.S., even more so when fall foliage blankets the shores with the jewell tones of autumn. While there is no shortage of beautiful hiking around Lake George, one of my favorites for a quick outing is the roughly 1 mile trail to the Pinnacle on the Lake’s western shore. Short enough for an after work hike and family friendly, the trail offers a big payoff with a breathtaking panorama of the Lake. It is also the perfect spot to watch the sun rise with a thermos of coffee for a great start to the day. – Zaneta Hough, The Open Road Images
Anywhere on my Bike
Autumn, with its vivid colors, sights and smells, is my favorite time of year to ride my bike. Every time I pedal out of the driveway I instantly revert to my mischievous 8 year-old self – skidding through every leaf pile, speeding through the tunnels of luminosity with a racing heart and a broad grin on my face. – Bob Allen
Crystal Mill, Elk Mountains, CO
One day its hot and your paddling down the river, the next your trudging your way up a mountain through snow. Somewhere between those days is Autumn and we’re gifted with perfect cool weather for hiking and the most amazing display of color among the aspen trees. Grab a friend and venture deep into the Elk Mountains of Colorado to the Crystal Mill. – Brandon Huttenlocher
Boston Hill Farm, Andover, MA
The only thing that has changed at Boston Hill Farm in Andover, Massachusetts, is us. We have been going to pick up our pumpkins there every fall for the past eight years. The hay rides are just as bumpy, the cider donuts just as yummy, the foliage just as vibrant. But now my boys pull each other in the radio flyer wagons, carry their own pumpkins and…..sigh…..no longer let me pick out their clothes. I plan to take them back again this year- and despite some preteen eye-rolling- I know they will still have fun searching the fall fields for the perfect jack-o-lantern. Even if they aren’t wearing absolutely adorable overalls. – Laurie Swope
Eastern Sierra, CA
Here in the Eastern Sierra, October ushers in crisp temps and the explosion of Fall colors. Trout are hungry and although every drainage in the region is active with fisherman, the fishing pressure of summer is significantly reduced. Mountains are alive with preparations for winter as wildlife is on the move. Migratory birds are passing through overhead, mule deer return from their summer hangouts and the local black bear population is preparing for hibernation. Cooler temps are perfect for hiking and the backcountry is almost deserted. Day hikes and longer backpack trips are solitary adventures in this quiet season. Fall is the BEST season on the Eastside. – Rick Saez
King Range National Conservation Area, CA
I was thrilled to be able to share this autumn, a special time of year for me, with friends on Lost Coast Trail in Northern California. Located in the rugged and remote King Range National Conservation Area, with no major roads nearby, the area is secluded and mostly untouched by man. Along the hike, the golden grasses of costal prairies sway in the ocean breeze and glow during the vibrant Pacific sunsets. Often you will see and hear sea lions basking in the afternoon sun. The intertidal zones of this trail are also unique. For several miles, the trail is only accessible during low tide. Autumn has less visitors on the 24 miles of desolate shoreline and provides a fantastic solitary getaway, setting this trail apart from the rest. – Michael Okimoto
Oxtongue Lake, ON
Autumn is a great time for two of my favorite activities – mountain biking and canoeing! Canoeing in autumn is truly magical for many reasons; no mosquitoes for one! Also because of the cooler temperatures you almost always have some degree of mist in the early mornings. It lends an ethereal, timeless sense to an early morning paddle on a calm, flat lake. When you’re in this “zone” paddling becomes effortless. In this photo my friend Bill is paddling on Oxtongue Lake, just outside Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada, a prime canoeing destination. This image is one of my all-time favorites; in fact, a friend recently created an abstract painting from this photo that we now have hanging on our wall. – Henry Georgi
Autumn in Greenland is one of the most magical places in the world. The Arctic tundra starts turning brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red in late August into mid-September, and provides stark contrast to the rocky, rugged, and sometimes icy surrounding landscapes. This particular location along the shoreline of Disko Island off the coast of Greenland across Disko Bay from Ilulissat is one of the most magical places I’ve come across in my travels. It took some hiking from the tiny community of Qeqertarsuaq to find, but once we crossed over the crest of a hill about 3 or 4 miles out, this scene unfolded before our eyes and took our breaths away. Autumn colours, waterfalls, crazy basalt columns…and icebergs. It truly had it all. We called it, and still call it (I’ve been back, twice): Arctic Eden. – Dave Brosha
Hamilton Falls, Jamaica, VT
This photo is actually a reflection turned upside down. It’s of Hamilton Falls, a 150 foot waterfall in Jamaica, VT. I try to make an annual trip up to Vermont every Columbus Day weekend because foliage is usually at it’s peak in the area. There are endless hidden streams, trails, and scenic barns down winding dirt roads in Vermont. If you look hard enough you can find new gems just off the road or deep down a trail. What makes this area even more special are the lack of crowds. Vermont draws “leaf peepers” from around the world, but you won’t get frustrated by tons of tourists. There’s always a sense of serenity. – Matt Andrew
Payette River, ID
This spot on the North Fork of the Payette is chock-full of people all summer long. Once autumn is here, they just disappear, and by midweek everywhere in town becomes my own private Idaho! I especially love this stretch of the river because of all the twists and turns, the massive trees and the hidden but easy access. – Melissa Shelby
Mile High Stadium, CO
For my family, Fall will always be about October baseball, my husband’s birthday and Denver Broncos football. Attending a game on a crisp autumn Sunday, the stadium buzzes with energy and the fans joyously cheer with a contagious and inspired enthusiasm. The friendly confines of Mile High have been a place of comfort for four decades for my family, so each Sunday standing in a warm shimmering sun with a cool Rocky breeze surrounding the wave of Orange feels like home. Fall and subsequently football brings family and friends together. – Leslie Parrott