Sunny Stroeer – Grand Staircase Escalante Adventures

Libby looking at map while sitting on stand-up paddleboard, as Alli drinks from her lifestraw in the background. Lake Powell, Utah, USA
“Let’s do something that’s ACTUALLY fun.” Libby Sauter, Yosemite bigwall climber extraordinaire, turns to me with a pleading look while we’re huffing and puffing and shivering in the Argentinian cold at 18,000ft. “I mean it. Let’s get this mountain over with, and then let’s go somewhere remote and adventurous - but the type of adventure that’s WARM and FUN.” We’re just barely halfway through a brutally difficult six-week speed record mission on 22,838ft Aconcagua, capturing content for adidas Outdoor, and we’re already brainstorming our next project.
Cathedral in the Desert is a partially submerged sidearm of Glen Canyon and one of Lake Powell's many spectacular natural treasures. As water levels in the lake recede, more of Cathedral in the desert becomes accessible to intrepid explorers. Utah, USA. Self portrait.
Three months and one high-altitude speed record later I am still huffing and puffing, but this time in a very different setting. Libby, myself and our friend Allison are standup paddle boarding on Lake Powell as part of a multi-sport adventure - the very adventure that was conceived during those long cold days on Aconcagua. This time we’re focused on advocacy rather than on the quest for standout athletic performance: we want to playfully explore Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, to capture images and stories that can help advocate for the preservation of these tremendous landscapes.
Libby and Alli canyoneering through narrow Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA
Libby, Alli and I start out with long slow days of desert trail running and canyoneering before packing up to embark on a two night / three day SUP backpack. We each carry forty pounds of gear - paddleboards, overnight and emergency gear, and my full camera kit - cross-country along miles of remote and difficult slick rock terrain as we gradually descend into the hot maze of canyons that defines Lake Powell. Five hours after setting out from our vehicles we finally reach the lakeshore, tucked away deep in the sunless bend of a canyon.
Libby and Alli trail running down hill through desert in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA
This is where we’ll inflate our paddle boards and take to the water. But this is also where Libby discovers that she only packed in the blade of her three-piece collapsible paddle and not the shaft, which throws a bit of a wrench into our plans to SUP dozens of miles in the next 48 hours. Hiking back to the cars to retrieve the missing shaft would be a ten hour round trip and is out of the question, but as the old adage goes in these types of adventures: “If you don’t have it you don’t need it.” We devise a way to jerry rig a workable paddle from our combined kit plus a tree branch or two.
Beautiful natural scenery of sandstone cliffs reflecting in Lake Powell, Utah, USA
The next two days are my personal crux: I am doubling as SUP guide - since neither Libby nor Alli have experience on a standup paddle board or on the lake, while I can draw from my lesson’s of an eight-day solo SUP expedition that I embarked on in these same parts the prior year - and as photographer while also balancing my camera gear on the front of my paddle board, camera and lenses precariously close to a potential watery death.
Libby climbing on sandstone cliff, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA
It’s not an easy setup but this is my favorite way of shooting: as part of a self-motivated, intimate project that results in organic imagery. This particular mission in Grand Staircase is just that - a passion project that combines adventure and creative work in the best possible way. And at the end of our time on Lake Powell and in Grand Staircase, the three of us walk away with a treasure trove of images, memories, and an infinite amount of excitement to plan the next project.
Libby smiling while holding Moqui Marble, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA
Close-up shot of beautiful white flower growing in desert, Grand†Staircase-Escalante†National Monument, Utah, USA
Sunny and Alli canyoneering through narrow Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA
Majestic scenery with submerged bare trees against sandstone cliffs in Lake Powell, Utah, USA
See more of Sunny's images here!

Woods Wheatcroft – Bikes, Boards, Booze & Blanca!

Van camping at dawn in the deserts of southeastern Oregon.
12:30 pm, October 22nd 2018, Sandpoint, Idaho.  Bikes, Boards, Baggage, Booze, and Bodies. The van is loaded and pulling out of port.  The direction is unknown. Agenda, equally obscure. And we like it. An intentionally agendaless journey is new but not unfamiliar.  Being late October, the internal compass says we aim south to capture any shred of warmth still remaining in the low, angling sun. Suzanne, co-pilot and partner of nearly a decade, settles in with our new pup Suki and van life begins again.
Adult couple playing with their puppy in the glow and color of dawn while van camping in the desert of southeastern Oregon.
With life as layered and busy as it is, sliding in behind the wheel of Blanca (a 1999 VW Eurovan, current odometer reading 415,567, about half of that mine)  has become my antidote to busyness. Somehow just getting out of town without too many crab claws (loose ends that grab you and keep you from leaving) is a success. We drive a mere 4 hours from home and find camp. Darkness falls. Tequila falls… into empty, receptive cups. A crisp IPA is cracked. Cooking a meal is a relatively low priority on night one as we bask in the excitement of being on the road, buoyed by a full moon dancing behind an eerie cloud cover and an opportunity to light paint.
Twilight glow and van camping in the mountains of Idaho.
Our course meanders over days through the interior of Idaho, discovering remote vacant hot springs and uncrowded backroad locales that allow for maximum freedom. We are both surprised by the impact of wildfires as we snake our way toward Stanley Idaho, skirting the south edge of the Frank Church Wilderness (still the largest wilderness in the lower 48). I stop to capture the scene but the record-keeping-moment soon transforms to a painterly one. The landscape has become a quilt of life and death, blackened Standing Lodgepole Pine mixed with green regenerating ground cover and hints of fall color, divided by a bending deep blue ribbon of water. It’s raw and captivating.
An above perspective of a burned forest area with some vegetation regrowing and a river running through it. South Fork Salmon River, Idaho.
As we continue to surrender to the moment and try not get too far ahead of ourselves, it’s already day 5 of our 9 day trip. What is our plan? Where are we going? Our minds drift. We look at weather reports. Sun and warmth are desirable. We head West. More specifically, we drive towards the wide open space of southeastern Oregon where the population density is 2 humans per 500 cows per 100 square miles or something like that. Who cares about stats, it’s expansive and definitely pulls us into that feeling. That feeling of remoteness. Planetary if you will.
Adult woman soaking naked in a hot springs somewhere in Idaho.
One thing I have realized in my travels with Blanca in the West is that it’s not for everyone.  I like it that way. I can tell it’s not for everyone because I hardly see anyone else out in the places I choose to go. I have learned it through my own experience and taking to heart the advice of  Edward Abbey when it comes to dirt roads and exploration and getting “out there.”
Self portrait self timer of adult man standing silhouetted against a wide open desert landscape. southeastern Oregon.
So one may ponder and wonder, this all sounds way too leisurely to qualify as work. How are you able to hit the road and just be free for days on end? The answer is choice.  As a kid born into a line of inveterate travelers, it has become a choice and not anything based on luck or social status or anything else. It’s my work. It’s my life. I continue to make the choice. There is compromise for sure. There are also perspectives and responses I have endured over the years from “oh you are so lucky” to “must be nice” to “only wealthy people travel.” And yet my hope and goal in all of it is not to boast or display nor is it to amass an Insta following or assemble any cult. It is to share and inspire. It is for my children to see how their father lives and engage them in life on the road. It is for my friends to be stoked and curious and ask where is that, how do I get there. My intent is simply not to lead by example but to live by it.
Puppy leaning her head out the window of a moving vehicle and into the wind while her mom holds her and laughs. Idaho.
View front and back out of the side view mirror while driving down a dirt road in the desert. Oregon.
two humans doing long shadow play in a vast open space in the desert while van camping. Oregon
Portrait of an adult couple raising their cups for a cheers in the middle of nowhere. The couple have on clay face masks for a spa treatment. Oregon.
  See more of Woods' images here!

Personal Project – “Handmade”

As attention spans continue to shrink and the cult of the instant gratification grows exponentially, material possessions hold less meaning, and no longer tether us to lands visited or memories. Cheap charlatan goods are everywhere for our pleasure, and we consume them with reckless commercial abandon. It's in this culture that Joe Klementovich found an inspirational antonym, and pursued a project around these artisans that create handmade crafts.

In a time of trade wars with China, border walls being built and sanctions being placed, it’s nice to find refuge in the studio of an artisan: a good old fashioned workshop, piled with sawdust, paint cans and scraps from long done projects. Time seems to slip away once you get inside one of these sanctuaries. In New England, there is a long and proud history of making things by hand, from scratch. For me, this project is a way of getting back to that history and appreciating the skill and effort it takes to create something from hand.

I think the first artisan I photographed was Fred Dolan. Fred carves birds from blocks of wood and makes them look real by the time he’s done. Since then I’ve been able to join jewelers, sculptors, boat builders, blacksmiths and others in their workshops. The latest was a fiddle maker in Northern New Hampshire who can tell you where each tree came from for all of his fiddles. Truly handmade.

You can see more of Joe's work on the Artisan project, as well as other projects and campaigns, at https://www.klementovichphoto.com/Artisans
Mike Pease, one of the two brothers that own Pease boatworks in Chatham, MA, working on a repair of a peapod.
The thoughtful hands of Fred Dolan, marking the high spots of his swan.

Fishing with Chris Ross

We had the pleasure of "sitting down" with advertising and lifestyle photographer Chris Ross recently, to discuss his background, career in photography, and what lengths he'll go to to "get the shot." We caught up with Chris after a recent shoot that combined his love of fishing and getting in the water: documenting three expert flyfishing women in pursuit of flyfishing's grand slam in the Florida Keys. Here's what Chris had to say:  

I have a degree in advertising from The University of Georgia and a commercial photography degree from Brooks Institute. At Brooks I was drawn to the coastal life and based a lot of my studies and subjects around the ocean and the beach scene. We had a school boat that would take us miles off the coast to the channel islands where we focused on underwater photography. After graduating I landed my first serious job with Costa Del Mar sunglasses who wanted to use me for both my above- and below-water editorial shooting style. My philosophy is to be a fly on the wall, documenting the entire experience. However, that does not mean I'm stationary; on the contrary, I am always in constant motion. Rig the fishing gear…hunt for the fish…catch the fish…jump in the water and release the fish, etc. If I can capture lifestyle in a way that pulls the viewer into that story than I have accomplished the mission!

Due to my risk-taking nature, my wife is not too keen on some of my adventures. However, it's this inherent risk, the essence of an adventure, that drew me to photography. I have been dragged by a bowline around my waist to shoot sailfish on the hook while running. I have been face to face with 18-foot white sharks without a cage for numerous National Geographic shoots. I have had to dodge families of Howler monkeys in the Panamanian jungle not happy with my presence...Whatever it takes!

This particular shoot was done to document a fishing feat that has not been accomplished by any woman in history.  It’s called the grand slam of fly fishing.  In order to earn the title, an angler needs to land three specific species of fish found in the Florida Keys on a fly: permit fish, bonefish, and tarpon.  They must do this in one day's outing.  The three women, amongst the best anglers in the US, all came from very different backgrounds: a college student from Florida, a mother of two who owns a fishing shop in Montana, and a young woman who is a fly fishing guide based out of Oregon.

The whole shoot was done in The Keys, primarily embarking from Islamorada and Key West.  The sweltering heat was the biggest challenge for me.  We had to be covered head to toe with sun protective gear as we were on the water from dawn until dusk for 5 days straight.  I was just waiting for the chance to cool off in the water to get some underwater/split photography when they landed a fish.

Another challenge was the intense and quick changes in the weather pattern.  The intense hot sun gave way to extreme showers that could blow in very fast.  We were on very tiny flats boats with little storage so getting gear buttoned up was a challenge.  On numerous occasions we had to delve deep into the mangroves in order to find that “honey hole” that held that special Tarpon that was ready to eat!  Everything was done via kayaks; pulling ourselves under mangroves and squeezing through tight passages, it felt like we would never make it out of the vast maze-like network! The population of Bull sharks in this area are high and when you are concentrating on taking pictures of the food while underwater you really aren’t sure if you might be on the buffet as well!

Like all good fishing tales, this one has a happy ending. The young angler from Oregon caught the permit, bonefish and tarpon in one day, on the 4th day of trying. She's now the only female in history to have recorded a grand slam in The Keys!

See the rest of Chris' shoot here!

Personal Project – Cape Town Water Crisis

Even with the frequently depressing and disturbing visual documentation of climate change's effects on our environment, it's often too easy to turn a blind eye to a crisis occurring when it doesn't affect you.  Julia Cumes took some time between assignments in her former hometown of South Africa, and her striking images ring mental alarms. Perhaps we're safe up here in Portland, Maine, but this is a "prescient look at things to come for other urban areas as climate change and its effects take hold."
 
As someone who grew up in South Africa during a time when Cape Town was considered one of our wetter cities, it was painful to see the cracked, dry mud bed of Theewaterskloof dam, the lines of people waiting to fill up on drinking water at public springs, the dying vegetation and the strikingly empty public swimming pool in Mitchell's Plain where hundreds of local children usually cool off in the summer.
 
Last year, when Cape Town's water sources dropped to critically low levels, the city declared the possibility of a “Day Zero”, when the public water supply would largely be shut off. This would place Cape Town in the unusual position of being the first major city in the world to run out of water. While “Day Zero” has now been pushed off till 2019, the water crisis is still dire and local residents are adapting their lives to deal with it. Below are some of my images capturing life in Cape Town and its outskirts during this unprecedented time period.

You can see more of Julia's images, focused on this story and others, at juliacumesphoto.com

Capetonians fill up their water containers at the Newlands spring in a suburb of Cape Town. The spring, whose water is supplied by nearby Table Mountain, has flowed without interruption since record keeping started in South Africa, but has only recently becoming a critical collection point. Because of rising water costs and tight restrictions on municipal water usage, local residents come to the spring to fill up on the clean mountain water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
Capetonians fill up their water containers at the Newlands spring in a suburb of Cape Town. The spring, whose water is supplied by nearby Table Mountain, has flowed without interruption since record keeping started in South Africa, but has only recently becoming a critical collection point. Because of rising water costs and tight restrictions on municipal water usage, local residents come to the spring to fill up on the clean mountain water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
During Cape Towns current water crisis, family outings to fill up on public spring water are commonplace as collection is limited to 25 liters a visit. Families may come to the spring as often as two to three times a week to fill up on water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
During Cape Towns current water crisis, family outings to fill up on public spring water are commonplace as collection is limited to 25 liters a visit. Families may come to the spring as often as two to three times a week to fill up on water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
The cracked, dry bed of Theewaterskloof Dam-the largest dam in the South Africa's Western Cape water supply system is an indicator of how severe the water crisis is in South Africa's Western Cape Province. The dam, which usually supplies Cape Town and its population of over 4 million people with 41 of its water, is now at critically low levels. Last year, Cape Town announced plans for Day Zero, when the municipal water supply would largely be shut off, potentially making Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water. While Day Zero has now been pushed off till 2019, the water crisis is still dire and local residents are adapting their lives to deal with it.
The cracked, dry bed of Theewaterskloof Dam-the largest dam in the South Africa's Western Cape water supply system is an indicator of how severe the water crisis is in South Africa's Western Cape Province. The dam, which usually supplies Cape Town and its population of over 4 million people with 41 of its water, is now at critically low levels. Last year, Cape Town announced plans for Day Zero, when the municipal water supply would largely be shut off, potentially making Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water. While Day Zero has now been pushed off till 2019, the water crisis is still dire and local residents are adapting their lives to deal with it.
As with any crisis, creative entrepreneurs have found ways of making some income from the Cape Towns water crisis. Here, enterprising workers, for a fee, offer to transport heavy water containers from a public spring on Spring Road to residents waiting cars.
As with any crisis, creative entrepreneurs have found ways of making some income from the Cape Towns water crisis. Here, enterprising workers, for a fee, offer to transport heavy water containers from a public spring on Spring Road to residents waiting cars.
A public protest in front of the parliament building on South Africa's Freedom Day on April 27th this year included signs protesting the privatization of water. Ironically, Cape Towns water crisis has been a boon to water privatization with the bottled water industry seeing huge growth in sales and private desalination plants setting up shop on the Western Capes shoreline.
A public protest in front of the parliament building on South Africa's Freedom Day on April 27th this year included signs protesting the privatization of water. Ironically, Cape Towns water crisis has been a boon to water privatization with the bottled water industry seeing huge growth in sales and private desalination plants setting up shop on the Western Capes shoreline.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Monwabisi on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Monwabisi on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Strandfontein on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Strandfontein on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
A woman washes clothing in a shallow bucket of water in Asanda Village - an informal shanty town settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town. Many of Cape Towns more poorer residents have pointed out that their communities - where residents don't generally own washing machines, dishwaters and swimming pools - are not the ones using large amounts of water and yet are being penalized more than the wealthier communities where many residents have put in expensive bore holes (wells) and are thus skirting water restrictions.
A woman washes clothing in a shallow bucket of water in Asanda Village - an informal shanty town settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town. Many of Cape Towns more poorer residents have pointed out that their communities - where residents don't generally own washing machines, dishwaters and swimming pools - are not the ones using large amounts of water and yet are being penalized more than the wealthier communities where many residents have put in expensive bore holes (wells) and are thus skirting water restrictions.
A public mural in Salt River, a suburb of Cape Town, is just one of many artists responses to the water crisis unfolding. A street art festival in February of this year offered the prompt Nature Doesn't Need Us. We Need Nature to artists to inspire public art centered on the environment.
A public mural in Salt River, a suburb of Cape Town, is just one of many artists responses to the water crisis unfolding. A street art festival in February of this year offered the prompt Nature Doesn't Need Us. We Need Nature to artists to inspire public art centered on the environment.

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