Category Archives: Photographer Q&A

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!

Faroe Islands Q & A

Majestic natural scenery with waves crashing on coastal cliffs, Gasadalur, Faroe Islands
Majestic natural scenery with waves crashing on coastal cliffs, Gasadalur, Faroe Islands. Photo by Paul Zizka
The Faroe Islands, a group of rocky, volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, are gaining increasing popularity among photographers and adventure travel enthusiasts, due to their rugged hiking terrain, spectacular bird watching and interesting cuisine. We sat down (virtually) with 5 of Aurora's photographers - Paolo Sartori, Paul Zizka, Brandon Huttenlocher, Sergio Villalba and Jose Azel - to find out what it's like traveling to this outdoor playground. Aurora Photos: What first drew you to explore the Faroes? Paul Zizka: First and foremost, a sense of curiosity and a passion for isolation. The green, the ruggedness and the wild weather keep me going back. Brandon Huttenlocher: The remoteness and my curiosity, wondering what else is there after seeing a few other photographers' images. Paolo Sartori: I traveled there before the big boom of the Faroes on Instagram. I’m always fascinated about remote and diverse places so when I saw a photo of the Mulafossur waterfall, I said, “Ok, let’s go!”. Sergio Villalba: I have now been to the Faroes 3 times...once for windsurfing and twice for surfing. My first time was 2008. Jose Azel: I was lucky to have visited the Faroe Islands in 1990 when I was given a magazine assignment. Since I was into mountain biking at the time, I suggested I take my bike. The editor agreed. It was the first time I flew with a bike and while it was a bit of a hassle, in the end it was worth it.
Professional Windsurfer On The Freezing Water Of The Faroe Islands
Professional Windsurfer On The Freezing Water Of The Faroe Islands. Photo by Sergio Villalba
AU: What was your favorite island or area to shoot, and what was your favorite geologic feature?
Paul: I am big on ruggedness, and in the Faroes, the further north you get, the more rugged the landscape gets. The northern halves of Eysturoy, Kalsoy and Vidoy are particularly dear to me. The sea cliffs and sea stacks in the far north are incredible! Brandon: I really liked Kalsoy and Mykines! The sheer cliffs that jet straight out of the ocean are ridiculously impressive. Paolo: In the Faroes every village is something unique and beautiful…if I have to pick a single place, it's probably Saksun. The small house above the beach is totally insane. Sergio: All of them have this amazing, remote feeling. Streymoy and Vagar, though not the most isolated, have the most stunning places.
Scenery of Mulafossur waterfall on coastal cliff at sunset, Faroe Islands
Scenery of Mulafossur waterfall on coastal cliff at sunset, Faroe Islands. Photo by Brandon Huttenlocher
AU: One of the most iconic areas on the island is Mulafossur waterfall; how long did you spend waiting for the perfect shot? How many other photographers were standing next to you? Paul: I've made perhaps 5 or 6 visits to that location over the years, and I've shot it on my own as well as surrounded by several fellow photographers (in the context of workshops). I've probably spent 10 hours gazing at and shooting the falls in total. Brandon: I think I ended going there a total of 4 times throughout my time in the Faroes at all times of the day/night. As soon as I got my rental car I drove straight there, and I finished my trip there just before heading back to the airport. My first time, there was a photography workshop group; however, when I was there in the middle of the night, I was alone. Paolo: The day we went there, it was raining like hell and there was nobody around. I waited almost an hour and when I realized that the rain wasn’t going to stop…well, now I know my camera can still work under a storm! Sergio: I’ve been to this place several times, all of them on exploration trips. It’s one of those corners that are so perfect that seem to be designed on purpose by someone else. Anytime of the day (or the night) is ideal to get a nice shot. Since it was waves that we were in the search for, I always visited the Faroes in the middle of winter, so I had most of the spots to myself.
View of Klaksvik town from tent and feet of relaxing tourist, Faroe Islands, Denmark
View of Klaksvik town from tent and feet of relaxing tourist, Faroe Islands, Denmark. Photo by Paolo Sartori
AU: The Faroes are sparsely populated, though that population is very diverse. Due to the small size, and the isolation of island life in general, what was the locals attitude to you? What was their attitude to you as a photographer? Are they tired of you over-running their country? Paul: As with many Scandinavian people, they are reserved at first. Eventually though, they open up and have been extremely friendly and helpful to me. Having said that, they are currently experiencing an unprecedented boom in tourism. Time will tell whether the Faroese government can manage that new growth in a way that the locals do not get disgruntled with it all. Paolo: There wasn’t that much instagram-based tourism just a few years back. I didn’t meet many people in the villages, but those few ones were really friendly. Sergio: As in most other cold places, people tend to be a bit cold in the beginning, but I don't think it has to do with me being a tourist or a photographer. Since I always visited the Faroes in winter, I never bumped into another tourist. The Faroese rely on their oceans to make a living; the soil is waterlogged all year long, so too tough to grow crops. They’ve been making big efforts to promote tourism. However, their tourist infrastructure is pretty small compared to other popular destinations; I don’t think they could welcome big crowds of people.
Salmon farm rings floating on calm water, Faroe Islands
Salmon farm rings floating on calm water, Faroe Islands. Photo by David Henderson / Caia Images
AU: The Faroe Islands are one of the 10 biggest salmon producers in the world, and many an image of the islands contains the tell-tale rings of salmon farming. There was also a long history and culture of whaling there. It seems many gourmet restaurants have opened recently. What was your favorite food? Paul: The fish is excellent. I've particularly enjoyed the halibut and haddock! Paolo: The best food was salmon, of course. There are a number of good restaurants, especially in Torshavn, but in general they are really expensive. Sergio: You can get some crazy good food there but you have to pay the price. Fresh salmon, dried whale or even sushi is mental, but most of the time you find yourself eating gas station hotdogs since there’s no restaurants or shops in most towns.
4x4 car driving along road on seashore, Faroe Islands, Denmark
4x4 car driving along road on seashore, Faroe Islands, Denmark. Photo by Paolo Sartori
AU: You've managed to capture the islands ruggedness, yet also add a sense of allure and invitation. How did you travel around? Bike? Hike? 4 x 4? Climb? Ferry? Sail? Strap a saddle to the largest sheep and hope for the best?
Paul: I first experienced the Faroes through extensive hiking, which was incredible. Since then, I've explored more thoroughly and further afield via ferries and the incredible road network. Brandon: My main mode of transportation was this tiny little rental car that felt more like a go-cart. Most islands are connected via underwater tunnels or bridges. I did take a ferry over to Kalsoy. They do some boat trips which are pretty awesone getting you out on the water and able to look back at the island and the sheer cliffs straight out of the ocean. But the best and most fun transportation in the Faroes is the helicopter! Its extremely cheap and scenic. I flew from the airport to Mykines island for about $30USD (round trip). Just do your research about it, as you can only do a 1 way trip each day. Paolo: I was moving around in a Land Rover Defender, sleeping in a roof mounted tent. It was perfect because it allowed me to stay on location by night. Sergio: Car, lots of hiking and occasionally a chopper. The weather’s so rough you need to make sure to check the forecast properly every morning before you hit the road. Jose: The bus system is extensive and goes throughout the island. There are no official bus stops, at least not at the time, and I all I had to do was flag on down if I wanted a ride. To satiate my thirst for adventure, nothing beat biking on their narrow roads. They have many tunnels under their steep mountain terrain; speeding into these somewhat dark, narrow tubes on a fast downhill provided me with an adrenaline rush! Fortunately, the sparseness of automobiles kept encounters to a minimum.
AU: Is it EVER sunny there? Seriously. Epic photos guys, but the sun has to shine sometimes right? Paul: In my experience, never for very long. I've been to the Faroes at different times of year and fickle weather seems to be the norm. That's fine by me. I find the ever-changing, moody weather fits the landscape perfectly. Brandon:  If it is sunny, you’d better not blink, because it’ll be gone before your eyes open again! Oh, and the wind. If you enjoy the wind, this place is for you. I watched the water from the Mulafossur waterfall blow back up and not even touch the ocean one afternoon is was so windy. Paolo: I’ve been there for a week, and I got a couple hours of sun in total. On the last day I was talking with a local, and when I complained about weather, he said “oh, you are lucky, we had good weather this past week!" Sergio: Absolutely! Even in winter, I believe they enjoy more sunny days than UK or Belgium. The sun doesn't rise high enough to reach the deep valleys though.
The Town Of Tjornuvik In Streymoy, The Faroe Islands
The Town Of Tjornuvik In Streymoy, The Faroe Islands. Photo by Sergio Villalba
AU: What was the most interesting thing you learned about the Faroe Islands / your favorite experience / experiential wisdom you'd like to pass along to future travelers? Paul: The Faroes are truly a place like no other. I highly recommend you get there before the crowds do. It's really only a matter of time. And get out on foot. Even when the place starts getting the visitors it deserves, there will be many pristine stretches of shoreline to explore for those willing to put in the work. Brandon: Take the helicopter. Watch out for sheep while driving. Embrace the excessive amount of wind and gloomy weather.  You're not supposed to camp in cars like most people do in Iceland (we wont tell anyone I did this). Its an incredibly safe country. Oh, did I mention the wind? Paolo: For me the most interesting part was the people living there. For most of us that are living on the mainland would be really hard to stay there for more than a couple weeks. We are used to have relatively easy access to almost anything; driving a couple hours from home I can be on a 4000m peak in the Alps or on a sunny beach in the Mediterranean. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to live on a remote island with only 10 other people, hours away from the nearest hospital... Jose: Several impressions have stayed with me ever since my visit there. First and foremost was the stark beauty of the landscape: treeless and bright green, often with a clear blue sky and expansive views of the ocean. Perhaps I got lucky and had a fair number of good weather days. The other lasting mark was the quaintness of the buildings. So many seemed too perfect to be real. Almost none needed paint and the villages that lined the shores of the many coves and bays were incredibly picturesque.
Majestic natural scenery with coastal cliffs under dramatic sky, Kalsoy, Faroe Islands
Majestic natural scenery with coastal cliffs under dramatic sky, Kalsoy, Faroe Islands. Photo by Paul Zizka
To see more images of the Faroes, click here.
Or, check out more from their personal sites below:

New Year’s Resolutions

Smiling Athlete Woman Relaxing At Crossfit Gym The beginning of the year is a natural time for self-reflection, for looking back on the fond memories from the year that was and thinking about our desires and hopes for the year to come. It's a blank canvas, a wealth of possibilities, potential infinitum, and most importantly a chance to make lists! It's never fun looking back on the list, realizing you never gave up sugar or called your sister weekly, so this year we asked some of our photographers and Aurora staff what their resolutions for 2018 are. Jen Magnuson A lot of resolutions sound like the person is punishing themselves; I've found it easier to stick to mine when they're things I enjoy. Often, they are things that if I didn’t resolve to make time for, they might get swept up in all of the “shoulds” of every day life. . . I should clean behind the fridge.  I should organize the garage.  I should go grocery shopping.  So, I approach resolutions like a mini bucket list. . .  In 2018, I want to learn to: alpine ski, climb rock and ice, mountain bike, and play the guitar I bought eight years ago. I want to  travel more, to Moab, Telluride, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, and work my way through a list of books I want to read along the way! photo courtesy of Brian CardinalNatasha Shapiro Starting in February, my partner and I will be moving into our vintage Toyota camper and will be hitting the road full time (scary and exciting, we can't wait!). Having a vintage vehicle for our home has been stressful -- there's always new quirks that we're learning about and it's slower than most -- but it's been an excellent lesson in learning to be okay with change. Our resolution for this year is to focus on patience and slowing down. Being from NYC, we often find ourselves rushing around in a GO GO GO mentality, when we should really just take a step back, take things one step at a time, and just breathe! (photo courtesy of Brian Cardinal) Nate Adams, Aurora Photos My New Year resolution for 2018 is to practice mindfulness on a daily basis - Mindfulness of my own inner mental and physical sensations, mindful observation of my immediate environment, and empathetic non-judgmental observation of other people’s words and actions. I intend to start slowly - by bringing myself into a mindful state with intention just once a day, for a few minutes. Ideally, this practice will be something that starts to self-perpetuate and become second nature. But I’m starting small and manageable. From what I understand, that’s the key to getting resolutions to stick. Man Standing In The Middle Of The Alaska Highway During Sunset Ben Girardi A couple of my New Years resolutions are: To wake up for more sunrises and get out for more sunsets, to plan better, and to be more efficient with my time, so I can maximize the time spent out shooting and adventuring around the mountains. Karl Schatz, Aurora Photos Eat more rice.

Chris Kimmel It's really important to get outdoors more with my family -- road trips to new locations, camping and paddling trips -- to connect with each other and with nature. To hike with my two-year-old son; I'm planning to get him up to a couple of true mountain summits this summer. And finally, it’s time to drop the “dad bod” and get back in shape. I am aiming to run two times a week (as soon as the ice melts).

Front view of adult man working on laptop while sitting on moving walkway in airport, Oakland, California, USA

Woods Wheatcroft To put myself out there in the marketplace even more and push my vulnerability, in order to create new connections in the industry. Then, I can go old school and show a printed portfolio!

Larry Westler, Aurora Photos This year, my goal is to get outside more to try new activities, to push myself further out of my comfort zone, and to challenge myself.

Gratitude for the Outdoors

father and son duck hunting, Suisun Marsh, Suisun City, California, USA 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 Galen Carter riding in the foothills of the Wasatch Front outside of Salt Lake City, Utah

Wray Sinclair "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."

Chris Bennett "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)

A Reflection In A Female Skier's Goggles As She Takes A Selfie Around Cerro Catedral

Ben Girardi “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."

Jen Magnuson "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."

Female surfer walking in water and carrying surfboard against large white cloud, Hawaii, USA

Sean Davey "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."

Logan Mock-Bunting "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."

Helicopter above the Great Blue Hole

Evgeny Vasenev "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!"

Chris Kimmel "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."

Side view waist up shot of senior farmer inspecting blueberry bush in autumn, Stratham, New Hampshire, USA

John Benford "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."

Joe Klementovich "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!"

A child looks out the window at a yellow larch tree in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

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.' 

Room to Relax – Q&A With Sebastian Wahlhuetter

The hammock action is an annual event during the International Highline Meeting at the Monte Piana in the Dolomites, Italy. In total 26 people came together to form a colorful and especially designed rainbow in 17 hammocks. The idea to sleep in a hammock on such an incredible place was born at the very first Highline meeting at the Monte Piana in the year 2012. The adventurous pioneers Armin Holzer, Alex D?emilia and Igor Scotland from Ticket to the Moon hammocks, were so impressed by this experience that they wanted to share it with their friends. In the following years this concept developed and on September 10th 2015 this unique project took place for the third time. A symbol of peace and a tribute to the past. This place was chosen not only for its natural beauty but for its historical importance. This area is an open air museum to honor the memory of the 18.000 young soldiers who died here during the First World War. Its 7 km of trenches are still visible. THE STUNT WAS PERFORMED AND DESIGNED BY A PROFESSIONAL TEAM OF ATHLETES AND RIGGERS. (?>The set up has a breaking strength of >150 kN = >15 000 kg for the main line and additionally a redundant back up. Maximum force was 32 kN = 3200 kg.
The hammock action is an annual event during the International Highline Meeting at the Monte Piana in the Dolomites, Italy. In 2015. 26 people came together to form a colorful rainbow in 17 specially designed hammocks.

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.

The hammock action is an annual event during the International Highline Meeting at the Monte Piana in the Dolomites, Italy at 2230m a.s.l. . The idea to sleep in a hammock on such an incredible place was born at the very first Highline meeting at the Monte Piana in the year 2012. The adventurous pioneers Armin Holzer, Alex D?emilia, and Igor Scotland of Ticket to the Moon hammocks, were so impressed by this experience that they wanted to share it with their friends. In 2014 in total 22 people gathered in 16 hammocks on this special occasion. This event is a symbol of peace and a tribute to the past. The place was chosen not only for its natural beauty but for its historical importance. This area is an open air museum to honor the memory of the 18.000 young soldiers who died here during the First World War. Its 7 km of trenches are still visible. THE STUNT WAS PERFORMED AND DESIGNED BY A PROFESSIONAL TEAM OF ATHLETES AND RIGGERS. (?>The set up had a pre-tension of 1.000 kg and reached a peak work load of 2.350 kg with all the people in the hammocks.)
This event is a symbol of peace and a tribute to the past. The place was chosen not only for its natural beauty but for its historical importance. This area is an open air museum to honor the memory of the 18.000 young soldiers who died here during the First World War. Its 7 km of trenches are still visible.

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.

The hammock action is an annual event during the International Highline Meeting at the Monte Piana in the Dolomites, Italy. In total 26 people came together to form a colorful and especially designed rainbow in 17 hammocks. The idea to sleep in a hammock on such an incredible place was born at the very first Highline meeting at the Monte Piana in the year 2012. The adventurous pioneers Armin Holzer, Alex D?emilia and Igor Scotland from Ticket to the Moon hammocks, were so impressed by this experience that they wanted to share it with their friends. In the following years this concept developed and on September 10th 2015 this unique project took place for the third time. A symbol of peace and a tribute to the past. This place was chosen not only for its natural beauty but for its historical importance. This area is an open air museum to honor the memory of the 18.000 young soldiers who died here during the First World War. Its 7 km of trenches are still visible. THE STUNT WAS PERFORMED AND DESIGNED BY A PROFESSIONAL TEAM OF ATHLETES AND RIGGERS. (?>The set up has a breaking strength of >150 kN = >15 000 kg for the main line and additionally a redundant back up. Maximum force was 32 kN = 3200 kg.
The idea to sleep in a hammock on such an incredible place was born at the very first Highline meeting at the Monte Piana in the year 2012 The set up has a breaking strength of >150 kN = >15 000 kg for the main line and additionally a redundant back up. Maximum force was 32 kN = 3200 kg..

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!

A hammock rainbow over lake Cauma in the alps of Switzerland and took place during the annual waterline slackline tour. This special project was designed and realized by Ticket to the Moon Hammocks and involved a special slackline set up with a high breaking strength.
A hammock rainbow over lake Cauma in the alps of Switzerland and took place during the annual waterline slackline tour. This special project was designed and realized by Ticket to the Moon Hammocks and involved a special slackline set up with a high breaking strength.

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.

The hammock action is an annual event during the International Highline Meeting at the Monte Piana in the Dolomites, Italy. In total 26 people came together to form a colorful and especially designed rainbow in 17 hammocks. The idea to sleep in a hammock on such an incredible place was born at the very first Highline meeting at the Monte Piana in the year 2012. The adventurous pioneers Armin Holzer, Alex D?emilia and Igor Scotland from Ticket to the Moon hammocks, were so impressed by this experience that they wanted to share it with their friends. In the following years this concept developed and on September 10th 2015 this unique project took place for the third time. A symbol of peace and a tribute to the past. This place was chosen not only for its natural beauty but for its historical importance. This area is an open air museum to honor the memory of the 18.000 young soldiers who died here during the First World War. Its 7 km of trenches are still visible. THE STUNT WAS PERFORMED AND DESIGNED BY A PROFESSIONAL TEAM OF ATHLETES AND RIGGERS. (?>The set up has a breaking strength of >150 kN = >15 000 kg for the main line and additionally a redundant back up. Maximum force was 32 kN = 3200 kg.

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!

Close up of climbing and high lining gear lying outdoors, Tijesno Canyon, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Close up of climbing and high lining gear lying outdoors, Tijesno Canyon, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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.

The hammock action is an annual event during the International Highline Meeting at the Monte Piana in the Dolomites, Italy at 2230m a.s.l. . The idea to sleep in a hammock on such an incredible place was born at the very first Highline meeting at the Monte Piana in the year 2012. The adventurous pioneers Armin Holzer, Alex D?emilia, and Igor Scotland of Ticket to the Moon hammocks, were so impressed by this experience that they wanted to share it with their friends. In 2014 in total 22 people gathered in 16 hammocks on this special occasion. This event is a symbol of peace and a tribute to the past. The place was chosen not only for its natural beauty but for its historical importance. This area is an open air museum to honor the memory of the 18.000 young soldiers who died here during the First World War. Its 7 km of trenches are still visible. THE STUNT WAS PERFORMED AND DESIGNED BY A PROFESSIONAL TEAM OF ATHLETES AND RIGGERS. (?>The set up had a pre-tension of 1.000 kg and reached a peak work load of 2.350 kg with all the people in the hammocks.)
The set up had a pre-tension of 1,000 kg and reached a peak work load of 2,350 kg with all the people in the hammocks.)

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...).

View of woman walking on high line above mountains, Tijesno Canyon, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
View of woman walking on high line above mountains, Tijesno Canyon, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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. 

Side view of people lying in hammocks above mountains, Tijesno Canyon, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Side view of people lying in hammocks above mountains, Tijesno Canyon, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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!