Category Archives: Slices of Life

Remote Rivers and Treacherous Terrain: Taylor Reilly’s ‘Escaping Desolation’

Our photographers have a reputation for being adventurous. In order to produce such dynamic imagery, they need to be in the heart of nature, continuously seeking out new and thrilling experiences. And although we get to see the fruits of their labor from the powerful photographs they create, sometimes there’s more to the photograph than meets the eye – an untold story waiting for anyone who asks.

Taylor Reilly recently embarked on one such adventure, which he writes about in a new essay titled, Escaping Desolation.

Escaping Desolation is the story of 3 friends on 1 raft taking a 90-mile 7-day trip down the Green River through Desolation and Gray Canyons in Utah. The trip runs smoothly until the second to last day when disaster strikes and their boat is sunk in an unexpected way. The decisions made after would determine their chances of survival and their escaping desolation.

Rafters tackling a rapid in Desolation Canyon along the Green River in Utah.
Rafters tackling a rapid in Desolation Canyon along the Green River in Utah.

Taylor writes,

There we were, laughing at the top of our lungs about everything, and enjoying every second of rafting 91 miles on one of the most remote stretches of river in the country, the Green River through Desolation and Gray Canyons in Utah. Then it struck us and the laughing came to a halt. We were out of beer! It was day six of our seven-day voyage and our three man crew only had one six pack of pumpkin beer left in the cooler. Obviously times were desperate, we were floating through an expansive desert canyon in the middle of nowhere, and all we had was a flavor of beer that made unfiltered river water seem appealing. The mission was clear; we needed to find more beer. Somehow.

Just three weeks ago my good friend Tres called me excited that he had just picked up a last minute permit for a rafting trip through Utah. He had just spent most of the summer rafting rivers all over the west and was trying to find friends to join him on one last trip before ski season began. It didn’t take long before Tres had convinced myself, and our long time friend Bobby to join him for a mid-October Green River trip.

Rafter accompanying a standup paddleboarder through Desolation Canyon along the Green River, Utah. ©Taylor Reilly
Rafter accompanying a standup paddleboarder through Desolation Canyon along the Green River, Utah.

Our 3-man crew has all been friends for many years. Bobby and Tres had grown up together and I had met them both in college. Since then, we have taken many trips together and we had all gained a substantial amount of outdoor skills and experience. On top of skiing, climbing and backcountry hiking, Tres, our captain, has been piloting his raft on multiple big rivers across the country, for several years. Bobby grew up hunting and backpacking but now he spends most of his weekend’s mountain biking and climbing. He has worked in the outdoor and action sports industries for years and he is extremely organized and motivated when it comes to any outdoor adventure. I myself have ample experience recreationally and professionally in the outdoors. I have been a climber for just about 20 years, I guided for 6, and I have been around water, rivers, and boats my entire life having grown up in Texas. While we all had various and ample outdoor experience, this would be the first big multi-day rafting trip for Bobby and I.

Setting up camp in Desolation Canyon, Utah. ©Taylor Reilly
Setting up camp in Desolation Canyon, Utah.

Our vessel was a 14ft raft with a 4 bay oar frame, and a pile of gear in the back so big that we could have been mistaken for a floating version of the Beverly Hillbillies. For a bit of relevant rafting knowledge: Rafts used for overnight trips use an aluminum frame that holds dry boxes, an ice chest and oar mounts/oars on either side. The captain rows the raft using two 10 foot oars while two passengers can either relax and drink or pitch in as “paddle assist” to help keep momentum through pushy rapids. This is how our 3-man 1-raft team was set up. We had just paddled out of Desolation Canyon the night before and into Gray Canyon earlier that morning, and the “take-out” for our trip was only 12 or more miles, or 1 day, downstream. The plan for this last night of our adventure was to camp just after “Rattle Snake” rapid (2+). First, though, we had to get some beer.

It was around noon and we hadn’t seen anyone on the river since the previous night, and being that it was off-season, we didn’t expect to see anyone from here on out. So imagine our surprise when we came around a large bend and found a group of people spread out over 5 rafts and some paddleboards. They seemed to be having as much fun as we were, and the rules of the river dictate that we had to strike up a conversation in search of a trade. When we found out they needed ice, we gave them two of our solid 5-10lb blocks for an 18 pack of Tecate. Success! They invited us to do a short day hike on the west side of the river just before Rattlesnake Rapid, but we decided to keep paddling and get to our camp, so we said our goodbyes and parted ways.

Standup paddleboarder during sunset in Desolation Canyon along the Green River, Utah. ©Taylor Reilly
Standup paddleboarder during sunset in Desolation Canyon along the Green River, Utah

Heading downstream with a full case of Tecate to get us to the end of our trip, we started into Rattlesnake rapid. Leading into the rapid Tres suggested that Bobby should row this one. This was Bobby’s first big rafting trip and Tres thought it was his right of passage to captain the boat down a “named” rapid. After all, Bobby had put in his time working hard rowing miles of flat-water into headwinds in the days before, now it was his turn to try something a little more rewarding. I looked over and told Bobby to zip up his life jacket, all the way up to the top. He smiled, laughed, and thanked me. It would be his first Class 2+ rapid to paddle. This stretch of the Green River is in general very mild when it comes to rapid strength, especially during the fall. If anything, the river was shallow and slow most of the way. At this point we were all confident that the end of our trip was just around the bend.

©Taylor Reilly

As we entered the rapid, Bobby was on the oars, while Tres and I were relaxing in the front. The rapid formed a wave train down the middle of the river, however the raft spun to the right of the ideal line, and started heading straight towards the 40’ cliff that walled in the right hand side of the river. The raft was now being pushed hard by lateral waves and the three of us realized simultaneously that things were about to get ugly.

As we neared the sandstone cliff jetting out at the apex of the river bend, Tres started yelling, ”Back row right! Back row Right!” Tres started to move towards Bobby to help him slide the right oar into the raft and away from the cliff to keep it from catching and swinging. But it was too late for that.

Continue reading the full story on Taylor’s blog.

See more of Taylor’s work here.

Rock Solid

The stock photography landscape is constantly changing, but Aurora Photos is rock solid. For 23 years, we’ve been providing creatives with impactful photography and caring customer service.

We’re a small team, based in Portland, Maine, with actual people who will communicate with clients and photographers. We take a lot of pride in our work and our brand. What keeps us going? Our commitment to quality, and to our community of photographers and clients.

There’s never been a better time to come see what we’re about!

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Family Time

A kayaker paddles in the ocean.

For me, the end of the year and the holidays equate with family time. Maybe it started with the traditional Christmas, Santa and all that, but now it’s become more than that, something deeper. Growing up Cuban, we always had big family gatherings with aunts and uncles, cousins, grandma and lots of Cuban and Lebanese food. It often happened on random weekends, not just during holidays.

Now, this is the time that my three children, away most of the year, return. Anna, my wife, shows her excitement. A warm Maine fire, skating on the pond, gathering with friends, and good cooking, dominate the season. It’s a time when inner feelings gain strength and I marvel at the complexity of our society and the incomprehensible universe. I take joy in the good and become sad at the horrors.

Most of all, I am thankful for everything and everyone I have in my life at this moment. I wish you such wonderful feelings as well! Happy Holidays!

-Jose Azel, founder and president, Aurora Photos

Staff’s Summer Activities

Memorial Day weekend marks the opening of Maine to the outside world, and summer is right around the corner. There’s a reason tourism is one of our state’s biggest industries! Aurora’s staff weighed in on some of our favorite things to do during this beautiful, but fleeting, season.

Jose Azel, President & Founder:

  • Harvesting veggies from the garden
  • Driving my BMW with the top down, wind gently ruffling my hair
  • Swimming in Kezar Lake

Rachel Buckley, Production Coordinator:

  • Lobster boat races in Stonington, ME, which include a rope swing (YAY!) and eel infested lake (BOO!)
  • Music Festivals and Fairs…hello NKOTB and Counting Crows! What can I say, I am eclectic
  • 4th of July parties on Cape Cod

Sarah Cotter, Account Executive:

  • Outdoor concerts
  • Wearing flip flops instead of boots!
  • Beach Days

Jim MacKay, Account Executive:

  • Catching the Jason Spooner Band at Portland Lobster Company
  • Bustins Island offshore Closest to the Pin Competition
  • Winter Harbor Lobster Festival

Karl Schatz, Director:

Larry Westler, Content Director:

  • Riding my bike down Eastern Promenade trail just before sunset, looking for woodchucks.
  • Outdoor beers at one of the many, MANY delicious local breweries
  • Exploring the coast of Maine; one of my favorite new places is Popham Beach State Park.

Tips for Summer Adventures from Top Outdoor Photographers

  Summertime is almost here, and with it comes the chance to have great adventures. Unfortunately, the season is rife with pitfalls: biting mosquitoes, sunburns, huge crowds, and even animal attacks. Luckily, Aurora Photos has some of the best outdoor, adventure, and travel photographers in the world, and we turned to them to give some tips on how to have the most fun this summer.

CLICK HERE FOR SUMMERTIME FUN IMAGES

Two young adults canoeing at sunset on a camping trip along the shores of a lake in Idaho.

1.  To preserve memories of summer adventures, keep your camera handy. The best camera is the one you have with you. You don’t need the newest gear either; work with what you have until you’ve outgrown it. –Ethan Welty

2.  Think twice about taking a super expensive camera or lens to the beach that is not sand proof. Sand WILL find the inside of your lens and camera body, and cause damage – Scott Goldsmith

3.  Sleep in beautiful places. That way you are already in position when sunset and sunrise roll around to capture beautiful photos. –Ethan Welty

The Milky Way sparkles in the night sky over an illuminated tent and the Never Summer Mountains of Colorado.

4.  Coffee shops (NOT Starbucks) always have local event guides with upcoming shows/concerts/cool things for the locals. It’s a great way to get into the local vibe with ease! –Tim Martin

5.  Just a few simple words in the local language helps exponentially and makes people much more receptive to you as a tourist! –Tim Martin

6. One of my favorite places to go in the entire world during the summer is Door County, Wisconsin.  Shopping, theatre, great Lake Michigan Beaches, canoeing, awesome fishing, parasailing, horseback riding… awesome choice of activities.  Also, traditional fish boils are a must and Door County has the best cherry pie you’ll ever have in your entire life. –Marc Sirinsky

Jemaa al Fna square with crowds and food stalls at sunset. Marrakesh, Morocco.

7.  Always pay in local currency – even if you are paying by credit card. Most hotels, shops and high end restaurants will give you the option to pay in US Dollars but the rate they charge is usually 10-15% more than the actual exchange rate. Select the local currency option and eat the 1% fee your credit card company might charge. –Tim Martin

8. When wrestling a fifteen-foot female anaconda, DO NOT let go of her throat! The males are only about three feet long — much easier to deal with. –Robert Caputo

caputo_anaconda

9. I leave a bottle of sunscreen, bug spray, a basket or bag and a sharp pocket knife in the car in the summer so I’m always prepared for spur of the moment walks on the beach or in the woods that might yield wild edibles. –Stacey Cramp

10. Three things to always bring on a hike: layers, a pocketknife and snacks. The bottom of a mountain will often be much warmer than the top, so make sure your top layer is waterproof.  Dry fit shirts are invaluable…even for just walking around and shopping in hot, humid weather!   –Marc Sirinsky

White water rafters on the Snake River, Wyoming.

11. White water rafting with kids can be an amazing experience, but don’t expect the first time to go without a hitch. But with the right preparation and planning,  fun whitewater is on the horizon. The number one priority when rafting in general is to come prepared for the rapids and different weather conditions that mother nature can throw at you. Make sure kids have a strong swimming foundation, always wear a life jacket even when swimming, even in gentle rapids. Bring extra food, snacks and water for the kids so their comfortable and make sure to take fun breaks and engage in on and off river activities to break the trip up. A good water fight, swimming, inflatable kayaks or inner tubes allow the children to engage in river activities beyond the whitewater. Greg von Doersten

12. As an added bonus, here are some videos from Corey Rich that will get you amazing nighttime and campfire photography AND keep you from getting burnt in the process!

http://news.coreyrich.com/2014/09/tech-tip-getting-the-shot-with-corey-rich-glowing-tent-under-a-night-sky/

http://news.coreyrich.com/2014/07/tech-tip-getting-the-shot-with-corey-rich-firelight-photography/

https://vimeo.com/100157409