Spring is here, and our photographers have been busy traveling and adventuring! From Nepal to Cappadocia, Alabama Hills to Slovenia, and everywhere in between, they’ve been capturing local culture and having fun!
In case you already miss the snow and cold, we’ve got skiing in Utah, Argentina and Norway, ice climbing in New Hampshire, and snowy scenes in Yosemite. For everyone else, there’s signs of spring and summer, and it’s time to get outside for your workouts. Maybe that’s using city structures as fitness equipment rather than obstacles, yoga in a field, or running (with or without beers in hand!) For traditionalists, we’ve got tons of outdoor activities: surfing, high-line, camping, hiking, sailing, canoeing, cycling, paddleboarding and a rock-climbing excursion to Venezuela!
Anyone who has ever been on an adventure knows just how fickle plans can sometimes be. Being able to adapt at a moment’s notice is all part of the journey, but doing so behind a camera lens takes more than just a willingness to change course. It requires patience, skill and technique.
When the temperature was a sweltering 98 degrees last July in British Columbia, a day of mountaineering turned into a pack raft adventure when photographer Chris Kimmel, with friends Evan, Adam and Cole, decided to ditch the hiking boots for a cooler option.
We caught up with Chris to talk about this impromptu excursion down the Chehalis River in British Columbia, how it yielded some incredible photographs, and what he learned along the way.
Aurora Photos: How did you prepare for this excursion?
Chris Kimmel: This wasn’t what we initially set out to do that day, so I didn’t have all the right gear for photographing the water aspect of the trip – for example, my waterproof casing. I had to adapt and manage with what I had, and I was extra careful when getting my camera out while on the water. However, this prompted me to find different angles that I otherwise may not have gotten.
AP: How did the change of plans impact your photographs?
CK: The photos from the higher angles were some of my favorite shots because they required the most work. I had to scramble up the cliff face, bushwhack though the forest, search for a place to get a view, then hang myself over the cliff edge to get those shots. It would have been much easier for me to just stay on the shore or in the boat, but the results were worth it. It’s a unique perspective that gave me the opportunity to capture parts of the canyon I’d never seen before. At one point in the trip we were rafting down and passed two people climbing. I was able to capture the rafts and the climbers in the same shot. I love this depiction of the diverse opportunities available in our back yard. All you need to do is get out and explore!
AP: Do you typically use trips to motivate others to “get out and explore”?
CK: I love sharing my experiences and urging others to explore the world around us. I want to show people there are beautiful places that are close to urban areas, yet remote at the same time. One of the greatest things about getting outside is that you can adapt the adventure to your skill level. Our trip had a short hike in, followed by intermediate rapids and plenty of opportunity to hike the canyon or climb the surrounding cliffs. Every step of the way could be geared up or down depending on the adventurer’s skill and comfort level.
AP: How did you come to climb and rappel that section of the canyon?
CK: Visiting from Australia, Evan had his heart set on climbing a mountain that day. We brought the rope and harnesses along just in case we found an interesting route in the canyon. When Evan spotted this cliff face there was no stopping him from climbing it. Adam, Evan and I have climbed a number of peaks in the Coast Mountain Range together. Each climb seems to get more difficult so we always bring gear to set up an anchor and rappel just in case we get stuck or conditions get dicey. The climb and rappel off the canyon wall gave Evan a taste of the mountains for the day and Adam had some fun trying to catch Evan while battling the river currents below in his pack raft.
AP: What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
CK: This was my first time paddling this section of the river. It’s an inspiring place and I know I’ll be back. Adam, Evan, Cole and I learned from one another as well. As we went down the river on the pack rafts, we would give each other tips for the rapids as we went through each one. One of the biggest takeaways on any adventure is what you learn from those you’re exploring with, or people you meet along the way.
AP: What inspires you most as a photographer?
CK: I love exploring and seeing new places. It helps you find out exactly what you are made of when you are faced with different challenges. I also enjoy seeing and learning from how others react to adversity. If I could give any advice to someone, whether they are simply looking for an adventure or furthering that by photographing their experiences, it would be to take any chance you get to travel. As days pass, opportunities to learn from and grow from experiences pass as well. It’s incredible to see new places and capture something that you’ve never captured before.
About Chris Kimmel
Chris Kimmel grew up just outside Vancouver, British Columbia. He is passionate about finding remote yet accessible environments that he can photograph and share with others in the hopes of helping others enjoy the great outdoors. He wants people to understand and see the beauty in the natural environment that surrounds us, and he captures that in his landscape and outdoor adventure photography. Chris has been published by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, BBC, Backpacker among many others.
Here at Aurora, our resolution for 2017 is to get outside as much as possible. This year we’re embracing the outdoors and its opportunities for adventure, health and beauty. To help us (and you) do that, we came up with 8 ways to get into the outdoor spirit no matter where you live or how much (or little) time you have.
Find an alternate way to the office. Take a zip line to work. You have one of those, right? If not, pick one day per week to walk, bike, skateboard, or skip to your job. If your commute makes that impossible, consider parking just a little farther away or hopping off public transport one stop early. Bonus points if you don’t chicken out when it’s raining or 10 degrees outside. You can do it! We believe in you.
Set a timer to go off once or twice during your work day, to remind you to get up and go outside for 10 minutes. You don’t have to do anything special – just stand there and breathe for a bit. The trick here is to avoid hitting “snooze” on your reminders. Chances are, most things you’re working on can wait for 10 minutes or so, although don’t tell your boss that we said that.
Discover a fishing spot. Or maybe just discover a spot to sit and watch other people fish. For those with sporting tastes, the website takemefishing.org has a fishing and boating search engine to help you find new destinations. You can search by the type of fish you like to pursue, and if you decide to cross state lines you can even buy licenses.
Find the parks and public lands around your state. The legendary outdoor company L.L. Bean has a ParkFinder tool on their website to help you in your search for places to #getoutside. You can discover everything from city parks and playgrounds to state and national parks. It even has an activity filter, which lets you search for the best birdwatching, bicycling, fishing (or fish-watching, see #3) or boating spots.
Explore the rail trails and multi-use paths in your area. Just to be clear, multi-use doesn’t mean walking and texting. Multi-use trails are great for all sorts of outdoor recreation: running, biking, cross country skiing, or walks with friends (no need for texting). Many are just a few miles long, perfect for an hour of adventure, but others (like the Grand Allegheny Passage and C & O Towpath) can traverse states and run hundreds of miles. And unlike a sidewalk, these trails often avoid automobile traffic. Many of these trails exist as recreation paths thanks to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which keeps a searchable list of trails and paths that makes it easy to find nearby places to play.
Find a new bike route. Bicycling is one of those sports almost anyone can do, and you can find places to do it everywhere. Most states put out cycling maps to help riders find the best pavement, but if you’re looking for lots of maps in one place check out the Adventure Cycling Association’s route map store. Not only might it give you new ideas for your home riding, but it also has what you need to plan a cross country ride or some other grand adventure. If a bicycle is too much of a challenge, the website adulttricyclespro.com has reviews and top picks of the best adult tricycles.
Go to a farmers market once a week. It’s a great place to engage all your senses, enjoy your community, and force you out of the warm, dark hole that is your most recent Netflix binge. Stranger Things will still be there when you get home, and you might even score a tasty pint of artisinal gelato to enjoy in front of it. The USDA has a National Farmers Market Directory to find the one nearest you.
Get lost. Just go. Leave the web behind and head for the nearest park or woods. Be willing to turn your bicycle down an unfamiliar street. Every trail or fishing spot listed online is probably surrounded by five others no one has ever heard of. Those are the ones only the adventurous find. Be willing to go looking for them. It won’t always work out as you’d hoped, but that’s part of the fun. (Although we recommend keeping a cell phone or GPS device on hand, just in case.)
Five a.m. is early for a weekend alarm, but winter’s back. There’s too little daylight to waste it. The ice is in, the days are short, and the mountains are calling. Roll out of bed, pull on long underwear and fleece. Fill a water bottle, grab the already packed backpack by the door and go.
The warm car is the final bastion of heat. Don’t waste it. Don’t open the door a moment too soon, even if it means tying your boots hunched over the steering wheel. Soak in the final few warm minutes. They are precious. Once in the landscape it’s the sounds you notice: the crunch of the snow underfoot, the wind as it whistles through the trees, the rustle of nylon rubbing nylon. The hike is the warm up stretch before the fight begins. It’s a moment to look at the mountains, the snow, the trees and wilderness before the landscape rears to blanket your view.
The final walk below the ice is always a nervous one. The columns have a way of dwarfing and dampening, reminding you of how small you are. But in that frozen space the sounds continue—the zip of extra layers, the clink of carabiners and ice screws, the hiss of rope running through gloves—and are amplified by the cold.
Then it’s time. Tink! Tink! Sink a tool. Tink! Tink! Sink the other. Thunk! A boot. Thunk! The other boot. Ice climbing, the frozen symphony, has begun. The whir of ice screws cutting into the depth, the tap of the belayer dancing to stay warm, the drumbeat of falling ice. The movement becomes its own language, emerges in the winter quiet, echos through the canyons and reverberates through the ice. It is a landscape without heat but full of songs. Climb higher, into the breeze and creek of swaying trees. The scrape of steel mingles with the sounds of the forest. The hush of the falling snow only leaves the chorus ringing louder. The noise of belayers, other climbers, the human race and the world as a whole fades. Only you are left. You and the mountain. And you hear each other.