“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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
New year, new images and new photographers! 2016 starts off with action packed days, exotic adventures around the globe and some fun ways to keep your "get fit this year" resolution in the outdoors. From oyster beds in Vietnam to night skies over Yosemite, zip lines near Marrakech to rock climbing in Armenia, paragliding near Geneva to dogsledding in Minnesota, our photographers were everywhere! There's fly fishing, trail running up a mountain, celebrity athletes, a road trip in Namibia and Spain with new contributor Sergio Villalba, avalanche rescue, SUP and whitewater rafing in the Grand Canyon, skiing and welcoming a new addition to one contributor's family!
See all this, and Santa delivering presents on a dirt bike here: http://www.auroraphotos.com/result?webseries_id=14734
October and November are months of transition, and our recent images reflect that. For some, it's a transition from warmer days to snow and cold, and making sure they get in every single possible beach day, outdoor run, wave to surf and cliff to jump. For others, it's about getting in better shape and finding the motivation to be as physically fit as possible, through strenuous outdoor activities or grueling feats of strength in Crossfit. For one photographer, it's an expectant wife and the possibilities of teaching the child the joys of nature. There's also the destruction caused by the pine beetle, an aftermath of the rising temperatures, and the scientists working to counter this voracious invader. Or, if you'd prefer, we also have personal adventures and exotic journeys, the Volvo Ocean Race in France, friendly manatee encounters, incredible aerial landscapes, climbing galore, dogsledding, urban chicken raising and high-lining. There's even an event where people sleep in hammocks on a highline in the Dolomites!
The end of summer / beginning of autumn is always a beautiful and exciting time to be outdoors, as the weather and colors start to change. The variety of outdoor activities is great at this time as well. You can do yoga on the beach, nap in a hammock with your dog, watch the sunrise over a canyon with a little chill in the morning air, sail, enjoy some watermelon the best way possible (getting delicious juice all over yourself) or harvest the end of season fruits and vegetables. You can fly fish, go running, have a last river tubing adventure of the season, watch lightning storms in awe, mountain bike, hike to the top of a mountain peak for an expansive view or just check out some foliage. Or, maybe you're gearing up for your winter adventures on the slopes or planning trips to Cuba or Myanmar.
All that, and an underwater skateboarder, can be seen in our new images for October gallery: http://www.auroraphotos.com/result?webseries_id=14734