Tag Archives: great outdoors

Sunny Stroeer – Grand Staircase Escalante Adventures

Libby and Alli canyoneering through narrow Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, 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 looking at map while sitting on stand-up paddleboard, Lake Powell, 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 of desert primrose 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!

The Symphony of Ice

Peter Doucette, Lucifer in Chains M9 Cathederal Ledge, North Conway, NH
Lucifer in Chains M9 Cathedral Ledge, North Conway, NH
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. For great ice climbing photography visit AuroraPhotos.com

New Images for February

A woman hanging upside down as she is lowered from a rock climb. February temperatures, typically the coldest in the year for us in Portland, Maine, start to give way to warming omens of spring. As the image by Mike Schirf above demonstrates, you've just got to hang in there! And what better way to warm you up than looking at beautiful new images?! We've got both kids and adults enjoying snow days, how to make friends during exotic travel, and some pretty intense workouts. There's seaweed farmers, a farming family and the family that camps together, staying together. Perhaps you prefer climbing, high line, acrobatics or running? Or maybe it's finding new places? There's exploration by: foot, old-timey bicycle, beat-up truck, sailboat, raft, SUP, and skateboard. However you choose to explore the great outdoors and the world around you, make sure you enjoy it to the fullest! See what brings our photographers joy with this curated gallery of lifestyle and the outdoors: http://www.auroraphotos.com/result?webseries_id=14734

PDN Great Outdoors 2015 Contest Winners

Trying to choose which images to submit to a contest can be difficult.  Even more so when the images aren't technically yours, but rather from many different excellent photographers, at the top of their game.  It gets even more difficult when that contest is completely in your wheelhouse, like the PDN Great Outdoors contest is.  Choosing out of the thousands of high quality images in a highly curated collection is like choosing which species of bear is your favorite bear.  How can you possibly pick just one? Therefore, we were thrilled to see two images we chose were judged as winners in their categories!  Chris Ross's shark image took first place in Beaches & Underwater, while Ryan Deboodt's feisty orangutan was a winner in the Animals & Insects category!  On top of that, three other photographers that Aurora represents (Keith Ladzinski, Jason Lindsey and Woods Wheatcroft) won, highlighted by Woods winning the grand prize in the Action & Adventure category. You can see all of the winners in both the professional and amateur categories here or in the August issue of PDN magazine.