Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Snowy days in Bellingham

Rarely does Bellingham get snow, but when it does, people have a field day. The multitude of grassy slopes around town are transformed into sledding, skiing, snowboard, snow kayaking, and whatever-other-surface-you-can-shred-snow-with hills. I thoroughly enjoy how much people embrace the snow when it comes. Instead of people hunkering inside, many people are out building snowmen, hurling snowballs at each other and frolicking in the uncommon phenomena.

I was one of the many who chose to enjoy the snow while it lasted. I got out with two of my good friends Claire and Virginia to an overlook down by the water. The red of their jackets made for amazing contrast against the bleak scenery.

Snow in Bellingham means something else too. Urban. There are an incredible amount of perfect rails in this town, and when the snow comes, so do the shredders. I got out with a big group of buddies to do some urban skiing. It was my first time working with flashes which was a very interesting experience. I am very glad that I had my friend/fellow photojournalist Danny Miller there to walk me through the process.

We started shooting at the art rail on campus, right across from Carver Gym. I was just starting to get the lighting dialed in when we were shut down by the campus police. Kevin Curran and Buddy Chapman already had another spot in mind, so we packed up our gear and drove down to the next location. Upon arrival the lip was already made, so I just needed to set up the camera gear.

Thanks Brooke for helping with the exposure!

Working with flashes is not easy, but it is a lot of fun. You have to get your exposure correct, place them in the right position, make sure they are turned on (they turn off due to inactivity), make sure your transmitters and receivers are working and the list goes on. That being said, I was very pleased with how a few of my photos turned out. The first one I took ended up being my favorite.

All in all it was great learning experience. I can safely say that I now know a lot more about flashes but still have sooooo much to learn. The shoot opened my eyes as to how flash photography can give you the means to make photos in otherwise unsuitable situations. It has inspired me to buy flashes and the works!

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Holy POWDER! After getting an incredibly slow start to the season here in the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Baker and the surrounding area finally got the storm it had been waiting for. We received over one hundred inches in 10 days and it was some of the lightest snow I have ever skied! Luckily for me I have a few days off of school, and I may have played a little hooky too. After having doubted this season, my perspective was totally changed in a the matter of seconds into my first run.

These photos are from one week ago when Adam Robert and I got out for my deepest POW day of the season at that point.


I checked my Facebook late the following evening and had a message from Brandon Clabaugh. After three years of anticipation, I got the word that the boys were gonna build up and send the Mt. Baker road gap. My stoke level blew its cap and I think I had a slight erection.

I woke up early the next morning and was on the road by 7am. Driving to the mountain that morning I could feel something in the air. Today will be a good day.

I arrived at the mountain and was greeted with big smiles and daps from my friends Jackson Blackburn, Brandon Clabaugh, Ed Bear and Kevin Curran. They were just as amped as I.

We made it to the site where the gap is usually built and decided to build it in a different spot. When airborne, you have to clear a 40 foot gap to the landing and you are falling about 40 feet down. At your peak in midair you are about 50 feet off above the road.

It took us about an hour to build the jump up to standard. It was a well groomed launchpad, ready for takeoff. As the rest of the crew got ready to hit the jump I ran down to the road and set up for some photos.

Jackson Blackburn launched the first hit. Needless to say he sparked the session off right with a massive, laid out backflip. After that it was on! (I am holding the best images, I'm trying to get some of them published!)

Drew Swisher


Jackson "Squirrel" Blackburn

Young Squirrel
Road Gap Stoke

Campa Kev Cheesin

Brandon Clabaugh

Yours truly

Swisher and Kev

Kevin Curran

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Happy - /ˈhapē/ - Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment

What makes you happy? What is it that you love to do? Have you been doing it recently? If not, how do you feel? If so, how do you feel?

I think the key to happiness is doing what you love, and doing it often; because if your not doing what you love, then what are doing at all? Sometimes there is work to be done or obligations that need to be fulfilled, but everyone needs to make time for doing what they love. Otherwise, life isn't much fun.

Since I didn't get a seasons pass this year, skiing has not been as easy. I still get into the backcountry fairly often, but I can't ski when the avalanche danger is high. It becomes hard when all of my roommates and friends go to ski inbounds and I am left back at home. My head starts going haywire, I get stressed out and I start letting little things get to me.

Luckily, skiing isn't the only thing I love to do. Photographing people doing what THEY love to do is something that I love to do. So when the skiing was bad this weekend and I couldn't go inbounds i followed some of my friends to document them in the midst of their passions.


Bikes are sick. They are a self propelled, mechanized horse that can take you for a delightful stroll by the beach or send you down a braided goat trail, dodging boulders and branches at 30 miles per hour.

Fatigued legs push and pull, steadily progressing our steel steeds upward for another surge of adrenaline. Heavy breathing (mostly from me) can be heard as we finish the last steep uphill before the trailhead. High fives go around as Kristian Duft, Spencer Pikel and I get ready to for the fluid motion of the descent. We duck into the trees and sweep around a corner, tires gripping the frozen ground.

I also went out biking this weekend to help out Cody North with a sponsorship video. Video is for sure my weak point when it comes to media production, so I have been trying to practice it more.

Fly Fishing

10, 2, 10, 2. If you can imagine the full rotation of your arm to the side of your body as a clock, 10 and 2 are the ideal spots to start and stop your cast. This is what my dad taught me. Don't be jarring with your casting, be patient and fluid.

Fly fishing is an art. Casting a fly line probably looks like another boring sport that old men like to do. But, it is far from that. It is a chance to get intimate with other beings and your surroundings. It slows down time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Art of Crashing

Kkkkssshhhh…. A tree branch catches your tips. Your lofty, joyous airtime is quickly becoming a miserable excursion back towards earth. Impact. Cue exploding cloud of snow. Tomahawk. White, blue, white, blue goes your vision as you ragdoll down the slope. Stillness. Time to assess the damages.

The art of crashing. It isn’t exactly an enjoyable part of progression, but it is a natural part of progression. If you’re not crashing then you’re not trying hard enough.

“A crash is like taking a test or an exam,” Kevin Curran, (aka Camper Kev in the Newschoolers community) said, “you might be worried about the outcome but once its over, you look back and you’re like, that exam wasn’t as bad i thought it was going to be."

Every crash teaches a lesson that can be applied during your next line or takeoff. A little less speed. Be more forward on the landing. Don’t drink so many whiskey gingers the night before…. If you’re smart about how you ski, you will take the time to reflect upon what may have gone wrong. That is where the art of crashing lies.

Luckily for us, skiers have a more forgiving surface to dig their face into than a lot of other extreme sports. That isn’t going to say that rails, ice, rocks and trees don’t hurt just as bad as concrete, but usually we have a little bit of cushion to our falls.

That being said, skier are able to repeatedly crash without causing serious injury to themselves. Usually they can shake it off, get back up and ski another day.

“Crashing is something that we all try not to do, but it is inevitable,” Curran stated. Unless you’re Tom Wallisch or a freak of nature, you are going to fall.

Falling is not often a graceful thing. It can lead to embarrassment, injury and some soggy gear. But, some people are masters of falling. Given the abundace of skier and skill levels these days, people are going down frequently.

There are three different categories of crashers that are out and about on the slopes, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for them in a gallery near you.

The Gapers

                  Watch out. They are coming for you. The gapers are well apt at catching an edge and savagely slamming their dome-piece on some freshly groomed corduroy. These snow swallowing aficionados have the ability to lose all control of motor functions and take out innocent bystanders at any moment. Most importantly, you have to keep a keen eye on anyone riding on skis over 200cm. Those become heat seeking missiles when put in the wrong hand.  

The Flailers

                  The i’m good enough to go really fast, but not good enough to stop skiers.’ The ones that you see going penguin sliding face first down the busiest run on the mountain. They can now even be found in the backcountry, snowshoeing up the skin track or finding slide paths to walk up. They have even been seen going orbital off of side hits, making sure to swipe the feet out from under their friends upon re-entering the stratosphere.

The Avant-Garde

                  These are the experienced shit eaters. These are the ones you enjoy watching without being in fear for your life. They will send themselves off of massive cliffs, ragdoll head over heals four times, walk back up the hill, collect their gear and ride off like nothing happened. These Picassos and Van Goghs are able to dip their tips, frontflip out and come out drinking a PBR. Some even plan on jibbing trees in midair which can turn out to be quite the entertaining debacle

This is what happens when I get in front of the lens

Thursday, January 30, 2014


A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a quote that stuck with me. It reads "how much effort you are willing to put into the game determines how much fun it will be." I guess you could take that as a reference to a sport, but I took it more as a reference to life.

If you work hard, push yourself to do better and try to progress, you are naturally going to have a good time. If you're slacking, being lazy and not testing yourself then it is much harder to have self-worth and enjoy your experiences. Relationships, goals, school and work all become less of a burden when you take the time to put effort into them.

Lately I have been putting a lot of effort into my photography. It has been awesome! I have been progressing behind the lens which has in turn been pushing my limits as an adventurer too. I am wanting to get out and take interesting photos, so I need to find captivating subject matter.

That being said, I feel blessed to be living in such an outdoor oriented location. Within two hours in any direction of Bellingham there is access to world class skiing, climbing, biking, kayaking and hiking. Being so close to these natural playgrounds has allowed me to get out and explore the Northwest in ways that I have only dreamt of.

This weekend one of my dreams was realized. For as long as I can remember I have seen pictures of humans climbing up exposed, vertical rock faces, jamming their fingers and hands into cracks as they fight off the force of gravity. I was a little nervous to try a multi-pitch climb, but more than anything I was stoked! Kenny Frank and Gus Landefeld were nice enough to lead me up the Calculus Crack on The Chief in Squamish this weekend.


We rolled into Squamish, BC as the last sherbet rays of daylight dipped beneath the horizon. We passed a massive granite outcropping protruding out of the ground as we drove on the Sea to Sky Highway. The Chief was standing stoically, watching us enter its domain.

The Chief at night from downtown Squamish
The night air was warm as we grabbed food out of the car and walked to a cook area by the base of The Chief. Gus, Kenny and I enjoyed some dinner and brews while basking under the night sky:

Since it gets dark so early these days we were left with not much to do. We didn't want to go to bed, so we headed to downtown Squamish to exercise our legal drinking abilities at the Howe Sound brewery.

The Howe Sound Brewery, Squamish, BC

While sipping on some delicious local beer we met a nomad from New Zealand named Luke. He has been traveling for about the last decade, exploring all over the globe. He does carpentry as needed to support his lifestyle. For the past few years he has been living in his awesome gypsy wagon while traveling around the US and Canada. We were curious about his living situation so he invited us into his abode to share stories and a peace offering.

Gypsy Wagon

Luke and Gus inside the van
After exchanging memories with the wanderer it was about sleepytime.

I awoke to the eager duo opening the back of my Subaru where I was sleeping. Time to climb. We drove from our roadside camping spot just down the road to the parking lot for climbers, ate oatmeal and started off towards the Calculus Crack.

The difficulty of climbing route is called the 'grade' and it ranges from 5.0 which could be a ramp or steep section with good holds to 5.15c which is the hardest route ever climbed. Most intermediate climbers stick to the 5.7-5.9 range.

We hiked through the dank, green forest to the base of The Chief. The Calculus Crack is a 5.8 crack that shoots upward out of the forest. On the way up the first pitch we were able to use the trees as holds.

The first pitch

We found a little friend on the way up
I am glad that I was out there with Kenny. He was raised in southern Idaho in a climbing family, so he is very confident in his abilities. It is fun to watch a solid climber. The ability to cling onto the rock while placing gear into the crack is an art form. I have learned a lot from Kenny and Gus about climbing these past few weeks, they have kind of been my climbing mentors.

Kenny is a crack addict
It is pretty amazing what you can do with your body when you use willpower, determination and effort. The first time I looked at a crack route all I could think was, "you mean I'm supposed to climb that?" Crack climbing is interesting. You wedge your hands, fingers, feet, legs, or arms into the crack to secure yourself. For footing, you stick your foot in the crack vertically and then twist it until you gain purchase. It can hurt, but its better than falling.

I was a little bit puckered
The feeling of climbing is exhilarating, and multi-pitch climbing just magnifies that feeling. Even though climbing is nerve wracking, I can compare it to meditation. When you're climbing your whole being is focused on that one moment in time. Nothing else around you matters.

Gus belaying Kenny
Gus Landefeld
The last pitch was a low angle slab that we quickly scrambled up. As I untied from the rope at the top of the route I felt accomplished knowing my first big wall climb was complete. The boys and I exchanged our stoke and recapped the climb while overlooking the unique Canadian landscape that surrounds Squamish.

Climbing is quickly becoming a favorite activity of mine. It is one of those sports that brings you to places that you otherwise would never go. Pushing and pulling yourself upward takes a lot of effort and determination. It can teach you a lot about yourself such as; how you deal with stressful situations and how to overcome problems on the fly. Climbing is not the means to an end, it is just another way to explore the seemingly endless features of this globe that we live on.

Life is good. And I am realizing that the more effort I put in, the more rewarding it becomes.