Here's To Now

The holidays are over and here I am, crammed onto a little plane flying back to Seattle. After 30-something flights this year, planes have become the thinking space just as my car had become last year. I'm honestly not sure why photographers are so hyped on doing "End of the year" reviews, buuuuut I'm going to do one anyway. 

Comparison can kill creativity, but I'm learning it can also help measure personal growth. As I look through photos from 2015 and think about the monstrous changes of life, it's hard not to compare to how I've lived this year. There's been ups and downs and twists and turns, moments of worry and doubt and happiness and too much stoke, but here I am with an entirely new portfolio of images, catalogue of stories, and somewhat new job.  

Quick backstory - A year ago I had driven 30,000 miles in my car, spent nearly 11 months on the road, and photographed 30 weddings. Add all that up and you get one burnt out guy. I had glimpses of shooting for outdoor brands here and there, but it was the friends I made at Kammok and Oru Kayak that made a difference. Fast forward through lots of thinking while driving and I decided to stop photographing weddings so I could work full time within the outdoor industry.

Back to present.

If there was one phrase I could use to sum up 2016, it'd be some good 'ol fashion Latin. It's a phrase I read in "How to Be Here" and it says Creatio Ex Nihilo, or Creation out of Nothing. Why's that important? It's a like a secret super power we all have but can't exactly figure out yet. And not that I've figured it out by any means, but it's something I explored throughout the year. Random thoughts like "Hey I don't like shooting weddings anymore, I should figure something else out. Working for some of these brands has been fun, lets see if there's something there." And so, conversation started, the word spread, I bought tickets to New Zealand with my now business partner, Adam Wells, and we were off. 

This was a year that showed the power of friendships and connections. Of asking for help and starting conversations with new people. Of not asking "what if" but saying "why not." It was a year of working and living with people, surrounding myself with movers and shakers and doers and people who build the stoke alongside me. 

From New Zealand to the Philippines, Alaska, 8,000 mile road trips, 60 miles of backcountry travel through Glacier, and everything in between, there's a lot to be thankful for. 

Here's to a year with even more stoke. An uncontainable amount. Here's to fighting for the places we call home, the wild places that have taught us how to live over the years. Here's to exploring new land, jumping in cold water, and crying from laughing too much. Here's to the people we love and keep close.

Here's to now. 

 

Headed out to Steamboat Springs, CO with the Wondercamp boys to shoot a story about Big Agnes. If I didn't love this company enough, spending a night out in some yurts with the whole team sure sealed the deal. Frozen beard, midnight showshoeing, and a solid laughter. 

Welcome to New Zealand, the chapter of 2016 that kickstarted this whole outdoor thing becoming a reality. We spent 4 weeks traveling across the country, crammed into a 12-person passenger van with all of our gear. 

 
 
 
 

This is Geoff. He's a legend. 

 
 
 
 

Josh & Magali on 120mm film 

When your friend says he found roundtrip tickets to the Philippines for $350, you buy them (even if you'll miss a flight from Singapore because of the date change). When you're riding scooters over a wet metal bridge and want to hit the breaks, don't do that. I did and now I have a fun scar on my leg from sliding out. 

After living out of my CR-V throughout last year, I had the opportunity to take a new 2016 CR-V on a 10-day road trip, snapping photos along the way for Honda. I drove 3,000 miles from Seattle all the way down to Southern Utah, across Death Valley into California, and up Highway 395 into Oregon. 

In June I was invited to join the one and only Chris Brinlee Jr. on a 3-day excursion into Alaska for a small campaign with Cotopaxi. We planned and planned our route only to show up and realize the zones could fill up, forcing us to improvise on the spot and pick a new location. We hiked 25+ miles, walked through the midnight sun until 3am, and Chris hopped onto the Denali bus in a sleeping bag. What a dude.

 
 
 

I was afraid to sleep at the bus stop because there had been a bear attack a few days earlier. Chris had no hesitation. 

At some point this summer, I thought it'd be a fun idea to try an intro to mountaineering climb. I've watched lots of friends summit some crazy peaks in the Cascades and talked to my roommate about Mount Adams. It's one of the easier and less technical routes, and after researching it a bit more, it seemed pretty doable. I called up my buddy Chris. Our conversation went something like, 

"Hey, you ever had any interest in climbing Adams?" 
"Yeah man! That'd be rad. Have you ever done anything like that?"
"Nope, first time. Gotta get some crampons and an axe. You"
"Same here."
"Cool. Next Wednesday work for you?" 
"Let's do it!" 

And so we researched, acquired some gear, learned some basic mountaineering principles, and up we went. I've backpacked and crossed many saddles, but this was the first true summit I've stood on. I remember seeing it from the plane a week earlier and laughing thinking I'll be up there pretty soon. 

 
 
 
 

Ladies and gentlemen, THE Adam Wells. 

60 miles through the backcountry of Glacier National Park - two weeks later I was in the ER because I thought I had appendicitis. Turns out I strained the muscles around my hip enough to hurt pretttttty bad. Led by two thirds of the Cochrane clan, Andy and Maddie guided us through valleys, around lakes, up and over passes, along tiny goat trails skirting steep hills, and through some gnarly cliffed out sections. This hike kicked the shit out of me but I'm so thankful for it. Type 2 fun all the way. 

 
 
 
 

Admiring the details of Hidden Lake Lookout

 
 
 

Spending four days at a trade show in Salt Lake City is great for making new friends, working out projects, and getting face time with different companies, but holy smokes I've never wanted to be outside so badly. What came out of that was a night on the salt flats. We invited our new friends, met at some random location, cooked dinner under the stars, shot BB guns at beer cans, sprawled out on the desert floor, and slept on top of old tarps. These are the times where I'm grateful for being surrounded by likeminded people and the conversations that come from sleeping outside. 

This next chapter is full of memories from driving 8,000 miles with my girlfriend, Stephanie, over 6 weeks. We drove from Washington down through California, spent a night backpacking in Yosemite, soaked in hot springs, climbed in the Buttermilks, fly fished in New Mexico, paddled in Texas, hiked in Colorado and Utah, and back home. This is what makes life full to me. This trip came together as a means of seeing people in different places, spending time on the road again, showing Steph the places that are important to me, and having that taste of no responsibility besides where to sleep and what to eat. 

 
 
 
 

No bad days with Steph 

 
 
 
 
 

Remember that level in Zelda with the shadow hands? 

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Even though this trip happened midway through driving across the West with Steph, it felt important enough to highlight on it's own. Last fall, I met some of my now best friends in Texas for 3 days of kayaking through the Santa Elena canyon. This year was round 2, same national park, same kayaks, and a few more friends. We floated 33 miles between Mexico and the US, detached from the outside world and only worrying about not flipping in small rapids. These are times I'd like to chase after more often. 

Welcome to the season of snow. For as long as I can remember, I've had an odd pain under one of my nails on my right hand. And not the sort of pain that you can brush off. Whenever the temperatures start to drop, whenever it got pressed too hard or hit, there was a sharp nerve pain that shot down my finger and hand. I've dealt with it for a while, but as winter started to come around I realized it was time to change things up. One quick surgery later, they removed a small glomus tumor (a weird build up on the nerve) and I feel like a kid playing in the snow for the first time. I can finally be outside in the cold and feel normal. Make snowballs without gloves, not worry about exposing my finger to the cold. It's hard to describe how stoked I am for the season of snow this year. Couldn't think of a better way to kick it off than snow showing up to a gnarly hut over a weekend. 

All play and no work. As the year closed out, I realized a lot of the trips and time spent outside had this weird underlying pressure to shoot branded content. Images started to become what other people would want, not what I felt like shooting. So in an effort to shake that odd feeling of discouragement, Adam, Joe, and I headed to the coast for a night of fun and no work. I shot 5 rolls of film on my Pentax and cut together a uquick little video. Going into the new year, I think it's important to remind myself that sure this is work, but ti's also what I love doing whether or not I'm getting paid. 

 
 
 
 
 

Exploring the desert while home for Christmas

And that brings us to 2am on December 31st. I started writing this post while crammed on a plane headed to Seattle, and now I'm finishing it while laying in bed listening to waves crash against the Canadian coast. Ten friends have officially rendezvoused in Tofino to celebrate how damn lucky we are to be alive, doing what we do. We've surrounded ourselves with people we love, people who inspire us, people we just met, and we're going to celebrate. Let's crush 2017 and make sure there's more time to appreciate the crazy life we've gotten ourselves into.  

 

Protecting The Wild

There's been a tradition amongst my friends of saying "Thank You's" before dinner, usually a couple words or things fresh on our mind from the day. More often than not, we're huddled around a campfire or cozied up around a big table enjoying family-style dinner. Each time we're going around the circle outside, I find myself being thankful for the Wild and all that it brings us. 

 
 

"Wild." It's a fascinating word. It's the only bit of this Earth that hasn't been commercialized, industrialized, or inhabited by thousands of people. It's the land as it was always meant to be. You and I are just guests in the wild - it's the home of the trees and animals and insects and rivers that flow through. It's a place not to take for granted. The Wild is where we find peace and quiet, where we can run around like children again. We can walk and explore and stop at the simplest leaf but marvel in it's perfection. We hide from storms and celebrate fresh water and sun. It's a way of escaping the hectic lives we all live in exchange for something simple. The Wild is something worth fighting for.  

Established on December 6th, 1960, the Arctic Refuge Wilderness covers 19.3 million acres of Alaskan Tundra. It's home to caribou, polar bears, snowy owls, arctic foxes, black and brown bears, muskoxen, and plenty of other species. It's home to the Gwich'in people, and has been for hundreds of generations. It's an Arctic and subarctic ecosystem, but it is very much full of life and stories worth protecting. 

As big oil companies race to continue developing fossil fuels, off-shore drilling and climate changes threaten places like the Arctic Refuge. They threaten the lives of the Gwich'in, the traditions and history they have attached to this land, the Caribou and animals who roam freely, and all those who are thankful for this land. The people of this area have been fighting oil companies for over 30 years now, but it's our time to stand and fight alongside them. 

Back in June, I had the opportunity of experiencing Alaskan wilderness for a quick 4 days and I can whole-heartedly say there's nothing like it. Two days spent in Denali National Park - no trail, no designated camp spots, no people, and no shortage of animal tracks. Using ridge lines and game trails as our source of directions, we explored the area with no intentions but to experience it. We hiked until midnight, slept on top of a knoll overlooking the valley, and felt dwarfed by the foothills behind us. This was a place of true wilderness. 

I'm working with Care2Patagonia, and Alaska Wilderness League to bring you this blog post about an important topic. I want to continue spreading the message and support the Gwich'in people in dedicating their coastline as recognized wilderness. Please take a few minutes to watch the short film put together by Patagonia that gives a glimpse of what this battle is all about. By taking steps like this, voicing our opinions, and signing the petition, we can come together and show our government that places like this matter. 

Glacier

Glacier National Park. I've heard stories of the mountains and lakes and bears and goats. So many goats. When you hear story after story, or scroll through photos on Instagram, you start to paint a picture of what it must be like. What it's like to wake up to sunrise along the water and watch the peaks turn vibrant red at night. So when we had the opportunity to spend 5 days in the backcountry of this park, that's all I could imagine. Reality check - we spent the first night (before hiking) sleeping under a bridge near the water. This is not an ordinary trip. 

For 4 nights and 5 days, we walked 60 miles across Glacier NP. We saw no bears, we saw no moose, but we did see a squad of goats running from behind a ridge and down a steep slope. Bear? Probably. 

Our days evolved from a steady trail to diverging right and heading down into a valley. Through overgrown brush, up to high ground to gain a better perspective, down into the long valleys, and along (sometimes) sketchy goat trails. We mapped our route based off the land, walked along the Continental Divide, stood on the top of one peak (I think), and raced down mossy ground to set up camp right before a thunderstorm rolled in. At night, we listened to Adam play the guitar and in the morning, we woke up to Andy making coffee for everyone. Whatta guy.

My phone was accidentally packed into a wet tent on our second morning, so I had no sense of time throughout the days. Everyone else joined and kept their phones off. We fell asleep when it was still light out, woke up who knows when, and walked a lot each day. 15 miles the first day, 18 miles the last day, and whatever else in between. I have a lot of respect for off-trail travel and the skill that's involved to make sure you're on the right route. It's a completely different experience than following a well-groomed trail and I think everyone ought to find a friend who knows what they're doing and give it a shot. It might kick your ass, but it'll be worth it. 

Andy, Maddie, Taylor, and Adam. These are my people. Here's a few things I learned from the crew who was up to no good - Don't take yourself seriously. Act like a little kid. Run across frozen lakes. Slide into freezing water (over and over). Moon helicopters. Carry a guitar so your friend can play. Keep a bag of gummies a surprise until Day 3. If you're not going to filter water, say "Freedom isn't free" each time you go into the unknown. Laugh when the trail is kicking your ass. Yelling is a good boost to make it over that pass. Don't eat peanut butter with rocks. Do make sandwiches with apricots and peanut butter. Being weird is okay.

Most importantly, celebrate your friends. 

 
 
 
 

Welcome to the Salt Flats

Welcome to our night out on the Salt Flats (or technically a few miles north on some BLM land). We survived Outdoor Retailer, walked in circles for miles, gave hugs to new friends and old friends, heard some wonderful thoughts about our industry, and continued pushing this world forward. It's certainly overwhelming at times, but it makes me happy when I'm dead tired at the end of each day and want to fall asleep by 8pm. Seems like a full day to me. 

Have you ever coordinated a camping trip with 15-20 friends before? It's hard. Especially when everyone is running around a trade show and you only have half their numbers. But these people wanted to get out just as much as I did and somehow we pulled it off. A few of us talked about camping on the Salt Flats, which spread to telling more people, which spread to group text upon group text until we decided to meet at a random Google pin that none of us had been to. Awesome. 

We had friends from Seattle, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Visalia, and probably a few more cities that I don't remember. We shot a Red Ryder BB gun at empty cans, we shot those same cans off Adam's hand (and head...oops). We watched the sunset from on top of Jeeps, talked and ate watermelon until it got dark, cooked tacos for everyone off the bed of a Honda Element, and celebrated a birthday with a tiny cake and candle that kept going out. We turned on headlights and strobe lights from headlamps and danced to not very loud music. We laid in the dark, heads on each others shoulders, and watched for shooting stars, naming them as they flew by. Adam won with Fungie the Dingle Dolphin (which in fact is a real dolphin). We slept on tarps, waking up to the sun shining over the mountain and covered in dust. We stumbled around in the morning, eating oatmeal and drinking coffee, slowly cleaning up camp until people left one by one. Finally, we took off on Jeeps and put them to use. Spinning circles and mobbing through the dirt until we made our way into Nevada. 

These trips are important. They're an opportunity to connect with people in person, to show we're interested in each others stories, to offer advice and, to get weird and dance in headlights, and to laugh. We celebrate the stars and the wild places around us.

"You'll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things." - Jamie Tworkowski

 
 

A Month in New Zealand

In November 2015, I was on my way down to Southern California for a wedding and made a pitstop in Joshua Tree for a few days. There was a friend of a friend there who I'd been wanting to meet for a while, Josh Deiss. From the stories I heard, the guy was worth randomly meeting up with for a bit. He didn't disappoint. A week later, Josh was moving to New Zealand on a 1-year work visa and had no idea what he was doing there. We talked around the fire, I shared stories from my trips there, he was stoked. I joked about coming out to visit him with our mutual friend, Adam Wells, whom I hadn't met either (we worked together with photo stuff through his old company). It was the usual "yeah that'd be rad, let's make it happen." You high five, drive away, nothing ever happens. 

A few days later, I called up Adam Wells. "Heard you were talking about visiting Josh in April or May. What are your thoughts about going out in March?" March was when I've been there before and it's sort of in between seasons, so not as many crowds. "Seems reasonable enough" he said. "Let's go for it." 

Somehow this felt like a good idea, so we actually went for it. And not the usual, let's make sure this a smart and reasonable trip. We chatted briefly on Thanksgiving morning and bought tickets. "3...2...1...click. Did it go through?" "Yeah..." "Are We going to New Zealand?" "I think so." I was at my old roommates house in LA, Adam was hiding in his room back at his parents house. We still hadn't met, but we were going to New Zealand. 

A month traveling in any country usually seems like a long time, but not here. When we'd meet people along the trip, they'd always ask "how long are you here for?" Oh just a month, we'd answer. You? "Well I've been here for 3 months so far, probably stay a few more if I can afford it." 

The following photos are a visual recap of our trip. We rented a van for 30 days, named him Marty, decked out the inside with storage to make our lives easier, and drove. A lot. Two kayaks, 4 guys, some canned wine, and a ton of gear. We slept most places for free, stayed in a hotel so we could do laundry, got one ticket for illegal camping, and saw lots of stars. I got more sandfly bites on my body than I could count, stood out in the rain in my underwear while shooting photos, and covered my face in mud. Some nights we slept in the van (thanks to heavy rain), others we slept in a tent. Twice we cowboy camped, twice we woke up with wet/frozen sleeping bags. 

There will be times when you have the opportunity to take a trip or make a change or do something drastic that seems impossible or unreasonable. And sometimes you have to do it and figure things out along the way. Just wing it. One of the biggest take aways on this trip was from Adam. When he was younger, his mom told him about the 3-Really rule. You can't really want something. You can't even really really want it. You have to really really really want it. Because if you're that dedicated and your heart is set, you'll figure out a way to make it work.