Proust Nature Questionnaire – Megan Harrison

MEGAN HARRISON is an artist who works in a variety of media and exhibits her work nationally. Most recently she was included in the exhibition Geomagic at NMSU, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Her artwork depends on images and insights from geology, architecture, astronomy and Nature. She explores the complexity of the world around her wherever she is. Watch the video, the Complexity of Scale, made by Walley Films.

3 words to describe Nature?

Compounding complexity

Transformative

Penetrating

3 things Nature taught you?

You don’t have to be lucky enough to travel to exotic places to interact with Nature. Nature is a constant and creative force that pushes itself into every aspect of our world, from the remote and distant wilderness to cracks in the sidewalk.

No matter how big, the drama and story of our individual life pales in comparison to the scale, history and complexity of the world that we belong to.

We are shaped, physically and psychology, by natural forces. Our neurological landscape mirrors that of our physical one, complete with domesticated centers, rural outposts and untouched wilderness.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where I grew up.

The North-East coast of the United Stated and into Canada. Instead of sandy beaches you will find huge slabs of ancient granite facing off against a dynamic and pristine ocean.

The wilderness of northern Minnesota (minus the mosquitos). Through all of the water channels and tiny islands you can go and go and go until it feels like you are a million miles away.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Salt water, sun kissed, wind-blown – when I look at the ocean I can sense for a brief moment the scale of the planet we live on.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

I feel like I could spend all day there, listening to the sound of my steps, watching the light through the trees, finding a spot have a snack. I am so at home there.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

When I see a volcano, it feels like all of my Earth Science textbooks have come to life. I can imagine the Earth’s crust, the lithosphere, the mantle and all of the tectonic plates bobbing around.

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Seeing the sunset is an experience that usually comes to you. You are moving through your day and look up, and there it is.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

After a flash of lightning, the feeling of anticipation, waiting for that thunder to follow, is so satisfying.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Cozy and happy to have a good roof over my head.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Today I feel like a Forest person.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

A 10. In fact, just thinking about nature has positive effects; the idea of wilderness shapes such a large part of the human psyche.

Share with us a childhood nature memory

My dad took me on a short camping trip when I was 7 or 8. It was the first time I experienced hiking into a natural space with a pack as opposed to camping next to a car. It felt like we walked for a very long time, though it was probably less than a mile. It was just far enough to feel really surrounded by the landscape. I remember green everywhere, cold mornings, and the smell of the tent. I was amazed watching my dad; he knew all sorts of tricks – how to set up a tent, start a fire, hook a fishing line, cook outside, brush your teeth and clean dishes without running water. I would love to go find that spot again. I am curious to see how my memory has interpreted that space.

The Spirit of Juneau

Some places come and go. Some cities spring up only to disappear decades later for one reason or another (think of Bodie, California). History is filled with forgotten colonies and failed urban visions. I am curious though. What factors or variables are necessary to sustain a city and its inhabitants for hundreds of years? For thousands of years? How is a geographical location in the middle of seemingly nowhere able to maintain interest despite its remoteness and existential challenges? It takes more than an abundance of fish to justify settling down. It takes more than strong will and powerful wishes to turn a series of buildings into a lasting and thriving city where souls live and rest. Are there mini gravitational forces that we are unable to see, inexplicable vortexes that attract life and make people stay in the same way such as sweet nectar pulls in thousands of hungry bees?

For several millennia, this location was known to the Tlingit as Dzantik’i Héeni (where the flatfish gather). It sits at the foot Yadaa’at Kale (the beautiful face of the mountain) and is south of Aak’w (little lake). Nearby are Kootznoowoo island (fortress of bear) and Taku river (the flood of the geese).

During the 1791-95 expedition, Captain George Vancouver, along with his crew on the Discovery, were the first recorded Europeans to visit it. A hundred years later in 1880, two prospectors Richard Harris and Joe Juneau, guided by Tlingit Chief Kowee, struck gold at the mouth of Gold Creek. The city was then renamed Juneau.

For thousands of years, people have come from far away and gathered at Dzantik’i Héeni (Juneau). Whether they were drawn by the abundant natural resources, the major fishing and hunting grounds, the promise of gold, perhaps they followed love, were lured by work or simply came to visit, none of those reasons are enough to make one stay and settle. There is something in the land, the waters, and the mountains that draw people in and inspires them to call Juneau home.

I first discovered this Alaskan city in 2013 when visiting with a group of friends. Juneau was our rendezvous point where we boarded the Alaska State Ferry. We kayaked from Sitka to Hoonah, along the Pacific Coast of Chichagof Island and from Hoonah to Tenekee Springs (TV interview and radio interview).  I returned the following year, only this time I kayaked solo from Juneau to Pack Creek and then to the Taku Glacier (radio interview). One of the trip’s highlights was a night paddle on bioluminescent waters, surrounded by orcas and humpback whales. To say it was magical is an understatement.

Ever since that first visit, Juneau has played an integral part in my career and in my personal life. Three of my most popular photos were captured there (see above). Some of my most memorable memories took place on its surrounding waters and deep within its forests. Not only has Juneau become one of my favorite gateways into the wilderness; it is a place where I found a great friend, Ken. Originally from Boston, he moved to Alaska in the 70‘s. Explorer, philanthropist, conservationist and musician, Ken owned Alaska Discovery and founded of Pack Creek Bear Tours.

At the beginning of this year, Juneau resident Captain Tom Kelly from Blue Planet Eco Charter reached out to me with an invitation to join him on a summer sailing cruise. I was now married and the prospect of being able to share with my wife a part of the world that had been so special to me was really exciting. It was the perfect opportunity! While my solo wilderness expeditions are remote and span weeks at a time, this trip had to be slightly different. It needed to be adventurous, but not extreme while encapsulating all the classic highlights that Juneau is known for including the places, the food, the people and activities.

Travel Juneau and I worked together to plan the perfect itinerary: a floatplane to Pack Creek where brown bears can be viewed in their natural habitat, a hike in the Tongas National Forest, a paddle to the Mendenhall Glacier and exploration of the ice cave, whale watching in Auke Bay, a feast of fresh-caught Alaskan King Crab and a weekend excursion to a luxury fishing lodge in Angoon. Our 12-day trip would conclude aboard Captain Tom’s 40’ S/V Seamoore as we sailed around Douglas Island overnighting in Young Bay.

The other goal was to bring my photo project Random Connectedness to Juneau. Through this project I seek to illustrate the random connectivity of the human species. I do this by taking portraits of random people holding a letter of the alphabet. I then combine these portraits into words, phrases or sentences. The letters are red for a reason. According to Chinese mythology, the Gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. It is called the legend of the Red String of Fate. The red letters represent the string.

In addition to photographing the natural beauty of Juneau, I would turn the camera on its people. How best to celebrate this distinctive city that has given me so much other than to honor its citizens who live and breathe it, the ones who radiate the “Spirit of Juneau”.

It was incredible to hear their stories. The vast majority are from the lower 48 states who had come to visit and had never left. Some were born here, had left to pursue advanced eduction or a job, only to find their way back. Juneau was home to each of them. A unexpected discovery was to see so many talented and young entrepreneurs throughout the city. Young adults one would expect to see in major hubs like New York or San Francisco. They were all adamant about their beloved city – it was the best! Let me introduce you to some of them.

Maura Selenak of Almaga Distillery (Above, E in the THE). Originally from Minnesota, she moved to Juneau after falling in love with the dramatic scenery and sense of community. A kindergarten teacher, Maura and her husband founded the craft spirit distillery using a 250-gallon still from Vendome.

Eric Oravsky of Adventure Flow (Above, S in the SPIRIT). Grew up in Montana and was exploring the wilderness with his parents before he could walk. He continued to explore and found photojournalism to raise awareness for the wild places he loves. Keeping active and inspiring others led to him co-founding Adventure Flow.

David McCasland of Deckhand Dave’s (Above, F in the OF). An incredible story of persistence. A young local chef and fisherman, who recently opened a taco truck that serves “to-die-for” panko-crusted salmon sticks and fish tacos. His tartar sauce is a secret recipe and the talk-of-the-town.

Christy Namee Eriksen of Kindred Post (Above, 1st U in JUNEAU). Born in Korea, she grew up in Alaska. Christy is an artist, community activist, educator, and writer whose work is grounded in social justice and community engagement. She is the recipient of the 2013 Mayor’s Award for Artist of the Year, two Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Awards, and the Loft Immersion Fellowship.

Ryan Lindsay of Devil’s Club Brewery (Above, E in the JUNEAU) He began his career working for Bridgeport Brewing Co. in Portland and later found himself commercially brewing for Drifter Brewing Co. in Cape Town, South Africa. During his time with Drifter, his brew was awarded the best light beer in the country of South Africa.

Jessica Hahnlen of Frost and Fur (Above, 2nd U in JUNEAU). Born in Juneau, she lived in Sacramento then moved back with her husband. Her company design and hand-print (she screen-prints her art onto apparel) in Juneau and gives back 3% to local non-profits

Lia Heifetz of Barnacle (Below, O from Love). A lifelong Alaskan, she lives in Juneau with her partner Matt. Together they started Barnacle, turning kelp into tasty snacks, like salsa and pickles. Their mission is to create delicious and healthy foods using Alaskan ingredients to expand the local food economy, build community resiliency and perpetuate stewardship of natural resources.

A whale of a thank you to the FAVORITE BAY LODGE team for an unforgettable weekend!

Thank you Above & Beyond Alaska (ABAK) for a great time at the Mendenhall Glacier.

A HUGE huge thank you to Kara at TRAVEL JUNEAU for her support, Maryann at PEARSON’S POND INN for her incredible hospitality. Special thanks to Adventure Flow, Juneau Whale Tours, Alaska Seaplane, Tracy’s King Crab Shack and Deckhand Dave’s.

SPRING NEWSLETTER

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“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir

Spring – the time of the year that is synonymous with new beginnings. Trees that have been dormant for months start coming to life. Minute by minute, the sun stays longer every day, finally pushing our dark evenings away. The air is getting warmer. This warmth is fueling this increase of energy we feel everywhere. The other animals sense it too. Our bodies are becoming more active, itching to return to the open landscapes. It is the call of the Wild, reaching out into the depth of our unconscious and connecting with the ancestral bond we share with the planet and with the natural world.


FUJIFILM

I am extremely proud and honored to announce that I am now a FUJIFILM X-Photographer. It is not everyday that one of the most recognized photography brands in the world decides to include you in its team of “Expert Photographers“.

I have been using the X-T1 and you can read below my testimonial.

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“The XT-1 is my new weapon of choice. It is everything I need and much more. Having used DSLR for many years, I had always felt that going more compact and opting for the benefits of mirrorless cameras meant loosing in quality and capacities. But those days are now gone and over with. The XT-1 is the future, my future! It gives me the power of technology in a camera I have no worries taking it along with me either while kayaking the burning hot Sea of Cortez, backpacking the wet and windy spring days of British Columbia, or biking the cold winter wilderness of Alaska.

Also really important, I never feel physically disconnected from the process of photography – which is something that is happening today because of technology – you gain new advantages while loosing connection. The XT-1 is the opposite. Its simplicity and its tactile controls connect me with my art, with the photos. I feel in control, not controlled and dependent of a machine.

The XT-1 is a no fuss, extremely powerful, weatherproof and compact wonder! And it is the only one I carry with me.”


WILD FOUNDATION

The WILD Foundation has been at the heart of the global wilderness community for over 40 years. It is the founder and steward of the World Wilderness Congress, the world’s longest–running, public, international conservation program.

Starting in June, I will be joining their Marine Wilderness 10+10 Project as LEAD WILD EXPLORER. Together, and with other organizations, we will work at preserving the wilderness values of a targeted selection of regions around the world.

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“Daniel brings to us the wild tales of the ocean we need to help a variety of stakeholders envision the values they commonly hold – ‘marine wilderness,’ which benefits communities, fishers, recreationists, tourists and all of us.” Julie Anton Randall, Vice President for Programs, The WILD Foundation


W.I.L.D. SCHOLARSHIP

W.I.L.D. (Wilderness Immersion for Leadership & Discovery) believes that immersion in nature is an important part of our development, especially during our early, formative years when it is so critical to discover who we are, develop strong self-esteem, begin to adopt leadership skills, challenge our physical well-being and acquire the capacity to live a balance life in a world dominated by technology. Knowing the importance of today’s youth in shaping the future, W.I.L.D.‘s initial effort is targeted on giving youth, especially under-privileged teens, the opportunity to experience first-hand the positive impact nature can have on their lives through wilderness immersion camps.

Originally, the funds raised during the first  W.I.L.D. campaign were just enough to support only one teenager but thanks to N.O.L.S., their scholarship program decided to get involved and matched the donations. Making it possible to fund 2 teenagers instead of one.

So it is with great pleasure that I am announcing the first 2 W.I.L.D. Scholarship recipients, Gavrielle Thompson and Kedyn Sierra.

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Both Gavrielle and Kedyn have been previously involved with ETC (Environmental Traveling Companions). Their applications clearly illustrated their passion for the outdoors and their deep desire to experience and learn from being immersed in nature. As part of their adventure, they will be documenting their journey and sharing their discoveries.  Look forward to their report later this fall.

For their month-long sea kayaking wilderness camp in Alaska this summer, Kedyn & Gavrielle will be geared up by Sierra Designs,  Kokatat,  Mountain KhakisMiirIcebreaker,  Aquapac,  Deuters,  Confluence Outdoors,  Rocky S2V,  Guayaki,  Optimus Stove and Smith Optics.

A huge thank you to everyone for your support!


BAJA CALIFORNIA

I recently spent 2 months in Baja California where I paddled around Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Tortuga. While Santo is a famous island close to LaPaz featuring incredible landscapes, Tortuga is a remote volcanic crater 20 miles offshore only visited by fishermen. You can see the recap of the two expeditions on PINTEREST and the MINUTE OF NATURE videos filmed on location here.

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Whale shark outside LaPaz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

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The Tortuga Rattlesnake, a species endemic to the island.

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Campsite on Isla Espiritu Santo


STORIES

From the blog – 3 new stories were added: an encounter with a black bear, the insights received during a paddle in Baja, and the challenges explorers face when they come back home after traveling for so long.

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THE POWER OF THE VOICE

The black bear stood tall, mounted on his hind legs, only 15 feet away from me. Its nose was covered with long grey hair, some remnants of a deer carcass it was just feeding on. Its front paw claws hung in front of him while the ones on its back paws were firmly dug into the ground… READ MORE

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SOLITUDE + SILENCE = CLARITY & PERSPECTIVE

The beach was made of this creamy white sand – powdery granules made of crushed shells and limestone eroded over millions of years, moved with the tides, currents and wind, slowly and gradually pushed back against the shore, grain after grain, and now forming the soft cushion I was resting on… READ MORE

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A CHALLENGING RETURN

The road is my home. It is where I feel alive. It is where I breathe and nourish myself. The road feeds my craving for discovery. It calms my restless mind hungry for new experiences. My dreams are blank canvases that paint themselves as I move forward towards new destinations. I am like a mountain river that needs the movement to fill itself with air… READ MORE


PUBLIC SPEAKING

The end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 was marked by several public speaking engagements with presentations at REI stores throughout the Bay Area, at the San Francisco State University and at the well known Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

Dates and locations for future events will be announced this summer as the schedule for Fall 2015 / Winter 2016 is being confirmed.

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FEEL THE WILD – BOOK

My new book – FEEL THE WILD, is in the works and the first Draft Edition will be ready for the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show this August. With close to 200 pages, the book is a collection of stunning photography, inspirational stories and new material.

If you want to be notified when the book becomes available please click this link

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ONLINE STORE

We are getting closer to the online store being operational. Products from Icebreaker, Miir and Mountain Khakis will feature the FEEL THE WILD & THE POWER OF NATURE TO RESTORE THE HUMAN SPIRIT branding. Products so far being offered will include: Coffee Mugs, Merino t-shirts, Neoskin journals, Growlers, Tote Bags, Insulated bottles, Water bottles, Greeting cards and prints.

If you want to be notified when the merchandise becomes available please click this link

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MEDIA

See below a recap of some of the major media coverage recently published. I would like to thank the publications and magazines for believing that my work is newsworthy. Click on the image to access the article.

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WHAT’S NEXT

Plans are always the most complicated and challenging reality I have to face, as they constantly change. Right now, I am heading to British Columbia where I plan on biking and padding the Canadian Wilderness for the next 2 months. With nothing set in stone, the best way to keep in touch with my adventures is through my social media – which you can access by clicking the icons below. If you hear that I am passing through your neighborhood, don’t hesitate and reach out, it is always a pleasure to connect and share stories.

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May the Wilderness Be with You.

STOP . BREATHE . RELAX . LISTEN

Wilderness Systems, Minutes of Nature & Bear Encounters

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SPRING NEWSLETTER

What an interesting winter it has been! Unexpected developments demanding reassessment and ultimately turning into profound insights. Needless to say, the last four months have been full of surprises. With Spring around the corner, the foundation is now set to deliver a great deal of content – images, stories and videos. But first lets go over the latest!

WILDERNESS SYSTEMS

I am incredibly happy and proud to announce the sponsorship of WILDERNESS SYSTEMS and ADVENTURE TECHNOLOGY. Winner of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Boat Brand of the Year by Canoe and Kayak Magazine and manufactured in South Carolina, Wilderness Systems’ innovative designs are tuned for performance and quality. Since 1986, they have has pushed the limits of design and innovation by refusing to compromise.

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“Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology products have long provided the tools to access off-the-beaten-path destinations and give people an opportunity to explore their surroundings in a more intimate way,” said Evan Lyendecker, marketing manager for Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology. “The goal of the Wild Image Project is to capture beautiful, remote places for all to experience and then inspire people to connect with their natural world, so it was a natural partnership for us. We are always looking for new ways to expose people to the wild and watery environments we depend on and care about so much, and we believe Daniel’s expedition helps foster that awareness and passion.”

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MINUTE OF NATURE

I have been working on finding a concept of short videos that would support my narrative – THE POWER OF NATURE TO RESTORE THE HUMAN SPIRIT. It was during my trip to the Bedwell River that the clarity of what I needed to do came to me.

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Let me explain to you … watch the video below. (click on the image)

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Find out about the intended goal behind the un-edited Minute of Nature – Be in the Moment! (click on the image)

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This idea of sharing with you these moments and inspirational quotes or thoughts is exactly what I have been looking for. The notion of helping you disconnect and leave the modern world behind just for one minute so that your mind can wander away and connect with that part of nature where I was able to “Stop, Breathe, Listen and Relax.” This is exactly what I strive to bring to you.

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VANCOUVER ISLAND

For the last two months, I have been kayaking and exploring the Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The Pacific Northwest is always full of adventures and discoveries and the island hasn’t disappointed.

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I started on Vargas Island just outside of Tofino and followed with the Bedwell Sound. Paddling from Victoria, I crossed the Haro Strait and explored the San Juan Island. Then came a long weekend in Telegraph Cove and Hanson Island.

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There was a wolf encounter, two bear encounters, many raccoons, plenty of rain and winds and some great paddling. Check PINTEREST for a recap.

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PATIENCE

In our culture of instant gratification, the meaning of the word PATIENCE has almost become taboo. Still, from time to time, we are forced to confront its undeniable necessity. Once again, my time in nature was responsible for bringing me perspicuity.

“It has been 15 hours since the heavy rain started. Tucked into my sleeping bag, the sound of the water droplets falling on the tent like an endless drum roll, the clarity of what has been happening these last two months just dawned on me and I just can’t help myself but start laughing. The fact that I had planned to be in Hawaii at this time, diving and kayaking with the humpback whales makes this spiritual awakening even more ludicrous. As much as I would have wanted the reality to be different, the message was clear and all around me – patience needed to be embraced…”  Read the story here

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SISU

Finnish have a word – SISU, which its literal translation is “Having Guts”. But it cannot be translated without understanding its culturally value. It sits at the core of their spirit and has, for hundreds of years, defined who they are and what they strive for.  This story is what happens when you let nature in and experience how it can truly restore the human spirit.

“…Spending a lot of time in nature and on expeditions, your perception of things changes. You stop seeing things in what they could be or could not be. You quickly forget about probabilities, odds and statistics. Your bottom line becomes extremely clear and simple – yes or no, going or not going. I have to eat. I have to find shelter. I have to survive. You might and will debate about what to do or what could be done, but there is only one state of mind – Sisu…”

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SEA KAYAKER

Last July, some friends and I kayaked from Sitka to Hoonah, a 11-day 140 miles journey along Alaska’s coastal wilderness. The story of our adventure, written by Nathaniel Stephens was featured in the magazine Sea Kayaker.

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“…In the morning, as we sipped hot coffee and looked out across the water to the north, two humpback whales breached in unison, launching their massive bodies fully airborne and flopping down in tandem with twin plumes of white spray…”

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Check the photo board on PINTEREST and the video album on VIMEO for a recap of the paddling adventure.

PEEK

I was really happy to be asked by PEEK, a leader in the traveling industry, to contribute to their TASTEMAKERS section. Planning on spending some time on the Big Island of Hawaii? Make sure to read my “PERFECT DAY“.

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MARIN MAGAZINE

“Walking the Wilderness” is a contribution between poet Ushi Patel and I, portraying the beauty of the Marin Headlands located in the Bay Area just across from San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge.

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KOKATAT

Made in the USA, this family-style company has been believing and supporting my work since the beginning. I am honored to be featured in there 2014 catalog! So great being part of such a wonderful team of dedicated people, working relentlessly at delivering the best products.

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THE MIGHTY BUFFALO

My story “The Mighty Buffalo” was featured along with some of my photos in the Bison World, the official publication of the National Bison Association.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

I am now leaving the Vancouver Island and heading north. First stop will be ATLIN, then JUNEAU, maybe the Prince Williams Sound and finally KODIAK ISLAND.

In August I will be in Salt Lake City for the Summer Outdoor Retailer Trade Show.

Coming this summer, the announcement for one of my most anticipated projects ever – which will bring my work and impact to whole new level – stay tuned!!

As always, my work wouldn’t possible without the support of my sponsors, a big thank you to all of them! WILDERNESS SYSTEMS, ADVANCE TECHNOLOGY, KOKATAT, SIERRA DESIGNS, DEUTER, MOUNTAIN KHAKIS, DELORME, THULE, SMITH OPTICS, AQUALUNG, SANDISK, DAHLGREN, ICEBREAKER, VOLTAIC SYSTEMS, SEA TO SUMMIT, ROCKY S2V, SPERRY TOP SIDER, SOG, OPTIMUS STOVES, KATADYN

Big Sur, the Mighty Buffalo & Holiday Wishes!

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WINTER NEWSLETTER

2013 is almost over and three months have already passed since the last newsletter. We are all about to enter the holidays to celebrate and spend time with the ones we cherished and care for. Before I give you my wishes, lets take a minute and go over the latest and what you can expect for 2014.

NEW WEBSITE

I am proud to announce that The Wild Image Project is starting 2014 in style with a brand new website! Created by photographer and good friend Flemming Bo Jensen and his partner Charlene Winfred of Coffee and Magic, the website does a wonderful job at capturing the essence of my work. The navigation is easy and intuitive and social media has been incorporated to support the narrative. Don’t be shy and click!

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MIGHTY BUFFALO

I recently had the amazing opportunity of spending three weeks at the Antelope Island State Park, located in Utah, just outside Salt Lake City. The park is known for the American Bison which was introduced to the island back in 1893. What started with 14 individuals is now, today, more than 500, one of the biggest free roaming buffalo populations in North America.

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This legendary animal was sacred to the Native Americans. For them, the bison was a symbol of life and abundance. In many myths, the bisons gave themselves up willingly as a food source for humans. In others their spirits brought sacred knowledge about medicine or peace pipes to humankind. In many cautionary tales, buffalo hunts were unsuccessful due to the hunters’ lack of respect to the buffalo. My goal was to capture the “Buffalo Spirit“. You can see the resulting photography here.

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DISRUPTION

Why do we live in a culture that doesn’t embrace disruption? Since everything that we love and appreciate is rooted in it. After a stormy day and an unforgettable encounter, I reflect on the topic, wondering if we are not stripping our lives from what is precisely making them exciting.

Read my latest story, “DISRUPTION, THE NATURE OF LIFE

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STRIPPED

“…Sitting on that log, with my empty cup of tea, nothing feels out of place. I don’t feel out of place. The humility brought by the simplicity I find myself surrounded by is relaxing, refreshing and gives me hope. Real and honest is what nature is to me. It is a constant reminder of the true essence of what life is about. It is my source of inspiration, my elixir for meditation and my most profound teacher.” 

STRIPPED is a story about letting go and being in the moment as we juggle with our modern lifestyle, expectations and work duties.

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ROZ SAVAGE INTERVIEW

Roz is to ocean exploration what Kelly Slater is to surf. Not only has she paddled across every single ocean on the planet, but she decided to “start” her explorer career at an age when usually everyone else chooses to forgo their dreams and accept their given fate. Over the years, Roz Savage and I have become good friends and every time our complicated lives manage to cross each other, we always cherish long philosophical conversations. Emailing me from London, she invited me for another conversation and asked if I wanted to be on her next “Adventure Podcast”. After some logistics and scheduling, we found ourselves a couple of days later connected over Skype. Here is the interview. Be ready for some philosophical talk about exploration, conservation and photography.

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MARIN MAGAZINE

TOTEMS is a photo feature that was published in the Marin Magazine issue of October.  I was asked to write about my creative process and what was I pursuing while photographing nature. Read more here.

“… this collection is my attempt to present these animals with respect and honor. My goal is not to beautify or humanize them but rather to recognize their respective success of survival in relation to a humbling way of looking at the world that I fear is on the verge of disappearing.”

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OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER MAGAZINE

“Behind the shot” is a column in the magazine Outdoor Photographer that goes behind the scene of some spectacular photograph, explaining how the image came to be. One of my bison photographs was recently featured. Read more here.

“…until he walked just about 20 feet from where I was sitting. He stopped by a bush right behind where he proceeded to scratch his furry head. I sat there mesmerized by its presence and the depth of his look, trying to understand what was the threat that so many saw in this creature. After taking my photos, I thanked him for his time and cooperation and slowly departed…”

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LIFE’S STORIES FROM MEMORY

Sandisk recently asked to be be part of their ‘s campaign “Life Stories from Memory“. Their products are really important for my work. I travel light, by myself, and am gone for long periods of time – so everything I have in my bag must be extremely reliable – if not bulletproof! The days have drastically changed since film and it is still hard to remember a time when your biggest investment and hassle was to carry, protect and process long rolls of fragile films. Nowadays, with my SanDisk Extreme Pro I can spend all my energy on pushing my photography to new places. My fingers will be frozen, my feet will be burning, the sun will scorch or the wind will roar, yet I know I don’t have to worry one second about where my work is being stored.More stories are coming up soon, but for now, the first one is about my last trip in Utah – SEEING EYE TO EYE WITH A BUFFALO. Next will be LAVA and TOTEMS

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“… My goal was to create an abstract and artistic representation of the lava’s intensity. Compared to the free flow of lava, active and fast, these clefts are the result of a constant but slow force. One fracture at a time, earth is moved forward to form new landscapes, erasing old ones behind. Invisible at day, their presence and intensity is only revealed at night, cracking the dark world open, light a lightning splitting the sky in pieces.” Story coming soon

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“…When I photograph animals, I don’t hide from them, I want them to see me. I want them to “give me the shot”, instead of me “taking the shot”. I want their eyes to look into mine. I want them to tell me who they are. I want that non-verbal ancestral communication, that place where no words are needed and only the sense of commonality is felt. It is not an attempt beautify or humanize the animals but rather to recognize their respective success of survival in relation to our own mortality.”  Story coming soon

2014

Next year is looking to be incredible! There are many expeditions on the table – HAWAII, KODIAK ISLAND, GRAND TETONS, YELLOWSTONE and the CHANNEL ISLANDS. Everything will be confirmed in January – stay tuned.
Also in the works are a photography SHOW in San Francisco, a coffee table BOOK with a poetry writer, a photo PROJECT on the Farralon Islands and a photo portrait SERIES at an animal refuge in Florida.

So exciting!!

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HOLIDAY WISHES

“In this century we have made remarkable material progress, but basically we are the same as we were thousands of years ago. Our spiritual needs are still very great.”  Dalai Lama

Let us all remember that despite the attraction of technology and the temptation of simplifying the depth of our relationships to those of robots, we must never forget the magic of nature and the beings that we are. We are more than algorithms and statistics. Lets not loose faith in our capacity for spiritual greatness and move on into the future with the desire of finding inner peace and content. I will see you again in 2014!

HAVE A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY, A MERRY CHRISTMAS & A WONDERFUL HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

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Bruised & Battered

I often wonder how many expeditions, how many movies, how many books, how many genius ideas or how many dreams almost came to be but never saw the light of day. J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, one of the most successful stories ever written, saw her manuscript refused 12 times. During the five years it took to finish her first novel, between that day on the train when she imagined Harry’s character and that fateful day when finally her book was chosen by a very small publishing house – what motivated her to keep writing, against all logic and financial realities? What motivated her to keep presenting her book, rejection after rejection? She had no money. She lived off social security, saw herself as “the biggest failure”, her marriage had failed, and she was jobless with a dependent child. What pushes people to give up any sense of security and stability for a quest that makes no sense to anybody other than themselves? What is it that they see, or feel, that is worth risking everything for? Even their relationships with cherished ones. They will lose friendships and money and instead rack up tons of debt, stress and worries. Morgan Spurlock had more than $200.000 in credit card debts before his movie “Super Size Me!” came out! They will have to constantly justify their choice to a world that doesn’t understand. Every day, they will face the judgement of their families, loved ones, and even strangers. Do they need to be crazy? Self centered? Egoistic? Masochistic? Loners? The odds that their efforts will come to fruition are minuscule, and, if by a miracle, they do succeed, they will arrive bruised, battered, and with a sense of disbelief. Having been refused and let down, broken and having fallen so many times, they have come to accept their struggle without ever imagining that making it was any longer possible. I remember reading the story of Edward W. Gillet who kayaked solo his way from San Diego to Hawaii. Within sight of his destination, sixty-three days after leaving the California coast, he was so beaten and disillusioned that he didn’t believe he had actually reached the islands until he literally felt the sand under his feet.

The world of exploration is filled with expeditions that saw their major source of funding disappear on the same week that they were scheduled to leave. Where do people get the energy to keep going? How do you keep believing, when everything you have worked so hard for is crumbling again and again? How do you stay optimistic when you are up to you neck? Or when do you decide that you have had enough? Some projects take one year, others ten years, but many more end up in a dusty corner, simply forgotten. So when do you decide that you have invested too much, lost too much and that it is time to throw the towel and give up?

The truth is that Dreamers can’t be explained. They defy the norms of logic. There is simply no way of making sense of what they do and why they do it. For them, it is an emotional quest, it is in their guts, and in their hearts. They don’t believe in something because of its potential to succeed. They believe in it because it is simply stronger than them. For every time they will fall, they will get up and continue, even if they die trying. They might be told that they have only a 0.001% chance of making it, yet they will discard the remaining 99,99% of improbabilities and hold on to that fraction of a possibility. As a matter of fact, Dreamers tend to think in a binary mode. There are no fractions or percentages, only yes or no, can or can’t. I can climb this mountain or I can’t. I will reach the pole or I won’t. I will survive or I will not. There are no in-betweens.

Sadly, in a world that has become ever more obsessed with numbers and statistics, all we want is to find ways to quantify dreams and determine their potential. Scientists, mathematicians and Hollywood spend millions every year working out the perfect equation that will predict success and minimize the losses. Banks and investors now solely rely on numbers and before you can count on a loan, their computer will have to approve the worthiness of the return. It is really sad to see that our society has come to put so much emphasis on the financial aspect of dreams. What happened to the mystical aspect of dreams? The possibility of breaking new grounds and new frontiers, just for the sake of it, without a dollar sign at the end? What happened to teaching our children the simple notion of following their intuition and to dream the impossible – the “Sky is the Limit”, we used to say! Having a financial return was never a requisite to dream. Why is it so today?

If some of the great explorers were to do today what they did in the past, would Hillary get his funding to climb Everest? Would Columbus get his boats to cross the Atlantic and discover the Americas? Would Scott and Amundsen find the necessary support to explore the South Pole? Would Armstrong have set foot on the moon? Maybe, but unlikely. I do agree that we need to keep in mind the financial aspect, but we have to be careful not to use it as the only measure with which Dreamers are valued.At the end of the day, I want to live in a world where dreams and ideas are encouraged and welcome even if it is only to give people hope and to teach the children that anything is possible!

“Our dreams disturb us because they refuse to pander to our fondest notions of ourselves.  The closer one looks, the more they seem to insist upon a challenging proposition: You must live truthfully.  Right now.  And always.  Few forces in life present, with an equal sense of inevitability, the bare-knuckle facts of who we are, and the demands of what we might become.” Marc Ian Barasch, Founder and Executive Director of the Green World Campaign

Dream Big & Dare to Fail, by friend and fellow explorer Julian Monroe Fisher

The Last Explorers

“That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”  Leonard “Spock” Nimoy

A new show on BBC has left me with a sour feeling. It is not really that the show is bad, or that the host is annoying. It is not that the topic is stupid nor that the episodes are not interesting. It is rather the title that is raising a red flag in my unconscious explorer mind. Neil Oliver’s new show “The Last Explorers” tags itself as “a series on the golden age of exploration, charting the routes of contact that drew together the farthest reaches of the world”. They could have called the show “The First Explorers”, “The Great Explorers”, or simply “The Golden Age of Exploration”. Instead they chose to epitomize these men as the last of their kind, placing them in the same category as any other extinct species. Unfortunately, and sadly, that knot in my stomach, that needle in my brain, is there because I sadly agree with this statement.

A little bit more than a year ago, I attended the Royal Geographical Society’s Explore weekend and was enchanted by the speech of Arita Baaijens. As she described her journey through the desert with its violent sand storms, she concluded with one of the most sincere and refreshing types of advice I had heard in a very long time:

“…there’s a tendency to cover up expeditions and journeys with noble aims. Either to attract sponsors or to give the expedition a sexy or good feel. But most first timers GO without knowing why they want to follow the Amazon River or reach the North Pole, or cross the biggest desert. It’s an inner drive, and it’s quite a normal thing to do – that is why there are so many legends, myths, fairy tales about the Journey of the Hero (Joseph Campbell). Young people want to test their strength, find out who they are, and what their place in he world is. Those journeys are directed towards your inner world, about WHO am I and WHAT is my place in the world, see Tomson’s words. And when you have learned more about yourself, your motives, your prejudices and opinions, your place in the world, you are better equipped for another type of expedition, journeys of discovery directed towards the outside world, characterized by WHY & HOW. “

I think what “The Last Explorers” means is that the “spirit of exploration” has changed tremendously in the last decades, and for some, including myself, it is more of a loss than a gain. And nothing could be more evident to support this fact, than what is happening at the Explorers Club in New York at this moment.

During my first visit to this historical club – with legendary members such as Roald Amundsen, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Neil Armstrong, I was struck with disbelief when at the entrance to the main saloon, I saw a scale model of the ultra luxurious cruise ship “The World”. Was I at the right place? In the right building? Or had I mistakenly entered an Upper East Side travel agency for wealthy retirees? The latest events that have unfolded in the media seem to be zeroing in precisely on this existential issue. What is exploration? On one side are the “New School Explorers”, to whom exploration is a blend of commercial adventures surrounded by rich people that can pay their way. R.L. (his name is obviously not revealed) precisely embodies this new genre. He is a hedge fund manager from London who made good money and now can afford to “collect“ exploration badges, making him an “explorer”.  The man, who is more at home in Michelin star restaurants then in a bivouac, pays ridiculous sums to be taken into the wilderness by experts, then claiming the credit for himself. His latest adventure was in Antarctica, where he dished out close to £100,000 to get up and supposedly baptized an unnamed peak (needless to say, with a lot of help). His brashness goes so far, that he now gives talks to children on how to be an explorer! For this type of person, the Club is doing really well, befitting these “modern” times. The Club’s supporters defend their position by illustrating how the revenues have increased by adding new members like him – money much needed to renovate the crumbling building, suitably located between Madison and Park streets, on the chic Upper East Side, rather than funding new, real adventures.

On the other side are the “Old School Explorers”, who care more about the “Spirit of Exploration” – It is not what you do, but how and why you do it. The debate is surprisingly similar to what went on in the wine industry – old world wines which were generally subtle and complex, versus the new world wines, usually described as bold, sweet, simple, and with great emphasis on the packaging. At the end of the line, the core of the issue, whether it is exploration or food, is quite the same: Quality versus Quantity. Local or Global? Small or Big? Does exploration have a “Spirit” or is it an industry? And if it is an industry, then how can we commercialize it, make it grow and become more profitable? Herein lies the core of the question: Is bigger really better? – Which brings me back to Arita‘s statement.

Present day exploration could be divided into three categories:

  • A rich pastime
  • A personal ego-trip – the desire to break a record or make an environmental statement
  • A vague, virtual idea of discovering the planet from behind ones’ computer (see Nature is not in your computer).

It is no longer about wanting to disconnect from overbearing city-life to experience the unknown. It is no more about wanting to escape the crazy modern world to seek true, pristine wilderness. It is no more about a journey to discovering your inner self. What it is today, is a business! The magic of new discoveries has given place to self-centered claims of saving the planet.

I explore because for me, the world makes more sense out there, than here. I explore because nature humbles me. I explore because it reminds me that there is something bigger in life, something sacred and mysterious. I explore because it makes me a better person. And, I really wish we would hear the same narrative from other explorers more often. I just hope I am not part of a dying species!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  Marcel Proust