Tommy Penick Photo

Commercial and Outdoor Adventure Photographer

Worst Blogger Ever? Best Followers Ever?

 

There's a few pretty simple social media rules out there, and all of you are familiar with them if you think about it for a minute:

  • • post often
  • • post things with little original content
  • • post so readers don't need to actually read (E.g.: lists, but we'll get to that later)
  • • turn all titles into a superlative, bonus points for "You Won't Believe What This Blogger/Skier/Photographer  Said/Did/Shot!"
  • • post often--even if your content is redundant

So at this rate, I pretty much stack up as the worst blogger of all time. Making anyone left reading this, the best followers of all time! And for that, I thank you; we've got a lot of catching up to do. I'll be breaking most of the rules I just listed though--this one's gonna be long. Other than my brief repost in October (style points; at least according to Buzzfeed's rules), I last left y'all as I was departing California in my freshly built adventure mobile, looking for new opportunities, new adventures, new and old friends, and a way to push my career along. Ironically, in the search of freedom, I almost immediately booked my calendar with client work. Personal work went back to the back-burner...again. But I had a summer full of long hours driving, new exciting clients, and rivers full of water in my windshield.   Obviously when you move your life into a trailer, put the rest of your junk into a storage unit (only to realize you don't need it later), and hit the road with absolutely no plan, you begin to expect the unexpected. There's no telling what lays around the bend. But I wasn't really expecting to hear that clients were wanting video work from me. Not only a client or two, but almost instantaneously most of my work turned into video work instead of stills. During my marathon coffee-shop sessions, I started reading up on everything I could: color grading, cutting efficiency, audio setups, codecs, all that junk. I knew it decently, but something takes over your business you need to know it better than that. I shot some stuff for OARS here in California, hit some classic California whitewater, headed to Hood River to fire up some whitewater with some buddies, onto Idaho for some more of the same, then onto Montana to shoot some fly fishing with The Yellowstone Angler, then I bombed across the country, covering a 36 hour drive in a little bit more than 40 hours, arriving back in my college town just to watch the bars let out at 2 AM before shooting a 24 hour bike ride attempt. In classic southeast style, it rained the whole time. I finally got some sleep, collected my stuff, and scurried down to the southwest corner of North Carolina to shoot a long project for Falling Creek Camp. FCC brought me in off the road like family. I got to spend a solid chunk of the summer in one of my favorite places with some great folks. I won't bore you with my rants about how great this place is, but bottom line: if you are a parent of boys, your kids should be going here. After a quick stop at BoyScoutlandia in West Virginia (50,000 kids in one place for a week) some Gauley laps, and catching more big fish, my fall took a bit of a bumpy ride, but eventually the trailer was loaded back up and I had a direction again--west. Though trailer life is just as glamorous as it sounds, I'm solidly addicted to skiing and snow, and I still can't imagine waking up to four feet of fresh snow and being stuck in a 5x10 box. So Truckee was set as the bearing on the horizon, and I got moving again, but a little slower this time. Road trips are funny. Not five hour trips to your friend's house, but real road trips. Big ones. Thousands of miles, multiple weeks. There's a pretty huge range of things that goes through your head, and since you're driving a lot, you've got a lot of time to think about those things. It's really hard to try to convey what happens inside your head during those times, so I tried doing my best to shoot what it feels like to be on a road trip. Waking up in different places, watching the landscapes change, seeing old buddies. There's an interesting mental transformation as you cross over the endless fields. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to get in the car and start driving. Regardless of your personal experiences of big road-based trips, I put together a little photo story--it might strike a chord with some, check it out here.

After a while on the road, I unpacked the trailer, parked it for the winter, and got some much needed sleep inside a warm house.

But unfortunately, that heat? We haven't needed it this winter. That's a different story for another time, and probably best to hear me gripe in person than watch me rant on the internet.

So this horribly late blog, brings you to almost an identical point in my life and travels as I explained last year in May. In under a week, I'll be moving out of the house, saying "see ya later" to my buddies in the Tahoe basin, and making the ultimate east-coaster-wanna-be-big-mountain-skier pilgrimage to Alaska, the Last Frontier. I'm not totally sure what's going to happen up there, but it'll be an adventure--that's the only guarantee. From there, trailer life will continue back across the continent where I'll happily be shooting for Falling Creek Camp, making some killer new promotional videos, as well as catching up on some much needed summer evening bluegrass, mountain creeks, and Southern charm.

Make Them Count

I originally had a drafted out blog post for this week, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, I decided to share this instead, which I posted yesterday to Facebook. I think this is an appropriate place to share it as well. I accidentally drew a collection of condolences on Facebook from the post, which I greatly appreciate, but please don't see this as a mournful posting of sadness, but instead a triumphant celebration of a life that I can't even fathom. I can't scratch the surface with words, and I won't even try. The things she did and witnessed through her life is absolutely dumbfounding; it makes me wonder, what am I doing with mine? What are you doing with yours? Make it count, like my grandmother did.

Several years ago in one of Pac McLaurin's photo classes, he showed us a short documentary about a photographer who took portraits of his father shortly before his death. The images were simple—one light and a black backdrop, but beautiful and timeless. I can no longer remember the photographer’s name, but I felt inspired to do the same. My grandmother’s health had just begun a roller coaster of peaks and valleys, and at her 90th birthday I took the time to make a few frames of her, my mother, and my great aunt with my old medium format camera and a cheap flash; this photo included.

Today, almost exactly four years later, we buried my Grandmother next to her husband and my namesake. She lived longer than most (94), and died last week of "old age"--a fatal ailment that I thought had been cured by modern medicine. Last night, my extended family and I poured over two centuries of old photographs, records, newspaper clippings, and charcoal drawings of relatives—the only remnants of these people's lives. Even the memories and stories of these people’s lives have been lost through the years; their immortality has been boiled down to just a few photographs.

I don't want to get on a photographic soapbox about how only photographs matter; instead, almost the opposite. At some point, nobody cares about some commercial image for a resort that helped make a buck. Nobody cares about some sunset in a magazine, or an anonymous kayaker hucking a waterfall that a few hundred people have run. Those images are more or less disposable in the grand scheme. In comparison photographs like this, that memorialize someone's likeness and their life, those images we shoot for clients are meaningless. At the end of the day, the only photographs that actually matter are the ones that can’t be replaced--the ones that captured something that will never happen again. One day 200 years from now, nobody will care about an image I got published in a magazine that has long since closed its doors; they'll be my relatives looking over passed-down memories.

If you're a photographer (or even if you're not), give this a good thought. Maybe next time you're around your friends or family, shoot a few photos that you might not be able to take again, and you'll be grateful to yourself in the future. I'm confident I'll be doing the same.

*standard blog post to follow soon.

Onward

 In December of 2012 while I was moving out of Boone, NC, my dad was kind enough to bring me a 5x10 utility box trailer to throw all my junk into. Bikes, boats, skis, poles, seemingly hundreds of hiking shoes, office supplies, cameras, and about everything else you could imagine got heaped into this beast. It was just a metal box with an axle, two wheels, and an unintentional hole in the floor--but it was awesome for moving. While putting all my stuff in it, we all kinda joked around, "haha, Tommy you could just live in it!" It was just a joke at the time; but I think subconsciously, some wheels started turning.

Seasons come and go, and consequently areas become more and less active. And when the snow started melting in Truckee, that's when the people started leaving. While I know this place is awesome in the summer, I too, have been feeling the urge to cast off my lines and sail out of the harbor in my proverbial boat. In Boone, my season had ended and it was time to move on; now, my season has ended here in Truckee. I gave myself a deadline by ending my lease, and started pulling out maps and plotting my course for the next few months.

In addition to the logistics of moving, over the past year I've become more and more infatuated with simplistic living--just having what you need, and not a whole bunch of other junk. "Do I need 30 tee shirts? I only wear eight of them...", I'd often think. I'm tired of spending three days to pack up a house I've only been in for three months, only to move it all, unpack it for three days, and then pack it back up in three months. Most of the stuff I don't need, but manage to still tug around the continent in that same trailer I ended up purchasing from the asphalt company a few months ago.

So began the perfect storm. My frustrations of constantly moving, yet never really becoming grounded, mixed with my longing for a simpler life, hit a catalyst--a desire to keep moving, to chase good stories, good light, rivers full of water, and good folks. I could see the writing on the wall well before this post, and back in late January, I found myself doodling van-inspired interior designs for a very familiar 5x10 space. While the winter progressed, so did the drawings. As the drawings became more polished, so did the thought: I'm going to build this trailer out to live in, and hit the road to better my photography and push my business to a new level. Worst case scenario, I see some cool stuff and find out what and where makes me happiest.

Over the past two months, I've put down the camera a little bit more, and found my deep-rooted high school passion back behind the table saw. Taking a tin can and making it into a livable home takes some time, especially when you want solar power, hardwood floors, mortise and tenon cabinets, self contained water system, a full size bed, and not to mention, the current state of the structure was already questionable. I've had more cuts, more splinters, and made more sketchy solo cuts of full 4x8 sheets of plywood on a saw in the past month than anyone should probably ever have. I've listened to countless hours of Pandora, and my gracious sponsor of Pabst Blue Ribbon has kept me sane in moments where I would want to bag the whole thing (they don't sponsor me, but if you know someone...send them my email). There's nothing like spending days wiring lights for the moment of truth--hooking up the battery to the whole system to test it out! One of six lights came on. One. Of. Six. That's a mere 16%. Ask any teacher if a 16% on a test is failure.

But with the ever-present deadline of my ending lease, there wasn't much time to wallow in my sorrow, although I made time for it once or twice. Namely, after the trailer decided to go for a ride on its own; that's a whole different blog post that will probably have some (now) hilarious excerpts from my road journal. Nevertheless, the trailer has finally come to a resting point; not at all a point of completion, but a good-for-now, lets-hit-the-road point.

I couldn't write this post without some heart-filled thank-you's. Without the help and support of so many people this wouldn't have come together, nor would I have dreamt it up. First of all, thanks to Trevor Clark and his lovely girlfriend Laurel Winterbourne for taking me in and let me fill their house with sawdust over the past few weeks. The constant motivation and inspiration from the two of y'all has been a game changer. Thanks to anyone who ever held the other end of a piece of wood I was struggling with on my own. And thanks to every person who didn't balk at the idea of the whole thing; just having a few people say, "dude, that's kinda rad" was enough to keep my motivation up.

Tomorrow, I'll be loading up the trailer, saying my farewells to Truckee, and heading north. My first stop will be in the Hood River, OR area, where I'll be lucky enough to meet up with some good buddies and finally get to hop on some whitewater. Who knows where the road will lead from there, but the adventure has to being somewhere.

A Tribute to a Good Friend (Winter)

 

It is with great sadness that I write this post because it means my dear friend, Winter, has come and gone.

Gone are the evenings of making fires to stay warm, the mornings full of new snow excitement, and the echoes of hooting and hollering heard around the mountain as the Stoke overwhelms those making turns in the fresh snow. But alas, Winter seemed to only stop in for a short visit this year. Being a southeastern skier with a track record of usually getting 70+ days on 800' vertical hills and moving to the land of pros, Squaw Valley, I started the season with huge expectations and hopes of a monstrous 800"+ season that isn't impossible in the Sierras. With only a few measly 12" storms after an incredibly promising start, personal goals of backflips and big lines disappeared and business goals as simple as just shooting snow also feathered away.

It's tough to stay positive with such a horrifically terrible season, but I think we did our best. I was fortunate enough to come off of the Grand Canyon with an invitation to join the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows season contract through Novus Select, and had the pleasure of working with both mountains and almost all of the photographers involved. In addition to helping plan logistics, casting, and assisting on shoots, I had the opportunity to build a great rapport with some awesome athletes, different companies, and the resorts themselves.

As hard as I make it try to last, I think it's time to call it a year for my good friend Winter. After a jaunt down to the coast and a climbing trip to the south, I've realized I've got to move on to my other sports in other seasons. There's a lot of beauty out there right now, and it's just not in the snow. Time to get back in the water and back on the road!

Goodbye, dear friend. I already can't wait to see you again in November.

Grand (Canyon) Life

Gaps between writing posts hardly ever come from a lack of exciting news or new images that make me happy, but more so the writing to go along with it. I can never be satisfied with simply throwing up some images, saying I got a new contract and moved (again) across the country, because I feel an obligation to try my best to match it with at least partially eloquent words.

While cruising the web this morning, I ran across this blog, which I've read a good bit in the past, and it always gets me stoked, makes me laugh, and makes me think a bit. Today's post, "Your Best Vacation is Someone's Worst Nightmare" struck a chord with me, initially because I did just have my best "vacation" on the Grand Canyon with Pyranha Kayaks, yet telling the details to those who don't share the same mentality draws looks of confusion.

Brendan Leonard cites that these painful, horrific experiences, that bring us such joy are a break from our daily lives behind computers and desks with awkward business clothing on. That lifestyle is such a departure from the essence of our being as resilient humans, capable of amazing adaptation. The quote at the end sums up the experience for me: "It lets you know you're alive!"

On January 8th, along with 12 other kayakers, I put on the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry in Arizona. 280 miles and 14 days later, we took out with a revived spirit. The nature of the expedition differed from many people's Grand Canyon adventures. We self-supported, meaning everything you need for two weeks has to be crammed in your kayak, rather than having a raft tag along and a bunch of junk that you really don't need. The trip down the Grand Canyon was spectacular in so many ways. It's taken me a little while to decompress from the trip and think about what I've taken away from it. Obviously, the scenery and whitewater was amazing, but that's not what I remember the most fondly. Mainly, the simplicity of life matched with being fully engaged in the people and place around you stick out in my head. Behind us at the put in, we left our phones, Facebook accounts, businesses, blogs...the list goes on. Without all of those distractions, I was able to connect with the people and the place in a better way. Yes, it was the coldest temperatures ever recorded on the rim at -20˚, and I planned on 20 degree nights, but the only memory of those shivering nights is now just humor--and partially was at the time, too. We'd wake up only to find things more frozen than the day before, and at least for some of us, it was funnier every time.

At one point someone looked over at me while we were paddling around mid-day into a strong headwind. Who knows how cold it was--it didn't really matter. It was cold. He said, "Hey man, is your drysuit icing up?" I laughed and said "no" before looking down and realizing that there was a half inch of ice covering everything I was wearing, and a nice thick ice-beard forming as well. I laughed harder after that.

Coming back into the world after such an awesome experience is totally wild, especially when the river ends in the City of Excess: Las Vegas, NV. After being totally psyched on eating Pasta Sides and bagged chicken every night, we were surrounded by all-you-can-eat steak buffets, buildings that are seemingly annually destroyed to be replaced, and a general feeling of excess. These experiences really do help me realize how capable to adaptation we are, and how comfortable you can get with total physical discomfort. This juxtaposition of simplicity, discomfort, and disconnection, compared to the excess of Vegas made it obvious to me which way I'd rather live.

Although I mentioned that I find bland news updates frankly annoying, I feel like I should probably fill people in on what has been happening. Previous to putting on the Grand Canyon, I finally graduated from Appalachian State and sealed that chapter of my life, excited to move forward with life and my career. After getting off the Grand, I promptly moved back to the Tahoe region and have situated myself in beautiful Truckee, California, near the infamous Squaw Valley USA, which I am very thrilled to say I will be shooting for this season through a contract with Novus Select! Things are coming together more and more each and every day, and I'll do my best to keep all of you up to date. Check out my Facebook page for timely updates!

"There's nothing worse than a stale blog"

I love writing blog posts. My track record of frequency might hint otherwise, but there's something refreshing about looking back at a series of writings depicting a set time period--it's really not all that different from photographs. I've often heard from editors, colleagues, and friends, that there is nothing worse than a stale blog, so here's to fixing that.

I left you all at the end of the last post excited about being in the Southeast with big plans for the coming months. It all pretty much went off without a hitch. This fall we've been blessed with phenomenal bluebird days, beautiful leaves, and unfortunately very little rain for the paddling scene. However, with travel plans booked and jobs all over the eastern seaboard, I can't say I've had a whole lot of time to hang out in my Appalachian home. The past two months have been chocked full with travel, shooting, learning, more traveling, and very little sleeping. It's hard to encapsulate everything that has gone on in such a busy and transitional period, but it has all been great.

Early in the hiatus, I attended the Adventure Photography Workshop in Jackson Hole, WY with some of the industry's finest as instructors. The week consisted of tons of shooting, tons of inspiration to bring home, and lasting stoke to keep me going. The scenery and wildlife of the Jackson area is absolutely stunning, and being surrounded with such creative and excited people was a great rejuvenating recess from my typical photographic island.

Shortly thereafter, I hit the road again for a 15 state East Coast exploration, full of assignments, meetings, old friends, new places, and of course a little bit of outdoor adventure. Squeezed between meetings and assignments, I managed to get out on a childhood dream of running Great Falls of the Potomac and some other high quality paddling, as well getting my first snow of the year early in October just south of the Canadian border.

While bouncing around the country, I simultaneously worked on my first editing project with Trevor Clark and Rachid Dahnoun, putting together a motion piece they shot in the Yukon Territory for Highlands and Islands Mountain Bike Holidays out of Scotland. A few weeks after their return from the Yukon, I had a full hard drive of spectacular footage sitting at my front door. After a month of hard work on all of our parts, we were proud to promote our new three and a half minute promotional piece for H&I, as well as for ourselves. Take a look over at my Vimeo Page, and let us know what you think!

As I wrote this entry, I quickly realized it has been more a recap of my traveling and shooting rather than an announcement of cool new clients and future plans--sorry for the tease, but that'll just have to be saved for the next post! Keep in touch.

Mud, Rain, and Rhododendron

This morning a conversation, a friend and I were talking about what the past year of our lives have contained--it's really amazing to think how fast the time goes, and how much can be fit into a little 365 day window. And although the past year has been huge, even since the last time I posted, so many things have evolved and changed into things I couldn't imagine less than two months ago. I've had a hard time summing up so many things into words; so in the style of previous posts detailing way too much information, I'm just going to lay out where the road has taken me over the past two months since my last post...and of course show it in images. My final weeks in Tahoe were outstanding. Things started clicking and I was finally in the groove. The last month was full of video shooting (to be released soon), an awesome project down on the coast with The High Fives Foundation, paddling the South American, a fly fishing project outside of Mammoth, CA, mountain biking with the full photo crew, and just generally enjoying the area. However, green deciduous forests, fog banks, and creek boating were calling my name in the Southeast, as well as a final semester at Appalachian State.

So I hopped in the car on a Friday morning and by Sunday night I'd made my way across the country. Although most people think I'm crazy, I can't emphasize enough to people that before they die, they need to drive across Nevada. It's amazing to find such untouched desolation and wilderness immediately off of the road in the United States, and to not touch a highway for the first 16 hours and 1100 miles of driving. After a few stops with some good friends along the way, I was back in Boone, North Carolina.

Since returning, I've hit the ground running probably faster than ever, although that equates to my car still being pretty much packed with stuff from the move. A few personal goals, such as running the Green River Narrows, were finally checked off my list. More importantly I've reached a few career goals, such as becoming contributor for Aurora Photos, an phenomenal agency I've been eyeing for quite some time. The calendar is booked for months and the projects are coming together, stay tuned for more developments!

Although this is just scratching the surface of the past few months, sometimes things just can't be written; instead shared over a good cup of coffee--which I'd be more than happy to do for anyone.

Lake Tahoe Life

It's been more than a month since my "Manifest Destiny" post about my move from Western North Carolina to the Tahoe basin area of California. Much to my surprise, the past moth has been a huge era of introspection and change, as my personal shooting has halted, and my brain has been transformed to that more of an IT man than a creative. Thinking back on what I've shot (or a lack thereof), I find myself a little bit jaded on the lack of progress I've made, but scrolling through my catalog earlier today, maybe it hasn't been that bad. I realized I only feel like I'm coming up short of the immense beauty of the area--I don't think I'll ever be able to adequately photograph the area and give someone the same feeling as being here.

A few projects have recently opened themselves up which is incredibly exciting; one's even (believe it or not) portraits! As the calendar books up for the fall, I can't wait to get going again and really start knocking things out. Tomorrow marks the beginning of yet another project that hopefully will come to fruition over the next month or so. Keep an eye out for more directed work, and enjoy these for now.

Rocky Knob Promotional Video

From time to time, I'll get a project that just can't be finished, for whatever reason. Sometimes it's on my end, sometimes it's on others. This one was just a nightmare of an edit with 5 different versions, and a media library that could send an OCD guy to an asylum. I finally geared down, grunted through and finished off the project and can move onto more video out here in California. While this has been on Vimeo for a week or so and promoted elsewhere, I figured I'd go ahead and do a little update here with it as well for you non-followers elsewhere.

Stay tuned for some stills from the Lake Tahoe area!

Manifest Destiny

[EasyGallery id='20120521']For those not totally up on your 1800s history, Manifest Destiny was the belief that individuals living on the Eastern United States seaboard were destined to travel west, and conquer the unknown beyond the Appalachians. This past week, I did something similar--although modern road systems and interstates made it quite a bit easier than my 19th century counterparts. Along with two good friends, I ventured to the next stage of my life and career by moving from Boone, NC to South Lake Tahoe, CA, to work with Trevor Clark Photography. As someone who has poured themselves over Trevor's work throughout the past few years, it's a dream to get the opportunity to move out here to California to work with Trevor.

We left Boone last Thursday, immediately after my final exam presentation, and booked it out to St. Louis for an evening. After some great hospitality from my friend Tyler, we headed across the great state of Kansas for a quick stop in Summit County, then onward to the dry desert around Moab, UT for a quick bike ride, and further onto an unexpected beauty of Western Utah at Castle Rock. Sunday night I arrived to my new home here in South Lake to a place full of friendly roommates, and an almost instantaneous tour of Lake Tahoe from the boat.

Lake Tahoe, and in general, the American West has fully lived up to its hype. Around every corner another dramatic view of snowy mountain peaks awaits, with trails and ski lines scattered about.

Big thanks to Trevor for allowing me this opportunity, and even a bigger thanks for sharing my enthusiasm! Trevor put up a great introductory blog post--take a look and keep up with what's happening over at TCP!

More Spring Sporting

The weather over the past weeks here in Boone has been questionable at best for the minds of most--but for paddlers it's been great. Full size consecutive storms in the area have dumped enough water in the area to have some seldom seen areas run, including North Harper's Creek, a technical sloping 35 footer with a 10 foot lead in boof. A few friends and I hiked in for some shooting.

However, with a few breaks in the clouds, we managed to get up into the Linville Wilderness to get a little bit of trail running done with my marathon running friend Teagan Miller. It's hard to elaborate in words about what the photos convey already. Linville is beautiful. It might even make running fun for those that find it to be torture.

This past weekend I got the pleasure to check out a new scene for me--BMX. I was invited to a BMX dirt jump jam in Raleigh, North Carolina, and it was a pretty rowdy and exciting event. It had all the happenings of being a miniature Skatopia or something out of a mid-90s punk inspired movie. My background as a mountain biker proved to be worthless on tight-transitioned dirt jumps, and I've got the bruises to show it. But hey, can you really shoot anything without doing it?

I know this is a short post for now, but keep an eye out for some big stuff coming out later this month, including a move to California, a huge new client, and a lot of motion work!

Steph and Rob's Asheville Wedding

If you told me a year ago that I'd be standing in an elevator with a soon-to-be married bride and her entourage of bridesmaids at any point in my life, I would've laughed. Even if you just told me a year ago I was shooting a wedding, I would've chuckled. Actually, my friends still are.

But last Saturday I broke the ice with wedding photography while working with the wonderful Sarah Whitmeyer, and you know...it was really enjoyable. Granted, everything went well. The weather was great, the wedding party participants were awesome, and everything fell into place logistically. While it's a total change of pace from hanging off of a cliff shooting a waterfall, it was enjoyable, and perhaps brought me back to my Old South roots of formal wear.

This past week has been full of a more normal schedule of shooting with some guys firing it up kayaking, and with another front moving in currently, good things will be happening in the High Country. I'll be putting a few teaser shots up on the new Facebook Page, which I've decided to go ahead and set up. Check it out and let me know what you think!

The Two Month Hiatus, Explained

It's amazing what can happen in two months, despite the lack of blogging and updates being sent out to the wild world of Wordpress. Although I haven't been posting, it is definitely a sign of me being busy with work, adventures, and photographing, not the lack thereof. Showing my blog to a curious friend this evening, I was bewildered that I hadn't posted in nearly two months. So here's an unorganized, Faulkner-style snapshot of the past 56 days.

Early in the leave of absence, I took a pretty awesome adventure bumbling across New England. It was my goal several years ago to knock out all four corners of the United States before leaving college--the Northeast was still luring me to check out the scene. Within 10 days I hit 11 states, roughly 2,100 miles, and got in some incredibly sketchy skiing. A long-standing tradition of New England skiers is to make the seasonal pilgrimage to Tuckerman's Ravine, a west coast style bowl on the face of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire(highest recorded windspeed on earth at 231 MPH, by the way). The ice headwall builds throughout winter, and as it deteriorates, somewhat resembles skiable snow. A typical winter season would require skiers to wait until Memorial Day weekend to fire it up off the cornice, but due to the abnormally warm winter and even warmer spring, Tuck's was good to climb and send in mid-March. We started the climb with 65 degree blue skies, and as I topped out the climb, it was near 35 and raining with a solid wind. After returning from the ever long journey, photo work seemed to flow as well as all the rivers around here, which posed a beautifully busy month. While most of the publications haven't been printed yet, one of my proudest has been. I was fortunate enough to work for The Seattle Times, a paper I've had a crush on for years. I was brought in to shoot a story about McFarland, a small specialty non-fiction book publisher located in the tiny town of Jefferson, NC, just down the hill from us. I was thrilled to see the great designers at The Seattle Times gave it quite a bit of play in print! I'll have to say that this has to be one of my favorite clips to date.

McFarland is a small publisher in the grand scheme, but houses roughly 50 employees in their converted ranch style home in Jefferson. I was amazed to see the mass quantity of titles that are constantly being pushed through their system--most revolving around baseball, chess, and scholarly film. The vibrant and happy atmosphere was even a pleasure to shoot in, with all of the walls adorned with local and folk art, while the workplace buzzed with friendly energy. I was excited to learn, yet jealous, that the reason the assignment time moved back was to ensure there was enough time for a few employees to get back from playing disc golf down the road. After nearly 40 years of being in business, Amazon is trying to anonymously demand a higher discount, which could cripple McFarland's business. Check out the beautifully crafted article by Amy Martinez here, which is part two of four regarding Amazon's questionable tactics. Between the assignment work, the April showers in the Southeast has brought happy boaters. Not only have the natural flows procured some great paddling, the scheduled annual releases of the Cheoah and Tallulah have made for some great road trips. It's been pretty photogenic time, but I've been stepping up my paddling-- somewhat in preparation for my next move in life which will be taking me to the Sierras in California. More on that to come, but exciting things are in the making. For now though, the great road trips to the Smokies will have to suffice...and they do more than just suffice. With personal descents of Compression Falls, The Veil of Stateline, and Tallulah, I'm pretty jazzed on paddling!

Highlining Hebron

Waterfall Highline

Over the past year I've become quite jaded on Boone from time to time. It's easy to get stuck in a rut here; being a small town with limited social circles, Boone can become a little monotonous. But Friday afternoon while Mike Holley was setting up his high line above Hebron Rock Colony, a Appalachian favorite outdoor chill spot, I had a rejuvenated sense of love for the area. Hebron already is a beautiful place, but just knowing that this is what my buddies do on a Friday afternoon after they get out of class is powerful. After talking with friends from other universities about the non-curricular recreation opportunities in their areas, I've once again remembered how lucky I am to get to do things like this on a regular basis.

Years ago when I met Mike for the first time, he instantly was put on my short list of people to photograph after hearing about his adventures. He is constantly bouncing around the world going on climbing and surfing adventures, and is truly inspirational. I'm glad we finally got together to shoot some of his athleticism.

It's Finally Here (Winter)

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Winter, that is. Hopefully. Maybe it's just another tease of a cold front bringing an all too familiar "arctic blast". Our weather systems seem to be stuck in a rut, where anywhere between 1"-4" of rain will drop over the area in about 24 hours (leading to some great kayaking) followed by a short, intense blast of cold air. After two or three days of cold, the system mellows out, and repeats itself. This has led to an outstanding winter kayaking season, but a horrible and inconsistent ski season, leaving the area recreationally and economically crippled. So while watching the rain fall on Tuesday and watching the river gauges surge, I received a call from the Winston-Salem Journal asking if I can shoot a story about the less than successful ski season. No problem.

However after a few inches of fresh snow and a few inches of fresh gun snow, a thin facade was laid upon the area resorts. It couldn't have come at a better time as they gear up for MLK weekend.

Tarheel Foodie

This past week I had the pleasure of working with Susan Walter Sink of Tarheel Foodie in Durham at The Cookery, a community kitchen that caters to food truck operators and other cooks in the area. Susan runs a very interesting business, that teaches and produces food that has been grown both organically and locally. Susan differentiates herself by using at least 90% local materials--which when living in an area with full seasons, creates interesting logistical issues.

Susan works with several farms throughout North Carolina to provide her clients with the freshest ingredients year around. She will shop for a large amount of a seasonal vegetable, for example, and purchase and store enough to serve her business's needs for the year. It's definitely a unique process.

So in my best attempts to imitate Susan's wonderful cooking, I attempted to roast some fall veggies this evening only to find a broken oven. I'll leave it to the pros.

Best of 2011

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Seeing everyone's "Best of 2011" galleries this year made me even more reluctant to do the annual update, but after finding a yearly update I wrote to myself from 4 years ago, I remembered how gratifying it is to see progress, while it may not be evident on the surface. This year was great on a personal level, and shaky at best photographically. 2011 brought many transformations in my photography; mainly, the switch from a photojournalistic path to editorial and commercial. It still doesn't feel right at all telling someone to move, or changing anything whatsoever. I've had some cool opportunities such as working in Costa Rica, reconnecting on an old photo story, and hanging out with some pretty rad professional athletes, but I've had some downs too, such as getting all of my photo gear stolen, and my first budget-induced layoff.

So here it is. I'm not claiming this as my best year, but I hope to see it as a reinventing year. A rocky switch from one path to another, but I foresee this path heading to great places. Some big irons have been thrown in the fire in the past few weeks, I'm excited to see how they grow with time.

Video Editing

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The powers that be of Appalachian State have granted me an entire month off from classes for winter break. I'm not much for sitting around, so I decided to pack it out with good stuff--skiing, paddling, biking, but mainly skiing. After snow totals across the entire country have been less than impressive, I've decided to post up and get cranking on revamping (or just learning) my video skills. Here's an edit from this past weekend when we rode some downhill tracks built by Andrew Mueller of Elevated Trail Design in South Carolina.

Paddling Season

Mitch WerBell drops into a rapid along Boone Fork As you may have noticed, posts have been a little slow in the past week or so. Yes, the semester has been rounding out to the final stretch with exams this week. And while everyone has been in a huge rush, we've also had tons of water. Two consecutive weeks we had storms bringing in 2"+ inches of water, making seldom seen creeks run. The storms also brought a sharp drop in temperatures, and some snow immediately after the rain stopped, which created some chilly, but great paddling. Here's a little shot from Boone Fork, which runs between Julian Price Park along the parkway, down to the confluence of the Red Roof section of the Watauga River in Boone.

Also check out some of the stouts our boys here in the Southeast have been sending it on!

I'll Go To Class Next Week by Clay Lucas

Nocculula Falls First Descent with Issac Levinson, Pat Keller, and Chris Gragtmans

Apps Fall to University of Maine

Orry Frye

Saturday ended the Mountaineers football season here in Boone, after losing to University of Maine. While it's never fun to watch our team drown in sorrow, I'm looking forward to the other seasons to come. This week offered great paddling, biking, and mediocre skiing--but that's what you get in the southeast.

Congratulations to the team from this year for a solid season, regardless of how it stacks up. Sure, we had a few more losses, trouble replacing players who have moved on, and had a pretty stagnant playbook, but that's what makes football great, the ebb and flow of success and failure. The excitement of wondering how a game will go is unmatched by going into a game planning on winning.

Brian Quick