Last Chance to Get It Right – by Gregory Fitz PT – 2

© Cameron Karsten Photography photographs steelhead fly fishing on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State for Patagonia and the Wild Steelhead Coalition

I grew up in the PNW and the Olympics acted as my backyard as soon as I was able to drive. My friends and I would pile in and we’d take the long winding highways to the coast in search of waves, bonfires and whatever the weather had in store for us. Rarely did we stop at the rivers. We sought the confluences where freshwater met salt; a long journey’s end or just the start for a molecule of water. And likewise for the sea-run rainbow trout, or better known as steelhead.

This project written by colleague Gregory Fitz and published by Patagonia was an honor, a return to my backyard after the long self-isolated stretch of COVID shutdowns and a reawakening into the beauty, fragility and wildness that the Olympic Peninsula is. Like the waves I’ve spent countless hours feeling roll over my back and sliding like a river under my feet, the steelhead of the OP move with the tides, and the way we manage our fisheries. In the words of writer and angler Fitz, “Instead of arguing for more opportunities to keep pounding on fish, we should be fighting for policies that give their populations time to rebuild. We should be proud to catch fewer fish, even if that means closing rivers when it is necessary.”

Last Chance to Get It Right by Gregory Fitz, published by Patagonia.

Last Chance to Get It Right – by Gregory Fitz PT – 1

© Cameron Karsten Photography photographs steelhead fly fising on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State for Patagonia and the Wild Steelhead Coalition

The Olympic Peninsula (OP) is home to one of the last remnants of primeval temperate rain forest in the continental United States, but it is the rivers that draw anglers to the coast each winter. Named for the Indigenous peoples who’ve lived here for thousands of years, the Hoh, Queets, Quinault, Quillayute, Elwha and other rivers are volatile, wild watersheds with a powerful strain of large steelhead that evolved to migrate during the cold winter deluge.

The above is an excerpt from an article written by Gregory Fitz for Patagonia regarding the state of wild steelhead within the wild tributaries of The Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. I had the pleasure of photographing Greg, Steve Duda (Patagonia’s Managing Editor for Fly Fishing), Matt Millette (Head of Marketing, Patagonia Fly Fishing) and Gray Struznik (Fly Fishing Legend and Guide) for two days as they floated, waded and wandered the waters in search of the seasonal steelhead run.

The published article speaks for itself. It is poignant, crafted with an ease of the need to spring to action, as well as consider all parties involved. Gregory paints a picture of the OP as it is – a rainforest of endless ferns, brambles, huckleberries and salal with climbing towers of ancient breathing wood carpeted with wet mosses. It is a place of beauty that is on the edge of imminent disaster.

Can we embrace restraint and become guardians of these rivers and wild fish, instead of mobs of enthusiastic user groups? Long days of fishing give a guy plenty of time to dwell on this question. When I’m leaning against the current, and the fly is swinging through the cold water at the right speed, I find myself settling into a blend of gratitude and anticipation that I struggle to describe to anyone who isn’t an angler. Time seems to slow, and I feel connected to the river, the ancient cycle of fresh and saltwater, and the weight of what we have already lost. I want to believe that we can do better and demand better of our peers. If we can’t meet this higher standard, then the only option is for all of us to stop fishing here until we can adequately honor the privilege, and our responsibility, instead of taking it for granted.

I offer the link to the full article published on Patagonia’s website Last Chance to Get It Right as well as additional photography from this winter’s assignment. Speak up for our planet and take action with the following organizations:

Wild Steelhead Coalition

The Nature Conservancy

American Rivers

The Edge of the World – Human/Nature

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

As soon as we could drive, my friends and I would pile in my ’78 two-tone brown VW Bus and head out to the edge of the world. It was so wet and so cold, I’d have to run the defroster on high the whole drive and have the windows cracked. With surfboards stacked inside, along the way we’d make the ritualized surf checks, turning our 3.5hr expedition into a full day. It’s was the journey and we always made the most of it, finding some wave, some beachbreak or rivermouth to get wet and catch a few waves.

Before the hype, we were often the only ones in the lineup. Maybe a sprinkling of locals or travelers, but otherwise, just us and the rolling fog beneath perched eagles staring off into the distance. Finally, after a long winding route, we’d make camp at the end where evergreen mountains and their scarred clearcuts dropped straight into the Pacific. It was where sea stacks stood the ultimate test of time, wavering to none but the water and wind. It was where gulls battled the chop and the bull-headed seals crested just beyond the break. They would come so close, emerging out of the murky grey waters, we’d often jumpstart with fear and begin paddling to shore until our hearts stopped thumping and we could laugh at each other. This was wild land; empty bone-chilling drip of strong tree stands whispering of a moss-strewn giant living among the hollows. Our edge of the world was Neah Bay and the Makah Reservation. Those were the memories.

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

I return as often as possible, to relive and resume the wildness at the edge of the world. With surfboard or camera, life is different at Neah. Society at large has discovered its open beauty, and the thrill called surfing has become mainstream even along the frigid fickle northwest shoreline. We’re never alone now.

Recently, I returned on assignment for The Nature Conservancy during a 14-month long book project titled Human/Nature photographing the beauty, the bounty – the legacy – and the joys of Washington culture. I drove Deborah Kidd, the TNC project manager, out along the route of my windswept memories where we met TJ Greene. TJ is a Councilman on the Makah Tribal Council, who escorted Deb and I to the northern plateau jutting into the Pacific just beyond town. It was ancestral land, an outcropping I watched for years as I lulled over the swells and scanned the horizon. He pointed out midden, un-excavated artifacts left over from centuries past, as well as various plants and bark species his ancestors used for medicine. And in a clearing at the absolute edge of the world, he pointed to where one of the Makah people’s original longhouses once stood. It was a moment, a whole experience, that put perspectives into perspective, my memories cemented into a new appreciation for where I have been and who I’ve become. All those laughs with friends. All those frightening drops on monster storm-brewed waves pumped straight from the cold waters of the northern Pacific, dropped directly onto my head. The wildlife. The soaking woods. The storms, foggy windows, wipers screeching frantically. Holes in tents, sand between our toes, books on a beach log at sunset. They formed a part of me, made me me. This place gave so much and I knew so little of it.

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

TJ brought me and Deb back into town and showed us around during the annual Makah Days celebration, where we ate cedar smoked salmon with potatoes and watermelon while watching canoe races in the bay. We slowed down to take in the moment; the sounds of laughter and shouts of encouragement, the millennia this land at the edge of the world has heard these sounds pass by.

For more information regarding Human/Nature visit The Nature Conservancy.

www.CameronKarsten.com

The Reefnetters of Lummi Island – Human/Nature

© Cameron Karsten Photography for The Nature Conservancy’s photographing reef netting with Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild on Lummi Island, WA

To get to the island you take a tiny ferry. Max vehicle load around 15, maybe less. If I lived on the island, I’d have a canoe and do the short crossing for free. Once you’re on the island there is one main road that circumnavigates the land. Homes are rustic, beautiful. Driveways are quaint, simple, forested with evergreens. Everything is shrunken to the simplicity of truly small island living.

I was there to photograph the Lummi Island Reefnetters, a community of commercial fisherman/women taking part in an historical practice of harvesting wild salmon runs. Known as the oldest salmon net fishery in the world, it was begun by the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest, where the angler watched the ebb and flow of the tides as the salmon came and went on their route to spawn, and used a net or trap once the fish were lured onto a “reef”. I honestly had never heard of it, albeit being a salmon-obsessed angler since I was 10 years old, I was immediately intrigued. I think of salmon and I think of a beautifully sculpted fish, muscular and angular for the perfect oceanic journey. From the rivers at birth to an epic multiyear voyage through ocean currents, and then back once and forever to the very freshwaters they were birthed in to create life again.

© Cameron Karsten Photography for The Nature Conservancy’s photographing reef netting with Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild on Lummi Island, WA

I was told to ask for Riley Starks, a partner of Lummi Island Wild which sells reefnet-caught salmon and other seafood from the Salish Sea. He also owns and operates Nettle Farms, a small B&B established in 1992. The land was rugged as I pulled up, green and wild, but suitable to raise 50 different birds from chickens to turkeys. There were knotted fruit trees strewn about the earth and a solitude of a farm tucked into the forest. Riley himself cleared the land, and as we shook hands I could feel his calloused hands, thick with years of work on land and water. His beard was grayish-black and his stature short, he quickly threw a pair of rubber boots in his truck and told be to follow him down to the reefnets.

In about 5 minutes we were at his office, a beautiful bay facing south towards the San Juan Islands of Orcas and Cypress. We loaded up into a skiff and shot out to one of the anchored barges. It was a flood tide in a couple hours, simply meaning an incoming tide that brings in schools of salmon to the tidal bay. From there, they swim over an artificial reef suspended between two platforms. A spotter is stationed above the gear, watching and waiting until the school enters the reef, and then instructs to crew to draw up the nets. The salmon are enclosed, quickly hauled into small holding tanks, wherein the their gills are ripped out for a quick death. Any bycatch is released back into the water.

© Cameron Karsten Photography for The Nature Conservancy’s photographing reef netting with Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild on Lummi Island, WA

I watched in amazement at the efficiency of the operation, as schools of salmon followed the tides and entered the reefnets, drawn in by glittering strands of line that gave an appearance of a reef emerging from the depths. All net gear was battery powered, charged via solar panels, making the whole operation completely sustainable. The skiff was the only gas-powered engine, which ferried the crew back to shore and the afternoon’s catch to an awaiting tender.

Within a few hours, the tides shifted and the crew cleaned the operations gear. We rode back to shore. I was fortunate enough to have brought my cooler wherein Riley placed two 8lb pink salmon on ice.

Shot on assignment for The Nature Conservancy for the book Human/Nature.

Grundens Catalog – Todd Kline Bass Pro

Grundens just dropped their new 2020 Holiday Catalog. It’s always a joy to work with such a solid client that has sent me around the world to capture fishing stories – from Norway to Guatemala to the Florida Keys, Alaska, California and right here in the PNW. Some of my fondest career memories are with Grundens (like when a marlin landed on me 60miles off the coast of Guat… but that’s another story).

This post shares a shoot with Bass pro, ex-professional surfer and Grundens Ambassador Todd Kline doing his thing in SoCal.

For more, visit www.CameronKarsten.com

Meta Magazine (A Life Well Ridden) – “End of the Line”

© Cameron Karsten Photography photographs Jann and Boe for Meta Magazine as they fly fish and camp while riding the WA Discovery Route in Washington State

This was not supposed to be my trip. A buddy of mine, Paris Gore, photographer extraordinaire and skilled pilot, called me up and dropped few details. He was out, busy with other projects, and knowing my flyfishing experience and love of motorcycles, he thought I’d be interested.

Honestly, I was hesitant. Unsure of the crew, the route, the timing, the COVID. I called the writer, Jann Eberharter, fellow angler and rider leading the charge. We chatted, and soon I was in. No need to blink. And thank god I didn’t because the proposed trip for Meta Magazine was a must.

Below is an excerpt from End of the Line, written by Jann Eberharter for Volume 19 of Meta Magazine (A Life Well Ridden):

“Darkness began to surround us as we rolled out of out sleeping bags on the edge of a beautiful stretch of water some 20 miles south of town. A big chunk of concrete served as a perch above the hole, letting us cast into the black abyss, wait for a tug, and then set the hook with a loud ‘Yeowww!’ The fish were hungry enough that we kept serving up an all-you-can-eat buffet of stimulators and chubby Chernobyls, prolonging our own dinner late into the evening.”

Visit www.CameronKarsten.com for more.

Grundens 2020

Pre-COVID photoshoots seem… like they never happened. Looking back on the projects and campaigns of early 2020 and beyond are an enigma. We shook hands? We laughed next to someone, brushed shoulders, spoke to them while visually observing the movements of their mouth and their complete facial expressions?

A smile is something to share. A smirk is something to behold, especially on a fishing vessel. This guy for Grundens on the Silverwave at Fisherman’s Terminal, Seattle, WA. May COVID-19 disappear from the human race as soon as possible.

For more work visit www.cameronkarsten.com

Cosa Buena in VOGUE Mexico

It brings great excitement and joy reflecting on projects that are not only culturally enriching, but visually stunning and successful. Our friend Vera Claire, founder of Cosa Buena, reached new heights networking and promoting their community-based work after getting published in VOGUE Mexico (as well as Architecture Digest and MEDIUM, among others). Below is a link to the article published in print and online, as well as a selection of other images from our time exploring the artisan-cooperatives of Oaxaca, Mexico. Someday, we’ll return.

PERFIL COSA BUENA-VOGUE MEXICO

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

© Cameron Karsten Photography in Oaxaca, Mexico

The Unstoppable Grads of Seattle Colleges 2020

Seattle Colleges is a place I call home, as well as a wonderful client with enriching creative projects. Last month we visited 8 different locations to film and photograph recent graduates. Below are the finals, as well as a link to the video created by Grant, Jordan and the crew of C+C Marketing in Seattle, WA

 Watch the film – Seattle Colleges Class of 2020: Unstoppable

Wonderful Machine Blog: Cameron Karsten Helps Sage Fly Fish Market Itself to New Demographics

Here’s a nice little write up at Wonderful Machine’s blog. The original post can be found here.

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A leap of faith that companies take from time to time involves marketing themselves to demographics outside their main consumer base. It’s a risk, to be sure, considering the number of resources these companies need to invest in this kind of advertising push. This is what fishing rod manufacturer Sage Fly Fish, with the help of photographer Cameron Karsten, is trying to do.

Fly fishing is mostly known as a retiree’s sport, so Sage wants to break the old model and show imagery of all persons young and old, as well as shots of both seasoned anglers and novices.

Sage is a leading brand in this market, and it sells products for a wide variety of fishing locations, from freshwater streams to saltwater oceans. As a result, Cameron has done a good bit of traveling in and out of the country.

Every season, Sage utilizes their imagery for the different seasonal fishing taking place around the globe. For example, there is a heavy winter steelhead run in the Pacific Northwest, so new products are unveiled for this technique during this season.