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 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

“End of the Line” Meta Magazine Issue #19

For more, visit www.cameronkarsten.com

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

Todd Kline is #WeAreFishing Pt II

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Belize Pt 2 – YETI

On water or land, there’s always a place to be thirsty and carry the right vessel.

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All Across Africa – Women’s Cooperatives in Rwanda

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In February of this year, I joined All Across Africa in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi for an amazing two-week journey through their women’s basket weaving cooperatives, as well as sewing schools designed for young adults. It was a beautiful experience showing the strength of a non-profit empowering locals by providing proper skill set training as well as a growing community of business development. The following are images throughout Rwanda. All products can be purchased by going to www.AllAcrossAfrica.org

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Please visit www.AllAcrossAfrica.org to support the women of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi

Cameron Karsten Photography

Vodou Footprints: A Faraway Land in Benin’s Cradle of Vodou

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Geography, for many Americans, is that daunting and embarrassing mystery—a dim knowledge largely confined to wartime allies, historical enemies, and the occasional topical hotspot. Beyond this so-called important handful—Western Europe, the Middle East, possibly China or Japan—everything else is clumped together into a world of unknowns.

When I told acquaintances of my impending trip, the average response was somewhere between hesitance and puzzlement. Like a jargoning doctor to the common patient, my words didn’t ring many bells.

Well, perhaps Benin is a faraway land.

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Admittedly, I too couldn’t place Benin in its exact location prior. West Africa, I’d say evasively, somehow hopeful that several nations would willingly surrender their unique identities to their greater region. Technically, I wasn’t wrong. But not surprisingly, I soon discovered that Benin deserved far more respect and scrutiny than I had originally expected. Take a closer look and you’ll begin to unravel a majestic tangle of complexity and misconception.

Benin borders Nigeria’s western edge, touches Togo’s eastern boundary, and supports Niger and Burkina Faso above. It is one of those tiny West African countries that stretch north to south. Sneeze and you’ll miss it. In fact, picture Africa’s western shoreline as a nose. Benin sits just beyond where the mouth and the nose would meet—at the nostrils, if you will—a sliver of land anchored by the fabled Bight of Benin.

And then there’s magic. In the West, the word conjures up David Blaine, television’s greatest living magician. A levitating, fire-breathing, death-defying illusionist. A beloved celebrity of record-setting endurance. A talent, no doubt. From the Beninese perspective, however, he is not a man of magic. Call him master of deception. Magic in Benin is a way of life.

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Everywhere there is magic. It’s in the red earth of the landscape, the throbbing fury of the sun, and the relentless currents of the great flowing rivers. It’s their religion—a religion in which the interactions between nature and humanity are cherished and respected every day. Magic is Vodou. And with 4,000 years of magic backing it up, Benin is the undisputed cradle of Vodou.

Personally, I believe in magic, both as a form of deception as well as a supernatural expression of the energies beyond ordinary comprehension. For millennia, Homo sapiens—the self-proclaimed wise man—has existed, evolved, and generally erred, all the while attempting to explain: What lies beneath? What forces create the churning seas of the ocean and the gyrating clouds of the sky? What energies course through veins and roots alike? Indeed, what does our cunning and craft amount to aside vast incomprehensibilities? Our attempts to solve breed yet further questions. No matter our advancements or industry, the sun still rises and the moon ever orbits to a language seemingly all their own.

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Countless cultures have contrived to explain these fundamental phenomena. Some grow. Most fade beneath the all-consuming flames of war and oppression. And yet, incredibly, amidst the largest powerhouses of the world, there exists a small country—undeterred by the folly of others and sorely ravaged by the horrible histories of slavery—where the primeval practices still prevail and the honor of the mysteries of the world take precedence.

Cast aside the linear mindset and the textual teachings of the West. Simply observe what is before you and what has come to pass. Only then will you understand Benin. Here the supernatural and natural worlds converge; everyday occurrences take on special meanings; and the privileged traveler may join the setting sun into the obscurity of a secret and sacred society to appreciate the mysteries of what Benin declares its official religion: the worship of the Vodou.

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It is a world of shadow and dance. Of masks, scars, and tattoos. A country where Kings remain the Kings of Kings, and the leopard and snake reign in the household tale. Feel the pulsing rhythm of Vodou, transcend the merely tangible, and let the beat of the drum lift your mind into the realm of the metaphysical. Once you have crossed this threshold, once you have heeded this singular call, the world around can never be the same.

For us, there is no retreat. There is only the universal language of Vodou, and together we will drink from this bottomless cup.

Together we’ll reach a faraway land.

Next essay –>

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Africa – People + Places

Cultures-ClashI’ve been sifting through imagery as I prepare to head to New York City for the 2013 Eddie Adams Workshop and meetings with potential clients.  What I’ve found has allowed me to relive the beautiful memories of past travels and the people and places I met.  Here, Africa represents itself in all its wondrous enjoyment, with the hopes of near returns on future assignments.

DSC_0086-(4)---Version-3Hamar, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

DSC_0206---Version-3Somewhere in the Afar Desert, Ethiopia

Gold-Stars,-Happy-FacesThe Layla House Adoption House, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

DSC_0179---Version-3The streets of Lagos, Nigeria

DSC_0024---Version-2The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi, Kenya

DSC_0307-(1)---Version-5Hamar boy, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

High-RisenDiani Beach, Kenya

DSC_0009-(4)---Version-3Hamar girls, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Tuti-AliveTuti, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

For more please visit: Travel

Cameron Karsten Photography