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

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.”

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Belize Pt I – Dark Seas

There’s a place in paradise with a little casita along its shores. Here, the whole world slips away.

visit www.CameronKarsten.com

Seattle Times Op-Ed: Indigenous knowledge is critical to understanding climate change

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

As we prepare to join Saturday’s March for Science, please understand that by integrating traditional knowledge with Western science, we can solve some of our biggest challenges, including those brought by our changing climate.

Good science is critical to our health, ability to live full lives and community well-being. We use science to advance medicine, enhance our use of natural resources, ensure our food supply and much more. That’s why more than a million people around the world joined the March for Science in 2017 and why we are gearing up again to march for science on April 14.

Western science is just one way of knowing. Indeed, traditional knowledge and wisdom of indigenous peoples is recognized by the United Nations for its potential to sustainably manage complex ecosystems. Yet all too often, Western science has disregarded centuries of science-based knowledge coming from Native Americans and other indigenous peoples.

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

Indigenous peoples have lived in our particular locations for many generations, and we define ourselves in relation to our home environment. Our deep and long-standing relationships with the environment are unique; our very existence depends on our ability to conserve and maintain our lands and waters for future generations.

Today, tribes, First Nations, indigenous peoples and Aboriginals are sounding a loud alarm about the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels, broken natural systems, and increasing fire and flooding are apparent and documented.

For example, stocks of many fish species like Pacific hake are sensitive to ocean temperature along the California Current, and recent declines in their numbers have serious implications for the well-being of my own Makah Tribe.

While others debate the causes of climate change, we who live close to the land are experiencing major impacts from our changing climate and call for immediate and strong action to protect the resources on which we all rely. We can’t afford to disregard indigenous knowledge about climate change.

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

Growing up as a member of the Makah Tribe, I relied on the empirical knowledge of my ancestors to determine where to fish and how to locate other sources of food. My community relied on indigenous experiences to understand how to keep ourselves healthy.

When I was a child, my father taught me to navigate our ocean territory through currents, tides and landmarks. This knowledge, along with the life cycle of fish and time of year, allowed for the successful, sustainable harvest of species such as halibut, black cod and lingcod. In the years that followed, my peers and I transferred knowledge to other members of the family who integrated the information into current fishing and management practices.

As a youth, I’d get up in the mornings, often before sunrise, and leave the house overlooking a beach. There was no backpack, no lunch box. I was taught what our land would provide through all the seasons: roots, berries, sea urchins and mussels, to name a few. The knowledge of how, where and when to harvest is a way of life, always done in a manner that ensures the resources are sustained for the next person. These teachings and values laid the foundation for the work I completed in tribal leadership.

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

To our north, Tlingit and Haida elders observe young herring following older herring to spawning grounds. When industrial fishing removes the elder herring from spawning sites, the stock is destroyed, as the young fish can no longer find their way home. Failure to heed these traditional observations is leading to the demise of herring and threatening aspects of Tlingit and Haida culture that are closely tied to herring.

A recent news item featured the astonishing observation that birds in Australia intentionally spread fire by carrying burning sticks. While this is fascinating, it has long been known to the Aboriginals. Using fire as a management tool is widespread throughout indigenous cultures. Makah is no exception. For centuries our ancestors used fire to manage crops of cranberries and tea. These resources are currently threatened by our changing climate, as well as the laws and regulations that govern the use of fire.

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

Respecting and embracing indigenous knowledge as important science benefits all of us. In looking for solutions to the environmental dilemmas that confront us, it is critical to apply indigenous knowledge. All of us are looking for a better understanding of the Earth and her ecosystems. By integrating traditional knowledge with Western science, together we can solve some of our biggest challenges, including those brought by our changing climate.

As communities worldwide prepare to March for Science, this focus is appropriate and important. Threats to scientific knowledge must be rejected, and decision making based on fact must be embraced. Equally important, we should also embrace 10,000-plus years of field observation by indigenous peoples around the world.

This empirical knowledge has sustained people and cultures and has laid the groundwork for many modern “discoveries.” Indigenous peoples are truly the experts of their area and place, with a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and our role in conserving resources for future generations.

Original Post (April 10, 2018)

Alaska by Air for RdM – Ketchikan Helicopters

Summer in Alaska is a beautiful thing, especially above the canopy. Shot for RdM – Ketchikan Helicopters out of Ketchikan, AK.

Newly redesigned website at www.CameronKarsten.com

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SealLine Dry Bags and the Unknown Waters of Winter

SealLine, a kayak, an outdoorsman, and a calm foggy winter morning. + 2hrs before work…

New website via PhotoFolio up at http://www.CameronKarsten.com

Vodou Footprints: Levoy Exil – Saint Soleil’s Vodou Mystic

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Levoy Exil is an artist. He’s from Haiti. He lives in Haiti. He is a visionary with deep roots into the mysticism of Haitian vodou. “I have revelations when I’m asleep. In black and white. The black is the body, the white is the spirit. I sing the song of creation to Damballah. I offer him blue, white and mauve. There are lines of dots all around the shapes, in relief. There are dots of light. The red is part of the body. It’s also a symbol of goodness, and it’s good for healing too. Damballah is a snake, made up of all colors.”

Levoy is an original member of the famous Haitian artistic movement called Saint Soleil, which began in 1972. Inspired by vodou religion and the cosmological energies called loa, or vodou spirits, St Soleil (Holy Sun) grew from the peasant mountainsides outside of Port-au-Prince into an internationally-renowned style specific to the culture of Haiti. Levoy still practices the art of the movement, and today is an icon of Haitian creativity and vodou symbology, helping bring to light the true beauty of this ancient belief system.

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Bloomberg Businessweek Shoot: Willapa Bay’s Future w/Neonicotinoids

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Last week I was called by Bloomberg and headed to Willapa Bay in southwestern Washington to photograph WSU scientist Kim Patten and the surrounding environment of Bay Center, WA. Waking up at 2:30am on Monday, I spent the morning driving 3hrs to catch a clear sunrise over the waters, which have been the center of Washington’s oyster industry for generations. At over 260 square miles, the bay nearly empties at low tide, creating the second largest estuary on the U.S.’s west coast. But a local shrimp has been disrupting the area’s economy for too long, suffocating oyster beds as the crustacean burrows 1 to 2 feet beneath the surface, turning mudflats into quicksand. The published article is available in the link and the selects from the morning’s shoot are below.

Bloomberg Businessweek: Washington State Turns to Neurotoxins to Save Its Oysters

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A pile of discarded oyster shells are left in the sun so organic matter can decompose before being bagged and placed back in the water as a refuge for young oyster seed.

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Long-line oyster beds stretch across the tidal flats of Willapa Bay as a front of morning fog recedes westward.

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Old oyster shells wrapped in bags ready for delivery outside an oyster nursery

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WSU scientist and researcher Kim Patten uses a clam digger to pull out an invasive shrimp from one to two feet beneath the mud.

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A male and female shrimp (the female is carrying orange egg sacks)

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An oyster shucker in Bay Center, WA

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STORMR Deer Camp: Into the Hoh Rainforest (Pt. III)

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Nature is stealth. Walk out into the woods and count the number of wild animals spotted. Many are heard, but few are seen. However there are eyes watching you and scents tracing your every movement. Stalking and hunting a wild animal is one of the most difficult thing to do, especially in the shadows of the Hoh Rainforest, but the rewards are one that will feed your family for months to follow. Practice the art of patience, endurance and awareness while chilled temperatures permeate the saturated environments of the Olympic Peninsula. On the hunt with STORMR foul-weather gear.

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Collecting Forks, Making Decisions (Location: The Traveler’s Road)

Experience is based on our personal choices, and we can bring as much or as little choice into the matter as we wish.

Life revolves; as the motion of the sun, as the pleating horizon and its contrasting hues from light to darkness and back.  The individual, from one’s perspective, is the traveler.  And upon all travels, there is a road to follow.

This road is full of choices. Which fork will you choose?

This question came to me long ago as an adage.  I was young, say nine years old.  It stated thus: “If there’s a fork in the road, take it.”

And I laughed.  I laughed until it hurt.  Who would put a fork in the road, and why would I want to take it?

It was a phrase filled with ridiculousness to my budding imagination, but one of deep wisdom as I grew into understanding.

The quote was read to me out of a book written by Pat Riley (one of the top ten NBA coaches of all-time according to NBA.com) entitled The Winner Within. I now see it in its full light.  I can taste the fork, the food of life from the past, present and future.  The flavors of choice.

The Life of a Student

Paris—its ancient European splendor discovered on one’s lap in the finest literature or upon the walls of the most selective galleries.

Five months I signed my life away and gave my word to family, friends, and Paris—I would be a student of the City of Lights.  But five months for the traveler is eternity.

The French classes, the home-stay with a lone parisienne woman, and the intense independence of a traveler buried within his consciousness.  The forks were many, arriving and departing, offering me choices in all directions.

Stay in Paris: the marooned traveler locked in a conceived commitment like a child to its bottle.  Return home: my mind, body and soul thirsted for a rest within familiarity, before the dusty lane of a lingering wanderer caught his scent afar once again.

I couldn’t help but sink beyond the mind-fuck of options into a wordless image of the road, where long curving paths travel outward, into movements of the unknown, guiding to new towns and hostels.  Flavors constantly pushing onward.  Possibilities endless.  The road limitless. Where was I?

From the start, way before the birth of my Parisian studies, I collected my forks.  This was my reassurance that I was okay.  Every choice in the road that led to the enrichment of adventure, shaped in spontaneity, was my destiny.  I was not lost.  I was not stuck.  I was on the road less traveled where the unabated borage of questions my mind teased me with was none other then normal brain activity.  I didn’t have to sit in mediation longer.  I didn’t have to eat healthier: rawer foods and purer waters.  I needed to breathe, observe and continue questioning until the choice felt right.  Until I made the decision to pick up the fork and own it.

My present moment—my past and future—rolled into one.  They were in my hand, on the fork, before sliding onto my tongue and across the palate.

The Manufacturing of Commitment

To commit is dedication.  With the soft pavement beneath my feet, as with the crisp steel shaping the idiom’s many forms, I’m dedicated to the life of the traveler.  Time in Paris was up.  I clearly saw my fork and I took it.

A thought is a thought.  Experience it.  Accept it.  Leave it at that and move on.

When a choice is made there’s a manufacturing of commitment.

“I will do this.”

You tell yourself.  You tell others.

There’s a response from all: Yes you will, or no you won’t.

And as word spreads around, a bond is created.  A thought, into speech, turned to action.

However, a choice remains at its origin in that plain thought.  Here lies the trouble: Perhaps you can’t let go.  Maybe, just maybe, you’re stuck because you took it too seriously, so whole-mindedly that there was nothing else to stand in its’ way.

A thought is a thought.  Experience it.  Accept it.  Leave it at that and move on.

Return to the Road

Although I thought about Paris from its conception, where I shared it, created it as my reality, and experienced it’s artistry for five months; whose commitment was it?

It was mine and I could change it.

Remember Cameron, you have the fork.  My conscience was speaking clearly.  You picked up the fork.  You own it now.  This is your life to decide what to do, when to do, without questioning why.  Feel your way through the flavors of destiny.

I stopped, took in a breath, and experienced the current circumstances.  A perceived commitment, which never existed, vanished for good as my path along the road became unblocked.  I let go and my movement proceeded, far from Paris.

No, I’m not married to any single thought.  I never was, and I never made a commitment, except to that originating decision to do it.  But then there is another, and another, and another, from the past, into the future sitting before me on the plate of the present moment.  And with my fork, I decide where, when and how I live this moment.  As my road evolves and revolves, new choices are made, affecting the current life circumstances.

I don’t allow someone else or something else to begin collecting my forks for me.  They’re mine.

In other words, it all comes down to this:  Bundled in a ball, simple enough for a nine year old to play with, Pat Riley continued, “Don’t let other people tell you what you want.”  Deliberately take it upon yourself to recognize and embrace your life’s choices.

Remember:  If there’s a fork in the road, take it.