Over the Salal Fields And Far Away

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestIt was dripping; the sun shrouded by cloud, the cloud returning to damp where dew ran with rain and rain soaked into thick rivulets of sand. All these paths led to a tempest of gray salt, growling together as an always-temperamental Northwest coastline. We shouldered our loads, pack mules down scree slopes, each step sinking into the shifting earth.

The first day was different. From the golden sun reflecting off a classic green pearl, a perfect wave was ridden with friends yelping like small creatures in a wide world. Slowly, in its own time, the swell built into a fortress of play. A soft offshore breeze told ancient stories of the last days of summer, like secrets spoken only to the two of us out that morning.

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestWalking off the beach, skin tensing from the drying salt water, we turned and marveled at the temptation we left, but the promise of additional companions and a new adventure forced us back through the thick fern fronds and salal fields that guarded those secrets. We pulled into a freshwater bay to meet our other companions: Sam from Ocean Beach and Kris from hometown.

As we spread our gear across the gravel, we reveled in what was just had and the anticipation of what was to come—a sea of imagination. Tents and tarps; jackets and neoprene layers; stoves, filtration systems and amenities; all stuffed into bear canisters and assertively packed within the confines of four new SealLine expedition packs. Canoes and paddles, boards, wetsuits, a small wooden door, screwdriver and hardware made the trip. Finally, amenities for the sun and the cold: beer.

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestEach canoe weighed heavy in the soft mud as the four of us laughed, organized and inspected everything. We had the gear and a malleable plan. Now we needed waves. Under a milky afternoon, still with high, wafting clouds, we embarked waters teaming with perch, pikeminnow, coastal cutthroats and kokanee to a point of cache and then further across deeper waters into the middle of nowhere.

This was our annual expedition in search of far-away waves—often not there, often there. We scanned bays and points, searched maps and planned routes. One year the Lost Coast Range, another south to Baja. This year we wanted to stay home and discover the little-known secrets of our wild backyard.

On far western shores we moored the vessels under thick drooping cedar boughs and trekked into the shadows, dusk above us and wet bog beneath. We slipped on decaying boardwalks, falling sideways and forward as we toddled, drawn to the roar of a thundering ocean a mile away. Our boards acted like crutches under our arms and our thick waterproof packs like mattresses. As the trail rose and fell, twisting through the forest terrain and between protective eight-foot-tall salal fields, we were in a florist’s dreamland, as well as our own. Suddenly, darkness gorged upon the remaining light, birds fell still and night insects began their choir. Surf hissed as it crashed upon salty shores. Thousands upon thousands of pounds of hypertension breaking, tumbling over and over one another. The animals, the dripping canopy, the ancient muttering streams tinged brown by Fall leaves was drowned by excitement.

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestCamp One welcomed us with an evening storm that lulled us to sleep with the soft, synthetic patter of raindrops on nylon. As we emerged into the light of day two, all was sodden, the leaching wetness of winter – the rotting season. Nothing remained dry outside our expedition packs. And as we cooked packets of instant oatmeal, we scanned the angry horizon for signs of contour.

North was a mark on the map, a point, as well as lingering deer tame enough to comb with a pick. South was a bay with few signs of humanity and, straight west, into the heart of the Pacific was a madness of gray matter combusting without pattern, ending in a wall of white frigidity. So we checked north. We ventured south. And came to the conclusion over much deliberation, pseudo-scientific nonsense and amateur forecasting that south was the answer to our dreams. There, miles from camp we witnessed a clean, A-frame peak dashing itself upon a hardened black shoals, falling to rest after its long journey. So we tore like madmen, over silky seaweed and mounds of purple bear scat back to camp in a rush to beat a pulsing tide. Packed a little lighter, we double-time over bleached-tree graveyards, through gaping stone holes and slippery cavernous passages.

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestCamp Two was a sand bank, a small cove of great fortune that was ours, alone, for four days. From this vantage point, we watched the sea. Corduroy lines of swell marched like infantry. That clean A-frame was gone, replaced by a meaty little slab.

Wet in the water and wet ashore, the weather carpeted the coastline each passing day. We ate food the consistency of porridge and drank small cups of instant coffee. Shaded by the rainforest above, picking our way through fern and salal below, we scoured for any bits of dry wood we could find. At the end, we divvied the remaining food and gear between us to lighten our return. Mosses and lichen draped over any uncovered surface.

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestThese instances were often the most memorable, the time away from time where scrutiny of an industrial civilization weighed weight upon a ticking time bomb. Omniscient and harmonious was the mind, free to soar in solitude like the eagles above, and glide like a Pelican upon the updraft of rolling sea. We found more scat; bear, raccoon, coyote. We stepped over the skins of dogfish and collected Japanese plastics from disasters far away and seemingly long ago. Then we ended.

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestThe morning of our departure, the sun broke and alighted our long playful shadows across the sand as we slipped northward towards Camp One, back through the fern forest and salal fields to a freshwater point. We had work to do.

As we paddled towards our cache near a hollowed-out burnt cedar remnant, abandoned hundreds of years ago by the People of the Canoe, a fire blazed in a clear-cut swathe just over the park boundary lines. It filled the lake’s reflection an even deeper brown, eerily reminding us of the forgotten emptiness that now lies still on the coastal banks, watching the same shoal morph and erode with the ocean’s power.

© Cameron Karsten Photography of surfing the Washington coast, Pacific NorthwestWe slid onto the sandy beach, found our stores of wood and hardware, beer and fire, and set to work. Skyler repaired the lean-to with his fashioned door. Sam built a hot fire of cedar wood and lava rock, while Kris fashioned a shovel to carry the stones from heat to shelter. Over the course of three hours we took turns bathing in the sweet sweat of a traditional sauna, removing all traces of bitter cold from our bones. And then just before dusk we set off for home, just as we had done days prior when we entered the shadows of fern and salal that guarded the undiscovered surf in the wilds of our backyard.

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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Malecón Nights

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The thrill of travel is not just the location, change of weather, exotic food, cold crisp lager or sweet watered-down poolside cocktail; and neither that departure from the doldrums of a 9-5er as adventurer enters the foray of a new culture. In large part, it is the people and the very fine reclusive act of people-watching. Amble to a reposed locale, with or without inclement weather, put on your sunnies and take in the forms, motions, gestures and secret underlying nature of humanity’s greatest gift: the fleeting expression.

For this, I headed to the great malecón – Mazatlan, Mexico’s fine gift to locals and foreigners alike. The malecón is a boardwalk stretching a total of 13 miles along Pacific sand and stone, one of the world’s longest waterfront escapades. By daytime it’s sparsely populated, the heat and harsh bite of sun repelling personnel. But by night, as twilight dims, those heavenly swathes of orange, yellow and pink fade into sheer depths of purple, the individual and group collide along the concrete seawall. There are walkers. There are joggers. There are bikes, dogs, merchant stalls, blustery palms and ephemeral statues of a past Carnaval: el malecón.

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Dog Days of Summer: PNW Surfing

With the summer gone and while shuffling through imagery for a short film I’m putting together, these images remind me of what warmth use to feel like on the coast of Washington.  However, come the cold water arrives a beautiful swell.  As the season turns on in the PNW, the last thing I want to do is sit on the shore and shoot.  ‘Til next summer.

Location: Somewhere on the West Coast

Camera/Lens Specifics: Canon 5D Mark III with Canon EF 500mm f/4L II USM Lens

various settings, tripod.

Post: Adobe LR4 & PS6

Photo of the Day: ICP Award Selection & Burke Museum Public Opening Saturday, June 30th

Opening Day
Saturday, June 30
10 am – 5 pm

Join the Burke Museum as the winning photographs of the International Conservation Photography Awards are revealed at the exhibit’s Opening Day, and my award-winning image Lanes, pictured below:

“Lanes”, © 2012 Cameron Karsten Photography

Get a rare glimpse into how the photos were captured and the selection process behind the competition. Four of the honored photographers will speak about their work, photographic techniques, and passion for conservation on June 30. Judges from the panel will offer visitors guided tours of the exhibit.

Click here for a schedule of activities and details.

Opening Day activities are included with museum admission and are FREE for Burke members.

The 2012 International Conservation Photography Awards exhibit is organized by the Burke Museum in partnership with the ICP Awards.

Tips for Photographing Urban Landscapes & Architecture

Exploring an urban setting is enticing.  So much is occurring as movement, color, smell, taste in the air and flavor on the table.  There are millions of sites to indulge the eyes upon, whether you’re creeping down an alley to a reserved local restaurant or venturing across a sweeping bridge to view the waterways of floating traffic, its languid chorus and panoramic views.  Without doubt, taking in a new village, town, city or metropolis with camera in hand is one of the most creative experiences upon the traveler’s road.  But within these possibilities, you don’t want to get overwhelmed.  You want to enjoy it, capture the city-life, feel it’s hustling pulse and bustling vibration, and present its’ personalities to your audience.

On my first trip to India, it took me 45 minutes to ground myself on the hostel rooftop before I felt comfortable entering the New Delhi chaos.  This is the most important rule in any new city.  Get grounded.  Find your bearings.  Take a few long deep breaths before leaping into the crowds of a foreign culture, especially in a massive population.  Activate and calm your senses.  You’ll need them not only for photography, but for your basic survival.  Realize the earth is beneath you, and then jump into the fray.

When photographing a city for the first time, everything looks new and enthralling.  Get warmed up and start snapping.  Approach the city streets with intrigue and view each subject as a creation of civilization.  Men and women built it with their hands.  This rudimentary understanding will give a whole new perspective to architecture.  It has personality.  It has angles, unique to its design.  It has caricatures within its face.  Find them by stopping and observing.  Take your time before walking around, circumnavigating the towering building while exploring with the eyes and lens.  Squat down, crane your neck and view it from various angles.  Then stand tall.  Find the highest vantage point.  Every change in your personal viewpoint will present a new element within the building or cityscape.  It is a structure of artistic design.  See it with as many eyes (or perspectives) as possible and don’t forget to explore all of its features, from the historical districts and monuments, to those mundane alleys with debris, dumpsters and unexpected surprises.

From the gallant, most gawdy form of spires and gargoyles to the elementary adobe huts of a nomadic tribe, architecture is an expression of a civilization’s art history, whether practical or conjectural.  However, the thrill will eventually wear off.  Here is where your skills are put to the test.  Go to the same building or viewpoint, but witness your subject during a different time of day when the light will effect mood, reflection and personality.  Lit up at night in the quiet of darkness or active under the bright sun of rush hour, your subject will always give you something new, rain or shine.  A good practice is getting out and walking your own hometown.  Do this as much as possible and rewire your vision to see the new in what has been called “the old”.  Step back and see your main street from afar and then creep in to find the most intimate details of cracks in the paint.

The key to capturing the essence of any city is within your mind.  See the beauty surrounding you.  Everyday is a new chance to wake up and live as if it were your first and your last.  Carry your camera as you explore.  Squat.  Stand tall.  Lay down on the ground.  And climb high for more vantage points.  Be that insect and be that bird.  And most importantly, have fun, enjoy, keep your feet moving and be safe.  Cities have hidden jewels to inspire as well as the darker characters to cause fear.  As a photographer, writer or traveler, you need to have your head on your shoulders and both feet on the ground.

Cameron Karsten Photography offers professional imagery. With a unique eye for composition and lighting, Cameron draws excellence into any industry, specialized to help make your business, family and event shine in the light of infinite creativity. Whether requiring the finesse of a skilled photographer, updating old image archives for your website or looking to spark your new product with eye-catching advertisement, utilize Cameron Karsten Photography to professionalize your life, business, product or marketing material.  For more imagery, please visit the following link: http://www.photoshelter.com/c/cameronkarsten