Our camp was a small beach, the flattest one with the most sand we could find, occupying the precarious space between the river and the vertical gorge walls, hemmed in by scree, large boulders, and large class V rapids above and below. As we made camp, the realities of our position became more evident; the remote and inaccessible nature of the canyon, the two days of difficult whitewater to come, and how close we were to the onset of Peru’s rainy season. I had heard stories of immense storms on the Apurimac, thoughts I put to rest as I began to sleep beneath a clear and brilliant night sky. But then the air became suddenly warmer, the wind picked up, and dark clouds back lit by the full moon moved in. I felt a single raindrop on my forehead, and thereafter the sky opened up with torrential rain, lightning, and incredible gusts of wind. We pulled the kayaks farther up shore, fearful they may be swept away by the rising river. I hadn’t set up a tarp that night, and my ultralight bivy did little against the downpour. I crawled under a boulder, in my bivy with a tarp draped over me, a small opening by my face for ventilation. The onset of rain triggered rock falls and debris flows down the near vertical canyon walls, which echoed, in conjunction with the pouring rain, thunder claps, and racing wind, into a terrible and sublime cacophony. How high could the river rise? Were we safe from falling debris? The magnitude of the canyon and the storm rendered intuitive sense of spatial scale useless. Anything seemed possible. That night I truly felt wilderness–not just geographically, in the sense of being far away from human civilization, but existential wilderness. We use layers of abstraction (maps, beta, GoPro videos, GPS, and satellite communication devices) to psychologically armor ourselves from the immensity of places like the Apurimac’s Abyssmo Canyon. These means allow us to carve the wilderness experience into pieces that seem doable. That night in the canyon, all of those layers of abstraction melted away and I felt how frail and tenuous our individual capacities are compared to the 4.6 billion year old forces of Earth. – Will Rudisill is currently studying Hydrologic Science at Boise State University. For more from his trip to Peru, check out his blog at https://willkayaks.wordpress.com/.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French photographer who has inspired many with his work and writings, was a master when it came to the candid moments, something inherent to outdoor imagery. “For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity. The master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of the mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.” As a photographer working to promote outdoor recreation, I have spent countless hours capturing the uniqueness of many places on public lands with a goal to lure people outside. There’s a certain kind of electricity that pulses through me when I’ve captured the essence of what it’s like to ride at a particular location. I want others to look at these photographs and feel like they know what it’s like to be there or want to go there themselves. I want them to take that inspiration, look at a map, plan a trip, get in a car or hop on a plane, put their feet on the pedals, and make their own first-hand account of the place they saw in the photo. I hope these images inspire future generations of outdoor-enthusiasts and conservationists. I have concerns about the possibility that younger and future generations aren’t being compelled to get outside. It’s for them that I hope my work is “giving meaning” to the world. I hope others feel the electricity of the outdoors – the pull to get out and pedal on singletrack, walk up mountains, climb to the sky, and paddle raging rivers. In the future, they will be asked to make decisions about outdoor opportunities on public lands. That connection will help them understand what they will be asked to protect and why it’s important. – Leslie Kehmeier is the former Mapping Manager for the International Mountain Biking Association. More of her outdoor adventure and travel photography can be found at http://thewideeyedworld.com/.
I’ve been drawn to a life outdoors for the simple reason that I am a human. My health, sanity, and well-being depend on a connection with nature. Over the years, I have been able to refine that connection. I started going to the mountains at a young age to ski and always enjoyed the expanse and freedom it provided. As I grew older, I started to feel the pull of the outdoors even stronger, guiding me away from my suburban upbringing and into the forests and hills. Anxiety and tension is common among youth who are starved for open spaces. I was no exception, and as I began to immerse myself further into the outdoors, I felt those tensions release, my horizons broaden, and my connection to the land deepen. It was during my first extended backpacking trips and climbing outings in college that I picked up a camera to take along. I was inspired by the vistas to behold after a long day of movement. A little over a decade later, I have furthered my crafts of photography and climbing. It has become a conversation that I have with nature. These “talks” have given me moments of joy, fear, struggle, connection, and love that are seared into my consciousness and that I will cherish forever, all taking place under the sun while it makes its gentle arc across the vast sky. – Matthew Van Biene travels the world in search of rock, light, and kindred souls. For more of his work, check out http://www.vanbienephotography.com/.