Tuesday, October 13, 2009


by Ben

As I sit here editing images from a great weekend of shooting in the Gunks, I can't help but to unpack my mind a little bit-mainly because it's easier than unpacking my truck, which will have to wait. The way this weekend came to be sent my thoughts into a whirlwind of trying to understand where I am and how I got here. A year and a half ago I didn't own a camera, didn't know what an f/stop was, and was wrestling with the growing reality that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

You see, I spent this last weekend working with Nicky Dyal, who is a very strong and talented climber who is also very accustomed to being in front of a camera. Along with her was her longtime friend Joel, who is also a great climber and has been recently getting into photography, and her father who is a small, unassuming, fantastically old-school climber. Nicky has been in many of the major climbing magazines many times, and the opportunity to work with her was absolutely great. So how did it happen? That's what I'm trying to figure out.

I guess it all started about 6 months ago on Twitter. I became acquainted with a gal named Sara Lingefelter, better known as @theclimbergirl. Sara is very connected to the climbing community on twitter, a prolific blogger, and just seems to know everyone. A month later, when she made a trip to CO and set up a climbers' gathering, I went along to meet new people. She was super cool and we stayed in touch via Twitter, and also ran into each other again at the Outdoor Retailer show in SLC. A few weeks ago when I mentioned to her that I was looking for people to shoot in the Gunks while I was home in the East, and she told me that she would be happy to send out a message to all her climbing contacts. A girl named Katie, or @AdventureGrrl on twitter, replied to her, and let her know that I should get in contact with Jannette Pazer, aka @cliffmama, since she is very active in the Gunks community. When I did, she did the same as Sara and hit up all her local contacts, letting them know that I wanted to shoot two routes: The Dangler and Shockley's Ceiling. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when she emailed me to let me know that a friend of hers, Nicky Dyal, was interested in working with me. It just so happens that she was home visiting family and was going to be in the Gunks that weekend anyways, before returning to her home in CA. The whole sequence of events left my mind pretty blown. It was amazing timing, and not much of it had to do with anything I did.

For the last year, I've been on the crazy adventure that I suppose should be expected when you get up off the couch, decide you're going to be a professional photographer, and then chase after it with everything you've got... which at the beginning wasn't much. Only in the last few months has it started to feel like I'm getting somewhere. But the absurd way in which this weekend's shoot came together has caused me to reflect on all the other good fortune that has graced my life in the last 18 months. Sure, I've worked hard, but so many things that exist outside of myself have played huge parts in moving me along my path. So much love and support from friends and family, so many amazing chances and opportunities that could only be gifts from God, and most importantly, Genny. She has been the single biggest contributor to my growth as a photographer, and the biggest gift from God. Not only does she win all the bread, so that I can devote all my time to building a career as a photographer; but she also comes home from looking at photos all day, and is still willing to go over things with me and give her very excellent, and sometimes brutally honest, critique. If I have any advice for someone wishing to improve at photography, or anything else for that matter, it is to find the most qualified source of critique that you can, and subject yourself to it regularly.

So I don't know where I am, and I'm still unsure of how I got here, but I know is that I'm headed someplace good. During the two days I spent with Nicky and Joel, we had an amazing amount of deep and meaningful conversations. Nicky had talked about feeling like she has a grip on life at the moment, and I remarked that I felt like I was headed that way. Both of them were tremendously warm and open people who by prompting quality conversations made me realize how easy it is to go through our daily interactions on auto-pilot or safe mode, and never let things get real. It's so natural to exist solely on small talk and the requisite word-vomit of 'getting to know each other.' Meaningful conversations have to be pursued. They require a little digging. Sometimes they're messy, and they're far from safe. But I got to know two people, who they actually are, not just about them.

Working with Nicky was just plain awesome. She is fun to work with and professional, and has a strong commitment to doing everything she can to help the images look their best. Joel was an awesome support player, helping out with things on my end, belaying, taking photos of me working with Nicky, helping create an awesome working environment and even jumping in front of the camera for a quick lead of Ken's Crack. Because of those two short days, I have two new friends, some great new photos, and a new intention to spend more time getting real and less time on auto-pilot. Enjoy the photos!

Photo of Nicky and I by Joel Dashnaw

Friday, October 9, 2009

Two from Rumney

by Ben

Monday and Tuesday I went up to climb in Rumney, NH with my friends Matt and Eli. You may remember these two as the people I lived in a tent with for 29 days in Joshua Tree. Six months later, I think we were all ready to be anywhere near each other again. It was great to be all climbing together again and it was a fun two days. I did a fair bit of climbing and shooting, some gear testing, and a whole bunch of getting rained on. Contrary to anything I said in the post below, nothing about climbing photography is enhanced be the presence of rain, but the weather gave us enough of a break to get in a full day on Tuesday. WE also ran in to this guy named Erik who was without a partner. We welcomed him to climb with us and I was pleased to find out that he is from Colorado as well. I'll be making sure to look him up when I get back.
Speaking of Joshua Tree, in the last few days I've finally had some time to be in the 'office' and get some things done. Among those things that got done, is my trip that I did for Backpacker in J-Tree. Make sure to checkout the trip info, maps, GPS track and photos from my time on the California Riding and Hiking Trail here.

Tomorrow morning I'm headed to NY from 3 days of scouting, climbing and shooting in the Gunks. I'm going to be getting together with a few great climbers and shooting them on some stellar routes. I'm pretty excited to see what kind of images I come away with. Be sure to check back in and find out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why I love Fall, and Pentax.

by Ben

After 14 months of living in Colorado, all the while proclaiming it's superiority from the top of every big mountain I climb, I'm beginning to remember the beauty of the Northeast. Most people would agree that no time is more beautiful than the fall. Last week, Genny and I were having a nice, relaxing rainy day, hanging out at her parents' house, when the urge struck to go take pictures. Genny's latest entry for her photo blog at Backpacker.com is about how to get good images on cloudy days, so we decided to take it one step further and see what we could get on a downright rainy day.

Rainy days definitely seem to be the most avoided by photographers. I would wager that more photographers go out to shoot at night, than go out in the rain. There's something to be said about not taking expensive electronics out into the rain, but as an outdoor/adventure photographer, I decided that that being afraid of the elements is not acceptable.

Enter Pentax.

When Genny and I were researching what camera system to buy into, one of the factors that made us choose Pentax was their extreme level of weatherproofing. We've always known it was there, and appreciated it's existence, but it had never really been put to the test, beside a few

minutes in the occasional afternoon shower. This rainy afternoon was the perfect time to see if these cameras can take as much as they say; and the answer would either be 'yes' or 'I need a new camera.'

The photo above shows how wet my camera was after 2 minutes, and both cameras continued getting poured on for another 2 hours. It was fun spending time out when most people would pack it up, and two things were learned from this rainy day out:

1. I don't need a new camera. Still want one though... (I promise I wasn't trying to ruin my camera so that I had to get a newer one.)

2. Shooting in the rain provides a great opportunity to capture the world around you in a unique way that can make ordinary scenes pop to life.