Portraits have never been a strong point for me; perhaps it was a lack of interest, a lack of obvious action. But as I’ve grown, I’ve learned how much story is in a portrait, like an intimate character study. Using a 35mm prime and manual focus, you’re forced to get right in your subject’s face and that, in itself, yields something uniquely powerful. . They generally say with portraits you should stand higher than your subject; at 5-foot-8, that doesn’t add up for most male figures. But in this case it fits because I look up to both of these studs in their own right. Intellectuals, teachers, athletes and friends—I’ve learned a lot from these two, surely more than I’ve taught, hopefully only a fraction of what I will learn.
Mindful and mindless. Cathartic. With a little stress. Free—within its confines. Consciously thinking, acting subconsciously. Driving alone can be exactly what I need. Or it can be the last thing I need. Often it’s both, often on the same day. The action remains the same, but the mindset moves like yellow lines of pavement—twisting, turning, heavy on right, heavy on the left, yet always balanced. . “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of a hell, a hell of heaven...” - John Milton . (Central Nevada, Summer Solstice.)
Objectives are, insomuch as the name, objective. There’s little gray area. You accomplished a goal; you failed to accomplish said goal. Black and white. And in spite of the prevailing “A for Effort!” attitude of today’s society, it’s extremely important that we accept failures for what they are. However, failure—in and of itself—need only be tied to objective qualifications. Where you can never fail, with the right mindset, is in the experience. We went out into the High Sierra with a mission in mind. We failed to accomplish that goal. Categorically. Struck out 0 for 5. But at no point over those two days did any moment of the experience feel like a failure. We spent two rad days in one of the most beautiful slices of alpine in the country. We pushed our limits. Exceeded them. Learned from the best. Spoke about climbing and life and love and business and how every single one of them takes work—real work, hard work, Malcolm Gladwell ten-thousand-hour-rule kind of work—but each objective failure is a greater opportunity to grow as an individual, to learn something to teach the next generation, to learn something about ourselves. We don’t control the experience inasmuch as our reaction to it. But that’s more powerful. We control the human experience. And from this, we always have the ability to look back at our plethora of experiences—all the objective successes and failures—and say, that was productive, I learned from that, that was a success.
In media and marketing we joke about “giving the people what they want.” But in art, we realize it’s often our job to fight that urge, creating expressions of pure emotion and thought. But sometimes, on occasion, you’re able to encapsulate both—a striking work that provokes thought, elicits emotion and captures the hearts and minds of the people. So here you have it: Bruin, a thousand feet above the north fork—the “wrong” side of the north fork, as it were—checking hydration levels and basking in the golden (s)hour.
You would never know there was an urban sprawl of more than 18 million below these clouds—skyscrapers obscured, freeways muffled, only the natural world rising above a curtain of cloud. I spent four years living in Los Angeles, yet I never particularly liked the city (or any metropolis, for that matter). But for some there will always be an allure. Perhaps it’s the energy, the diversity or the late night pizza; maybe the city offers familiarity in friends, or maybe it offers an opportunity to start a new chapter free of your past. I know this, not because I have a desire to live in a city, but because people move to cities for the same reason I chose to leave—to find a place that reflects our concept of home and belonging, whatever that may be, wherever gives us purpose. I’ve come to understand that the place and manner in which we find satisfaction within our lives is as unique to us as the very purpose we seek. We’ll share paths with others—friends, romances, coworkers, roommates—for moments, years, perhaps a life, but we’re never on identical paths because we don’t have the same motivations, the same dreams, the same demons. So while I face my fears on high peaks and lose my heart on dirt roads, and you may find confidence in the cubicle or solitude on the subway, ultimately, we’re both looking for the same thing.
Getting the packs sorted and headed back into the high country over the next couple weeks. Couple hikes, few scrambles, several climbs, plenty of oatmeal, guaranteed slogging, hopefully less poison oak and lots of Type I, II (and maybe even III ??) fun. Stoked to get out of the desert and get rad in the mountains.
I’ve been told I lead a very zen life. But I believe the most zen element of my lifestyle is rooted in a desire to “lead” a little less—to go with the flow and focus on being present rather than in charge. Life presents itself in convoluted structures, twists, turns, ebs and flows. It’s near impossible to navigate with rigidity. Purpose is important, but recognizing thousands of means to each end dramatically decreases the ever-present stress that comes with managing the minutia of life.
It’s okay to not be okay. Perhaps the most meaningful words I’ve learned on the road. . If you know me, I very rarely seek medical attention for physical maladies (and not just because the systematic failure of US insurance makes finding coverage on the road a royal pain in the ass)—generally, I just believe most things can be toughed out with a little extra sleep and hydration. And I usually like to work past it on my own. . But there are some things you can’t tackle alone. Internal battles that need to be brought into the light. Personal problems that require greater than personal attention. . There was a time when I treated mental health like physical health. I thought, “I can get through this alone. I SHOULD get through this on my own.” The stigma around mental health has ingrained a toxic outlook that perpetuates the “me vs. the world” narrative and, for many months on the road, I fully believed it. . However, I’ve been blessed to have incredible friends, family and even complete strangers pull me out of that flawed way of thinking: long phone conversations with my dad about things we never used to discuss; rambling into the wee hours of the night on a friend’s couch; the friendly barista or stranger sitting at my table to ask about my life. . Physical health gets public attention because of how it affects your livelihood. But mental health goes deeper—it affects your soul and can eat away at the individual. When a public figure like Anthony Bourdain takes his life, people take notice. But there are more than 120 suicides in the United States each day. And many of those people just need to hear that they’re not alone in what they face. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask someone if they need help. It’s okay to not be okay.
“It’s easy to love something you’re good at; it’s way harder to love something you’re bad at.” . As we discussed this concept on the banks of the Owens I thought about how it reflected on my life. I’m not a great skier. I may be an even worse climber. But I love both. And I know next to nothing about fly fishing, but as we waded into the river while the sun cast a golden light across the valley, I could see myself falling in love with this sport too—its meditative nature balancing out the perpetual frustration of a sport that, like baseball, is designed to fail more than succeed. It’s fun to be good at something, but it’s far more rewarding to be challenged to improve, and there’s no better place to start than as a novice.
I think we could all use a lesson in gratitude—a reminder to appreciate life as we have it. The road is a great teacher. (I’ll never take a hot shower or A/C for granted again.) I currently have poison oak all down my legs and feel the onset of a cold. I’m tired of running so much but know I have a lot more to go to reach my goal. But I know that when all my trivial struggles go away and I’m feeling fully healthy, I’ll have a renewed appreciation for what “normal” feels like. I’ve long said we need the lows to appreciate the highs; we also need them to appreciate how extraordinary our ordinary lives are. 📸: @bruinalexander
Not a particularly exciting morning, not a bad one, just one of dozens I’ve spent out in the Hills. We’re not always out shooting bangers every sunrise or watching the sun set over the ocean from a perfect perch. But that’s part of the story too, part of life—most of life, in fact.
Went for a run around 4:00am this morning. May have been because I had a lot on my mind, may have been because I was avoiding the imminent desert heat that arrives at sunrise. Probably a little of both. . Running has always helped me mentally as much as physically. Perhaps more. It provides welcome lapses of monotony for an over-analytical brain: clarity is found somewhere between steps 24,742 and 24,743; questions turn into more questions around mile 17, while answers are found in the mid 20s; and somewhere, between the blisters, aching calves and self-loathing, I miraculously find peace within myself. I’m not sure whether running heals or simply postpones the inevitable, guess that’s the million dollar question, am I running to or from something... I don’t know yet, may never know, so I’ll keep running.
Sometimes I really struggle with what I’m supposed to write here. Other days I’ve got endless pages of philosophical bullshit. And a few days, I even have something intelligent and thought-provoking to contribute. Today is not the latter, nor am I feeling imbued with any range of vague metaphors. So here’s a shot I remember fondly from a few months back, @redheadednomad reminding us what skates down must walk up and... well damn, that’s a bad metaphor, there you have it, folks.
I love the West and everything it stands for—the simplicity, the tradition, the adventure. Americana has a special place in my heart, always will, much like these animals. Spending a few weeks in the Eastern Sierra, working in town, climbing in the High Country and embracing small-town life. Then it’s off to Lander, another small western mountain town, a place I have a hunch could feel like home. This summer is about taking things slower, learning about people and places, telling meaningful stories. That’s what the west is about.
I’m not an urban street photographer by any stretch. I almost categorically avoid cities when possible. But when I’m around—seeing friends, going to meetings and whatnot—I try to take the opportunity to challenge myself at something unfamiliar. It’s a great exercise in anticipation, seeing a shot before it materializes. I’m still not sure cities are for me, but I have respect for people who prefer that lifestyle. Cities have a lot to offer, depends on your priorities, I suppose.
Canyon Country is especially fascinating to view from the sky—hundreds, if not thousands, of imperfect lines, twisting, turning, merging and dead-ending. It’s a labyrinth of directions, but somehow, from above, it all lines up seamlessly. Guess that’s a metaphor for life; doesn’t have to be, depends how introspectively you look at these things.
I’ve had a lot of great conversations over the past week. Said a lot of things I needed to say. Heard a lot of things I needed to hear. It’s all a bit of a mess now, gonna take some time to organize it into coherent ideas for anyone to hear. Means it’s about time to get back out into the mountains; I do my best thinking up there. If you’ve received some thoughtful words from me in the past couple years, it was likely written up high, where the air is thin but clear and the water trickles slowly yet unimpeded. It’s a meditative place. A library, perhaps a cathedral, a place of study for philosophy and romance and nature and all the ideas that pervade your thoughts—or at least mine, anyways.