Wyoming: the preserved American West

I occasionally get asked on my travels abroad, "Where should I go in America?" I've never had a confident answer to that question till now. If you're someone like me, who appreciates nature and preserved culture, rather than modern cities, I would recommend the state of Wyoming.

I had the opportunity to live in Wyoming for the past month, and it is truly a different world out there. I'll never forget visiting Triangle C Dude Ranch in Dubois and experiencing the wide open landscapes on a horse. Or rafting down the class 4 rapids of the Wind River Canyon with the good folks at Wind River Canyon White Water & Fly Fishing. There is such a diversity of outdoor activities to be experienced in the state, it seems to have something for every type of adventurer. 

The best part of it for me was the amount of land there was to explore. It seems like almost every view worth seeing has been broadcasted onto the internet by this day and age. I was blown away by the stunning views that I found in Wyoming, having never seen them publisized online before:

I was also blown away by how bright the night sky was... Never seen so many stars:

And I swear the state has more animals than people:

If somebody asked me what Wyoming has to offer, I would say that it is the most preserved state of the West. Between the untouched landscapes, dark night skies, and animals roaming freely, it offers a sense of natural freedom , true exploration, and adventure. 

Life in a Tiny House

I've been living out of cars, tents, and couches for the past 2 years as a travel photographer... So when the Wyoming Office of Tourism reached out to me offering 6 weeks in my own tiny house, I jumped on it! I love the idea of customizing a home to be as small, and efficient as possible, and the best part - making it mobile. I've been in Wyoming for a little over two weeks now, and I'm currently in my 3rd campsite. I started on the edge of Buffalo Bill State Park's reservoir, then went river-side to Wind River County. It's been such a great way to experience the different landscapes the Wind River County has to offer. Away from the crowds, where the stars shine bright.

The house is just over 200 square feet, and has every amenity you could want: shower, toilet, full size fridge, oven, stove, running water, washer and dryer... It's the smallest, yet most functional place I've stayed in. Not to mention most stylish.

I consider the Tiny House movement as somewhere between Van Life, and conventional life. This house convinces me that it's a real home, yet, it only takes about 30 minutes to hook it up to a truck and get it on the road. It's a perfect blend of comfort and portability for a full time travel photographer like myself. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Travel Wyoming . The opinions and text are all mine.

Always ask the locals: our adventure in the Bighorns

One of the biggest challenges of what I do is finding exciting locations to shoot. While most places you can find detailed information online, there are still a few undocumented locations, that are waiting to be explored. There is a special magic going into a place that you've never seen a photo of... and those are my favorite places to explore. 

We heard the Bighorn Mountains, in Northern Wyoming were full of wildlife, and beautiful, less heard of spots. So we made the drive, and soon realized that there were hundreds of miles of backroads to explore. Not knowing where to go, we asked a Ranger if he had anywhere to recommend. He said his favorite waterfall was just a few miles down the road. 

About 5 miles down this dirt road, we showed up to one of the most glorious waterfall with cliff jumps lining a big pool to swim in. 

We jumped in about 10x each... the water was freezing, but it was such an ideal setting that we couldn't resist.

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After cooling off, we set out on a mission to find a Moose. We heard they were everywhere in the Bighorns, so we just started driving with our eyes peeled. We cruised backroads, and found some idyllic cabins along the way.

After a few hours we started to get discouraged, so we asked some local campers if they had seen any Moose around. They jumped up and said, "Yeah there's one right by the river!" We turned around to see a mother and baby staring at us.

I'll never forget our adventure in the Bighorns... the amazing waterfall, cliff jumps, seeing moose, and none of this could be researched. We owe our experience to the locals, and their willingness to show a few outsiders a good time. 

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Travel Wyoming . The opinions and text are all mine.

How photography saved me from a desk job

I never aspired to be a photographer. I didn't have some burning desire to create art… what I did have was a fear of sitting at a desk for the rest of my life. So to prolong that ever-approaching day, I schemed a “last hurrah” road trip.

I didn't have a camera, but luckily my road trip partner did. When we took off I had $2000, a 2001 Toyota Corolla and some decent camping gear. I remember thinking, “I probably don't have enough money to make it all the way down to Panama, but, lets see how far we get.”

 We often found ourselves sleeping in situations like this:

But were always out looking for spots like this:  

Neither of us had ever been to these places... we didn't have an idea of what we would find. Social media wasn't a good resource back then, so we relied on google searches, and asking locals if they knew of any cool spots. 

 As the trip went on, I started to photograph more and more. It started to become natural. I remember finishing up each day excited to review the photos in the car or tent. I started posting the highlights of our trip to Instagram, and was blown away by the positive feedback. 

We ended up making it down to Panama, after 5 months, and 25,000 miles on the road. I sold the car down there, after running out of money. I started that trip with 1000 followers on instagram, and ended with 13,000. I found some temporary work as an alarm system technician, worked hard, all the while posting photos from my road trip to IG. About 6 months later, I bought my first real camera, and hit the road again, this time north to Alaska.

 On my way north this time, I reached out to some of my favorite photographers to see if they would be up for jumping in on the adventure. I think this was the best move I ever made as an aspiring photographer - reaching out to others. This trip I shadowed @taylormichaelburk and met @jess.wandering. The two of which, have turned into some of the most influential people in my life. 

At a certain point, companies saw my photos via social media and became interested in working together. For me, this happened after I had well over 100,000 followers... most people monetize their social media with less followers than that. Eventually, I was able to land some great jobs, with companies that fit my lifestyle, and road tripping became my full time career.

Here's a shot I recently took on assignment for Eddie Bauer

Here's a shot I recently took on assignment for Eddie Bauer

I never once thought that taking a road trip down to Panama, would turn into anything more than a short lived adventure. I thought to myself, "savor it, this will all be over soon." I still find myself in that mentality - that this job as an Adventure Photographer must be a dream - surely I will wake up sitting at my dreaded desk job. But it hasn't happened yet, so I'm gonna ride this wave as long as it takes me. 

Offroading in Southern Utah w/ Land Rover

I was so excited when Land Rover reached out to me to test out the new 2017 Discovery. They invited me to the beautiful desert of Southern Utah, which is one of my all time favorite places. I instantly thought of all the rugged and remote areas that I could potentially access with the right vehicle and happily accepted the invitation to work together. I’ve always heard that Land Rover vehicles are the ultimate combination of rugged capability and style, and I finally had the opportunity to verify this for myself. 

The trip started in St. George, where I met up with the Land Rover crew and a few other photographers. Shortly after arrival, we took off on the scenic route to Zion. 

I couldn’t believe how smooth the ride was, and handling corners was a breeze. It literally felt like I was gliding down the road. 

The interior was great also.  There's a cooler compartment in the center console, usb ports and outlets all over, multiple sunroofs, and my personal favorite - folding back seats fold completely flat so that you can bring a mattress for camping. 

To gain a full appreciation for this car, we had to take them off-roading. Not just any bumpy road though, we took them onto sand dunes.

I'll never forget the feeling of driving up and down loose sand. It reminded me of surfing, or sliding out on a skateboard, but with a huge vehicle! 

We stayed out on the dunes for a few hours, testing the capability of the vehicles, and just having fun with them. Then, to our surprise, the crew had organized a nice meal in the middle of the dunes. It was one of the most memorable meals I've had.

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The next few days were spend, exploring as much of the area as possible. We took every back road, and saw every place I'd dreamt of accessing. 

We capped off the trip with a group bonfire. It was a nice farewell, with everyone laughing by the fire and reminiscing about all of the one-of-a-kind experiences and places we were able to see. 

It's pretty amazing how many places you can access with the right vehicle. The Land Rover Discovery definitely lived up to the hype! Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2m0WZA4

Yosemite in the Fall (ft. Zappos)

I had been to Yosemite in every season but fall... Finally made it out there to catch the changing colors this week and it did not disappoint! The first day we arrived to heavy fog and rain, and slowly throughout the trip it cleared up. 

I ordered a new pair of Blundstone boots from Zappos.com for the trip. Super impressed with how fast Zappos shipped them out, and the boots turned out to be the perfect pair of footwear for the hikes, scouting locations to shoot by the muddy river, and even to wear out to dinner! Always love me a good versatile piece of clothing to take on my trips. 

Here's a few photos of my experience!

Copper Canyon, Mexico - A trip 10 years in the making

About 10 years ago, my dad came back from a Mexican business trip. He showed me photos of a helicopter tour he did over "North America's biggest canyon" I was blown away! Always thought the Grand Canyon was the biggest... So we started planning a trip back to hike it. Well years went by and life happened. This stuff simply did not interest me, I focused on other things. Eventually I found my way back to my adventurous self, and a few months ago found the photos again. I threw out the idea to my old man of making the journey, and with some convincing he agreed to see what would happen. So we took off, in hopes of an adventure, nothing went as planned, but I swear nothing ever does in Mexico. 

We drove 2 straight days from Southern California to get to the canyon. The only information I could find on hiking was an old Backpacker Magazine online article of a rim to rim to rim hike. According to this article the trailhead started at "El Ojo de la Barranca" so we showed up and asked where "el ojo" was. First person had no idea what we were talking about... next person, looked at us like we were crazy, and so on. Nobody had heard of this place. So we all of a sudden had no plan. 

We ended up hitting multiple parts of the canyon, which involved around 10 hours driving down icy roads littered with pot holes, 2 flat tires, and 1 sketchy hitchhike. We hit Mexico's second tallest waterfall, the world's longest zip line (who knew it was in Mexico??) and ate enough tacos to last me till next year. We hiked next to native American tribes, bought baskets and hand crafted goods from them, and never saw another tourist. Just the locals who looked at us funny with our bright jackets and high tech backpacks.

There is definitely a reason people don't visit Copper Canyon... It is not a laid out tourist destination. Nobody is there to greet the tourists and welcome them with open arms. It is extremely tough to drive to. Most people take the train that goes along the rim and see the canyon in passing. We decided to do something different, and ended up having an incredible experience never to forget.

The best part of it for me, was getting to connect with my Dad. I had never backpacked with him before this. Seeing him tackle this new experience at 61 years old was a true testament that "it's never too late to feel a little more alive." And it will be something that we both look back on and laugh about for the rest of our lives.

Morning view from Basaseachic Falls

Morning view from Basaseachic Falls

They looked at that red backpack like a spaceship  

They looked at that red backpack like a spaceship

 

Looking down into the Canyon

Looking down into the Canyon

Our campspot to ring in the new year - Happy 2016!!

Our campspot to ring in the new year - Happy 2016!!

Basaseachic Falls - 807 ft tall

Basaseachic Falls - 807 ft tall

Dad with a local, along the trail

Dad with a local, along the trail

over 1000 ft cliffs...

over 1000 ft cliffs...

Me and Dad

Me and Dad


For the love of Expression

I've started this blog... and have been struggling to find a reason to write. I've come to the conclusion: no big, ground breaking reason is needed. The simple act of expression is what I need. I've found much happiness from simply allowing myself to be myself, and letting creativity flow organically. And the medium of expression is always changing for me. 

Growing up I found ways of expressing myself thru clothing styles such as this:

Or hair/glasses styles such as this:

My outrageous styles in appearance also bled into my bedroom at home... At age 12 I started to staple everything I could find to my bedroom walls:

Next came Skateboarding... from designing my own boards, to working on my cruising style I found this to be the ultimate form of expression:

I'll always remember getting my first car, looking at it, and thinking it needs a little something more. So I popped off the hub caps and spray painted them all different colors, stain glassed the windows, and then I felt comfortable riding around in it. If I wasn't expressing myself, it wasn't allowed to be part of my life.

The act of expressing myself has been part of me since day one. I plan to use this blog to do simply that. It is for the love of expression. And I'm super excited to share my new found passion for photography and writing. Expressing myself gives me a reason to keep going. It helps me remember who I am, and strive towards progression in my life.