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Mt. Baker from the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail. Washington State.

This blog takes a turn back in time to reflect on what brought Northwest Rivers Photography to life.

Working on my images and going back into my portfolio the other day, I was overcome again with a wonderful sense of appreciation for where I live, for all of the places I have been privileged to visit, the wonderful people I have met, and the truly amazing sights that this world has to offer... and that I have been lucky enough to have seen and participated with them all.

Damselflies. Mt. Baker Wilderness, Washington State.

Appreciation means admiration, affection, enjoyment, gratitude, recognition, respect, and love. And yes, all of this comes into play when I think back on the places that have provided images and stories that I can now document and share.

Mirror Lake, Mt. Shuksan. Washington State.

It would be true to say that my photography grew, in great part, from my conservation work with American Whitewater, Hydropower Reform Coalition, and the Whatcom Land Trust. I traveled, saw so many special places, and experienced a special sense of value and appreciation for nature. But what beat even that was my love of and absolute need to photograph bears!

Bear & Salmon. Atnarko River, British Columbia.

One of my first outings to photograph bears was in British Columbia’s Bella Coola valley in 2014. Some of the images here are from that time and that trip. They are older photos, and ones I go back to again and again for inspiration. Some have provided enough inspiration that they are losing definition and focus. I wanted to share them before they deteriorate even more.

This earlier Bella Coola trip, and more recent ones, definitely fueled my desire to share time with wildlife and increased an already irresistible urge to spend even more time in bear country. If I didn’t know I wanted to work to become a photographer full-time, that awareness descended on me in the valley and in that first close encounter with the truly wild.

To the Fish Market! Bella Coola River, British Columbia.

Thoughts of Bella Coola are once again stuck in my head. A yearning for another journey north to one of my absolute favorite destinations and to photograph spawning salmon, bears, pika, and fall color in all its magnificence. You will know if I make it by my next posting!

Pika, Bella Coola Valley. British Columbia.

Reflection also brings a special appreciation for the opportunity I have had working to conserve wild places and flowing waters. Those decades of work do not convey any sense of special ownership or entitlement, but maybe just a more acute sense of what has been lost, and the threats still facing our natural world each day. Appreciation certainly for what still survives, the wonders that remain, and my new inclusion and ability to document the wonderfulness that is.

Feast! Bella Coola River, British Columbia.

Throughout my decades in conservation work, our biggest desire was to see more people outdoors. New advocates who would push for increased management and maintenance, improved infrastructure, and access, and who would bring increased support for conserving and preserving additional land and water resources. Then Covid hit, and the outdoors was not ready for the numbers visiting national parks, forests, and even those end-of-road getaways that were previously immune to over-visitation.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go? No, we still need more people who understand and appreciate our wild lands and waters. Get out, get involved, but, before you go, do your homework.

Leave No Trace Principle 1 -- Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land.

For me, doing my homework means:

Knowing the current rules, understanding why they are in place, why they are needed, and why they apply to me! Over the last decade National Park staff has shrunk by 14%, primarily due to budget cuts, while visitation has increased by 20% during that same time.

Recognizing the collective stress on our wild areas and following the principles of “Leave No Trace.” Realizing that this is more important than ever.

Knowing that the experience and my trip will be different, bringing a good attitude, and realizing that "roughing it" in today’s world may start long before I reach my destination.

Getting involved and being proactive in supporting local conservation efforts and public land and water. We talk about how National Parks are America’s “best idea,” but it is appalling how little funding goes to managing and maintaining that best idea (the National Park Service faces a $22 billion backlog of deferred maintenance). If you are a business, and you are wildly popular, that usually translates into better technology, more staff, and increased production. It is a shame that doesn’t happen in our parks and forests. Help make a difference!


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