NEWS: Blake Gordon Photography

The latest from the frontlines

In Print: Saguaro Cactus poaching for Red Bull's Terra Mater

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Earlier this spring, I traveled to central Arizona to investigate the illegal poaching of saguaro cacti for Red Bull's Terra Mater magazine. The National Park Service recently began tagging saguaro cacti in order to prevent theft - which is primarily tied to housing development in the region. However, saguaro cacti are often harvested for landscaping beyond the region bound for California or even China.

The state requires that transplanted cacti be tagged. The only exception to this is if a private land owner is merely relocating one within their own property.

We weren't able to connect with any subjects who illegally harvested. To strengthen the story visually, I looked at how saguaros were represented in the landscape, from wild plants on national forest land and in Saguaro National Park to residential applications in old trailer parks and million dollar homes as well as roadside plantings by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

In Print: Kurt Searvogel for Süddeutsche Zeitung

 

In 1939, Englishman Tommy Godwin pedaled an outstanding 75,065 miles setting the record for distance cycled in one year. Amazingly, he continued to ride and covered 100,000 miles in May of 1940 - 500 days after he began his quest. England entered World War II in September of 1939 and Tommy's record stayed put.

This year, American Kurt Searvogel is closing in on that 75 year old record. German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung sent me to Little Rock, Arkansas to try and keep up with Kurt and get some images for a story on him. Kurt is on the bike 12 hours a day and has little time for anything else. This was not a shoot that had time for setups and direction.

Kurt started riding in mid-January of 2015 and is now less than a month away from the record. His journey can be followed at Tarzan Rides or daily updates via the Facebook page Tarzan Rides the HAM'R.

Kurt Searvogel on his bike cruising the country roads east of Little Rock, AR.

Kurt Searvogel on his bike cruising the country roads east of Little Rock, AR.


In Print: Kalus Obermeyer for the Wall Street Journal

Klaus Obermeyer flashing a smile whiles swimming laps at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, CO

Klaus Obermeyer flashing a smile whiles swimming laps at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, CO

 

Klaus Obermeyer is nothing short of a legend in the ski world, and particularly in Aspen, CO where he resides. Born in Germany, Klaus arrived in Aspen in 1948 as skiing in Colorado was beginning to take off. He later developed Sport Obermeyer and created a number of innovations in ski wear. Hewas inducted into the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1997.

Above all these things though, is Klaus' radiant personality. I photographed him working out recently for a Wall Street Journal article, "At 95, a Lifelong Skier Says the Source of His Vitality Is His Workout". Klaus has practiced aikido for 35 years and uses various machines and weight training exercises in the gym. However, swimming is his favorite training activity. And all that keeps him active with skiing, which he still does regularly. In fact, Klaus just celebrated his 96th last week.

Happy Birthday Klaus!

 

 

In Print: The Malpai for The Nature Conservancy

Malpai is a Spanish word that means "Badlands" and has been adopted by a region that covers southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. The Malpai Borderlands Group is a consortium of ranchers, conservationists, and state and federal agencies that have come together to best manage the environment and ranching industry of the region.

Warner Glenn on the cover The Nature Conservancy Magazine for a story on the Malpai Borderlands Group
Warner Glenn on the cover The Nature Conservancy Magazine for a story on the Malpai Borderlands Group

The Nature Conservancy previously purchased and donated a parcel of land in the region that became the San Bernadino Wildlife Refuge. In the early 1990s, a spectacular piece of land, The Gray Ranch, became available for purchase and The Nature Conservancy rallied the funds to purchase it. It is a phenomenal nearly 350,000 acre ranch that encompasses the entire Animas Mountain Range. Unsure of what to do with it, The Nature Conservancy ended up selling it to a local rancher with ties to the Anheuser-Busch family. Now called the Diamond A Ranch, the transaction was a surprise to many and became the first step of the Nature Conservancy and ranchers working together for conservation. The Nature Conservancy has stayed active in the region and assists the Malpai Borderlands Group in management.

I spent several weeks in the Malpai, staying with legendary rancher Warner Glenn at his ranch just a few miles from the border. It is a remarkable landscape, storied with the legends of Geronimo, Pancho Villa, and others. Drug trafficking and human smuggling is active in the region now and the US Border Patrol maintains a large presence in the region. Our story focused on the unique politics and management of the Malpai and celebrated The Nature Conservancy's history here. Once again, TNC's photo editor and design team did a phenomenal job of working with the piece from start to finish to create a compelling layout. The story can be read online here.

GEAR: bike touring photography for B&H Photo/Video

John Logsdon pedaling through the open vistas of the Patagonia Steppe, one of the world's largest deserts.

John Logsdon pedaling through the open vistas of the Patagonia Steppe, one of the world's largest deserts.

Years ago, I joined Mike and John Logsdon and Nateon Ajello on an epic trans-continental bicycle tour. The Logsdon brothers were dedicating a journey from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina to the memory of their mother, who passed away from brain cancer when they were young.

They raised $75,000 dollars for the National Brain Tumor Society. Sharing a similar loss of his mother, Nateon Ajello, joined and developed a full length documentary.

I revisited this amazing trip while putting together a gear write-up for B&H Photo/Video.

View the piece, along with images from the trip HERE

In Print: Marmot

Marmot athlete Eric Bryant ripping some turns in the backcountry near Telluride

Marmot athlete Eric Bryant ripping some turns in the backcountry near Telluride

In the spring of this year, I teamed up with Dave Clifford in Telluride to shoot a collection of winter 2014/2015 images for Marmot. It was a wild ride with us all packed in a stellar but small modern house in Telluride. Despite a big wind event just preceding our arrival, we were able to get out for a few days of heli-skiing with Telluride Hellitrax. The terrain in the San Juans is always stunning and our group did a great job with the conditions.

The images are being used across the board: in-store, online, social media, national print ads, and more. The above image is a grab from Instagram but is also being used in national ads for their brand and to encourage their users to let them know "What Gives You Life?"


In Print: Texas Monthly

A sunrise view of McKittrick Canyon from high upon McKittrick Ridge
A sunrise view of McKittrick Canyon from high upon McKittrick Ridge

I was sent down to the Guadalupe Mountains in the far corner of Texas to shoot a piece on "Wild Texas" for Texas Monthly recently. Interestingly enough, Texas born LBJ signed the Wilderness Act of 1964 into law on September 3, 1964 - just over 50 years ago.

The assignment was a two day overnight hike into a seldom visited part of the state. I saw no one else during the entire two day hike and buzzards watched me from above as I approached camp in the afternoon. The monsoon rains of late summer turned the desert to an amazing green. Fresh off of a trip as a sherpa for a friend deep into the Great Sand Dunes National Park, I wasn't overly concerned about the strenuous nature of the hike. But the 14 mile roundtrip hike up onto the ridge with camera gear and all the water I would need for two days (there is no source of water along the hike) was not something to underestimate.

I took my medium format Hasselblad system into the field and shot several rolls - primarily around dusk and dawn. The image chosen was a sunrise shot looking into McKittrick Canyon from the ridge line.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the fantastic Jody Horton's work on the cover of the issue.

Here I share the opening spread with Jody. This view is looking out across the limestone canyon where McKittrick Canyon takes a sharp turn into South McKittrick Canyon

In Print: Back to the Adirondacks

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TNC - cover image

 

A recent feature for the The Nature Conservancy is out now on an historic land transfer to Adirondack State Park. The Nature Conservancy acquired some stunning ex-timber lands in the Adirondacks and recently transferred them to the State of New York.

Read the article HERE

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interview at I Love Texas Photo

I Love Texas Photo just posted an interview that I did with them a few weeks ago. In it I get to speak about my personal work, career trajectory, and recent feature for The Nature Conservancy on the Edwards Aquifer.

I Love Texas Photo features work from Texas-based photographers and was created by Jasmine Defore who previously worked at Redux. Sarah Lim conducted the interview. Thanks to both of them.

In Print: Allure of the Altamaha

I story I worked on in the spring about the Altamaha River in Georgia was recently published by The Nature Conservancy. The deadline was tighter with this story than with Water Works and a recent drought in Georgia meant the water levels were against us, but I was still came away with some strong images. The Altamaha River delta was extremely visual from the air. I was really honored to work on a story celebrating wildness in my home state.

In Print: The Nature Conservancy

I got a hold of the latest Nature Conservancy magazine (Issue 2 / 2012) to take a look at the layout of our feature story on the Edwards Aquifer. Everyone worked real hard throughout the project and it was really enjoyable to collaborate with the design team on the layout. I'm very humbled (and pleased) that the images were given such space and weight in the magazine. I did my best produce images that would work in that way and I think it turned out great.

The piece is 16 pages (w/ 5 spreads of just images) and a cover. I've included some clips here.

The rest of the online piece can be found here.

The Edwards Aquifer for The Nature Conservancy

Earlier in the year, I had a fantastic assignment from The Nature Conservancy to create photographs for a story on the Edwards Aquifer in Central Texas. Not only was this a relevant land-based story in Texas during a time of critical drought, but the photo editor, Melissa Ryan, came to me interested in a more artistic interpretation of the subject.

With the welcomed creative freedom comes the responsibility of producing something unique with finite resources. Exploring the relationship between landscape and culture is central to my personal research and I was thrilled at the opportunity to utilize that way of seeing for a client. On my end, that involves quite a bit of exploring and looking for subtle moments in the interaction between people and place that speak of our larger condition.

The story was shot on film with a Hasselblad and a single 80mm lens. The square format is atypical for magazine work, but gave the images the sense of a formal documentation that we were looking for. The design team did a great job of maintaining the strength of the images through a consistent pacing in the layout. Exploration and constant refinement to the point of exhaustion are certainly a part of my process with personal work and I am very grateful that the rest of the team worked so hard to create something beyond a typical editorial assignment.

Read the article HERE.

View a gallery of images HERE.

See a video about the process HERE.

Jungle Fish

Costa del Mar has launched a 'Protect' branch of their site promoting the eco-tourism/conservation project I've been helping with the past two years - shooting video twice last year for a documentary film on the project directed by Louisianna Kreutz titled "Jungle Fish". See the trailer HERE. The film can be purchased online through their store.

I went down to Guyana again this year to shoot still images, which I also did on the previous trips. Still images are embedded throughout the site, and there is a gallery HERE.

Emmy nomination / catching up

I'm back from another trip to Guyana and have plenty of catching up to do, but am incredibly flattered to receive an Emmy nomination for my contribution to a NPR/ProPublica piece on traumatic brain injuries in the military. The piece can be found here. The story was in the later stages when I was called in and so my contribution owes a lot to the investigative reporting from Daniel Zwerdling and T. Christian Miller at ProPublica, John Poole's video interview at NPR and photo editor, Coburn Dukehart's ability to weave it together into a well crafted multi-media story.

But of course, none of that work compares to Victor Medina and the other servicemen and women who have had to deal with TBI and have had the courage to try and change military practices for the better.

PDN Outdoor Photo Expo panel

I spoke at the first annual PDN Outdoor Photo Expo in Salt Lake City this past week. I was on a panel with Mark Fisher, Trevor Clark, and Yassine Ouhilal all skillfully moderated by PDN's photo editor, Amber Terranova. We spoke on "Marketing and Business Strategies for the Emerging Outdoor Photographer". The panel was well received - a big hats off to Amber for wrangling the for of us together and her preparation of the panel.

Ready for the road

It's been a long hot summer, although the more when you don't use A/C and are working on a metal box in the middle of the day. But the good news is the trailer is ready for the road and we'll be heading out West after PDN's Outdoor Photo Expo and the Outdoor Retailer trade show at the beginning of August. A record hot summer in Texas should make the mountains all the more enjoyable. I hope they get rain while I'm away - though the extended forecast looks grim.

Costa del Mar: fly fishing in Guyana

I just returned from a stay in Guyana working on a project with McGarrah-Jessee for Costa del Mar. The intent of the project is to utilize sport fishing to develop fisheries conservation practices. Undeveloped land is remarkably intact in Guyana and it contains some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. None the less, the country has dealt with development pressures and an aggressive wildlife trade in the 1980s and 1990s. Eco-tourism is now a notable industry in Guyana that both supports local cultures as well as local environments. Sport fishing operates within that array of eco-tourism, though is less prominent in Guyana.

The project is in its early phases and this trip was an exploratory one to gauge the potential of sport fishing in the interior as well further the dialogue with government officials on developing conservation practices. While I captured a number of documentary stills, I was tasked primarily with capturing video and used a Panasonic HVX-200A as well as the new Nikon D7000. The D7000 does a remarkable job shooting from the tripod and capturing scenic imagery, but is a bit more challenging to work with while shuttling along in a river boat, dugout canoe, or aging Land Rover.

The Guyana Chronicle has a write up on some of the government meetings that went on here.