Friday, October 30, 2009

family time in the mountains = KaYaK

Growing up around the Woodward household there were a few certainties in life: you wore cloth diapers, thought granola was a food group, and you kayaked. Ol' papa Woodward has sometimes been referred to as one of the "founding fathers" of whitewater kayaking in the Southeast (you can check out his book here), and it followed logically that at the age of four I found myself on the river in a kayak, and at the ripe old age of six was kayaking class II-III whitewater in the NC mountains.

Since those early days, school, living in Chapel Hill + a whirlwind of other sports have often pushed kayaking to the back burner, but coming home is always special, and times spent on the river with family are some of the finest. Earlier this week, some heavy rains boosted all the rivers, and my older brother David (aka: woody) and I headed up to paddle Overflow Creek - a homegrown classic. The majority of the gorge that Overflow runs through is deep in the mountains and can only be accessed by those with the skills to navigate it's class V waters by kayak.

With a new tilt-shift in hand I jumped at the opportunity to bring the camera along and try to capture a bit of the beauty and adventure that draws us there. The reality of it was that I spent most of my time trying to keep the boat pointed down river and out of the manky undercuts, but I did get out to film and shoot stills at a couple of the nicer drops.

PS) I know some of you may have been worried about Ralph - my trusty helmet parrot. Not to fear, he survived unscathed...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A town of ghosts

Not to be confused with a ghost town, Genoa is very much a town of ghosts. I got off the exit ramp in search of gas. I arrived too late. A year too late? ten? It's hard to say. The nearest pavement is the on ramp to get back onto I-70.

A green sign placed next to a dirt road informs that I am entering the Business District.  Hard to say when it was that any business last took place here.

This must be main street. The few
windows that aren't boarded up stare out on empty sidewalks - dark sockets in the sunken frames of sagging siding. People were here not too long ago. Children. There's a dollhouse. A trike. A car-seat. Not everyone is gone. A car cruises slowly down mainstreet, chased by a bitter wind and dead brittle sounds of fall. Headed for the senior citizen center no doubt. The only building on main street that still appears to be in use.
The Christian prosperity center is no longer prospering, the cafe is boarded up, and (bummer for me) the service station doesn't appear to have been in "service" for quite some time.

I've been to ghost towns. I've been to cities that never sleep. But Genoa is making a strong bid for being the strangest of the lot. It's a town existing on the cusp. The cusp of what? Death I think. Too much life left in it, or too many signs of recent life, for anyone to be comfortable visiting it as a historical site. Too much a part of recent history to be interesting. Yet too dead for anyone to give it a second glance. Trucks speed by headed east. headed west. I sped past just a few months ago. So did you. Or at least you will if given the chance.

Genoa is a husk of a town, and it is making me really uncomfortable. Maybe it's the sociologist in me. Probably it's something more instinctual, triggered by the tangible signs of life, yet lack of accompanying lives. It's not that I've stumbled upon something remarkable. Far from it. In and of itself, the very unremarkableness of Genoa, is the reason that it will exist only in memory before too long.

Leaving town I met William. His was the last trailer. Catching a movement out of the corner or my eye I stopped my truck, and committed myself to some sort of explanation. I got out and introduced myself, mumbling something about doing a story on towns along I-70. I guess I am now.Too curious not to talk to him, but too embarrassed about my clearly morbid fascination with Genoa; I couldn't bring myself to objectify him by taking his picture. I couldn't risk the possibility of him picking up on the exploitative look of a nature photographer documenting the last of an endangered species. I asked how many people live in Genoa. "About 50" was his response. Adding "they come and go". I couldn't think of much else to say, so I left.

I'm not a journalist. As my friend Mary - who has a degree in journalism - has, on occasion, pointed out. I'm more of a reality-fiction author. Get it? Like historical fiction? Whatever. I make up stories according to my observations, and I choose whether or not to include other people's opinions. With full disclosure of course. I didn't bother getting the full story from Will. A - because I'm not a good reporter, and B - I don't think he was shooting me straight. I'll allow him his population estimate of 50. However, people are clearly not "coming" with the frequency with which they are "going" here in Genoa. Maybe it's his perception (or delusion) of comings which keep him here, but I wonder if he's not more frightened of the goings. Whether it's from old age, and the passing of time, or the growing up and moving on of new generations, Genoa is disappearing.

Genoa is the sort of place we avoid, because, quite frankly, it's frightening. Though it exists in plain sight of the freeway, the act of setting foot on its lonely streets conjures up images of lives and dreams that never saw the light of a wider world. I wonder about the last time an outsider set foot in Genoa. For that matter, I wonder when the last time someone who wasn't from Genoa, even wondered about Genoa. We spend so much time seeking out the latest in technology and entertainment, or the oldest in art and history, a town like Genoa doesn't fit the schedule. It's not new enough, or old enough, to be interesting. To be safe. Certainly you don't want to take your kids here, at best it would bore them, at worst it would terrify them. Take them to a ghost town, those are fun. Genoa is real, and reality is no longer in vogue. At least not realities that speak this clearly. That lay bare the fragility of life in mosaics of broken glass. Whose strangeness is matched only by the stubborn shadows of the lives that framed those same panes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chalkin' up in CO

Seven or eight years ago Blake and I put on construction helmets and chalked up for the first time. We then proceeded to conquer some epic 5.6 routes along the freeway near Portland. Since then, Blake's climbing career has accelerated at a remarkable pace. My career has been more low key; primarily climbing in and out of bed or up and down stairs.

After a 13 hour drive on Saturday + 3 cans of over caffeinated road rage, I arrived in Denver. Waking up Sunday morning to blue skies and a forecast of record breaking October highs we threw climbing gear in the car and headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Under Blake's tutelage I learned a bit about climbing cracks, and had a fun time dangling around and photographing Allison and Kerry as they styled Pear Buttress and the Bat City Crack.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A taste of winter in the old west

Last week a cold front left Missoula blanketed in white, and me lying in bed with the flu. Today marked the last day of career training here at RMSP. And so, with my obligations to the school fulfilled, and a hacking reminder of why I devised a plan last winter to chase summer around the hemispheres,  I'll begin my drive back towards the East coast.

Before leaving though, Athena, Mary, Tessa and I went out for one last Montana photo-play date. Butte is one of the most magnificently strange places I have been in MT. Once the largest copper boom town in the American West, today the old mining sector of Butte is a veritable ghost town. Skeletons of old mining headframes hang over abandoned shafts, and a giant red pit boasts the largest pit lake in the United States. We only had an hour and a half or so of light, but we made the most of it in frantic fashion.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

SWM looking for lost swim trunks...

After freezing Patrick by having him jump repeatedly into Lake McDonald up in Glacier NP, I owe it to him to post these pics. Thanks Pat.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shooting for Getty Images

A couple weeks back I got an email notifying me that I was one of 50 iStock photographers selected by the editors at Getty to start shooting for their Stone and Image Bank collections. For those of you who aren't familiar with Getty, they are the "leading provider of digital media worldwide, creating and distributing a range of assets from royalty-free stock photography and editorial images to footage, music and multimedia – that help communicators around the globe tell their stories."

As a professional photographer, shooting for them has been something I have aspired to for quite some time. Having been rejected from even the Photographer's Choice collection earlier in the year, it was with surprise that I found myself invited to begin contributing to Stone - one of Getty Image's more prestigious Right's Managed "house collections."

If you know me, or know my photography you might have realized that I don't usually shoot with "models". My preferred style is natural light + natural life.

Speaking to my fellow photographer and good friend Patrick I was reminded that Getty chose me for what I have been doing, and for the photographic style I have. That in mind, yet still trying to push myself a bit more conceptually, the following is my first attempt at shooting for Stone...

A few things I learned:

- models don't like wet soggy dirty rabbit slippers

- nor are they as into climbing stuff as I am

- Joe Lavine is a pretty darn good art director. Thanks Joe.

- Athena freaks out when there are too many loud beeping noises


- me + ring flash + 16mm lens does not = fashion
- me + ring flash + 16mm lens definitely does not = beauty (sorry Tessa)

...If myspace photos are every a commodity I think I have my niche

A big thanks to Athena, Mary, Rosco, Tessa, Joan, Marcy and Joe for your help!

oh and last but not least every photo shoot should include: code names + walkie talkies

cheesepuff to killer flying squirrel...over and out

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sunset flight to Seattle

Light in Motion from Forest Woodward on Vimeo.
An uncut sequence of 209 photos + video, on my sunset flight from Missoula to Seattle

wrapped in wings of anonymity. anticipation for the destination lost in intrigues of the present. the graphic contours and patterns of the earth below slip past under soft nebulous clouds. somewhere between the two i am content to sit and watch...a wildfire burns, the moon rises, a river flows. Ranier sits quietly watching the last ferries of the day as they cut their way through the blood water of the Puget sound...