Equestrian: An Athletic Partnership | Life Refined Magazine

by Fire Girl Jess on December 4, 2017

Really loved writing this piece (and pulling images from my own archives) on luxury lifestyle / wealth management publication Life Refined. Long ago in a galaxy far away, I used to make a living on this side of the equestrian world, and it’s still near and dear. The feeling of being atop 1,600 pounds of horse over a five-foot jump isn’t easily described, but I gave it a go:

“It’s oddly quiet as 1,600 pounds of horse flies six feet into the air, clearing the massive jump with ease. The one-two-three beat of the canter is broken by a sharp intake of breath—the only sign of the impressive effort taking place on the grassy field before me—and then the massive bay horse lands with a similar expulsion of air, ears already pricked toward the next fence further down the field. The nimble beat resumes as horse and rider make their way to the next obstacle, the coiled energy of every stride somehow reminiscent of a large, predatory cat…

[Final paragraph] Ears pricked, nostrils flaring, pace quietly competent, a large gray horse canters past in the warm-up ring, looking for all the world like he’s clocking in for a day of work. Work that he loves, work that he knows. There’s an ease to the way his alert ears flick back and forth from his rider to the surroundings, like he’s taking in the scenery while keeping the job foremost in his mind. Seasoned riders say some horses are bred to the job and do, indeed, love to work, claiming that the mounts get bored without the challenge of work. Taking in the ring before me, filled with several top-level horses from around the world, I can’t help but agree.”

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Eagle Review Storytelling Project

by Fire Girl Jess on December 2, 2017

I’m always looking to work with new, fresh and innovative clients in new marketplaces. To that end, it’s been interesting to undertake a series of interviews for European sporting travel resource Eagle Review. The Eagle Review team has done a great job in committing to parallax scrolling storytelling, and it’s been fun to see this piece come together.

The first interview is on Swedish hunter and angler Jessica Knecht. Here’s a snippet:

The athletic Swede has outdoor pursuits in her blood. Most members of her family hunt and fish, including her mother who has just started to join the rest of the family in the field. Her boyfriend Nils is also an avid outdoorsman, and Jessica notes the relationship has a few benefits. “One of my favorite kind of hunts is hunting for black grouse in snow-covered landscapes,” she shares. “Jämtland, where Nils comes from, has excellent opportunities to hunt for these beautiful birds!”

Jessica’s skills are not limited to hunting, however, and she also credits her father with her fishing skills. While fly-fishing is a new undertaking, she’s quickly growing within the sport and enjoys the process, noting, “Practice makes perfect! I still have a lot to learn, but that’s also what makes it fun.” She always ensures she has a cell phone nearby to capture the moment, adding it’s the one thing she’ll never leave home without.

Give the brief article a read, and look for more to come in this series.

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Seasons

by Fire Girl Jess on November 29, 2017

We’re nearly to December (how did that happen, anyway?) and I’ve been sorting through a bevy of images for contest entry season. It’s always an interesting exercise to go back through the past year’s trips and publications, reflect on how the hell did we pull that off, think of good times with solid people and just be grateful for the ability to be able to do this weird career. Somehow the 70-hour workweeks seem oh-so-worth it when I step back and think about the people I’ve met along the way!

As days shorten (it got dark before 5PM today here in Montana after an icy day), it’s easy to daydream about warm summer days. Long evening cruises on the SUP, dry fly fishing, flip-flops and tank tops sound mighty fine right now, but I’ll snuggle in my down coat, drink a load more coffee and keep on pressing through paperwork.

Seasons. Both in nature and in our work.

Want to follow along on new adventures and see some old gems from shoots past? Follow along on Instagram!

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On Assignment for the Montana Department of Agriculture

by Fire Girl Jess on November 11, 2017

It’s been a busy week running around the region shooting a series of assignments for the Montana Department of Agriculture. From local beef served in Livingston elementary schools to MAP Brewing in Bozeman to Montana Cross Farms in Twin Bridges, it’s been a change of pace from my normal fish-centric fare. Montana Cross was a personal favorite — felt fantastic to be back on a working farm and outside… made me miss my stall-mucking, hay-bucking childhood.

Thanks to icy roads and the fact that winter has decided to arrive full-force here in Montana, it was less fun to be driving around, but low and slow is the name of the game, and gets it done. Had a couple days of dawn patrol hunting this week as well — somehow it’s easier to get out of bed at 4:30AM, even in the snow and darkness, if there’s game to be chased. About to head down to Texas for a few weeks of work… eager for a bit of sunshine and warm temps already!

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Stress Relief 101

by Fire Girl Jess on October 30, 2017

It’s been a hectic few weeks here in Big Sky Country. Changes are afoot — good ones, stay tuned for more! — and my default mode to manage stress apparently involves too much time at the gym, unhealthy amounts of coffee and knocking out a large amount of writing assignments. It’s all good; 2017 has been an interesting year and the final few months of the year are promising to be even more interesting.

That said, sometimes it’s important to get outside and away from it all. In preparation for the opening of rifle season, spent a windy (but blissfully sunny) afternoon with my brother out in Paradise Valley last week sighting in rifles and getting in a bit of target practice. It’s always been oddly soothing, and breathing exercises — whether they’re in the yoga studio or looking down a rifle scope — are helpful when they world’s seemingly sprinting a million miles an hour. I left the cameras at home, just wanting to enjoy a bit of down time, but ended up snagging a couple of iPhone photos (with my dinosaur iPhone 5) of the autumn color.

A friend has been nagging me on the importance of taking a bit of mental “down time,” and it’s an interesting thought. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the mindset of trying to jam in everything possible into every waking hour, especially in freelance life. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid, it’s as simple as that… there’s no showing up tired to work one day and simply coasting though without really doing much. So I’m working on the idea of blocking out at least one afternoon a week to step away from the computer, leave the camera in the Pelican case, and getting away from work. Easier said than done. At this point, airplane rides are my down time (who else loves to fly simply for the uninterrupted reading and movie-watching?). Early morning gym sessions are also gloriously uninterrupted thinking time, and it’s easier to climb out of bed in the darkness if I know I’ve got an hour to myself of just thinking (and sweating) time.

Churning through writing / editing a catalog project for a client (working on catalogs always feels like coming home, somehow) early this week, then heading out to the Northeast for a two-day business trip. Then back to Bozeman for a few weeks, and maybe a bit of fall hunting / fishing / image-making. Stay tuned.

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Backcountry Lake Fishing Image in American Angler

by Fire Girl Jess on October 20, 2017

Always fun to see what makes it into the pages of American Angler. There are some full-length image / written features coming up, but snuck this image into the October / November issue in the meantime. Angler Jake Wells made the most of a hot afternoon fishing a lake during a horsepacking backpack trip into Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness last summer with the awesome folks at Absaroka-Beartooth Outfitters.

It was a hot July day; we’d worked our way along Hellroaring Creek, fishing deep holes and pushing through slow sections. Outfitters Cameron dropped us downriver and took the horses upstream… the Montana version of valet parking. At one point I put the camera down and went eight fish for eight casts — the fishing was that good — and was once again reminded there’s something special about healthy, hungry Yellowstone Cutthroat who will eat (or attempt to eat) anything in their line of vision. Afterward, we mounted up and headed uphill to this lake, where we fished for a bit and then went for a swim in the frigid waters (it’s a good day shooting when I can grab the underwater housing and swim out into any water to photograph an angler back on the shore).

Just another day at work in the wild country of Montana.

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I had fun penning these two pieces for the October / November issue of Outdoors Unlimited, the publication of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. OWAA is a fantastic organization doing strong work to engage, support and encourage the growth of outdoor journalists in the States.

The first piece (page 6), a re-run of a blog feature I wrote several months ago, talks about the often-not-so-glamorous realities of being a traveling fly-fishing photographer (or really any outdoor photographer). Spoiler: it’s not all glamorous locations, big fish and flashy resorts. As I noted in the original piece: “In between the monster fish, beautiful locations and far-flung locales, there’s plenty of sleeping on grimy airport floors, getting tested for tropical diseases and eating whatever food might be on hand (readily identifiable or not. When in Rome, and all that).” Hopefully this serves as a bit of a reality check for the myriads of aspiring outdoor journalists who only see the romantic side of the industry. Don’t get me wrong — it’s an incredible way to explore the world, push boundaries and meet new people — but it comes at a significant cost.

The second piece (page 8) details one of the most surprising destinations I’ve visited in the past year. Southwest Louisiana is a veritable treasure trove of adventures — both culinary and outdoors – and is far enough removed from the glitz and glamor of New Orleans to offer a real slice of Louisiana life. I visited this spring, and was blown away by the region and, even more so, by its people. I’m planning a return visit next spring for Contraband Days, a festival celebrating the area’s impressive pirate history (I can’t be the only one who grew up on tales of Jean Lafitte.) I’d recommend a visit to anyone looking for a little something out of the ordinary.

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