On the Other Side of the Lens: Global Rescue Commercial

by Fire Girl Jess on February 23, 2018

I’m very thankful and proud to be able to call Global Rescue a partner. Wherever my travels take me — and whatever unexpected adventures lie ahead — it’s always comforting to know these folks have my back. I sat down with the Global Rescue team at last year’s ICAST Show and talk about why emergency evacuations insurance matters.

Watch the full video here.

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I had a fantastic time documenting a multi-day float trip on Oregon’s John Day River with Little Creek Outfitters last June. I’d just come off a SUP first-descent in the Peruvian Amazon, and was happy to undertake a trip with a bit less stress! We floated through the high desert country of Oregon, enjoying a bountiful smallmouth fishery and riding stand-up paddleboards on the John Day’s mellow waters.

The feature, an article with images, is in the March / April issue of American Angler magazine, and there’s a parallel online shoot essay running on the magazine’s website here. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

As always, thanks to everyone who made this trip possible: Marty and Mia at Little Creek Outfitters, the fantastic ladies on the trip who didn’t mind having a camera along, the eager bass of the John Day, and the stellar team at American Angler for running the feature!

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Five Quick Tips: Staying Healthy on Hectic Trips

by Fire Girl Jess on January 29, 2018

I’m notorious for being that person who is a zombie on the plane back to Bozeman after a trip. Travel means work, and work means long days and very little sleep… good light has a way of showing up during those hours we’d rather be in bed, and long-exposure night shots are surprisingly brutal in certain conditions. Whether your trip is a three-hour drive or a thirty-hour flight away, it can be hard to stay in top condition. Time zone changes, exposure to new viruses and bugs, sleeping away from your cozy, familiar bed — all these things can lead to you feeling a little run-down and possibly even getting sick.

Over the years I’ve developed a few routines that help. Sometimes getting sick on the road is inevitable (there was that week-long shoot in Belize where I got the flu and bartered a spare coffee thermos to a ferry operator in exchange for DayQuil). It happens. But here are a few things you can do to be proactive and feel in top shape at your destination. After all, when there are fish to catch, trails to climb and planes to catch, who has time to be sick?

1. Hydrate! The enemy of energy is dehydration. Especially if you’re some place warm and are sweating more than normal (and maybe more than you realize), be sure to drink. Make sure your water source is reliable — purify water if you’re not sure (I like the Grayl bottle) — or drink from sealed bottles. Certain countries are notorious for refiling / resealing plastic bottles, so be smart; sometimes sparkling / seltzer water is the way to go (it’s far harder to re-seal). Drink, drink, drink.

If I’m exerting and working hard, I’ll come back to the lodge / hut / camp at night and down one bottle of water mixed with a Nuun tablet for electrolytes, balanced with another bottle of plain water. It makes a world of difference, and those little tabs are especially important if you’re losing fluids due to illness or excessive sweating.

I’m also a big fan of Wellness Formula. Three of these pills twice a day when traveling helps keep the nasties away.  They’re big and don’t taste great, but they work.

2. Ensure you have the appropriate immunizations for your destination, and research any other regional health concerns. The CDC Travelers’ Health website is handy, and if you have a Global Rescue membership (well worth the money), they’re more than happy to help advise. Carry a yellow card / list with immunizations; some countries will require you show documentation.

3. Bring snacks. Even if you feel confident you’ll be able to pick up food on location, you’ll be a rock star to your fellow travelers when you magically produce a quality bar of chocolate, a small bag of jerky or even a pack of gum. The small things make a big difference, and if you’re active it’s important to keep energy (and morale!) levels high. (I was introduced to Voke Tabs on a shoot several years ago by a friend and they’re always in my bag. Vitamin C and caffeine for the win!) It’s astounding how a little taste of something familiar from home can boost flagging spirits.

Going somewhere warm? Bring something that won’t melt.

4. Pack a first aid kit, and keep it accessible. Even if your friend is a paramedic and is bringing along enough medical supplies for a small village, bring your own. At least bring along basic wound supplies (band-aids, gauze, antibiotic ointment, duct tape, wipes and wraps) and medications (cold / flu medicine, anti-diarrhea meds, enough of any prescriptions for the trip duration plus several extra days, an antihistamine and ibuprofen). Over the years I’ve customized my kit and always keep it close in a roll-top stuff sack. You may have the world’s best first-aid kit, but if it’s back at camp when Bob gashes his leg on a log, it’s not going to do anyone much good. Keep it close, and keep it stocked. Replace expired medications and re-inventory after every trip. You’ll be surprised how useful a well-outfitted kit is. Adventure Medical Kits is a good place to start.

5. Going somewhere buggy? Spray-on clothing treatment is well worth the effort. I covered my clothing with this spray before an Amazon SUP expedition last year, and with a little extra effort and a lot of DEET, came away with only a handful bug bites after 11 days in the jungle. Just do a web search for insect-spread diseases and you’ll see the value. Sea to Summit makes an awesome Insect Shield Sleeping Bag Liner that does an admirable job of keeping insects away, and it’s light and comfortable for hot, sticky nights.

Lastly, sleep! On the road, what’s normally eight hours of sleep a night becomes more like four hours a night for a few weeks. That’s the reality. Learn to catnap where you can; when exhaustion hits, you’d be surprised what looks like a good place to sleep. Get the work done, ensure your gear is secure, and take advantage of that bus or helicopter ride for a quick doze.

*With the exception of Global Rescue, I’m not sponsored by any of these companies. I just like their products.

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Bags Packed: The Edison Fly Fishing Show

by Fire Girl Jess on January 18, 2018

Marley the psuedo-shop dog. Headhunters Fly Shop, Craig, MT.

Here’s to the good things in life: busy fly shops, happy dogs and meeting up with friends old and new.

Packing the bags once more; this time heading to the Northeast for a bit of play and work. Spending a couple days in New York City (celebrating my 30th birthday, why not?) and then heading out to The Fly Fishing Show in Edison, New Jersey, on January 26th, 27th and 28th. This will be my fourth year at the show; I always enjoy the opportunity to catch up with clients, friends and all manner of fishy folk!

Are you going to the show? Let me know, and let’s meet up!

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In the past six months, I’ve received a volley of emails from prospective photographers and writers, asking a variety of “how do I?” questions. I’m always happy to help, and love to see people taking the leap into the professional creative world. To that end I’ve penned a few articles and blog posts about in the past. This one, “So You Want to Be a Professional Fishing Photographer or Writer?” went from a casual late-night blog post to a requested magazine article in the blink of an eye.

Thanks to the advent of the internet and the burgeoning social media realm, we’re in a world of content generation. All those articles, listicles and funny tidbits you’re reading? Someone, somewhere, wrote them. Quite possibly in their sweatpants on the couch. Or barricaded in a corner of the local coffee shop consuming one too many lattes.

Contrary to popular belief, writing isn’t always sexy. It’s not usually this moment of divine inspiration; the heated all-night writing sessions that Hollywood would have us believe are the norm. Oh, it happens, sure. I penned one of my favorite pieces in the back of a Mi-8 helicopter trundling over the Russian tundra years ago.

But the reality of most writing is remarkably unsexy. Example? I have a contract to write a series of location-feature articles for a state bureau. It’s basic content writing, and when I first started the project I’d sit down, stare at the page and think, “I really don’t want to do this.” Now, nearly at the end of the contract, I’m left wondering just when I wrote this massive quantity of articles. It just happened.

Sure, sometimes your fingers will start to tap, your mind race, and you’ve got to pen something NOW. But the rest of the time, here are a few tips and tricks that have come hard-earned over the years.

1) Just get something on paper. Write drivel. Transcribe Russian. I don’t care. Write.
I’m notorious for just starting to write random things on a paper. Ever since I was in grade school, it’s been a way to distract myself, to let my brain process and think. I literally have shelves of notebooks filled with writing that will never see the light of day. If we’re ever in a meeting and you see me writing, I’m not ignoring you. I’m processing the project. It could be a to-do list, it could be the beginning of a historical essay. The lure of filling blank paper with words is just too tempting, and my brain’s working as those characters appear.

So, when you find yourself staring at the blank page, just get something on paper. Line out your workout for later in the evening. Write three sentences about your last trip — what you saw, felt, smelled. Pen a poem. Last week I was stuck on an advertising campaign for a client; I picked up my pen and paper and transcribed the Russian alphabet and basic words. Next thing I knew, my brain had churned over the campaign and I was ready to get it on paper. Just fill the page… I don’t care if it’s garbage or not.

2) Create an outline.
This is one of my favorite content writing tricks. Especially if it’s a topic that requires research, I’ll do my homework and then organize my notes into a basic outline. From there, it’s far easier to create a coherent article. This builds off the point above… you’re just getting something on paper, and an outline makes a big project seem a little more “biteable.”

3) Move yourself.
Sometimes you need to physically move. Leve the computer, abandon the notebook, and go for a walk. If you’re in an office, go get coffee. Squeeze in a workout if you can. In my days at Orvis headquarters, I’d go throw dries as brook trout in a nearby stream. This winter, the rowing machine is my go-to for mulling over new projects. Physically moving your body puts you in a different brain space, allowing your mind to subconsciously mull over creative projects while your body is occupied with something else. Keep a note-taking device nearby… I’ve definitely been that girl in the gym madly making notes on my phone as an idea crystalizes.

4) Choose your soundtrack. Consume caffeine.
Good music helps. Coffee also helps. Not a coffee drinker? Pick your poison… tea, water, kombucha, whatever. Fuel up and get those words on paper. Stream your music so you’re not constantly having to flick through songs and interrupt your creative flow. My happy space this week? Too much black coffee, a big jug of water and the Atomic Blonde soundtrack on Spotify. Next week the music selection could be Mancini. It’s anybody’s guess.

5) Write More.
As cool as it sounds to say writing is truly divine inspiration, it’s not that sexy. Writing is a habit, and like all habits, it needs to be nurtured. Write often. Write a variety of content. Stuck on the commuter train? Pen a poem. Long flight? Give yourself a prompt and write a 2,500-word short story. Tired and just not feeling it today? Too bad. Write, dammit.Some of the hardest writing I’ve done is on international assignments. When we’re in some remote corner of the world, it’s past midnight, I only have a headlamp, my body is screaming for rest and we have a 4AM wake-up to break camp, the last thing I want to do it take detailed notes in my notebook. But when we’re exhausted our brains do funny things, and I know that by the time I get on the plane ride home and feel like I have time to write notes down, I’ll have forgotten the visceral details that make stories truly compelling.

You can look back over my notebooks from years past and you’ll see notes like “f-ing tired” “fishing sucked” “peppermint-scented air” “too many snakes” “nurse provided antibiotics; not sure what they are” and “this is f-ing awesome.” (These were all literally trip notes from the past several years.)Write what you feel, even if it’s in little phrases. Take notes on maps (I have weird maps on my office wall from all over the world, smeared with dirt and blood and who-knows-what, but they’ve earned a place on the wall). Those comments will jolt you back into the moment later, and you can expound and get the article written on the long plane ride home. And, years later, you’ll be glad you did.

One more tip? Always, always jot down the names of place and people when you’re on location. Have the locals look at your list to ensure you’re getting the spelling right. Note nicknames, funny local terms, whatever. You’ll forget by the time you wish you remembered.

Now go forth and write, be it from the couch, the local coffeehouse or the far corners of the globe.

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Lessons Learned in 2017

by Fire Girl Jess on December 29, 2017

I stood at the window today, watching the snow fall onto the bare trees lining the Gallatin River, and pondered the past year. The events of 2017 have been anything but expected — it’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy year; I’ve emerged with a few more scars and a plethora of lessons learned (or confirmed).

Thanks to everyone who made these lessons stick. Several years ago, I never would have dreamed I’d be looking back at a jungle SUP expedition in the Amazon or a curious, earthquake- and typhoon-laden exploratory fishing trip to Hokkaido. More and more I’m reminded that the adventures are balanced by the people you undertake them with, and at the end of the day it’s not the solo trips that stand out starkly in my memory, but the long, cold nights walking Martha’s Vineyard beaches with friends, bumpy jungle roads undertaken in the back of an open-bed fright truck with laughing friends and pre-dawn morning hunts with my brother.

Life’s about learning, and 2017 brought plenty of lessons (some harder than others):

  • Always pack the passport. Trips lead to more trips.
  • Pack enough bug spray – and treat your clothes with all the chemicals. It’s better than flesh-eating tropical diseases.
  • Coffee makes the world go ‘round.
  • Tokyo airport seafood Yaki Udon is legit.
  • Japan’s regional airline Air Do serves legit butter potato soup as a drink option. I’ll now be forever disappointed in Delta’s drink cart.

  • Language barriers really aren’t barriers. Smile and make it work.
  • Writing will always seem like some kind of odd magic. Filling blank paper with words is immensely satisfying.
  • Fishing is universal. Regardless of location, regardless of language.
  • Stand-up paddleboards make legit fishing photography platforms — the ability to freely move boat-to-boat is a game-changer.

  • Never leave the camera at home. I literally dream about witnessing something incredible and reaching for my camera, only to realize it’s not on my shoulder (had this same dream last night, actually).
  • Look at opportunities outside your self-defined boundaries. A new industry, a new client. Push far outside your comfort zone.
  • Value your good friends. They’re hard to find.

  • Get everything in writing. At least twice.
  • Don’t waste time with people who don’t value your work. Life’s too short for that shit.
  • The hard decisions become surprisingly easy when you just make ‘em.
  • Write goals down. In five years you’ll be doing stuff you’re only dreaming of today.
  • Put the hours in. Prioritize wisely… there are only so many hours in the day, and at some point you have to choose what’s really important.

  • Always eat the local food. Even if it’s unrecognizable.
  • Be selective in burning bridges. Sometimes things loop back in the strangest — and best — ways.
  • Always travel with a water filter… there’s some nasty stuff out there.

  • Keep a notebook and a pen handy at all times. Ideas strike at weird moments.
  • Sleep helps.
  • Don’t be an ass… nobody wins.

Thanks to everyone who made this year exciting — from awesome new clients to steadfast old ones, to folks who simply stop by at a trade show to people who take the time to email a note. None of this could happen without the roster of awesome clients, anglers, and editors who are patient enough to put up with “the girl with the camera.” You all make it worthwhile.

Here’s to 2018!

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2017: The Year of Change

by Fire Girl Jess on December 28, 2017

2017 has been a year of the unexpected. And, yes, it’s been an… interesting year. Plenty of lessons learned, and change seems to have been a constant theme.

The good?

  • Surprises around seemingly every corner
  • Working with stellar teams in unusual places — i.e the story below
  • Quiet, early dawns in both hemispheres
  • Fresh or salt, always watching water
  • Reunions with old friends, and making many new ones
  • A variety of incredible new clients who, if I told myself 10 years ago I’d be working with, I’d have called bullshit
  • Roughly five months of the year spent away from Montana on various shoots and projects
  • Many new fish species checked off the list!

The bad?

  • Surprises around seemingly every corner
  • Business partners who aren’t what they seemed. Lessons learned.
  • Housing in Bozeman (and roommate living)
  • Not enough hours in the day
  • First camera lost on a shoot… it’s now a handy paperweight

Thanks to all the clients and partners I’ve been able to work with in 2017 — you make it all worth it! No matter the jet lag or the rough sleeping conditions, it’s all an adventure when you’re with the right people. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with incredible clients and to meet fascinating people along the way, often in the strangest places. I look forward to more of it in 2018!

In the spirit of this year’s yin-yang theme, I penned this piece for the Adventure Travel Trade Association this summer after an adrenaline-filled trip to Peru documenting stand-up paddleboard first descents down several Amazon tributaries. It’s always an interesting writing exercise when I have the opportunity to get a bit more personal with a project. Here’s a teaser; read the full piece here.

“People are changed by the jungle.” The words came from the darkness next to me in the open-walled hut, tinted with the lyrical tones of a Peruvian accent. We sat by headlamp, collapsed on benches and the rough-hewn floor; listening to the myriad of insects and birds outside in the darkness. The sound of pans and low voices talking in Spanish came from the teammates cooking dinner nearby, lit by the candle suspended in the rafters.

We were all exhausted; soaking from a late-afternoon deluge as we’d stopped to unload the boats for the night, and worn from a week of travel. But it was a satisfied exhaustion, one where life is just as it should be. Things are simple — in the midst of good people in an exceptional place, it’s hard to be anything but satisfied.

“People are changed by the jungle.” I believed it then, and I believe it even now more.

I had started the journey needing something. I didn’t know what, but something. It had been monumentally frustrating few months — a client I’d moved across the country for had reneged on his promises, and I was coming to terms with the fact that my life was about to take another drastic segue. I was frustrated with people in general, disappointed in myself for not seeing the lies earlier, and dealing with an immense amount of anger that I wasn’t sure where to direct.

And so when the opportunity arose to join an expedition into the Peruvian Amazon for a series of stand-up paddleboard first descents, it sounded oddly like something I needed. I bought a ticket…

Read the rest (and see images!) here.

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