First Glance at Belize

by Fire Girl Jess on November 22, 2014

Rainy day at El Pescador.

Rainy day at El Pescador.

It’s been a wild week here in Belize. I’m currently writing from the screen porch at El Pescador, where I’m hunkered in from the afternoon showers and trying madly not to fall asleep on the striped cushions. I still feel like I’m rocking a bit after eight hours on the panga throwing flies today (maybe the daiquiri isn’t helping) and feeling the tingle of a kind-of-epic sunburn on my face and forearms.

I said it’s been a wild week. It’s also been a hell of a week. An awesome week. An incredible week. Filled with adventure, a stunningly terrific team, sand flies, saltwater, rain, and some pretty awesome food. Boat rides and island ferries and vans bumping along muddy roads in the jungle.

The fifteen-person photo crew—exactly two of whom I had met before—turned out to be awesome. There’s nothing for building team cohesion like sticking them in a foreign country and asking them to create something fantastic under in adverse conditions. We laughed. We got soaked in the rain. We splashed around in brake-less golf carts through the streets of San Pedro and prayed we wouldn’t hit anyone. It was a fantastic crew (mostly NYC-based) made up of folks who proved to be real troopers.

And what can I say except awesome things about El Pescador? From the staff who magically seem to remember everyone’s name, to pickup games of volleyball, to Mariano’s magical bar concoctions, to the stunning facility, it’s a place I have not left yet and already yearn to come back to.

And, yeah, after everyone else from the Orvis photo shoot left today, I got a bit of fishing in. Got my first bonefish (kind of fun for this Montana girl!) and then we chased tarpon. Lots of shots and a few follows. I’ll be back.

Look for more tales from Belize to come in all manner of forums—from the Orvis catalogs to various fishing magazines and websites to this blog. So many amazing stories, I’m struggling to catalog and comprehend them all.

An epic-level cold and about four hours of sleep a night for the past week hasn’t really helped.

But, hey, life is awesome. And while I’m not terribly stoked to be returning to Vermont, I’m sure more adventures will be on the way. It’s going to take a while to recover and write the stories I need to from this one.

After all, any work escapade when you get “kidnapped” but three friendly Belizians and taken to a local beachside bar to celebrate the near-wrap of the shoot can’t be too bad…but that’s a story for another day.

Stay tuned.

Casting competition, El Pescador-style.

Casting competition, El Pescador-style.

Street boys in San Pedro, Belize.

Street boys in San Pedro, Belize.

Belize River... howler monkeys hooting in the background.

Belize River… howler monkeys hooting in the background.

The best kind of photo shoot prop.

The best kind of photo shoot prop.

Max the guard dog / greeter.

Max the guard dog / greeter.

Sunset on the West side of Ambergris Caye.

Sunset on the West side of Ambergris Caye.


On the Road Again

by Fire Girl Jess on November 14, 2014

The first dusting of winter.

The first dusting of winter.

Packed up and on the road once more. I’ve got a quick overnight in Albany, New York (still feels weird to write the words New York with any sense of familiarity) before flying out on the early bird flight. Destination? Southbound.


I woke this morning to the first snowy day here in Vermont, and persistent flurries have stuck around throughout the day. I find I’m kind of okay with leaving the white stuff behind for a week, and resigned to returning and bundling up for the winter.

Flying into Belize City tomorrow and spending a day exploring the local ruins (scouting for fashion shoot locations) before flying out to El Pescador on Sunday. I’m shooting B-roll for the Orvis fashion shoot, marketing images for El Pescador, and meeting with the in-country director of Rare, an innovative conservation group working in the area. And, apparently, modeling for our half-day of Orvis fishing clothing photography. Should be interesting… I’m far more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

But if it means I get a chance to fish in Belize, then hell yes.

Not sure how much time or opportunity I’ll have to post this the coming week. The traditional weekly “Vermont Chronicles” post will run on Chi Wulff on Sunday, and I’ll try to Instagram and / or update as internet connection allows.

Rest assured a boatload of tropical images will be coming your way soon.


FGP on the Orvis Home Page

by Fire Girl Jess on November 12, 2014

I was excited this afternoon when I was told one of my images made the home page of Pending where you are in the country, sounds like the new site may not display yet, but some of you will be able to get a glimpse of the Firehole River on the “Sale” tile.

Taken on a cold, sub-zero late fall day in Yellowstone—perfect photo weather—this image is part of a collection showcasing the wintertime colors and the steam clouds of the first national park in a season most people never see it in. Winter is one of my favorite times in Yellowstone, largely due to the quiet and the decided lack of people.

"Sale" is the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.


In Flanders Fields

by Fire Girl Jess on November 11, 2014

Post chapel. Fort Leavenworth, Missouri.

Post chapel. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

US Army recruits in training on the confidence obstacle course. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

US Army recruits in training on the confidence obstacle course, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.


Ten Questions with Tacky Fly Fishing on Chi Wulff

by Fire Girl Jess on November 9, 2014


The Tacky Box hard at work this past fall.

I first ran into the some of the guys behind Tacky Fly Fishing at the Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula last April. A bouncy bunch of guides from Altamont, Utah, they stuck in my mind for the simple fact that I lived in Utah for a while as a kid and have great memories of the region’s mountains and rivers. (Somehow some of the most powerful mountains in life are those of your childhood.) We laughed and chatted and exchanged fishing tips—they were hoping to hit some Montana waters on their drive back home.

The Tacky Fly Box first really came onto my radar when I was writing product copy for Orvis and realized we’d added it to the assortment. A bit of research and a few emails confirmed it was, indeed, the Kickstarter project the Utah guys had begun. And it was going great guns.

Ran into the Tacky crew again at IFTD in Orlando in July (where they subsequently kicked much ass and took home an award), and they were kind enough to give me a box to test. I’ve been fishing out of it since, and am viewing the slitted silicone base as something near revolutionary.

The guys agreed to a ten questions interview for Chi Wulff, and the first part ran today. Look for part two tomorrow.


On Writing

by Fire Girl Jess on November 5, 2014

Now I fully realize this is a blog about photography. Why, you ask, is she addressing the topic of writing? And on a photography blog, no less?

There is an explanation.

For better or worse, for a little over five years now I’ve been paying the rent and putting gas in my car by an ever-changing combination of both photography and writing. One month, it may be all photography. The next nearly all writing. In the best months, the two come together and when I audit the bookkeeping at the end of the month, the two separate worlds almost balance each other out. And now, as I find myself juggling a day job of writing the outdoor voice for the oldest and largest fly-fishing company in the US and running Fire Girl Photography, I spent more than my fair share of time whacking away at a keyboard.

Writing is a funny thing.

Some days it just happens. The words write themselves, seemingly coming together far more elegantly than I could ever hope to herd them. They tell stories, evoke a mood, drive home a point. Thousands of words appear on a blank white page in the space of an hour, and I find myself sitting back and wondering what the hell just happened.

Those are the best days. When it flows, the words often actually make sense—more sense than I could hope to in other moods—and little editing is required. I can knock multiple projects off in one session and then still have the reserve to jot out a few pages of fiction drivel, the equivalent of the brain kicking back with a cold one.

And then there are the bad days.

Desk decor at FGP headquarters. A gift from a military friend and a keen reminder to just roll with it.

Desk decor at FGP headquarters. A gift from a military friend and a keen reminder to just roll with it.

Deadlines are looming, I worked eighteen hours yesterday, coffee just isn’t cutting it and I really don’t want to be sitting at a desk. These are the days when creating a headline, a caption, or even a blog post is a monumental struggle. Mentally a little voice squeaks, “so, you think you can write, huh?”

I’ve learned the best way—the only way—to tackle this mode is to crank up the music and just start writing. Anything. Everything. Drivel. Fiction. Poetry. Yeah, it may be rubbish, but get something on the page and suddenly the rest will follow. It’s rather like unstoppering a bottle of well-shaken champagne. Once it gets going, stand back. Game on and the words are coming out come hell or high water.

I’ve been known to sit in a parking lot and fill a page or two with random vignettes. I have long since kept a notebook and pen close at hand in my car for just this reason.

In reality, most days are somewhere in between. Words aren’t hiding, but they aren’t exactly forthcoming, either. It takes a bit of digging, a bit of coaxing. Over the years I’ve learned little tricks that help me write better—how to sit, what to drink, what music is best for writing certain types of pieces. It’s the odd little things.

They say writers are weird. Maybe we are. But, hell, it’s fun.

Recently I had someone functioning of an editor of sorts tell me the words “just weren’t right” and, when I asked for direction, looked at me, shrugged, and said “I don’t know. Rewrite it.”

It was already the fourth rewrite.

Writing involves more than its fair share of metaphorical banging one’s head against the wall. On tough days I miss my Krav Maga gym in Austin more than anything, the urge to go wail on a training partner or a punching bag nearly overwhelming. I stand for shadowboxing in the gym and doing burpees until I calm down and the words start to make sense again.

No pressure, they say, as a coworker tells me, “We need Hemingway.” It’s 3:30 and suddenly we’re on deadline for 5:00.

Writing is like poking at a puzzle. Sometimes you have to approach it from many different directions, poking and prodding each time. Eventually one poke or prod will slide the pieces into place, or at least near enough that you can being to see the pattern. It’s a lot of head cocking and staring into space. But, eventually, the puzzle pieces start to click together.

After listening to me rant one night last week, an old friend sent me this excerpt from a book (that remains unnamed). I don’t know the context, but I can appreciate the underlying message: “… and it’s my job to tell you who uses the word malfeasance. If you could write, you’d write your own books.”

For some reason I found the two lines entirely too entertaining, and copied them to my desktop.

And have resolved to use the word malfeasance in an article before the year is up.

(Of note, any aspiring writers would do well to visit guru Tom Chandler’s copywriting blog The Writer Underground. Go. Read. Learn. Absorb.)


Chi Wulff Vermont Chronicles: Into November Edition

by Fire Girl Jess on November 2, 2014

Last day of the season on the Roaring Branch.

Last day of the season on the Roaring Branch.

It’s cold, windy, and in the 30s here. The first snow has kissed the tops of the hills, and the vast majority of the leaves have fallen.

It looks like the beginning of a rather bleak November.

So, the time has come to focus on some new projects. Having no trouble keeping busy; time to prioritize and keep balancing work out. Translation? A lot of coffee during the day, and dreaming about editing at night. It kind of tends to work itself out.

So head on over to Chi Wulff for the latest in the Vermont Chronicles series—a bit of Sunday reading.