Bayou Rum on Chi Wulff’s Thirsty Thursday

by Fire Girl Jess on June 22, 2017

Something about craft spirits, made using local ingredients, is pretty cool. And when I walked into the Bayou Rum headquarters in Lacassine, Louisiana, a few weeks ago and immediately breathed in heavy, molasses-scented air, I knew there was something good happening.

Take a tour around Bayou Rum today on Chi Wulff.  And remember, rum might be the official drink of pirates, but it fits in pretty well on the river, too.

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TOD: June 2, Sometime in the Afternoon, Eel Pond

by Fire Girl Jess on June 21, 2017

We made the call sometime in the afternoon, huddled on the sun-warmed sand of Eel Pond, the demure buildings of Edgartown looking on dispassionately. Buffs and lens cloths surrounding our little makeshift work station, water still splashing around the inside of my waders, I looked up at Jackie and said with a lift of my eyebrows, “Well, that’s it.”

Cameras and water don’t mix. It’s a fact of life, one I’ve been lucky enough to largely avoid in my eight-year career as a fishing and adventure travel photographer. My cameras have been around the globe, and in the process have survived a laundry list of foul-weather adventures. Storms off the coast of Samoa, heat and salt spray while wading across boundless flats in French Polynesia, snorkeling in Belize, sleet and rainstorms above the Arctic Circle in Russia, Puget sound fog and drizzle, Montana dust and grit, Texas heat, a week of U.S. Army basic training and — most recently — a two-week expedition into the Peruvian Amazon… those cameras should have their own little passports.

And, well, for inanimate objects, we develop a kind of camaraderie. Less than a month ago I spent the night in the Lima airport, curled around my Pelican case as I dozed. I hand-carried that same damn Pelican case through the jungle during portages, internally cursing part of the way, one camera safe inside, the other slung over my shoulder. They’ve ridden in helicopters in several countries, had close encounters of the weird kind with third-world customs and airport security agents, and faced off with more fish species than many of us will see in our lifetimes.

So when (like an idiot) I slipped while wading and fell in slow motion into the cool, salty waters off Martha’s Vineyard, it seemed like kind of an ignominious death for one of my beloved camera bodies. Waders filled, pulse racing and dread pooling in my heart, I squelched to the beach where fishy friend Jackie was already digging a clean cloth out of her bag. We performed the camera equivalent of CPR (saving the lens at least), but the camera, which had been tucked down the front of my waders as I juggled shooting and logging a few casts, was wet. Too wet. After daubing it with a freshwater-rinsed cloth and moving both the battery and the memory cards (which, miraculously, were okay), we called it.

KIA, on Eel Pond, Massachusetts. Worse ways to go, for a hardworking camera. It was my first camera kill, and the DSLR body now sits on my office shelf; somehow I can’t bring myself to throw it away. There are stories in the matte black body; that particular ding was from an overzealous Mexico City customs agent, and that scrape from bracing during a squall in the South Pacific. (I stayed on the boat, as did the gear. Barely.)

The new kid on the block, the replacement, arrived yesterday, and is already tagged and prepped for a shoot in Oregon next week. He’s got big shoes to fill.

As one friend said, “It’s what we do. We get out there. Stuff gets broken.”

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Wall Street Journal Assignment: Story of a 1952 Buick

by Fire Girl Jess on June 18, 2017

I had so much fun shooting this assignment for the Wall Street Journal several weeks ago. Jerry and Suzy were sweet as could be, and their home near Manhattan, Montana, was the perfect setting for the shoot. Thanks to everyone who made this an easy assignment — especially the WSJ team and both Jerry and Suzy!

Read the full article here.

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More and more pieces from last month’s Peru trip are making their way out into the world. I’m really excited to see this piece with Roots Rated go live — it’s hard to capture a trip of this scope in words, but hopefully this takes a stab at it. Thanks again to the stellar guys on the trip, and to Apumayo Expeditiones for putting it all together.

Here’s an excerpt; read the full piece here.

“… The river then changed to broad and lazy, with visibility at an extreme minimum of only an inch or two. It’s a humbling experience, floating on—and sometimes in—that water, knowing you’re in the midst of an ecosystem that’s vibrant and alive and, as the team surmised, constantly testing you. There’s nothing gentle about the Amazon Basin. Some places don’t seem to mind your presence. Others nurture and comfort. The Amazon just tries to eat you.

But we were too busy laughing and marveling at our surroundings to think too much about that. We drifted down the Alto Madre de Dios River, the tropic sun hot on our backs and the muddy river at our feet. The largest whitewater was behind us, and for the moment our little convoy of four stand-up paddleboards, three whitewater kayaks and two rafts moved in a steady pace downstream, seeming foreign in the wild jungle environment. Eventually, the sun would drop low, we’d find our lodging for the night, and some of the guys would miraculously produce a stunning dinner by headlamp. And tomorrow we’d do it all over again…

Venturing into Manu National Park—into the jungles of Peru—isn’t a journey for the faint-hearted. But for those willing to undertake the trip, they’ll find expansive wilderness, astounding wildlife, and some of the most genuine people in the world. The very scope of the jungle and all its inhabitants is humbling, and this is the perfect “reset” trip for someone looking to make a big change in life.”

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Interview with the Articles of Antiquity

by Fire Girl Jess on June 14, 2017

There’s something about open airport runways in odd corners of the world. Happy to see this interview go live with The Articles of Antiquity! Head on over to read a few tidbits about adventure, travel, and writing… here’s a taste:

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A WRITER? 

I was a writer before I was a photographer. The best advice I can give is to simply get words on paper — you’re never going to be “always inspired.” Some days you’ll sit and stare at a blank page for a senseless amount of time. That’s okay. Just start putting words on paper… even if it’s nonsense. Write about your breakfast, about that book you just read, whatever. Get the words flowing and good things happen.

Also, always carry a notebook. I always have one at hand, even on assignments in the middle of nowhere. You never know when you’ll need to jot notes down or when inspiration will strike. Sometimes the words just happen.

Read the full interview here.

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It’s been a busy few weeks on the road — first was Dallas for a project, then I traveled up to Martha’s Vineyard to fish in the 26th annual Catch-and-Release Tournament, and finally I made my way down to southwestern Louisiana with Visit Lake Charles. While each stop was a working stop, it was such a pleasure to put down the camera for a bit and fish with old friends in the Catch-and-Release Tournament.

We had an A-team-level group: old friends Jackie K. and Tom Z. from Orvis HQ in Vermont, Aron and Todd C., a savvy father-son team from Rhode Island, the famed Coop from Coop’s Bait & Tackle in Edgartown, Mass., and new fishy friends Ty and Paul. It’s always a true sprint weekend — between scout-fishing, actually competing in the tournament from 7PM to 2AM Sat.-Sun. and fishing on our own, we averaged about three hours of sleep a night, and by the end were all a little delirious.

Happy and delirious. I’ve had the pleasure to fish this tournament once before, when I was staff at Orvis HQ, and recalled long, cold nights backcasting against a heavy wind. This year we lucked out with the tournament night — after being treated to one of the more spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life (you can’t create light like that in post-production), we had a night of calm winds, brisk but not cold temperatures, and fish. A lot of fish. In the seven hours I managed an even 30 stripers — all schoolies, but damn are they fun. Nice to fall back in love with fishing a little bit.

All in all, our team managed 164 fish in the tournament night, and an impressive 701 fish were caught in total. Our team fished in the one-fly category, banking all our hope on a single “secret” fly that, suffice to say, proved itself to be something akin to magic. (Kudos to Ty for tying up a bunch the afternoon before we hit the water!)

It was a weekend of moments: a near-full moon setting over Lobsterville Beach at 2AM, eerily huge in the nighttime sky. Bunkering down into damp sand to try and catch a few shivery minutes sleep as we waited for the tide to change. Jackie’s epic-level gin and tonic bar, open at all hours of the day. Todd’s chili that kept us all going… somehow. Going to bed every day as the sun rose and the birds began to chirp, knowing that in the few hours we’d be up and at it again. Getting giggly-tired at some point… when everything seems funny somehow and exhaustion is comfortable. And more rainbows and fire-red skies than I could put into words.

A few of my images made it into the Martha’s Vineyard Times this past week — including a very special moment where two deployed sons who usually fish the tournament Skyped in from Kansas and Kuwait to see their dad.

The ocean steals a bit more of my heart every time I visit her… from the brisk waters off Martha’s Vineyard to the murky warmth of the Gulf of Mexico (stay tuned for a report about my Louisiana visit, including fishing off rigs in the Gulf!). Combine the sea, good friends, happy fish, and a gorgeous location, and life is grand.


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Matador Network: Peru’s Cloud Forest

by Fire Girl Jess on June 8, 2017

Stories from last month’s Peru trip are beginning to trickle out. Happy to see this photo essay come to life on Matador about the Cloud Forest — a very unique part of our journey into the jungle.

“Peru’s Cloud Forest, where highland clouds meet the jungle, is a day’s drive from Cusco and is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. Wayqecha, a biological station run by the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA), is the ideal home base while exploring this diverse ecosystem.

Here, the eastern slopes of the Andes meet the Amazonian lowlands. Tremendous climatic changes occur as the landscape sweeps from snow-capped mountains to the treeless plains and dry valleys of the altiplano, before a sudden descent into steep cloud forests and the broad expanse of the low-lying Amazon floodplain. This topographic complexity has resulted in an exceptional array of habitats sustaining a vast number of species.

We explored the Cloud Forest recently with Apumayo Expediciones and the team from Wayqecha. Here’s what we found.”

See the images here.

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