VIDEO: Dark Side of the Lens

Today’s video is a stunning showcase of what is it to be driven by an insatiable passion. For this man, inspiration comes from photographing waves and surfing. The video gives an excellent perspective into what it’s like to be wholly dedicated to capturing the almighty power of the earth. Although the narrator’s heart beats for the ocean, I found that for me, the video spoke to my untapped yearning to document the art and lifestyle that accompanies climbing. Whether you’re an artist, filmmaker, photographer, outdoor lover or any style of creative mind – check out this video.


“There’s no sugary cliche, most folk don’t even know who we are, what we do, or how we do it – let alone want to pay us for it. I never want to take this for granted, so I try to keep motivation simple, real, positive. If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping. If there’s no future in it, at least there’s a present worth remembering. The fires of happiness, the waves of gratitude. For everything that brought us to that point in life, at that moment in time. To do something worth remembering, or a photograph, or a scar. I feel genuinely lucky to say hand on heart that I love doing what I do and I may never be a rich man. If I live long enough, I’ll certainly have a tale or two.”

This felt like one of those ‘if you’re looking for a sign, this is it‘ moments. Over the past few years, I’ve begun to grow comfortable with the prospect that not everyone ends up swimming in endless pools of money, and furthermore, that money doesn’t amount to happiness or measure success. It’s about experiences, perspectives, accomplishments and being content. – And although I think there’s a lot more success to be had in my future, I’m pretty damn content with the present. Time to invest in that Canon Rebel T2i.

Watch ‘Rally for Sanity and/or Fear’ Online Now!

Today, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are hosting the enormous Rally for Sanity and/or Fear. The swelling crowd flows throughout the grounds of the Washington Mall and beyond. Didn’t make it to D.C.? – You can watch LIVE online.

The rally is also being broadcast on a few television channels, including Comedy Central.

Thus far, The Roots have played an excellent set, my favorite dudes from Myth Busters have conducted a series of experiments with the crowd and Colbert reminded me of the discussion my Communications Geography class had about the institution of fear in our government. They aren’t politicians, but these guys have some interesting stuff to say. Listen up, folks.

Image of the Day: Bouldering Perfection at HP40

I am dedicating this entire weekend to climbing. Yesterday at the gym, I realized I have really dropped the ball in my strength/technique. My climbing was utterly pathetic for the first two hours, until I started projecting a new route and got on ropes with my buddy Marlin. To keep the progress flowing, today’s image is a beautiful shot by Cealey Godwin. This photo was taken during our recent trip to Horse Pens 40, and the featured climber is a super strong girl from our gym, Montana.

Everything about this image expresses the overall vibes of our trip to Horse Pens 40 – showers of falling foliage, stunning rock formations, loads of climbing and superb lighting that streamed through the autumn trees. The photo is an inspirational double-whammy. Not only does it get me pumped for another day of hardcore climbing, it also serves as motivation to continue saving up for a real camera, like the Canon EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR. Mm, drool worthy.

If anyone wants to join me today at the gym, give my phone a buzz. I’ll be there all day until my fingers fall off. Also might try to develop my film today from the pot luck/Chattanooga/HP40 – if you’re lucky!

Squirrel Bandit Strikes Again!

Since my DIY bird feeder project, I have transformed into one of those crazy bird ladies, always creeping out my window to watch my little avian buddies snack away on seed. In the midst of all my crafty righteousness, I have encountered a mischievous little friend – we call him ‘Squirrel Buddy.’

For weeks, I have listened to Squirrel Buddy and his accomplices plot their attack on my feeders. They successfully snatched my first bell-shaped feeder, but have been struggling to conquer my homemade contraption. Shimmying down the hemp string attached to the feeder, they’ve tried to steal it Tom Cruise-style, but to no avail. Finally, Squirrel Buddy figured out a new way to access the goods: parkour. He bounced off the brick wall and ricocheted from my windowsill directly onto the feeder – all while I was sitting with my nose pressed against the glass panes. I finally caught him redhanded, and have the images to prove it!

You’ll have to excuse the iffy quality of my iPhone photos, which were taken through a window/screen. Regardless, the evidence is all right there. Bandit Buddy, you’re a damn wench, but I love you. Enjoy:

The carnage I found this morning indicates that Squirrel Buddy got a little too confident in his parkour skills – the entire base of the bird feeder has been torn from the body of the feeder. That won’t stop them though, as I type, Squirrel Buddy and his minions are scampering across my roof, plotting their next attack.

Tasty Thursday – Asian/Mexican Fusion Fish Tacos from WTF

Get your mind out of the gutter – WTF stands for What Tasty Food, and the two ladies behind this delicious website are cooking up a storm of dishes to combat the stereotypical college student’s meal itinerary. Their website says it all: “Kelsey & Megan, two college roommates looking to survive the year on more than just ramen.” – And boy, do they! Amongst my favorites are their Margarita Cupcakes and Vegan Pitas, but what really caught my eye was their latest post, featuring Japanese-Mexican Fusion Fish Tacos. Oh, yes.

Motivated by a remediation assignment on collaboration, Megan Valente found inspiration in a Japanese guacamole recipe, and eventually crafted these tantalizing tacos.

For ingredient lists and step-by-step recipe instructions for both the guacamole and the fish tacos, click the image above or follow this link to the post. The mixture of traditional taco ingredients and unexpected Asian-influenced additions promises to expose your taste buds to something they’ve never experienced before. Mixing avocados, ginger, jalapenos and wasabi in one dish? Unheard of, yet somehow these ladies managed to pull it off.

Visit the WTF: What Tasty Food homepage, and be sure to check out the blog’s Facebook page, which is constantly updated with sneak peeks at upcoming posts. All you Twitter addicts can follow the site on their official Twitter page. – And as always, be sure to give them a ‘thumbs up’ on your StumbleUpon bar!

VIDEO: Deep Water Soloing in Spain – The Future of Climbing Competitions

Last night, over macadamia white chocolate chip cookies at John and Libby’s cozy house, I was exposed to what may single-handedly be the most phenomenal exhibition of climbing on plastic holds that I have ever witnessed. This deep water soloing competition was held in Bilbao, Spain, last week. Naturally, Chris Sharma reigned champion, but the real glory is in the success of the sporting event. Thousands of spectators flocked to the waterfront, cheering the climbers on as they scaled a massive artificial wall dotted with tiny crimpers and holds that called for powerful moves.


Sharma himself asserted that this new style of climbing competitions could easily become the new standard for bringing rock-climbing into the limelight. The thrilling scene of watching muscled individuals battle their way up a complex sequence of movements while dangling over an enormous body of water transforms the art of climbing into a spectator sport that can be enjoyed by anyone. Future Olympic sport, anyone?

Check out Dead Point Magazine’s coverage of the event in this article. The piece boasts that 4000+ spectators crowded around the downtown area to catch a glimpse of this exciting display of sportsmanship. Anyone down for a deep water soloing trip?

Horse Pens 40 – Part 1: Adventures with Ian

If you’re a camper, climber, hiker or any variety of outdoor lover – you need to make a trip to Horse Pens 40 in Steele, Alabama. This outdoor park and campground delivers everything that you seek when looking for a convenient, friendly, beautiful place to soak up some nature. I had a glorious weekend of climbing, exploring, picture-taking and campfire cooking. Plenty of stories and photos to come, but first, let me regal you with the tale of my adventure with Ian.

Saturday was loaded with hardcore climbing, and naturally, a lot of breaks for food and resting. During one break around midday, Ian and I decided to venture off into the woods on a mini-hike to snap some photos of the foliage and rock formations. As we approached lookout point, one of the silver bearded groundskeepers struck up a conversation with us. He offered to take us to an ancient Indian burial ground, and I readily accepted.

We trekked through the boulder fields, squeezing between cramped rock corridors until we entered a small enclosure with a ledge walkway and a pit of leaves. Our burly guide explained that this was once the home of an Indian chief, who resided in this rocky nook under the careful watch of two guardsmen. Upon death, the chief was ceremoniously laid to rest in this spot. Unfortunately, the previous landowners had unearthed his body and sold it for a small fortune. After sending these grave robbers behind bars for a decade, the Schultz family took over the property, and now dedicate their lives to preserving HP40 and the thousands of burial grounds that can be found on the grounds.

Our kind guide also entertained me with a tale relating to a giant knotted tree that I had spotted earlier while climbing. This enormous tree had a huge bulging growth in the middle of it’s trunk, an unmistakable landmark in a crowd of vegetation. The tree served as the territorial divide between the Creek and Cherokee Indians, who fought over land rights for centuries about 10,000 years ago. What an insightful, unexpected little adventure.

To accompany today’s story, I’ve decided to feature a few of Ian’s best photographs from the trip. I’ll be developing my roll sometime this week, which will include photos of my birthday pot luck, Chattanooga and Horse Pens 40. Enjoy!

Some of the crew enjoying the sunset at Lookout Point. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

Jim Smith climbing in the boulder fields at Horse Pens 40. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

Andrew Rice silhoutted against the setting Alabama sun. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

Raychel Putnam attempts a route as onlookers cheer her on. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

A few more shots after the jump, so don’t hesitate to click! To check out more of Ian’s photography, head to his blog, Paradox Isotope. [Read more…]

Monday Motivation

Readers, we’re starting something new! A dear friend of mine, Marianne Curtis, always begins her Mondays with a motivational quote or statement that has always given me a little extra oomph in my weekly determination. With her permission, The Morning Fresh is going to begin featuring her Monday Motivations every week, to help everyone start their week on a positive track. Without further adieu, here’s your first Monday Motivation:

“There are no timeouts, there are no dress rehearsals, there is no pause button. The beauty is in the execution of our plans and goals. That comes from the realization that we have worked too hard to come up short of our potential. Happy Monday people!”

– Marianne Curtis

I shall be delighting you with pictures, and regaling you with tales of my mountain adventures in the upcoming posts, so check back throughout the day/week!

Get your handmade Kendal Jackson backpacks, chalk bags and more!

To tide you over while I’m away at Horse Pens 40, treat yourself to the hand sewn backpacks, chalk bags, satchels and even yoga mat bags created by the talented Kendal Jackson. I met this creatively gifted man while visiting Niko’s hometown of Tampa. When I was finally able to move past how awesome Kendal’s blond dreads are, I fell smitten with his personally designed bags. His chalk bags are sold in rock gyms around the nation, including Boulderdash in California, Michigan’s Rock-On in Grand Rapids, Vertical Ventures in Tampa and of course, my second home at the Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Niko is the proud owner of Kendal’s prototype backpack, and I begged him to get me one of my own. Spoiled as I am, Niko purchased me a custom-made backpack for Valentine’s Day. Since the day I received my pack, it has been my #1 bag. I use it every day to go to class, tote my laptop to work with it, and it’s the best sack for a day at the boulder fields. Each of Kendal’s bags are sturdy and beautifully sewn. They declare their individuality with boldly printed fabrics and unique design features.

Kendal recently sent a new shipment up to the Tallahassee Rock Gym, and I was lucky enough to get one of the first looks at the batch. A mushroom printed canvas chalk bag immediately caught my eye, and it only took a few minutes to decide that it was well worth the small investment of $24.00 – this bag had to be mine. I still haven’t stuffed my new bag with chalk; it’s too beautiful!

While I still refuse to abandon the pristine condition of my unused mushroom bag, my reliable backpack will undoubtedly be my trusty companion this weekend at Horse Pens 40. It will hold my AE-1, my digital camera, fruit leathers for munchin', my climbing gear and everything else I need.

Find your ideal chalk bag, laptop sack, yoga mat case, purse-style bag, satchel or backpack at the Kendal Jackson Bags website. You can choose from pre-made bags, or order a custom piece. Kendal strives to use as much recycled material as possible, and can create a bag using any fabric you may desire. I know many climbers who love his chalk bags, and a bunch of my close friends will swear by their Kendal Jackson backpacks. These bags were built for exploration and adventures.

For more images of Kendal Jackson’s bag creations, and fun updates about the company and Kendal’s climbing adventures, check out the Kendal Jackson Bags Facebook page.

Quote of the Day

“There’s a whole lot to be thankful for, if you take the time to look.”

Words of wisdom I found today in the bathroom at work after washing my hands and reaching for sheet of paper towel. Since when did paper towels carry thoughtful suggestions? Perhaps the world is moving in the right direction after all. My paper towel also reminded me that “Laughter is sunshine in a home.” +1 for the paper towel industry!