Where to begin? I moved from Colorado to Maine in June, taking a seasonal job with Outward Bound as a Logistics Coordinator. Toward the end of the season I uprooted myself again and moved to Vermont, where, serendipitously, the engine of my rig died.
However, between Maine and Vermont (where my truck sadly died), I was able to squeeze in a few awesome photography adventures! I drove north to Bar Harbor, where I did an engagement photoshoot for a lovely couple. After editing their photos at Anchorspace (highly recommend this co-working space!), I spontaneously decided to continue my drive even farther north to Lubec. The easternmost lighthouse, Quoddy Point, is just outside of that town, and I ventured there to take some star photos and practice my astrophotography. I parked in the parking lot and took photos from farther away, as someone lives in the building in front of the lighthouse and I did not want to be intrusive.
I managed to take a few photos that night that I was pretty stoked on, and fell asleep in my car until just before sunrise. I woke up for sunrise and was accompanied by another photographer who had the same idea as I did. Together we shared the space around the lighthouse and courteously made sure we didn't disrupt one another's creative process. However, it was nice to have some early morning company, and we shared in conversation about our cameras and love for travel photography.
After the sun came up, I checked into a motel, took a quick nap, showered and ventured out on a charter whale watch from the town of Lubec. We saw minke whales, a right whale, several seals and plenty of porpoises. Such an incredible experience to explore the Bay of Fundy in Canadian waters, and all the more motivation to invest in a telephoto lens. I go on these incredible tours in incredible places and need to start bringing the right gear with me.
The next day, I drove even farther north to watch the aurora borealis, which was going to be active that evening. So north I went to Caribou, where I drove out into some fields and set up my camera. As I was situating my gear, a local drove by and suggested I take another side road to go even farther into the fields that surrounded me. So, with his assurance that I wouldn't be trespassing, I packed up, took another couple of dirt roads and found the perfect spot for photos. Some trees in the foreground with mostly open horizon. Even though my aurora photos aren't the greatest, I'm so excited to have finally seen the lights, and want to continue honing my skills in night sky photography.
Here are a few photos from the latest adventure:
I value always learning and growing, both personally and professionally. When it comes to my photography business, I'm excited to build on my existing knowledge and develop new skills to be able to better serve my clients. A few nights ago I took my first studio lighting class, and I couldn't be more excited with the results! I learned off-camera flash, which, moving forward, will enhance my creative eye in my outdoors photoshoots. Lighting is incredibly fun to manipulate, and the mood you are trying to convey through your image directly relates to the quality of light and the shadowing /effects you create. Soon I'll be investing in my own Flashpoint TTL/HSS lights, which will be perfect for when I'm guiding trips into the backcountry because they're battery operated and easy to transport.
So while this is a short blog post, I just wanted to offer some inspiration to keep learning and growing in whatever it is that you're most passionate about - whether it be a new hobby or professional endeavor. Don't stagnate, shake stuff up to become the best, continuously-evolving version of you that you can be. That's what I'm trying to do :) Thanks for reading!
I grew up in New England. I was born in Massachusetts, lived in both urban and rural areas in Western Mass, and then went to college in upstate New York. My first job after graduating was with the Air Force in Boston, where I stayed east coast until I was 26. While I did travel a little bit to visit the west coast - I'd been to Seattle while in college - I didn't really know what was out west until I did something pretty radical for me: I flew across the country to the North Cascades in Washington for a month-long mountaineering expedition with the National Outdoor Leadership School, and then immediately traveled south to California to thru-hike the John Muir Trail. Two epic adventures, back to back, had me hooked on the west. I went from glaciers to dusty hiking trails through Eastern Sierra forests and rock walls, and knew I needed to see more.
I acknowledge and accept that it was definitely a privilege to be able to afford those trips and take that much time off. I know that's not typical in today's economic climate, and I know there are many that could never even fathom being able to do something like that.
But here's where I want to encourage and inspire you to try anyways, even if you don't think you can. Even if it means having to quit and walk away from your current cubicle-confined penitentiary existence and eventually find a new job, which is a huge risk and absolutely terrifying (I know, I did it). Shake Stuff Up in your world. Life is just far too short to be spending - better yet, sacrificing - the best years of our lives slaving away at jobs we hate to take time off in the latter half of our existence, when we're tired and physically spent. This just doesn't make sense to me.
I want the coastal east to know there's just so much to see and explore out west - and in today's contentious political climate, these spaces aren't guaranteed. The fight over Bears Ears National Monument in Utah was heart-wrenching to follow. Despite the outdoors industry of Utah wanting to protect The National Monument, the state Government had other plans. Secretary Ryan Zinke of the Department of the Interior ignored public comment, ignored warnings from major outdoors industry business leaders, such as Patagonia and Outdoor Retailer, and pressed forward with partitioning the monument for private oil/gas lease permitting. Outdoor Retailer, the outdoors industry's premier bi-annual event showcasing all products in the market, and one of Salt Lake City's biggest sources of revenue, withdrew from Utah and moved to Denver.
Months of protest and anguish were to no avail - the monument was reduced, sold off for inevitable destruction, and all for what? Profit and greed. But growth and expansion, growth and expansion! That's how we measure success in a sick economy. While there are merits to capitalism - competition often does bring better value to the consumer - there are also it's drawbacks. Our planet's resources are finite, and once we realize the value of nature goes beyond a dollar, we'll already have destroyed it beyond repair.
This past year I spent a month backpacking through those very canyons that are now open to oil and gas drilling permits/leases. Our current administration reduced Bears Ears National Monument by more than 80% - and within its boundaries are Anasazi ruins aged over a thousand years, eroded red and black canyon walls that meander every which way, having been carved from steady running water and wind. Natural golden arches of wind-eroded stone curve into the sky above you, and fragile seashells from an ancient ocean can be found in the sand beneath your feet. Pinyon-juniper forests decorate mesa tops and provide refuge from the sun for the myriad of critters that call the canyons home. Pools of life-sustaining, red-dirt water can be found within the rock walls. And yet this is the best water you'll ever taste, rich with minerals and free from chemicals, purifiers and pollutants.
I want people to see them - to experience them - to fall in love with it all - before they're gone. I want people to fight for them. To value them enough to want them to be around for far longer than we ever will be.
I want to encourage you to come west. If you're any bit as restless and soul-searching as I have been, the wide open space away from anything and everything man-made and industrial is the mental refuge you need. And you just may fall in love with a place so unique, so incredible, that you are moved to take action in your life to help us protect it.
I want to first and foremost extend a HUGE thank you to the team at Movement Climbing and Fitness at their two Denver locations, Baker and RiNo. After reaching out and meeting their management, I've gotten the green-light to print and display my work at their rock climbing gyms!
I'm nervous because this is the first time I'll be displaying and trying to sell my art in physical locations. However, even if only 10 of the prints sell, that will pay for the cost of print production and I'm not at a huge loss. So here's to hoping at least 11 of the 22 prints I've ordered sell!
The images I've chosen are a few of my favorite landscape and climbing images. I'm excited to explore the outdoor climbing crags around Denver to add a local vibe to the gallery I've curated for Movement. And I think it would be fun to feature local climbers on the walls of the gym. I'll be printing a poster offering my photography services to anyone who plans on climbing outdoors and posting it alongside my canvases.
Below are the 11 images I've printed onto canvas for Movement Climbing & Fitness:
I'd love for you to stop by the gyms and let me know what you think! Thank you for your support!
Everyone that knows me well knows that I LOVE pizza. I was raised in a pizza loving family - my aunt and uncle owned Wicked Good Pizza at the base of Okemo Mountain in Vermont, and I have so many fond memories of that shop. That love for pizza carried with me - my first paid job in high school was at the local pizza place in town, Antonio's. I did a little bit of everything and was often sent home at the end of the night with way more pizza than I could manageably offer my friends and family.
There's no limit to the ways you can make pizza, and the backcountry is probably my favorite place to prep dough and make a kick-ass meal. Mainly because after hiking all day, you can indulge in as much pizza as you want, and everything tastes so much better when you're outdoors (FACT - I swear there's gotta be science behind this!).
I first made backcountry pizza on a National Outdoor Leadership School Mountaineering Expedition in the North Cascades, and my mind was BLOWN. Here I was, sitting on a rocky lateral moraine (BIG rock ridge separating glaciers!) high above the clouds in Washington's North Cascades National Park, making pizza from scratch. I felt like my life had truly come full circle - for the first time I was combining my love for being outside with my love for eating cheesy, hot doughy goodness.
And it didn't stop there - I mastered the art of backcountry dough-making and am excited to share with you my imperfect recipe (I don't measure anything...). But I can assure you, with practice, it will be great.
1-2 Active Yeast packets
Granulated white sugar
1 Egg (if you've got it, not required, will be fine without)
Olive oil (not required, but really good to have and use!)
SO MUCH CHEESE (really, can never have enough)
Pizza toppings (Your choice! Veggies, meat, pineapple - YES, I love pineapple on pizza)
Spices to make the sauce yummy (oregano, parsley, salt, pepper)
In a Nalgene bowl (have the lid handy) add 1-2 active yeast packets. Lightly cover the yeast with a layer of sugar (the weird yeast critters eat the sugar and ferment it).
Have warm water boiled/ready to go in another bowl. DO NOT add hot water to the yeast, as it will kill it. The water is ready to be added to the yeast when it passes the "5-second" pinky test. Place your pinky entirely submersed in the water, if you can leave it there for 5 full seconds, it's cool enough.
Pour enough water to cover the yeast and sugar, plus another two inches or so of water above that layer. Cover immediately with the lid. The yeast fermentation/sugar eating process is anaerobic, which means it doesn't need oxygen.
In your fry-bake (https://frybake.com), pour a bunch of flour. Like a lot of flour - if it's almost spilling out, that's probably good. The fry-bake is probably the single best item you can have in your backcountry cook kit. I love the lightweight alpine version. - it's deep enough to make liquidy stewy meals and on the smaller side so I can save on space and weight in my pack.
Check on your yeast experiment. If it's started to really foam up, that's awesome, you've done it right and you haven't killed your baby yeasts! The foam is done rising when the little bubbles on top have popped.
Add your foamy yeast to your flour - all of it. Start working the dough by hand. Add sugar to taste to your dough (I like mine a little sweeter). As you work the dough, slowly add more water. You don't want the dough to be sticky, so have more flour handy in case you add too much water.
Roll that baby into a dough ball! This actually is not as easy as it sounds - you gotta fold it back and forth in your hands and really work the dough. I don't know who this chef is personally, but here's a great, short video I found on how to roll the dough (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UulS_Ynz24).
Once your dough baby is made, I like to let it rise for a while. Put it in a plastic bag and tuck it under your shirt for a few hours, or sleep with it in your sleeping bag overnight (*DO NOT do this in bear country!).
Now that you've got your dough baby ready to be cooked, pour some oil into your fry-bake to get ready to bake it. To control the heat effectively, make what's called a "tower of power" with your aluminum wind screen. Put the aluminum around your whisperlite stove (http://tinyurl.com/y6egys3d), then fold the top inch down to make a raised platform for your fry-bake. This takes the pizza off the direct flame, helping you to not burn it and to cook it more slowly.
Stretch out your dough, place it in the hot fry-bake, and cover it! I like to flip my dough once the underside is golden-brown, so keep an eye on it as it cooks.
In another bowl, prep your sauce (nothing fancy, but it's good!). Add tomato paste, sugar to taste, oregano, salt, pepper and parsley flakes, and olive oil if you've brought it.
Prep your cheese and toppings! Either shred or slice your cheese fairly thing, both will work just fine.
Once you've flipped your dough, sauce that baby up! Add your cheese and toppings, then cover it again. Let it cook for a couple minutes. To expedite the cheese-melting process, flash-steam it. Carefully lift the fry-bake lid and pour a little bit of water next to your pizza, then cover it fast! The resulting steam will make it super hot in the frybake, and your cheese will melt more quickly. Do this a couple times if you need, but be careful not to overdo it or you'll make your dough wet and mushy.
Once you've deemed your creation ready to eat, take it off the heat, let it cool, and enjoy! Now you can impress your friends or hot date on your next camping trip.
Let me know how it goes in the comments, or if you have any questions!
Keep on the lookout! I'll have my own video up here soon that walks you through the entire process!
It's been a little while since my last post - I really need to schedule time to sit down and write regular updates on my business progression! Today was really productive, which has me feeling super hopeful and energetic. It all started with a chance encounter at a coffee shop yesterday, when a kind bearded fellow approached me and asked if the sweet off-road rig parked outside the shop was mine! He introduced himself to me as the member of an off-road wheeling club, Nissan Off Road Association of Colorado (NORAC) and gave me tons of information about joining (www.norac4x4.com). So I reached out to the club, talked to one of the founding members, Bill, and have become really hyped on their mission! They partner with the Forest Service in Colorado to maintain trails and give back to the community as well as host wheeling events. This is exactly the kind of organization I need to get involved with as an Off-Road guide! I'm excited to learn and grow in my own skills, that way I can better serve my future clients!
After talking to Bill I registered for GoneMOAB (www.gonemoab.com) one of the nation's largest Off-Road Gatherings, primarily comprised of Nissan enthusiasts (but all off-road rigs are welcome!). The first day of the event is an Off-Roading 101 clinic, which should be a ton of fun, and the rest of the days are group trail drives. I'm hoping to learn some self-rescue skills, vehicle maintenance and get in some great technical trail driving. Either way, unreal how a chance encounter can open so many doors! I'm really grateful to have been approached by that guy (thanks Roger!) and am looking forward to GoneMOAB!
And lastly, as a bonus, here's me on the hood of my off-road rig, Mad Max! She's a heavily modified 2005 Nissan Xterra (i.e. a never-ending money pit, but man do I love her). Book an off-roading trip with me and you get to enjoy a ride in this beauty!
Back from another successful road trip to the desert! For six days, my friend Kc and I drove from Denver to Durango, where we stopped at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mesa Verde National Park. We spent the night camped in San Juan National Forest, and fell asleep to the distant howl of wolves. Definitely not coyote either - Kc is an Alaskan and I've been around enough coyotes to know that sound was distinctly wolf. Pretty incredible.
We continued our trip to Monument Valley, Utah, where we watched the sun set over massive buttes/mesas. From there we decided to splurge and spend one night in a hotel. A good, hot shower and well-rested night of sleep later, we were ready to raid the continental breakfast and hit the road. We made it to Moab by early afternoon, did a little grocery shopping and then ventured up to the outskirts of Canyonlands for some off-roading and exploring in the high desert.
Kc's friend Dalton was out high-lining across Mineral Canyon, which is where we all hung out and spent the night. Some of Dalton's friends spun fire, which was an incredible show to watch once the sun set. Even though it was a full moon and there was cloud cover, we were treated to a very bright Orion the Hunter. I was able to snag a few nice photos of the constellation before the clouds covered him. I woke up to a steady rain in the morning, which was relaxing to listen to on the windows of my truck. And rain in the desert means the spring wildflowers are going to be incredible. I can't wait to go back in a few weeks and see how things have bloomed.
Overall, a couple of fulfilling days of rock scrambling, cave-exploring and red-dirt wandering was what I needed for some time to disconnect and reenergize. I only wish I could have stayed longer. Until next time, Utah.
Woot! Now that I've officially announced the launch of my start-up Off-Road Guiding and Photography Adventures business, I've decided to share my journey with financing a start-up. In addition to my savings, I've decided to leverage my custom travel trailer to raise funds to purchase gear for the business. On Facebook and Instagram I've started selling raffle tickets for someone to WIN my travel trailer. CRAZY, I KNOW. But selling it outright is proving to take longer than I'd like, and by distributing the fundraising across many people, it alleviates risk and offers a fun incentive to support a start-up! My goal is to raise $14,000 by 8/31/19, and I've promised that if I don't raise a sufficient amount of money by that deadline, all raffle ticket purchases will be refunded. So far, it's been very positively received, shared, and even a few tickets have been purchased!
My goal is to link up with an organization or festival to host the raffle in person somewhere, that way people can view it, touch it, admire it - and hopefully fall in love with it!
So I'll keep publicizing it and putting the word out there. When you've got a goal, a little creativity goes a long way! So if you haven't already, please check out my personal Instagram page @shakestuffup73 for details on the trailer raffle! Thank you for your support!
After spending six years in the Air Force, I decided I needed a radical change. I was working in a corporate environment, and I never felt like I truly belonged. The environment was oppressive and stagnant, here we were, day in and day out, in all these little boxes (*cue Weeds theme song). Life in a cubicle just felt so wrong. And there's something about that environment that tends to bring out the worst in people. Gossip, judgment, social game-playing, you name it.
Honestly, I think living an indoors lifestyle for that prolonged period of time just completely devalues and ignores our humanity. Humans were never meant to sit behind a computer screen, day in day out. It's enough to make anyone apathetic, depressed or insane. And I as I felt myself falling down a dark rabbit hole, I knew I needed to escape. I spent my weekends venturing to the mountains and desert to seek rejuvenation. However, instead of feeling energized, I dreaded Mondays. It became harder and harder to drag myself into the office and pretend I cared about the corporate world around me. Being in the backcountry every chance I had fueled my fire to change my status quo - it put into perspective what I actually valued and wanted for my own life. I valued freedom, creativity, independence and wild places. I decided I needed to pursue those things relentlessly.
While I'm grateful for the time spent and experiences I've had in the military, I decided to venture into the unknown and live a life more congruent with my values.
So here I am, launching my own photography and guiding business. While it may not prove to be lucrative, that's not what's driving me. I am passionate about living a life that is authentic to who I am as a person. I hope to inspire others to do the same, because the world needs more people who have come alive. So if you fear change, remember that without risk there is no reward. Get out there, Shake Stuff Up, and pursue your own journey toward happiness. Life is far too short to be anything but.
Thanks for reading! I'm Amanda, a 29 year old Professional Photographer, avid adventurer, and loyal human to my dog, Libby. This is a collection of the stories behind my work and the lessons I've learned along the way.