Master of the Instant

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French photographer who has inspired many with his work and writings, was a master when it came to the candid moments, something inherent to outdoor imagery. “For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity. The master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of the mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.”

As a photographer working to promote outdoor recreation, I have spent countless hours capturing the uniqueness of many places on public lands with a goal to lure people outside. There’s a certain kind of electricity that pulses through me when I’ve captured the essence of what it’s like to ride at a particular location. I want others to look at these photographs and feel like they know what it’s like to be there or want to go there themselves. I want them to take that inspiration, look at a map, plan a trip, get in a car or hop on a plane, put their feet on the pedals, and make their own first-hand account of the place they saw in the photo.

I hope these images inspire future generations of outdoor-enthusiasts and conservationists. I have concerns about the possibility that younger and future generations aren’t being compelled to get outside. It’s for them that I hope my work is “giving meaning” to the world. I hope others feel the electricity of the outdoors – the pull to get out and pedal on singletrack, walk up mountains, climb to the sky, and paddle raging rivers. In the future, they will be asked to make decisions about outdoor opportunities on public lands. That connection will help them understand what they will be asked to protect and why it’s important.

Leslie Kehmeier is the former Mapping Manager for the International Mountain Biking Association. More of her outdoor adventure and travel photography can be found at

The Inception

I was born in 1963, only four years after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. I had grown up during a time when Castro and Cuba were portrayed in the United States as godless communists and our adversaries. When travel restrictions to Cuba began to ease about a year and half ago, the thought of visiting Cuba jumped up on the list of places to explore. It seemed important to see first-hand what had been kept off limits for so long. I was curious to meet and visit with the people of Cuba as well as see the land, architecture, and certainly the cars before changes came as a result of the certainly imminent lifting of the embargo.

In early December of 2015, facing several more months of cold weather bike riding, I started thinking about where I could go for a few days of warm weather riding and explore some place new. Cuba was the obvious choice. I figured I could take a week off without getting into too much trouble with the family and work, so the first thought was to bike around the island. That was my first under-estimation of Cuba. The island is almost 800 miles long which is almost double the length of Florida. I figured on averaging 120 miles per day, so clearly I was not going to circumnavigate the island in my limited time frame. So, plan B was to ride as far as possible for 8 days.

Needing a partner in crime, Cooper Lambla was also the obvious choice. A strong rider, Cooper is even better suited for this trip because he loves the unknown and his Spanish is impeccable (only half that statement is true). Cooper jumped in immediately, and we then talked another co-worker into the idea, and soon Adam Bratton was on board. Adam was also a strong rider with the best trait of a travel partner: the willingness to say yes to anything.

Our thought was to travel in as minimal of a fashion as possible. We settled on just bike packs to carry a pair of shorts and shirt, bike tools, spare parts, and money. We wore a bike kit and bike shoes with recessed cleats so we could walk in them as well. I was able to get by on a half size frame bag, but Cooper was carrying camera equipment, so he had a little larger set up with seat and handlebar bags. Adam had a seat bag.

The rest is history, and perma-grin is still lingering three months later.

Jeff Wise is the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Uncomfortable Comfort

I’m a planner, an organizer, and admittedly, a control freak. I’ve developed my personal life and built my professional career out of knowing and understanding that attention to the sum of small details typically leads to positive outcomes. ”What can I do now that will make things more efficient and easier down the road?” is my daily thought process.

When the opportunity to ride bikes across the unknown of Cuba with a few co-workers presented itself, everything I’ve known and have been comfortable with for 33 years was thrown straight out of the window.

But wait, where are we going to stay? How are we going to communicate with the locals? What if all hell breaks loose and we find ourselves in a less than desirable situation? Can I even ride 800+ miles in a week? Thought after thought gave me anxiety. Not knowing if we would secure our visas within a week of the trip gave me anxiety. A first-time pregnant wife that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with gave me anxiety. What was I doing? “Stay in your comfort zone, you idiot!”

But deep down, that is fundamentally not what life is about. A true life experience had just presented itself, and I had to take advantage. It was an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and simply let each and every moment dictate the next move. The initial discomfort of the unknown was quickly displaced with the fascination of new experiences, heightened emotions, increased appreciation for others, and a greater sense of the world around all of us.

Adam Bratton is the Sponsorship & Events Manager at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

An Evening’s Excursion

The process was not uncommon. In fact, it had happened in a very similar fashion in nearly every town we had spent the night. You would ride in around sunset and start asking around for a ‘casa particular’. (Casa peticulars are basically Cuba’s version of Airbnb, pre-internet.) The first person you’d talk to would typically either know someone who had a room that would fit the team, or would walk you around and through the entire village, town, or city until they found you a room you could stay in.

On this particular night, we had ventured down a side road into a town that was not on the map. Tall, jungle-clad limestone cliffs encircled the village in a wild mystique. Our helper walked us across the entire town until we ended up around the side of a modest, concrete-sided home. He began shouting into the bathroom window of the house and held a conversation with what we could only assume to be the homeowner for about five or ten minutes until a face appeared, fresh out of the shower.

Through extremely elementary Spanish, we understood there were caves nearby, and the owner of the home was a caving guide. When he asked if we were interested in going to check them out, there didn’t seem to be much of a question.

Now I’m no caving expert, nor is my Spanish strong enough to be able to ask the right questions before entering what he called the second largest cave in Latin America (highly debatable), but there was something about the process that simply threw up a few warning signs.

Maybe it was the man carrying only a draw string backpack leading us away from our newly found home for the night, or perhaps it was the baseball field we rode through to arrive at a house in the outfield they insisted we leave our bicycles at, or perhaps it was the thin log bridge and pastures we walked through to get to the cave entrance. It could have been the small, camping style, extremely dim headlamps (not the big, bright caving ones that are used in more professional caving settings) they pulled out as we entered the cave, or the cycling shoes, bibs, and jerseys we were now wearing as caving attire.

Our experiences with almost every Cuban stranger, community, or family told us that despite all the red flags, these guys could be trusted. It was yet another example of the most honest, authentic, and genuinely hospitable interaction you could imagine.

Cooper Lambla is the Brand Development Coordinator at the U.S. National Whitewater Center and curator of EXPLORE.


Everyone takes something different away from any experience. For me, the three best parts of Cuba are the people, architecture, and cars. Across the board, we experienced some of the most welcoming and charming people I have ever encountered. There is a warmth and happiness that I have not experienced elsewhere. We were embraced enthusiastically everywhere we went. They are proud of their country, and they want you to see and experience it. They are also the most resourceful people I have ever seen. The U.S. embargo has caused significant hardship in access to many day to day items, but they have developed a culture that knows how to reuse and maintain everything. This has created an ethos that values what they have and not what they want. The focus is on sharing what one has and seeing your brother as one you help. In turn, he is committed to helping you.

The entire island looks like it was frozen in time since Castro took over in 1959. This is not an overstatement. The buildings reflect the assortment of styles from the various colonial influences ranging from the Moorish and Baroque, to the Soviet influenced periods. These are beautiful buildings creating beautiful cities and towns. There is a sadness felt as a result of the crumbling and decay, but the increasing private ownership allowed is prompting more investment in the restoration and upkeep. The outside often belies amazing interiors that offer 14 foot tall hardwood doors, intricate tile work, and detailed ceilings. Everywhere we rode, the buildings and the infrastructure was simply breathtaking (think Charleston, SC, but thousands of times more extensive).

Lastly, the cars. Oh the cars. You will get tendinitis if you try to point out every vintage vehicle you see. The minute we walked out of the airport in Santiago, we saw lines of old Chevys, Pontiacs, Plymouths , and every type of car made during Detroit’s glory years. There are Ladas from the USSR. There really are as many old classics as you are lead to believe. They have very few stock components, and most have bondo and bailing wire holding them together. The best part is everyone in Cuba knows how to fix their cars. They have to because they break down in the middle of the road all the time. In true Cuba spirit, everyone jumps out to help, and it is very common to see two or three people disappearing into the hood of a broken down classic in the middle of the road.

Jeff Wise is the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. National Whitewater Center

A Year in the Wilderness

Sometimes, a place becomes a part of you. For me, that process began more than 20 years ago as a 7th grader, gazing across the glassy surface of a wilderness lake, listening to the haunting call of a loon on my first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I felt like we had paddled to the end of the earth on Alton Lake. Now, after years spent exploring the intricate maze of lakes and rivers that form it, this million-acre wilderness feels like home. My wife and I have been introducing people to this place for more than a decade. Plying its waters by canoe in the summer, and harnessing sled dogs or clipping into cross country skis once it’s blanketed in snow.

The Wilderness continues to teach us, and over time, our lives have become more deeply entwined with the Wilderness. Our way of life is  deeply rooted in this place. Several years ago, we heard rumblings about a sulfide-ore copper mine that was being proposed along the southern edge of our nation’s most popular Wilderness. The more we learned, the more concerned we became. Pollution from the mines would flow directly into the Wilderness and would turn the edge of it into a vast industrial mining zone.

We have come to realize that blisters and cold fingers are not the only price we must pay for the lifetime of knowledge and memories we’ve gleaned from the wild. Generations before us have fought to protect our public lands, and we are benefiting from the fruit of all their efforts. Experiencing the outdoors is not enough; we must speak loudly for quiet places like the Boundary Waters so that they will be preserved for future generations, and we must introduce new people of all ages and walks of life to the forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains so that they will hear the singing Wilderness and continue to amplify its call.

My wife and I have spent the last 118 days bearing witness to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was -26F when we woke up in our tent this morning, and we are almost a third of the way through our year in the Wilderness.

You can learn more Dave and Amy Freeman’s journey and follow along at and To follow their social handles, check out @freemanexplore and @savetheBWCA.

Wizards Eye

The Red Island of Madagascar materializes out of a clear blue horizon, steadily growing into existence. Its silhouette framed against a night sky as a full moon rises over the island. The ocean, now sheltered by the jutting mass of land, has gone from an onslaught of white capping waves to a glasslike plane. The Wizard’s Eye breaks free, running with the current pushing 8 knots and hurtling us towards another great adventure. I have crossed thousands of miles of ocean and half the planet to finally arrive at a place I have been before; a place with rivers raging from the mountains, a place still rich with exploration, rawness, realness, a place of thick African nights, wood smoke, and dense forests – Madagascar. My dream is being realized as a team of friends – Benjamin Hjort, Isaac Levinson, Taylor Smallwood – and I sail into Africa.

The Wizard’s Eye Expedition is a test for me. The proving grounds of my theory that for any dream to come into existence simply requires one ingredient: action. Throughout my life, I have come against obstacles, created challenges, staged expeditions, and generally have strived to open my mind to all kinds of dreams. I’ve worked hard to bring everything I dream to reality, accomplishing this to a large extent. Not by fortune, but by force of will. Finally, after paddling the tallest waterfall attempted, I had climbed my personal mountain. I accomplished my childhood dream, not of the world record descent, but allowing myself the opportunity to pursue my dream of living life one river to the next. I had succeeded.

My dream had become reality and was a dream no longer. I began asking myself questions: What now? What next? What is it that I truly desire? This of course led to the question: What is the ultimate adventure? What is an expedition so wild that it will bring me to the very edge of my ability? The answer I found was to sail the planet, seeking out and exploring every land I encounter by means of adventure sport, diversifying my experiences and pushing myself far away from my comfort zone. My journey would stage expeditions big and small and create a medium for continuous documentation and storytelling. With a boat, I knew I would have the ability to put at my disposal an array of tools by which to explore, document, and attempt the largest scale adventure sport expedition I could imagine. However, dreaming is just the beginning. Then stems a journey to find the path, which coalesces imagination into existence.

Tyler Bradt holds the current world record for tallest waterfall ever descended in a kayak. For more on his Wizards Eye Expedition, visit

Benjamin Hjort is a Norwegian adventure photographer who has traveled the globe in search of powder and whitewater. For more of his images check out

Art as a Lens

My work stems mainly from the beauty and detail found in nature, which is my greatest joy and inspiration. Having grown up in Utah, I was exposed early and often to four distinct seasons, and a myriad of vastly different landscapes from alpine lakes, to desert expanses, to alien boulder fields and salt flats. The outdoors play a constant and tugging role in my life, and consequently, the content of my work has a focus on botany, wildlife, and landscape. Natural elements intrigue and call out to me. Longing to live outside as much as possible, I have done my best to arrange my life to allow for this. Recently, I began painting with watercolors directly onto maps. This has become an expanding part of my portfolio, as my mind rarely deviates from the subject of travel. The road is where I feel most at home. Some key tools for the outdoor lifestyle, such as headlamps and tents, have lately edged their way in between all the birds, beasts, and flowers. I aim for my imagery to also speak of spirit and dreams, whether personal or collective in the realm of myth, folklore, philosophy, psychology, and mysticism. I use art as a lens through which to explore my varied interests, and I am always working to develop a visual language that translates what I learn onto paper.

Hallie Rose Taylor is an Austin, TX based artist working mainly in watercolor, gouache, and ink. For more of her work, check out

Chin Deep in Japan

Japan is every skier’s dream. From waking each morning to find that the mountains have been completely refreshed by constant storms blowing in from Siberia, to experiencing a level of hospitality that makes you want to be a better person. The Land of the Rising Sun is a skier’s paradise.

On our first trip to Hokkaido a couple years ago, we learned that the Japanese do après a little differently. Most nights, you could hear crickets at even the biggest ski areas after a day in the mountains. Any lively izakaya (small Japanese bar) is most likely packed with Aussies, well into their pints and raucous conversation. If you look around the bar, you won’t see many locals. They’re all getting their soak on, chin deep in their favorite onsen.

The onsen of Japan are more of a public bath house, or an indoor hot pool buried deep in a lodge or hotel. There are some outdoor onsen (roten-buro) and even what they call ‘wild’ onsen, which are more like the rock-enclosed pools we’re used to finding in the wilds of the American West. Different onsen are known for a variety of healing properties, taking care of aches, pains, and infertility.

Matt & Agnes Hage make their home in Anchorage, Alaska and shoot pictures for a variety of outdoor brands world-wide. They look for any excuse to work hot springs and cold beer into their assignments. Check them out at


There are few places left in the world which are truly wild. Where vast expanses of unexplored land lay wild, still occupied and ruled by the flora and fauna that call it home. When we think of these sorts of lands, these far-off corners of our uber-connected modern world, our minds typically drift to mythical mountain ranges, remote desert oasis, deep gorges, and canyons tucked away in the world’s largest mountains. You don’t usually think of anywhere in eastern North America.

But if you start driving north, up through the United States and into Canada…up past Quebec City and take a ferry to a far corner of the continent where paved roads are still just beginning to make an appearance. If you keep driving, you will eventually reach the end of the road. At this stage, you would be in Labrador.

The region’s vast wilderness and plentiful caribou, deer, and small game populations, along with an abundance of coastal wildlife such as seal, whale, walrus, and fish were the perfect environment for the indigenous peoples of the Innu and Inuit. Basque whalers were next to follow, and started the influx of western cultures. Moravian missionaries began to set up communities along the inhospitable coastline of the region, establishing the region enough for British fishermen to arrive.

Today, the region’s natural resources are still the main draw for the few workers of the region (in 2015, Labrador’s unemployment rate was over double the Canadian average). From the iron-ore mines of the interior, to the rapidly expanding production of hydroelectric power harnessed from the Churchill River, it would seem that the fruits of nature are the only thing keeping Labrador’s economic heartbeat alive.

Those same natural resources that some see in the name of economic benefit are also what prompted a group of five kayakers to make the drive north to this wildly untouched wilderness, in search of unexplored rivers.