Fear

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I must have close to a dozen different versions of this blog post in varying stages of progress, but none of them felt quite right. I wanted to write about the balance required to pursue passion while avoiding burning out, but I couldn't seem to express those thoughts succinctly enough.  It's been six months since I last published anything new - the longest hiatus from photography I've taken since burning out after college - and I could feel my ego putting pressure on myself to make this return to my personal pursuits impressive and worthwhile.

That was the point in which I realized I was no longer making work out of passion, but out of fear. Fear is one of the strongest motivators in my life; fear of not being good enough, fear of letting people down, fear of seeming unintelligent or fear of being weak are just a few of the main themes I struggle against. Fear can sometimes be a great motivator. It’s pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself for the better at times, but it's not necessarily a healthy way to approach life or one's mental well-being. Over the past year I've been working on letting some of that harmful ego go and being more kind to myself, but I still have a long way to go. It's not easy to reverse 25 years of learned behavior, especially when fear based motivation has helped me accomplish some pretty great things despite its toxic nature.

For as long as I can remember, photography has always been my greatest passion. Throughout the various other activities that have come and gone throughout my life photography has always remained a constant – it's a way for me to better enhance the experiences of my other passions like climbing and snowboarding. But at some point over these past few months something shifted, and what once used to drive me now felt draining.

At first I thought I was burning out due to the creative nature of my career. After all, who would want to spend their free hours processing images in Photoshop after already spending a full day working in Adobe's Creative Suite? I distracted myself with climbing training and yoga and told myself I was working on finding the proper work/life balance I needed to not burn out once again. I thought I was striving to find that healthy medium when in reality I was using these activities as a way to avoid the anxiety I felt about my future as a creative professional.

Over the past few months I had begun to feel that the path I laid out for myself was playing it too safe and that I wanted more for myself, but I was unsure of what that would mean and was too afraid to find out. I didn't want to ask if I had what it would take to follow that passion for fear that the answer would be, “No.” After a lot of reflection I finally had to admit to myself that what I wanted more than anything was to pursue a career in adventure media, but by naming that I had given myself a goal I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. Up until this point the risks I had taken in my life had always been carefully calculated so as not to face my biggest fear, that I was never enough and that I didn’t have what it would take.

Which brings me back to this particular blog post. It has taken me over a month to publish these photos from a great weekend of climbing with friends at Tramway. No matter how hard I tried to motivate myself I couldn't bring myself to finish editing these photos, and the longer it took the more anxious I became. Phrases like "these photos aren't good enough for how long you've had to work on them" and "how are these any different or better than your previous work? you're not improving" kept circling my head and crippling my creative process. Somewhere in the course of post processing I had linked publishing these photos with publishing my goal, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to admit that to anyone yet, including myself.

I don’t truly know if I have enough talent, strength, and everything else that it requires to achieve my ambitions, but I will always remain afraid if I don’t try and find out. Regardless if I succeed or fail, at least I will grow. 

The Happies & The Sads

I'm sitting alone on my living room couch writing this post on my most recent Bishop trip and I'm having a hard time deciding what to say. Normally I would want to keep my posts short and light since writing my thoughts out is a level of vulnerability that makes me cringe, but a conversation I had on the way back from Bishop about false positivity and the use of media as a highlight reel has me compelled to be a little more open. 

This time last week I was basking in the chilly February sunshine on top of the rocks of the Sad Boulders, surrounded by good company and doing two of the things I love most, climbing and photographing. The juxtaposition is pretty stark when comparing that moment of simple happiness to me sitting in my empty house right now as the rain pounds away outside. Last weekend felt like a breath of fresh air, not just because I was outside in one of my favorite places, but because I was sharing a place that is special to me with new companions and old friends. 

Overall, it was a good trip. The constant cloud cover threatened to open up on us at any moment, but with the exception of a brief drizzle on Saturday afternoon, the weather was on our side and we were able to make the most of that first day of climbing at the Happy Boulders. I have a few projects in that area, but since I haven't been training lately I had already accepted that I most likely wasn't going to send any of them. As someone who struggles with unrealistically high expectations and perfectionism it's hard not to feel discouraged when you're not even reaching your previous high points on projects, but I was determined not to let that prevent me from enjoying my time there. Even though I didn't send anything except my warmups, it was still extremely satisfying to cheer on my friends as they made their way to the top of several classics like the Weekender, Serengeti, Bleached Bones, and Ketron Classic. As we sat around the campfire singing along to the ukulele later that night, I watched the full moon rise through the clouds and I committed that moment to memory.  

The following morning we were all hoping to make our way out to the Buttermilks, but the road wasn't open so we opted to climb at the Sad Boulders instead. I was slightly dissapointed since the conditions were fantastic and I had been looking forward to climbing again in that iconic wonderland of granite for the past few weeks, but I'd never climbed in the Sads before and experiencing new places always makes me excited and energized.  After making our way up the winding dirt road with Great Basin Bakery in our bellies and bluegrass pouring from the stereo, we arrived at the boulders and had the place almost all to ourselves. I spent the day exploring the canyon, bouldering, photographing, but mostly napping in the wonderful sunshine. We had to leave around 3 to make in back to San Diego that night, but I look forward to returning to the Sad Boulders in the future. I usually dread the return drive back to San Diego and my regular routine, but this time the miles on the 395 seemed to fly by with open and engaging conversation. Before I knew it I was back to where I started.  

It's only been one quick and busy week since Bishop, and as I reflect on the trip one phrase keeps surfacing in my overthinking mind,  'this too shall pass.' Religious connotations aside, it reminds me that just like the happy moments from last weekend have gone, so will these difficult feelings of today. 

The Last Paris Post

Has it really been almost two months since I was in France? I've been meaning to get this film developed, but life kept getting in the way. I packed two rolls of 35mm film with me before I left, and wish I had more photos to show for it, but my trusty old ae1 decided it would only work sporadically throughout the trip. When I have more time and a little extra money I'll take that in to get fixed too. 

Here are my top 9 photos from what was developed. The first four are from our voyage to Versailles, the following four are from Paris, and the last photo is a digital shot I snuck in since it's a personal favorite from my last night in my favorite city. 

Preseason

It's preseason in the Buttermilks, but that doesn't mean you can't still touch some rocks. There's no iconic snow capping the Sierras, but the sunrises will blow your mind.

Week Deux: Fontainebleau

I've never been a believer in love at first sight. Even as a kid I knew that sort of wishful l thinking only existed in fairytales and bad romantic comedies. However, love at first sight is the only way I can describe my experience climbing in Fontainebleau. Climbing the sloping sandstone of Font has always been a dream of mine, and I couldn't shake the feeling that the stone wouldn’t live up to the high expectations I had unintentionally built up in my head. Instead, boulder strewn forest was everything I could have wanted and then some, as if it was created just for me. The only thing more I could have asked for was more time there with all my new friends, four days was definitely not enough to explore all Fontainebleau has to offer. 

Thank you to the US Adaptive Team for taking me and welcoming me to the family, René-Paul Eustache for being the most amazing host and guide, Pierre Boisson for putting a beautiful roof over our many heads, Ronnie, Mo, and Brian for all the rides, and everyone for making the trip as fun and unforgettable as possible! Au Revior! 


(I have more photos of everyone, but do to the amount of editing for each picture I couldn't post process them all!  I'm off to Yosemite for the weekend, but I'll share a link to all the photos when I get back!)

Week 1: IFSC Climbing World Championships

Sean Bailey high up on R2 during Men's Lead Qualifiers

It's currently 1:00 in the morning here in Paris, making it my official last full day here. My two week trip is coming to an end and as happy as I am to see all of your smiling faces again,  I wish I could stay here forever. This trip has been a whirlwind of competition and climbing while trying to squeeze in a little photo editing and as many macarons as possible.

This particular post is a short one about the first week of my trip which was spent "coaching" (according to my badge), photographing, and cheering on my friends Jillian, Sean, Sierra, and a bunch of new friends from paraclimbing who were all competing for the US Team in the IFSC Climbing World Championships in Paris, France.

Our story begins with Jill coming back from Paraclimbing Nationals with a first place medal and an invitation to Worlds. I had previous plans to use my vacation days for a road trip through Colorado with my dog, but as all of us who are friends with Jillian know, her excitement is contagious and she soon convinced me to join her in France instead. Flights were low and Airbnbs were plenty, so with my passport in hand and crème brûlée on my mind I said au revoir to my loved ones and email inbox. After a small miscommunication with Amtrak and a hasty rescue from the ever amazing Alexis Diller, Jillian and I found ourselves at LAX ready and eager for the rest of the adventures that lay ahead. One long nap and new friend later (I hope Portugal is treating you well Leah!) we were walking down a street full of strip clubs trying to find our hostel. The hostel ended up being quirky and cute with a short walk to Notre Dame and my favorite gelato stand. We spent our first two days walking around the city and visiting the gardens of Versailles while adjusting to the time zone. 


Jillian's first round of qualifiers for Paraclimbing was on Wednesday, where she kicked some serious ass and climbed her way into fourth place. On Thursday I ran around the stadium nonstop in order to catch Jillian's second round of qualifiers as well as Sean's qualifiers in Lead and Sierra's qualifiers in Bouldering. Jillian scored high enough to land a spot in finals the following day where she secured the fourth place spot in the Women's RP3 category. Ronnie Dickson also placed fourth in the AL2 category in his final World Cup competition. Maureen Beck took home gold with a first place victory in AU2 and Connor King finished with a sweet third place finish in RP1. Climbing competitions here in Europe are way bigger than anything I've ever witnessed in the US and it was a PSYCHED crowed that packed the AccorHotels Arena for finals on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 

Since Jill will be writing her own extensive blog about competing I'll leave the post here for now. To see more photos from behind the scenes of the first day of the paraclimbing you can click here. Stay tuned for another blog about week deux in Fontainebleau to be followed by a post full of film from around the city.

It's now 2:30 am and I need to get to bed. Good Night! 

The Beginning: Behind the Scenes of IFSC Paraclimbing

Bonjour mon amies,

Today marks the end of the first day of qualifiers for Paraclimbing, Women's Lead, and Men's bouldering in the IFSC World Championship here in Paris, France. Jillian kicked some serious ass this morning and is heading into round two of qualifiers tomorrow in 4th place and only one point behind 1st place. Sean will have his first day of climbing tomorrow in Men's Lead and Sierra will have her first day as well in Women's Bouldering.

It's midnight here in Paris and I've spent most of the day photographing and then sorting and editing so I don't have the energy to say much right now. Instead I'm going to do a larger post summarizing the whole event with all the climbing photographs. I couldn't resist uploading my favorite non-climbing moments from the day before heading to bed though.

Please note, none of these photos have been posed or otherwise directed. Today I focused on trying to capture the athletes in authentic moments of preparation and focus

Profiter et bonne nuit.