Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yellowstone Magic

Just a few short days ago, four In a New Light artists returned from a two-week photography expedition to Yellowstone National Park. The experience is still resonating in the deepest part of our souls, a shadowy place not easily expressed through language. I’m grateful that photos accompany the end of this post, because an experience this powerful can be adequately communicated only through art.

Yellowstone was an adventure. Most of our time was spent traversing the backcountry, with a few short forays into the front country, battling crowds to see some of the iconic sights. But the serene backcountry was home for us. It was a place of morning swims in snowmelt streams, bison crankily sauntering through camp, adrenaline rush climbs to snowy peaks, fresh grizzly tracks in the dust, brook trout on the fly, 50-mile views to far off mountain ranges, backdrops of rising thermal steam, CGI sunsets, hailstorms weathered with terrified glee, and, of course, once-in-a-lifetime photographic magic. It seemed that every moment was a moment of discovery in this exotic land, such a far cry from our North Woods training grounds on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

However, for Chris, Willie, Victor, and Jesse, the deepest discoveries were not of the land, but of themselves. For these two weeks, Yellowstone became a stage where four young men redefined themselves. They discovered new physical and emotional strength, new meaning to the word “team”, and new mastery of artistic expression. The experience of Yellowstone’s powerful yet benevolent spirit will surely stay with the boys forever.

The In a New Light Yellowstone expedition was possible only through the incredibly kind assistance of many groups and individuals in addition to the National Park Foundation, who provided the primary funding for the project. Yellowstone National Park Rangers Beth Taylor and Ivan Kowski provided critical trip planning and logistical support. Interstate Batteries donated over $1500 of still and video camera batteries. For two weeks we never had to re-charge! The team at Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone gave critical fishing advice and support. Woody Wimberly of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway provided important trip planning advice. TenkaraUSA gave us major discounts on fishing rods. (Stay tuned for a blog post about Tenkara fishing). Jeff Butler provided free fly fishing lessons to the boys. Finally, Jason Greatsinger and Christy Ammend served as not only awesome co-leaders of this expedition, but also captured countless hours breathtaking video that will become part of a feature-length documentary about In a New Light in the coming year.  Thank you so much, everyone. 

-Ben Thwaits, Project Leader

Willie, Chris, Jessie, and Jason team up for some video. 

Victor and Jessie rest after a snowball fight. 

Jessie celebrates the breathtaking view.

Victor shows off the catch of the day. 

The Hill
by Victor, 14

This picture reminds me that there are hills in life.  You're always going to struggle on your way up, but when you get there, it's always worth it.  You get rewarded with great views.  And no matter how high you climb, there are always more hills waiting for you. 

The Waterfall
by Jessie, 16

The water is pouring
My spirit is soaring
I see my aunties tears rushing down
She wants me to be around
But I do my own thing
Been away too long
Now I can't open the door

Sunrise Through Burned Trees 
by Willie, 13

I took this picture because my mom loves sunrises and she asked me to get a picture of a sunrise in Yellowstone.  

River Never Seen
by Chris, 17

Swiftly flowing before blind eyes
The ocean is my silent prize
I race and race as fast as I can
Stopping isn't in my plan
By day I'm cold and plain as ever
At night I'm rarely seen if ever
I have a side that few have seen
as complex as my water is clean
I deal with things you've never been through
You're brave to even wear my shoe
One step in mine is terrifying
But never worth quitting trying.
Challenges I'm sure to face
For these I pray and quitely brace
But no apprehension crosses my mind
Not once or twice or at any time
It all works out ever second every day
Over and over the events will play
But ss hard as it gets I won't leave . . . I'll stay. 

Sad Bison
by Victor, 15

Sunset Singing
by Jessie, 16

Heart of Thorns
by Chris, 17

The Crew.  Good luck guys!  We'll miss you!