November 27, 2016

Behind the Shot with Forest Woodward: Going Home

Climbing, skiing, and mountain photography with adventurer Forest Woodward. These are the moments that matter and make him feel alive. Read more.

I take a lot of pictures of people doing really hard things. Adventurers at their physical and mental limits, often in remote and unforgiving environments. Athletes hacking their way up giant icicles with axes, clinging to overhanging rock outcroppings by the tips of their fingers, scaling glaciated mountains, jumping off cliffs and out of airplanes, hucking kayaks over waterfalls.

These people are in their element, doing what it is that makes them feel most alive.

Yet, it’s the moment after these adrenaline-filled, high-athleticism endeavors that matters most. At least to me.

It’s the moment at the end of the day, when the muscles finally relax, the adrenaline subsides, and my chest draws that first relaxed breath in hours. My mind reels in its attention. I’m no longer figuring out how I’m going to survive. I’m thinking about warmth, comfort, and filling my empty stomach with delicious food. Yes, it is this moment that surely matters most.

ice climber photo by Forest Woodward

For me, this shot sums up that feeling.We had spent the day climbing and photographing on a massive ice feature tucked at the back of a canyon outside Canmore. We had skied, then hiked, then climbed, then finally really climbed to get there, ending our day atop an improbably steep line of frozen water as we watched another storm roll in.

Ascending a line fixed by our friend Jon Walsh, I was able to snap shots of Graham Zimmerman and Sarah Hueniken as they swapped leads on the towering pillar of blue-green ice. Though my half-frozen and fully bundled hands with my camera controls, I managed to snap a couple frames that did some justice to their athleticism and the absolute beauty of the climb.

Hurried high fives at the top of the frozen pillar and a couple of rappels brought us back down into the canyon, just as the weather moved in, swirling spindrift that found every bit of exposed skin. We didn’t talk much, our focus set on moving back to the warmth and comfort. As we scrambled down the steep, icy terrain I looked ahead to see Graham at the end of the last rappel, snapping this frame.

I knew he was thinking of cheeseburgers.

Our journey almost over, my mind was also fixated on the evening to come. Trudging through the last bits of deep snow to the road, thick flakes stinging my cheeks, I held to the promise of piles of poutine and whiskey neats under dim lights, wrapped warm and huddled close, thankful for safety, friends, and another day well spent in the mountains.

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