By Paul Hoelen
As of a month or so ago, I can now claim to have white water kayaked, pack-rafted, rubber-duckied, swum, canyoneered, free climbed, camped, white water rafted and photographed the full length of one of the greatest geological features on this Earth – the mighty Grand Canyon in the USA. We took 23 days to travel 220 miles down what is likely one of the most sought after wilderness journeys in the world, and I now know why! Up until recently there was a 22 year waiting list to get a permit for a private trip, so when I received an invite by a close friend in the States, the ink was already drying before he finished asking me – the opportunity of a lifetime, time to drop everything and go!
I came out with a number of obscure looking bruises, layers of fine sand in every place you could possibly imagine (and some you likely wouldn’t want to), a significantly bigger muscle bulk, one less camera and flash, an almost religious sense of awe at what nature is capable of creating and over 12,000 images and videos taken in attempt to capture just some of that feeling… surely the biggest single edit of any project I have ever undertaken.
There’s no easy way to take $30,000 of camera gear on a trip like this and expect all of it to make it, or at least to still be in working order by the end. There are issues of sand, battery life, waterproofing, securing to the boat, access while on river, portability while off river canyoneering or climbing and constantly drawing the line with how just how much risk you are willing to take to get the shot. What you select to photograph with limited battery life and memory cards on such an incredibly long journey presents it’s own dilemma – especially when you don’t really know each day what’s around the corner or what the weather or lighting will be presented to you down the track! Add to that there’s the challenge of finding time to photograph the best moments and yet still perform all the tasks required of you as a team member on such an expedition –which are many and varied. In fact that was probably the greatest challenge of all!
Anyway, we made it, and without doubt it was the greatest single adventure of my life. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to do the experience justice from a visual point of view with my imagery – but it was my utter privilege to try. It’s almost impossible to describe the scope and grandeur of this place… you’ll just have to go there for yourself.
Click on any thumbnail image below to view in full screen in lightnox mode.