Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 in Retrospect

When people said time would keep getting faster as you get older, I didn't want to believe them. But 2013 marked my 40th lap around the sun. That number has always seemed so far off in the distance that it still hasn't sunk in. In retrospect, I spent more energy in the past 12 months than I ever imagined possible. In the midst of all the craziness, I’ve been blessed to spend important time with some of my most valued friends and colleagues, my wife Arienne, and even added a new addition to our family (sorry mom, no kids yet). I’ve been fortunate to follow my passions; teaching, rock climbing, mountain biking, and of course photographing the adventurous life while developing new business opportunities. This post reflects on some highlights and snapshots of a memorable year.

2013 began with the successful launch of a new camera bag company called MindShift Gear. I was hired by Think Tank Photo in 2011 to help develop this new company which, instead of journalists and event photographers, is focused on the needs of outdoor, nature and conservation photographers. Essentially, I've been working to build and bring to market the very products I've wanted to use during my career as an adventure and landscape photographer. We started with a successful Kickstarter crowd-sourcing campaign to build our first release, the Rotation180º Professional camera bag. You will hear more about Mindshift throughout the blog. 
MindShift Gear Rotation180º Professional camera bag that I helped design and develop.
New years eve was spent camping with friends in Joshua Tree National Park as my wife and I embarked on a very cold photography road trip. We both ended up contracting and suffering from a nasty flu bug, but undaunted, we launched deeper into the desert to create content for the MindShift Gear website. We spent time in Tucson, Sedona, Grand Canyon, and Joshua Tree, and despite feeling ill, have good recollections of or our journey.
Superstition Mountains, outside Pheonix, Arizona
Photographing in the Superstition Mountains near Pheonix, Arizona

In mid January I participated in the Three Bridge Fiasco, an annual sailboat race in the San Francisco Bay that reaches the Golden Gate, Oakland/Bay, and Richmond-San Rafael bridges, in no particular order. Over 300 boats started the race and an enjoyable fiasco ensued, which added up to a great day of sailing with my friend Larry Vito on his boat Dream Keeper.

Sailboats during San Francisco Single-handed Sailing Society's 2013 Three Bridge Fiasco

Soon I was off to Washington’s Olympic National Park with our creative director, Larry Atil, to photograph Daniel Beltrá, one of the founders of MindShift Gear and an internationally acclaimed conservation photographer. 
Daniel Beltrá photographing in the rain in Olympic National Park, Washington
Conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá trying to decide whether or not to conserve the last piece of cold pizza during breakfast while holed up on a rainy photo shoot in Olympic National Park, Washington

Out of the rainy/cold Pacific Northwest to the warm beaches of Jacksonville, Florida, Beltrá and I attended and ran a booth with Doug Bush at the North America Nature Photographer Association’s bi-annual summit meeting. This was a very rewarding experience where I was inspired by some of the top nature and conservation photographers working today.
Carlton Ward Jr., Clyde Butcher, Doug Bush, Daniel Beltrá and another photographer at the NANPA Summit in Jacksonville Florida, February 2013

Back at home I worked with the board of the Rock Ice & Mountain Cub to host a Road Tour event for Todd Offenbacher and his TAHOE ADVENTURE FILM FESTIVAL. The main event is held each winter in Tahoe and we were glad to bring it to the North San Francisco Bay. This was an effort to rally all the different aspects of our local adventure community under and get rowdy for a good cause.

Todd Offenbacher (plaid shirt) with Members of the Rock Ice & Mountain Club before the TAHOE ADVENTURE FILM FESTIVAL Road Tour at the Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, California
TAFF at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma
We were nervous about how many people would show up but packed the house and had a great evening. We are currently planning this winter’s second annual event on January 10, 2014.

My next stop was Death Valley National Park to facilitate a workshop for Mountain Light Photography, Galen Rowell’s company with whom I’ve been associated since 1996. On this outing I would be assisting Jack Dykinga, a dear friend, educator, Pulitzer prize winning journalist, and dedicated conservation photographer who has had a significant influence on my life and work. We had scheduled the class to coincide with the peak of the desert wildflower bloom, but after a very dry winter they didn’t materialize. We literally found two blossoms! Fortunately, the sand and rocks were looking great in the desert light and we had a wonderful group of participants.
Jerry Dodrill and Jack Dykinga in Death Valley during a Mountain Light Workshop
Desert five spot flower blossoming in a dry wash in Death Valley
Rivulets of saline water seep into the playa of the Badwater Salt Flats, Death Valley
There were scorpions under my sleeping bag when I got up from  this desert bivouac near Mt. Whitney!

Late April and early May found me on a road trip to the Eastern Sierra where I taught a workshop with my buddy Grant Ordelheide. Its a little known fact that Grant sometimes works as my stunt double.

Grant posing climbing in the Alabama Hills
Photographers working in the Alabama Hills during the spring workshop at Mountain Light
Our class in the Mountain Light Gallery during the spring Eastern Sierra workshop
After our workshop Grant and I drove to Moab, Utah and hooked up with our friends Rob McKay and Brad Parker for a couple epic days of desert crack climbing at Indian Creek Canyon. 

Rob leading a 5.12 crack at Indian Creek, Utah
Brad Parker leading the ultra classic Super Crack, 5.10c, Indian Creek, Utah

Aside from a bit of climbing, we were in Utah to exhibit at the Moab Photo Symposium that was focused on Conservation. Beltrá, Dykinga and other friends from NANPA were giving the Keynote presentations and the event was a success. We were fortunate to stay with Jeff Foott, a fellow climber and conservation photographer who has a home in Castle Valley. After looking across at Castleton Spire all week, Grant and I could no longer resist its beckoning call and embarked on an afternoon adventure, reaching the summit at dark. 
Castleton Tower as seen from Castle Valley
iPhone panorama Inside the classic and wide North Chimney on Castleton Tower. We were just below this big chock stone when the whole tower started creaking and grinding. We were sorta freaked out but finished the climb.
Somewhere in the middle of Nevada while returning from Moab.

In June Grant and I met up again with Jack Dykinga in the fog of the Redwood Coast, where we held a workshop in the deep forests and dramatic coastline of California’s far North. Our group was full of familiar faces and a rewarding experience was had.

Towering old growth redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Robert Dennis photographing rhododendrons in Del Norte Redwoods State Park

For the fifth straight year I led an intense workshop at Lake Tahoe for Sierra Nevada College at Incline Village, Nevada during the last week of June. We had some dramatic rain and storms which added a little mystery to the scenery. While teaching in Tahoe, my wife sent a photo of the most adorable puppy I’d ever seen. By the time I got home it had already become member of our family. “Poppy” is a Catahoula-mix breed called a Leopard Dog from Louisiana that is used for hunting wild boar. She has brought so much joy to our home that I can’t imagine what it was like without her. Arienne greatly enjoys having a companion while I’m away on my travels. 
"Poppy" is the new addition to the family.
Bull Run Lake near Ebbetts Pass with Arienne and Poppy

In July I enjoyed walking the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Salt Lake City with MindShift Gear’s new product designer, Rawmin Ehyai. We took a careful look at current trends in the outdoor markets and are utilizing that influence in our new products.

August brought my 30’s to a close and I needed to take some time to contemplate life. What better way to do this than a trek in the wilderness. I first joined veteran climber Steve Curtis in Bridgeport, CA and spent a few days scaling long alpine cracks on a massive tower called The Incredible Hulk. This was my fourth trip to The Hulk (read my earlier trip report here).

Steve leading on pristine alpine granite on the upper 5.11 crux of Positive Vibrations, Incredible Hulk
Chilling at the top of The Hulk, with smoke from Yosemite's RIM Fire
Steve leading the Red Dihedral, Incredible Hulk.
 Feeling strong after the Hulk, I met Doug Bush in Bishop and hiked over the Sierra Crest at Lamarck Col into Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park to reconnoiter the Evolution Traverse.

I'll write a full trip report on this soon, but in short, I’ve wanted to do this enchainment of nine 13,000’ peaks since I was here in 1997 with Galen Rowell, Peter Croft, and friends. Doug and I backpacked around the peaks over six days, taking our time photographing, fishing, and enjoying the views.

Doug Bush looking down Evolution Valley from Darwin Bench, with smoke from Yosemite's RIM Fire
Mt. Huxley and Evolution Creek, below Sapphire Lake on the John Muir Trail, High Sierra
Extremely motivated, I went back to work for the week and while sitting there in the confines of my stuffy office, couldn’t stop thinking about the traverse. On Friday afternoon I drove solo back to Bishop from Santa Rosa and tried to see how far I could get in a weekend. It was a pretty good adventure (full trip report will follow).

In late September I was back in Bishop to lead a Mountain Light Workshop with Grant, then another with Elizabeth Carmel. The color on the aspen trees was looking great and we were blessed with a nice early season snow storm to dust the peaks and leaves. It has been a joy to see the Eastern Sierra in all its seasons this year.
Snow storm at North Lake, Bishop Creek

Jim Stimson photographing along Bishop Creek

Along the road to South Lake, Bishop Creek

With little time to rest after the workshops, I left the alpine peaks of the Sierra and flew to the urban canyons of Manhatten with our team from MindShift Gear and Think Tank Photo to launch our newly developed products at the Photo Plus Expo. 
Rotation180º Panorama photo backpack. Available in February 2014
 We are really excited about our new daypack, the Rotation180º Panorama, which is perfect for light photo adventures in nature, and the Filter Hive, which is a protective organizer for all the filters, holders, and adaptor rings that clutter your camera bag.
Our new Filter Hive is a protective solution for organizing photo filters and integrating them into one unified kit instead of a whole bunch of individual pieces.

The launch was well received and we had fun in New York. (After getting caught in Hurricane Sandy last year we were happy for clear weather).

After a few days back in the office I was off to Zion National Park, Utah at the beginning of November to facilitate a course with icon of American landscape photography David Muench, for Mountain Light. Grant joined us as well and we absorbed the beauty of Zion's deep sandstone canyons.

I flew straight back from Zion, drove to Yosemite and spent a day high on El Capitan belaying my friend Kevin Jorgeson, who is attempting a difficult new free route on the Dawn Wall. 
Jugging the lines, 1500' up El Capitan (photo: Kevin Jorgeson)
Kevin Jorgeson traversing pitch 14 of Dawn Wall, 5.14.

With a day’s rest I met up with Elizabeth Carmel in Napa Valley to run a wine country photo workshop. We visited my friend Cam Parry, wine maker at the historic Chateau Montelena winery, and Liz’s beautiful Elizabeth Carmel Gallery in Calistoga. After the buzz of New York and harshness of Zion, a weekend in Napa was like taking a deep breath or relaxation.
Alexander Valley 
Wine maker Cameron Parry in the newly renovated cellar at Chateau Montelena
Morning launch of ten Napa Valley Balloons near Yountville. 

Its been said that “The whole point of travel is to see your home as a foreign land.” (-Chesterton). This could not be more true when you live in a beautiful place with which you are intimately familiar. As I travel in and out of Sonoma County I find myself at times not wanting to leave, and rejoicing when I return. By Thanksgiving this year I was happy to work all week in the office and spend time doing chores around the house. I was exhausted from so much travel and appreciated with renewed vigor the opportunity to enjoy and experience my home with the same “fresh eyes” that I use to explore unfamiliar lands.
Sunset above the Sonoma Coast, Summer 2013

December has been a month of product development and catching up on loose ends. I’ve been slowly editing through the thousands of photos from the year, and planning for what looks to be another busy year in 2014.

In closing I want to express my thanks to the many people I’ve come to know and spend time with in the past year. Special appreciation goes out to those I’ve tied in with in one way or another. To the climbing partners, thanks for inspiring me to climb harder, higher, and catching me when I fell. To those who have attended workshops and joined as we chase light across the land, thank you for making it happen. I hope it was as rewarding to you as it was for me. To the leaders with whom I am blessed to work with and learn from, you are an inspiration. To my wife, thank you for not just tolerating, but encouraging my adventures. 
You’ve driven me to the airport at at odd hours, stayed up late while I worked on deadlines, and supported me in so many ways that have likely been overlooked but are deeply appreciated. You are my duct tape; You hold my world together. 
To everyone else, thanks for being you. I hope our paths will cross in the coming year.

-Jerry Dodrill
December 22nd, 2013

To see more images from the past year's adventures, please visit the recent work page on my website. Also, be sure to check out the calendar and links for upcoming workshops, and sign up for my newsletter on the right sidebar, here on the blog.


Richard Wong said...

Wow what a year Jerry! And congrats on the big 40. :-)

Clark Smith said...

Wow these pictures is really amazing thanks for sharing.... :D

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mdvaden said...

If you head out for the Redwoods again this year, it appears that the Rhododendrons may be a couple weeks ahead this year. Some in full bloom the last two weeks, but some with buds not yet open.