Tag Archives: on assignment

Best of 2015

January is flying by! I meant to post this earlier in the new year, but got caught up with breaking news coverage and designing and preparing a magazine for print single-highhandedly. It’s been a year of changes and introspection for me. I’ve felt isolated as a photojournalist and I’ve been shedding layers of my identity to find what’s at my core. Changing means growth, but it can be hard. I’ve found myself bursting into tears for no known reason, yet still pushing my physical and mental limits. I think I’ve found a lot of solace in the past by associating with other photographers, dancers, outdoor adventurers, and I still do. Yet I’m learning, slowly and surely, that those things are what I do, not who I am.

Check out some of my favorite images from 2015 in a grid! (Because why not make more art out of my primary medium?)

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And here’s some highlights from 2015, including personal adventures and career developments. I’m grateful for all the people and experiences I encountered in 2015.

  • Spent many weekends backcountry skiing, fully embracing the chill of winter and snuggling with fluffy huskies post ski.
  • Took the Amtrak train to San Francisco, and a Chinese tour bus back home, to photograph a travel story.
  • Danced through a winter bluegrass concert with my best friend.
  • Skied under the full moon on the largest flat top mountain in the U.S.
  • Performed to live piano music written by Debussy, an innovative French composer.
  • Mountain biked at night, for the first time, in Sedona, Arizona.
  • Danced and modeled chainmail in the annual Paonia, Colorado fashion show.
  • Backpacked through Canyonlands National Park in Utah.
  • Taught dance and watched young girls get more comfortable with their bodies.
  • Shoveled 700 pounds of coal in just over 2 min!
  • Trekked in the Weminuche wilderness in Colorado, stopping to swim in every alpine lake along the way! We also met a herd of mountain goats!
  • Ran the four pass loop in the Maroon Bells wilderness of Colorado, finished multiple trail races, and my first trail marathon!
  • Attended NPPA’s Women in Photojournalism conference, Geekfest, Summit Workshops for Adventure Photography, and Mountain Workshops in Kentucky, meeting many passionate photographers and visual journalists along the way.
  • Built a bed and storage in the back of my Subaru Outback.
  • Spent my birthday and Thanksgiving climbing sandstone cliffs in Indian Creek, Utah with my whole family
  • Met my partner’s family in Oregon for Christmas, climbing and skiing in the midst of the chaos.
  • Completed a personal portrait challenge, taking someone’s portrait every day for a month.
  • Moved into a beautiful farmhouse with 13 fabulous folks, where we create, share delicious meals, and have spontaneous dance parties.
  • Worked on multiple photo stories throughout the West, helped redefine print and web design elements, and developed a more robust data visualization system for High Country News.

 

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Touring the West

A few weeks ago, reporter Judith Lewis Mernit and I boarded a bus with Lassen Tours, whose primary customers are Chinese, to discover how foreigners experience the West. In 72 hours we traveled from San Fransisco to Las Vegas with stops at natural spectacles like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. An outlet mall, fruit stands, singing fountains and Asian restaurants also made an appearance on the quick trip. Mernit summed up our perspective of the experience pretty well in the resulting High Country News article: “Both Warren and I had lived in other countries, places where we had learned the languages and tried our best to blend in with the locals. But our Chinese friends were having none of that. It occurred to us both in the same moment that we were not observing a troupe of Chinese visitors in the West attempting to adapt to our culture. We were traveling on a mobile China as it moved through the American West. And the American West was expanding — with restaurants, shopping and spectacles — to include them.” Read the resulting article here and see a few frames that didn’t make it in the story below.

A family on a tour bus and local workers chow down in McDonald's on Interstate 5 in California.

A family on a tour bus and local workers chow down in a McDonald’s off Interstate 5 in California. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Tour guide for Lassen tours Raymond Tse rattles off the day's itinerary once the bus arrives in Las Vegas after driving from San Fransisco.

Tour guide for Lassen tours Raymond Tse rattles off the day’s itinerary once the bus arrives in Las Vegas after driving from San Fransisco. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Henry Lu tries on sunglasses in Sunglass Hut at the Tanger Outlets in Barstow, Calif. Seventy percent of the store's paying customers arrive on Asian tour buses.

Henry Lu tries on sunglasses in Sunglass Hut at the Tanger Outlets in Barstow, Calif. Seventy percent of the store’s paying customers arrive on Asian tour buses. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Chinese tourists Wen Hua Lee and Leo Liu Jun take pictures of their husband/father Jie Qi Liu in Death Valley National Park.

Chinese tourists Wen Hua Lee and Leo Liu Jun take pictures of their husband/father Jie Qi Liu in Death Valley National Park. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Tourists walk in Badwater in Death Valley National Park.

Tourists walk in Badwater in Death Valley National Park. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Korean tourists Zo Sun-Hwa and Park Young-Gu take a selfie at the Badwater salt flats in Death Valley National Park.

Korean tourists Zo Sun-Hwa and Park Young-Gu take a selfie at the Badwater salt flats in Death Valley National Park. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Palm trees cast shadows on a building in Las Vegas, Nev.

Palm trees cast shadows on a building in Las Vegas, Nev. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Leo Liu Jun, 10, contemplates gelato flavors at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Nev. with his mother Wen Hua Lee.

Leo Liu Jun, 10, contemplates gelato flavors at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Nev. with his mother Wen Hua Lee. Brooke Warren/High Country News

(right to left) Vietnamese tourists Tran Phuoc and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lien walk through Las Vegas, Nev. with their daughter.

(right to left) Vietnamese tourists Tran Phuoc and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lien walk through Las Vegas, Nev. with their daughter. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Gateways

I’ve been shooting a few assignments for High Country News where I work primarily as a designer and photo editor. I shot a story about a tiny speck on the map in Western Colorado back in October. That speck is called Gateway and with a population so small only 30 K-12 students attend the school, it’s hard to notice as you pass through the canyon. But what many people do notice is a huge resort, number one in Colorado and twelve in the world, that boasts a car museum, rafting, horseback riding, and romping around on gnarly roads.

I visited the place with Maureen Neal, who wrote an essay about watching the town of Gateway disappear for High Country News. She taught at the then one-room schoolhouse in 1985. We walked through the resort-owned land surrounding Gateway to visit the ancient cemetery that overlooks the town and spent the afternoon chatting with Aggie Wareham, 83, who has lived in Gateway almost her entire life. There were no commercial buildings not affiliated with the resort, and the old Vanadium mine that used to fuel the town economy in the 70s has turned into a site full of wrecked and rusting equipment.

The resort, out of sight from the town, is a huge complex of adobe buildings and green lawns with sprinklers spewing across the lawns. In October the place seemed empty, only a few cars in the lot, but apparently they get busy and fully booked during some seasons. Which is why they are building an employee housing complex to house all the workers that tend to visitors at the resort. I suspect the resort’s population exceeds the town’s during high season, maybe even year round.

Here are some shots from the area, including some I didn’t include in the magazine edit:

A construction worker from Grand Junction works on infrastructure for employee housing at Gateway Canyons Resort that will include a pool, a gym and more.

A construction worker from Grand Junction works on infrastructure for employee housing at Gateway Canyons Resort that will include a pool, a gym and more. Brooke Warren/High Country News

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Buck Talbert works on a Baja racing vehicle at Gateway Canyons resort. For the past eight years he has commuted over an hour from Grand Junction to work as the resort off-road vehicle mechanic. Brooke Warren/High Country News

Aggie Wareham, 83, looks through old photo albums, remembering her lifetime spent in Gateway, Colorado.

Aggie Wareham, 83, looks through old photo albums, remembering her lifetime spent in Gateway, Colorado. Brooke Warren/ High Country News

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Bighorn sheep stand roadside on Hwy 141 on the route to Gateway, Colorado. Brooke Warren/High Country News

On Track(s)

Last week I traveled from Colorado to California by train to catch a bus to Las Vegas for a photo assignment. I know, complicated. But it worked. Riding the train was an interesting way to see the West and learn about the historic route. The section between Denver and Salt Lake City is said to be one of the most scenic routes on the rail. Still, the most interesting sights on the train to me were the people.

A passenger reads in an Amtrak train at the Grand Junction station on Feb. 15, 2015.

A passenger reads in an Amtrak train at the Grand Junction station on Feb. 15, 2015.

Conductor Tom Rawlings has worked the scenic route between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City, where he lives, for 2 years. Before working for Amtrak, he spent 30 years as an engineer on historic steam engines.

Conductor Tom Rawlings has worked the scenic route between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City, where he lives, for 2 years. Before working for Amtrak, he spent 30 years as an engineer on historic steam engines.

Passengers disembark the Amtrak train on Feb. 16, 2015.

Passengers disembark the Amtrak train on Feb. 16, 2015.

Passengers focus on their electronic devices while riding the train.

Amtrak passengers focus on their electronic devices.