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Explorer Spotlight: Seth Whelden

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Name: Seth Whelden | Age: 30 | Location: Portland, OR

What’s your day job?
I'm a freelance Director of Photography. I work with production companies and brands to tell compelling stories that evoke passion within the target consumer. Though I find pre-production to be essential to everything I do, I live for the unexpected, and find the best moments to be those that we didn't plan for.

When I'm not working directly with brands, I am shooting, editing, or doing any number of other tasks related to running the stock footage company I own with my wife Kelly.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
I'm a hiker. I love finding the best spot to take in a sunset, wait for the stars, setup camp, and forget about the real world for a night or two. I'm also a photographer. I can't shake the thrill of finding the perfect shot. That said, I occasionally force myself to leave the camera at home, for sake of fully digesting the world around me.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
My hometown of Nantucket Island had a summer day-camp for children called Strong Wings. Three to five days a week we would ride our mountain bikes to destinations all over the island for any number of activities, all nature-centric. This sparked it all for me.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
This is like picking a favorite child. I think my favorite adventure is the last one I went on. Or maybe it's the next one… Any time I'm close enough I try to hit up Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?

What’s your favorite trail snack?

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
It definitely depends on the mood I'm in, but lately Mumford and Sons has taken a front seat.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
I don't know if this is the scariest or funniest, but it's a little mix of both. A couple years back I was heading out to meet Victor Garcia and Andy Best at Jefferson Park via the Breitenbush Trail. I drove out there in my 1983 automatic diesel Volkswagen Rabbit, shortly before sunrise in heavy rain. The Rabbit was horrible at driving up hill, and this road was littered in loose slate rock and boulders that needed driving around, and in some cases over. At one point, the road narrows, turns entirely to large pieces of loose rock and rides along a talus slope. For probably an hour I made my way through this torrential downpour towards the trailhead, my body extremely tense and mind focused on the minefield before me. I considered bailing at one point but realized that turning around was likely impossible, and I had no way to call my friends that were expecting to find me later that morning at Jefferson Park.

After the most stressful drive of my life I found the trailhead and pulled in next to Andy's Jeep, glad I didn't have to deal with that drive again for three days. The rain had just stopped once I got to the lot and I made my way over to the composting toilet for a quick stop before a sizable hike. I walked out of the restroom and heard my name being yelled from across the parking lot. There stood Andy and Vic hiking out that morning in order to find me, worried the road may have sent me off the cliff in the rain. Besides, Jefferson Park was shrouded in a storm cloud that didn't look as though it was going anywhere for a while.

Long story short, here I was fresh off the worst drive of my life, getting back into the Rabbit to make my way right back down the road to where I came from. And worst part, Andy was right behind me in his Jeep (tank) not worried about a damn thing. In the end, all was good, and we found ourselves swan diving into the crystal clear waters of Opal Creek.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
I'd have to go with the same person I picked this past June to spend the rest of my life with: my wife Kelly. I've driven all over this country with her, been to countless numbers of incredible places, and through it all, she always pushes me to make that extra effort to get the shot.

As for inspiration, that's tough. I think everyone contributing to the adventure community on Instagram deserves mention, but I won't list them all out here. Special mention should go to my buddy Andy Best who really got me back outside after being semi-dormant for some years here in Oregon.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
Another tough one but I feel like giving a shout-out to Olympic National Park. It's so surprisingly underrated in my opinion, and just has so many incredible trails and ecosystems. I went there for four days last summer and saw seemingly none of it. With Mt. Olympus (the tallest in the park) standing under 8000 feet it doesn't sound particularly impressive with Ranier right across the sound, but it certainly fooled me. The prominence of these peaks was incredible, and the heavy snowfall during the winter makes these mountains as impressive as any. And when you're all done hitting up the mountains and rainforest, there are miles and miles of protected coast just across the road.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now.
Hmm, I think a winter trip to Crater Lake is a must...

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
I took this shot (above) this past summer while camping alone out at Canyon Creek Meadow. After scratching the hell out of my 4 month old Mazda 3 taking a "short cut" on my way to the parking lot for Jack Lake, I found myself alone under the stars in one of the craziest spots in Oregon. This place is something special. I didn't have a super wide lens, but the Milky Way was perfectly positioned behind Three Finger Jack just as the crescent moon poked up over the horizon, illuminating the mountain perfectly, without washing out the sky.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
Respect the outdoors. Live your life.

Check out more of Seth's adventures here.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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