How I got this way, or at least how I ended up a blogging photo guy, part 1

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Above:  Self portrait at Stanley Lake under the stars.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that I’ve ended up being a writer and photographer, and yet I am still somewhat bemused that it’s happened how it has.

Until a few years ago I really wasn’t that into photography, and a definitely wasn’t much of a writer.  College had taught me I was good at writing, definitely above average compared to my peers in the School of Forestry, but it wasn’t something I did for the pleasure of it until recently.  Even now I have to admit that writing well isn’t something I do consciously, thinking of sentence structure, using “proper” grammar, etc.  It’s more organic, more intuitive, for me.  I read enough good writing that the words rumbling around in my head naturally flow in a semblance of what I’ve read without too much effort on my part to organize them.  I’ll be the first to admit that I do have an edge, a secret weapon of sorts, in that my mother was a writer, and even though I really didn’t realize it as I progressed through school, some of her way with words found itself etched into the creative corners of my mind.  Undoubtedly the formative years I spent tagging along as mom and dad worked on the Seeley-Swan Pathfinder in the 1980s helped shape my writing mind as well, giving me an appreciation of the hard work required to not only run a small town paper, but to be a good writer.

Another secret weapon has been my voracious reading habits.  Since I was young I’ve read, a lot.  Not the “best” works I’m sure, as I’ve always preferred Louis L’Amour to Hemingway, and I’ve read and re-read Tolkien instead of Shakespeare.  Still, despite my typically pedestrian reading tastes, I eventually found myself reading and appreciating writers like Norman Maclean, Ivan Doig, Bernard DeVoto, and even John Muir.  Occasionally my love of humorous writing has led me to some obscure authors like Douglas Adams, and his even more obscure inspiration, P.G. Wodehouse, who both had a way with words that was exactly unlike anything I’d read before.

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Above:  Looking over the White Clouds from the trail to Alice Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness.

I first started blogging in 2000-something (I honestly can’t remember the year), as a means of sharing pictures and some stories of my life as a firefighter with friends and family.  Back then I’m not sure blogging was even a thing yet, and I had a website that I created and edited myself, using skills I’d picked up my freshman year in college.  The updates were sporadic, and tended to by more of an annual update and photo-dump than anything else, but some folks enjoyed reading it.  When Facebook became a thing, that gradually became my way of sharing photos and stories with friends and family, and the website suffered. I started this blog in the fall of 2011 mainly as a free way to maintain a web presence, but for the first few years I really didn’t keep up with it.

As you likely know if you’re reading this, about a year and a half ago I starting blogging again as a means of dealing with some of the issues that demonize me, a cheap form of self-therapy I suppose.  Somehow sharing things publicly seemed to help, and still does.  I’m sure more than a few people look at me as if I’m a bit crazy, but that’s on them, not me, or so I tell myself.  Since then my writing on the blog has taken a bit of a turn, as in addition to blogging about my personal life, I’ve started blogging for the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program, and I’ve taken over Stewardship of their Professional Reading Program.  During the last few months I’ve also been busy writing some documents for the reading program that will be published in January, and I’ve also spent a fair amount of time writing papers for my coursework in Aviation Safety Management.

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Above:  Fishhook Creek at the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Now the coursework has been finished, the summer fire season has come to an end, for me at least, and I have even more time to read, write, and reflect.  Over the winter I’ll be sure to share some more stories from my summer, and some photos as well.

Until next time…

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About Justin Vernon

Fire and Aviation Specialist (aka jack of all trades) for the US Forest Service, based in Boise, Idaho. I'm also an amateur photographer, wanna-be writer, tech aficionado, and a classic introvert who values quiet time as much as I do the mountains and people of the Pacific Northwest. All opinions voiced are mine alone and do not represent those of the US Forest Service.
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