Photo Julien Pelletier
Growing up in the French Alps and in the foothills of the Sierra de Madrid, and now living in Montana and travelling the world, Alex Strohl is one of today’s most inspiring, talented, and authentic outdoor photographers. Beside took a moment with him.
What is the essence of what you seek to capture in your photos?
A large component of it is solitude, empowering the individual. This is why I rarely shoot groups. I like the idea of a single person against an expanse of nature. This also helps to have the viewer feel like they are in the image, like it could be them in this vast landscape. Nostalgia is another sense I try to touch on.
What is one of your favourite childhood memories of the outdoors?
Riding my mountain bike through the Sierra de Madrid. The total freedom. Heading out to the lakes around my house. Looking for excitement in the forests. As a kid, my friends and I would try to cook hot dogs over the fire on some slate we found around the lake. I love those memories, the innocence of childhood.
Have you ever had any close calls?
Actually, yes. Last winter, a few friends and I portaged the Hungry Horse Reservoir in Montana. In our rush, we definitely ignored some warning signs and ran into many problems, some quite severe. First we arrived too late, we then had to rush to set up because we were battling for the remaining daylight. The first access point to the water was inaccessible, so we decided to try the next one and about halfway there, both our trucks got stuck in the wet snow. Instead of turning back, we chose to drag our canoes the remaining mile or so, which was particularly difficult considering we had not packed lightly. And yet, once in the water, we knew that if one of us was to fall in, we could run into a serious rescue situation. That night, we camped on an island. The temperature dropped to -23 °C and the lake froze overnight, so we had to break through the ice in order to get back to shore. Using our paddles definitely increased the chances of tipping our canoes. We found ways to overcome these issues and got back safely, luckily, but the risks somewhat outweighed the adventure. That trip was surely a great experience and has made for some awesome stories, but it was a reminder about the realities of nature and the importance of preparing for and respecting the dangers associated.
How do you feel about the growing popularity of Instagramming the outdoors?
Is it a good thing, or does it take away from the real outdoor experience? Overall I think it’s a good thing because more people are going outside and enjoying the outdoors. However, I just got home from backpacking in the Peruvian Andes and that feeling of total disconnection was great.
If a photo can inspire someone to go outside, to explore and travel more, then that is a huge positive. At that point it is up to the individual to create their own experience, learn the skills and figure out the things they love about nature.
Which environmental cause is the closest to your heart?
Living so close to Glacier National Park and being exposed to the rapidly melting glaciers, then travelling to Peru and hearing about glaciers that took 1,600 years to form only to be melting in just a few decades, climate change is something I am often exposed to up close. When you hear some of the rhetoric surrounding climate change it is clear that very few people have seen glaciers all around the world and have been exposed to their dramatic changes. So, the effect that policy has can be especially bad in a place like Peru, where there is less political pressure and money to deal with the issues and awareness. Which book would you love to read again during a nature trip? Touching the Void. It’s a book about a summit attempt in the same mountain range we were just trekking through in the Peruvian Andes. Listening to the audiobook as I hiked and being able to see the mountains and glaciers they were referring to was incredible. I’m very excited to find it in paperback as well, to actually sit down and read it. Where do you dream of going these days? The Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada. It has Montana-grade mountains in the middle of the desert, with a surprising number of lakes. I enjoy some of the lesser-known national parks because you can always get away from the crowds.
This article was published in BESIDE Magazine, Issue 01
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