Photographer and Filmmaker Cameron Karsten calls the Pacific Northwest home. His latest work for Patagonia explores the beauty and serenity of the wild landscapes and waterways in his backyard through a series of fly fishing images that seek to encourage conservation efforts in the Olympic Peninsula. The project tells the story of the dwindling population of Wild Steelhead in the area and how new regulations restricting boat fishing might affect the long-term livelihood of the species.
Cameron is no stranger to outdoor photography and has plenty of experience photographing fly fishing projects, capturing imagery for Grundéns and Sage Fly Fish, a fishing gear company and a leading manufacturer of fly fishing rods. However, his work with conservationist Dylan Tomine, one of Patagonia’s fly fishing ambassadors, eventually led to this collaborative assignment with one of Patagonia’s writers, Gregory Fitz.
I’ve done a few shoots with their wading boots out on the Olympic Peninsula and in Belize, but this was the first story-based project with them.
The images were taken over two days at two different rivers in the Olympic Peninsula. Shooting outdoors in a place like this required Cameron to be prepared for the cold, wet weather typical of the Pacific Northwest.
Weather is the most creative challenge, making things wet and cold if you’re not properly prepared. Doing assignments like this, you learn how to carry and care for all the equipment to prevent damages.
I’m very agile and mobile within the given environs, with a go-with-the-flow attitude, and I think working with others on the river for this story required a no-fuss outlook.
The Olympic Peninsula, where the wild steelhead is found, is a vast piece of land in Western Washington bounded by the Pacific Ocean and is well-known as a picturesque setting for hiking, fishing, and connecting with nature.
It’s a wild chunk of land, full of mountains, trees, rivers, rocks, and the sea — a magical place often covered in thick layers of clouds. There are a few spectacular pockets of primary forest that make you feel like you’ve stepped back to a time before humankind.
While on assignment, Cameron observed the river and the anglers closely, capturing the environment and the anglers fishing for Wild Steelhead. Fly Fishing requires patience, and being out on the river means lots of waiting. However, the luxury of time enabled Cameron to get creative, exploring many angles and capturing the details of the landscape through his lens.
I’m always striving to push my eye into new directions. With this project, I was given absolute creative freedom. With the time on the river, I sought to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, subtle things, details, and the symmetry of nature.
I love being outdoors, especially on the Olympic Peninsula, and especially with a group of dedicated individuals passionate about the state of our environment and who put all their energies toward conserving it. They live and breathe in these places and put their heart and soul into their work.
Wild Steelhead is a species that has become increasingly rare due to overfishing in the Olympic Peninsula and throughout the world. Cameron hopes that stories like this help bring awareness to the issue. While controversial with fly fishing enthusiasts, he believes the threat to the fish’s population can only be combated with stricter policies and regulations.
Hopefully, the attention this project is receiving will help people change their ways for this species to prevail in their native waters. Policies need to be enacted, and whole communities need to be aware that everything they do affects the world around them.