Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Tag: Adventure

There is Grace in the Dead of Silence


This Valentine’s Day is a bit different than most. Theresa and I had anticipated spending it on a beach somewhere in Southern California, where even in February it will likely be sunny and 65 degrees. Instead we are holed up in North Idaho watching the little creek out back swell with freshly melted snow. We’ve traded sunshine, savory tacos, and a group of the finest friends one could hope for, for snow, shepherd’s pie, and the warmth of a tight-knit family.

We live here now. Here being Priest River, Idaho, population 1,700-ish. Probably for good. We knew we’d end up in North Idaho someday, we just didn’t know exactly when “someday” would come. Whenever the topic would arise the conclusion was always that the timing didn’t feel quite right, and in fact we often prayed together that we’d know clearly when to make the move. When we got the news about Dan, as odd as it sounds, it was an answer to prayer. What better reason to move now, with no hesitation, than this? It’s certainly not the way we’d have chosen for things to work out. But there is deep blessing in even the most terrible situations if you are willing to look for it.

And that brings me to the point of this post. It is Valentine’s Day after all. And in the Miller household that means crafting things with your hands to bless the ones you love. The Miller house is filled with these little mementos, bowls filled with hand-carved wooden hearts, intricate quilts on the walls. The places Theresa and I have called home have slowly filled with similar relics that we’ve made (or occasionally bought) for each other. Most days we don’t give them a second thought. But sometimes I’ll catch myself admiring something Theresa made for me and a little smile will spread across my face.

This year, I’m crafting this post for Theresa. So that someday as she sifts through old posts on our blog, as she sometimes does, she’ll see this post and remember how much I love her.

Theresa, you can’t imagine how deeply and constantly blessed I am to have you as my wife. You have made my wildest dreams come true simply by loving me so well, and as a result, enabling me to become the person I was created to be. Our marriage has been, and continues to be, a most incredible adventure. How could we have known what a whirlwind of joy, uncertainty, excitement, trepidation, pain, and beauty would unfold in our lives over the last three years?

In the midst of it all, your love has been the rock on which I’ve steadied myself in moments of doubt. It has changed me, bit by bit, for the better, chipping away at the selfishness and aimlessness I so often struggle with. It underpins all of the best parts of me, strengthening and feeding them. It is an incredible thing to wake up each morning and know that, try as I might, I may never be able to love you as well as you love me. This knowledge overwhelms me, and humbles me. It transforms me.

You are my blessing in this difficult time. Without you I would not be a part of this beautiful family. I wouldn’t have the privilege of walking alongside you and your family as your father deals with the realities of cancer. And believe me, it is a privilege. I have so loved watching you serve your mom and dad these last few weeks as we transition into this unexpected new phase in our life. Your heart to love and serve was tailor made for times like these, and it is incredible to watch you love so well. You are an incredible wife, sister, and daughter, and you make the lives of those around you immeasurably richer. I know you don’t always feel that way, but I can see it and so do the fortunate few who can say they know you well.

I love you more than words can say, but hopefully these few words can give you some idea.

Happy Valentines Day.

Kings Canyon in Three Parts (1/3)


In June my friend Jeremy and I decided to fly to California to pay my brother Joseph a visit and engage in some kind of fly-fishing based adventure. We found ourselves in Kings Canyon, somewhere between Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, deep in the Sierras. We have each undertaken to write about the trip from a more creative standpoint vs. the typical documentary style you might expect. Accompanying each of our writings are photographs taken by the author of that section, with a variety of cameras. Jeremy is a crack shot with an iPhone, Joseph’s battered old Pentax Spotmatic 35mm rarely leaves his side, and I insist on lugging around heavy medium format cameras on even the steepest hikes (seriously though, it’s so worth it).

We hope you enjoy our efforts.


Part 1 by Elias Carlson

The light in Southern California is qualitatively different than the light in the Pacific Northwest. A warm, dry light, it pervades every corner of the landscape. Even the shadows can’t escape its influence. I’m convinced “The Golden State” moniker refers, not to the fabled gold rush, but to the gilded Californian light.

Before I continue, let me set a few things straight. As a Northwestern son, born and raised, evergreen sap and rain pumps through my veins. Cut me deeply and you may discover North Cascade granite where you might expect bone. The air I breathe is silver and cold, it is wet with fresh rain. I’ve been fortunate to travel far and wide, but I only begin to feel at home when my latitude nears 47 degrees.

Despite my dyed-in-the-wool Northwestern ways, California, and the Sierras in particular, have begun to carve out a warm golden niche in the corner of my heart. The language of glaciers and granite is my native tongue and the Sierras speak a familiar dialect. We’ve only just begun the conversation, but it’s clear we’re going to be fast friends.

Blame John Muir. The wily old prophet of the mountains first piqued my interest with his legendary memoir My First Summer in the Sierras. With a brother in Pasadena, it was only a matter of time before “The Range of Light” and I became acquainted. My first glimpse came last September on a five day fly-fishing road trip from Seattle to LA. As Joseph, Tuck, and I wound down the 395 at the foot of the Eastern Sierras I began to fall prey to the same spell that enchanted Muir. Even from a distance the siren song of the mountain range beckons.

My enchantment with the Sierras has only increased after three days in Kings Canyon. It is a photographer’s wonderland. Golden light ricochets between towering clefts of granite, each peak and crag daring you to capture its brazen majesty. These types of conditions are what I live for. They are my drug. Yet even in the midst of such staggering natural beauty lies conflict.

Perfect light, majestic scenery, and adventure aplenty combine to bring out the best and worst in me as a photographer. I find myself struggling to balance competing desires: How can I ever hope to create a truly meaningful picture when the grandeur before me is overwhelming to the point of numbness? How do I actually experience a place, or a person, when I’m constantly viewing life through a lens?

I fear I’ll always be chasing a cliche. I fear I’ll miss a truly great photograph because I’m only paying attention to the obviously good ones. I worry that I’m not being present with the people I love because I’m distracted by the light. I haven’t yet found a solution to these problems. Maybe that means I’ll never be a great photographer, doomed to dabble forever in the shallow end of the pool. Or perhaps struggling through these conflicts time and time again is the path to greatness. I don’t know. I suppose only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m sure enjoying the view.




















For the photography nerds: All photos taken with a 6×6 Minolta Autocord or 6×7 Bronica GS-1 on Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Ektar 100, or Fuji Pro 400H medium format (120) film.

Kauai: Our Quick Guide to Paradise


At long last! We have finally made time to sit down and sift through the 150 or so film photos we captured while in Kauai, and we’re ready to share a few of our favorites.

If we hadn’t made our point clearly enough in our last post, Kauai is incredible! Rather than go on about how wonderful it is, we’d like to share a few of our favorite spots on the island, should you be fortunate enough to find yourself there.

The North End: We love the North end of the Island. Yeah, the south side has its perks (see Waimea Canyon below), but it does not compare to the tropical beauty that is found on the North side. For those of you who know Washington, we found ourselves comparing it to Western Washington vs. Eastern Washington. One is lush, green, mountainous, and damp, the other is brown, flat, and dry.

Hanalei Bay: This is our favorite place to setup camp and swim for the day. We have now been to Kauai in both August and March, but Hanalei Bay has never been very crowded. The bay is beautiful and naturally more protected than the open sea which makes it a great place for swimming. You are close to town so you can easily walk in for a snack or meal during the day and there are always a few surfers which makes for good watching while you lay on the beach.

Ke’e Beach and Hanakapi’ai Trail: Ke’e Beach is located at the Northern most part of the Island. If you are looking for good snorkeling, this is your spot as the beach is protected by a reef that creates a barrier to waves on calm days.

Only about 3/4 of Kauai is accessible by car, the North Western portion of the island can only be accessed by boat or on foot. Ke’e beach is your starting point if you want to go in by foot. But fair warning, it isn’t a walk in the park! Get an early start on the Hanakapi’ai Trail to beat the heat. There are a lot of ups and downs on this trail which are manageable but its the slick red dirt that will get you if you are not careful!

There are a number of stopping points along the way so you can turn around at any point. We hiked the 2 miles in to Hanakapi’ai Beach* and then 2 miles inland to Hanakapi’ai Falls. The views on the way to the beach were incredible, and make the hike worthwhile even if you don’t go all the way to the falls.

When you are done with the hike, if you see a cute couple selling expensive fruit popsicles out of coolers in the back of their truck, BUY ONE! You will not regret it.

* NOTE: Hanakapi’ai Beach has a notorious undertow. Don’t plan on doing any swimming at this dangerous beach, but do enjoy the view and the crashing waves.

Bar Acuda: Bar Acuda has become our favorite spot for a nice dinner while on Kauai. Be prepared to spend a bit as the tapas are not huge so you will want to order several if you are doing dinner. What they lack in size, they sure make up in flavor. A couple of our favorites were the Local North Shore Honeycomb, and the Banderillas.

Waimea Canyon & Kalalau Lookout:
Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and it’s easy to see why. The red dirt walls, topped with patches of jungle green are a sight to behold. We only had one day to explore this natural wonder, so we had to make due with a driving tour of the main lookouts. Even so, Waimea Canyon was awe inspiring. Next time we’re on Kauai we’ll make sure to schedule in time to do one of the many fantastic hikes. If you keep heading North, you will run into the Kalalau Lookout, which is one of the most famous, and beautiful spots on the entire Island. We highly recommend a visit to these jaw-dropping spots.

Moloa’a Sunrise Juice Bar: We stopped at Moloa’a Sunrise one afternoon for fish tacos which were great but what really hooked us was the Date with Fate Smoothie. Yum.

Hanalei Farmer’s Market: Make sure to visit the Hanalei Farmer’s Market at the beginning of your trip, if possible, and stock up for the week. We got the most delicious papayas and mangos that we enjoyed for breakfast many mornings. Don’t forget to grab some of Sal’s salsa.

Kilauea Bakery: I think if we lived on Kauai the Kilauea Bakery might be our go-to on Saturday mornings. The breakfast pastries were delicious and the desserts looked pretty tasty too. There is not much better than a fresh cinnamon roll and an iced americano enjoyed outside on a warm morning.

Banana Joes: The only thing we have ever gotten at Banana Joes is the Banana Frosty. To be honest I am not sure what else they have here. It is a fruit stand so of course you can get fresh fruit but I don’t think we are alone in just going for the frosties. As far as I know, the frosty consists of frozen banana processed into a texture similar to a Wendy’s frosty and that’s it. It’s simple but it sure is a refreshing afternoon snack!

**Before we left my Mom suggested we check out Kasey Buick’s favorite spots in Kauai. A few of our favorites listed above came directly off of her list. We found ourselves constantly referring to her collection around meal time to see if there was anything close by. Take a look if you are planning a trip to Kauai!














































That Which Does Not Kill Us…

There’s something to be said for roughing it. It’s funny, many of my fondest camping memories are staked firmly in the granite of my memory with spikes of discomfort. Like the time Micah Parker and I huddled together on the high side of our tent as it slowly filled with icy rainwater. We didn’t sleep that night. It was miserable. And I’ll never forget it.

I think that’s part of the beauty of camping. It’s never quite as good unless you’re a little itchy, cold, wet, or sunburned. Otherwise, as time passes it becomes just another good weekend. The specifics all blend together and we forget. The trials and tribulations are the markers that helps us remember, even after time has worn the other details smooth.

Where am I going with this you ask? I’m glad you brought that up. As the rain becomes less frequent and the temperatures rise, my brother Joseph and I both begin to get an itch in our souls. It begins as merely a twinge, and works its way out from the center of our bodies into our arms and legs. It settles in our wrists and fingers, and we know. It’s time to fish. It’s time for adventure, for wind and trees and water. We must capture and hold, for a fleeting moment, a silver soul in our hands.

This irresistable itch took hold of us many weeks ago and we determined to scratch it as soon as possible. We chose Lake Nunnally in the deserts of Washington, not far from the Columbia River Gorge as our destination. Rumors of trophy brown trout and the desolate beauty of the desert called us. We arrived sometime after 11 o’clock at night down a twisting dirt road guided only by the stars (and my iPhone GPS). Upon exiting our vehicle the desert wind assaulted us with a thousand tiny projectiles. The sand hissed angrily against our coats and we knew that tents were going to be an issue.

To make an already long story a little shorter I’ll spare you every detail, but here are a few of my favorite lessons from the weekend: I learned that setting up a tent in the dark, in 30mph winds, in the desert sand is definitely a two-person job (three is better, but two will do the trick). The same sand will find its way into everything, and I do mean everything. The desert at night is very, very cold. Beer is no substitute for water, but skinny dipping in a freezing creek will make a new man of you in under 5 seconds. Flying a kite (in general) is fun. Flying a kite in 30mph desert winds as the sun sets behind you is unbelievable, unforgettable fun. See video evidence below:

Suffice it to say that it was one of the more fantastic weekends I’ve had. This was real camping, it was no cushy tailgating party by a lake. This was gritty, miserable, uncomfortably glorious camping. The kind that would make your average camper swear off camping indefinitely. We came back exhausted, sunburned, and glad for our beds. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know that years from now, while I may not be able to recall every detail, I will still remember setting up the tent in the dark, skinny dipping in the creek, and flying the kite with my brother.

Oh, and of course I took lots of pictures (click an image to see it larger):

The Photography of Joe Nigel Coleman

Beaches, bonfires, and the glory of the ocean. These are the images Australian photographer Joe Nigel Coleman uses to paint us a picture of his life. I first discovered him on Flickr, and was immediately enthralled by his talent. Anyone who has spent any time camping or traveling knows how difficult it can be to take a picture that really captures the glory of the experience. Joe seems to have an innate ability to capture that intangible something that makes these times so special.

Joe only shoots film, so all of the pictures you see below are devoid of any kind of Photoshop magic. Any effects you see are simply the result of light leaks and old cameras. His talent is undeniable, but what I appreciate most about his work is it’s unpretentiousness. I spend a lot of time on Flickr looking for inspiration and it always saddens me when I come across someone whose photography is obviously formulaic and overthought. There is something about “following the rules” of photography that strips the life out of an image. Joe’s photos are bursting with life. You never get the impression that he is trying to tell a particular story. Rather he lets the story tell itself through his images.

Joe granted me the honor of an interview, which it is my pleasure to share with you here:

Newcastle, Australia

Q1: It’s apparent from your work that you spend a lot of time outdoors, and you have even described yourself as, “A travelling willbury”. How does nature, and your fairly nomadic lifestyle play into your photography?

A1: I’ve actually been working 9-5 in an office for the last six months which has been a bit difficult. Difficult to spend that much time under fluoro lights with air conditioning, and difficult to get motivated to shoot photos. But I do get outside and away a lot on weekends and I feel blessed to have so many amazing places nearby.

Q2: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A2: There are plenty of places I’d love to go, the list is endless. Before the year is through I hope to backpack through certain parts of South America and start the new year in Europe.

Q3: How did you first discover your love of photography and what keeps you coming back for more?

A3: I am a very visual person, so I suppose you could say it was a natural progression.

Q4: I’ve been an admirer of your photography for some time now, and a few themes I’ve noticed in your work are fire, the ocean, sunrises, and people walking (or facing) away from the camera. What is it about these things that keeps drawing your camera back to them?

A4: I am constantly in awe of nature and I love experimenting with light. I also like the mystery of photos which involve people facing/walking away from the camera. They seem to intrigue me, I want to know more: “Where are they going?”, “Where have they been?”. I suppose this sense of mystery is something I’d like to capture when I shoot photos like that.

Q5: You shoot film exclusively it seems. What is it about film that has you hooked and have you ever considered dabbling in digital? Do you have a favorite camera?

A5: For starters, I really like messing around with old manual cameras. It’s fun to see the results from combinations of different films, cameras, lens’ etc. Film somehow seems to capture moods and atmosphere more accurately. Also, the imperfections. Quirky colours/grains/marks/reflections, whatever, create something beautiful and unique. Nothing against digital though. As for a favourite camera, I’ve yet to find it. My Yashica SLR is pretty faithful.

Q6: What is one thing you love about Australia, and one thing you don’t care for so much?

A6: The wide open spaces, the ocean. There are a lot of people floating about with their eyes closed.

Q7: Many of your pictures include people with musical instruments. Are you a musician? Does music play a part at all in your photography?

A7: Yeah, I play the drums. Music is everywhere in my life, so yes, I’d say that it would rub off on my photography.

Q8: What does your perfect day look like?

A8: You would have to be there to understand.

Q9: Many of your photos seem to be carefully framed and considered, while others have a spontaneous feel to them, as if you are simply capturing your day-to-day adventures. That’s not to suggest that your “spontaneous” images are any less carefully framed, but I was wondering what you think about your own photographic process. Is there any insight you can give us on how you come up with some of the brilliant photos we see here?

A9: No, not really. I suppose I do have ideas on how I want my photos to come out, but I wouldn’t say there is any specific process that I go through when taking a photo. Usually photos will just jump out at me.

Q10: You were recently in the Sixteen Photographic Exhibition. How did it go, and what was it like rubbing shoulders with so many other talented photographers?

A10: Haha. The opening night was great, we ended up with a whole lot of alcohol sponsors which I think played a big part in packing the place out. I met some really good quality people. I think only one work was sold the whole month the show was open. But you know, sales wasn’t really the idea behind it.