It’s difficult to say if Matty Van Biene chose the art of photography or if it chose him. I followed Matty around a desert sunset once, trying to glean what I could from this master of light and lens. But mostly I just stood perplexed, watching the man at work. Out on some promontory, Matty stood adjusting knobs and levers, changing the angle of a tripod, looking far out toward the western horizon. What he brought back on his Canon’s LCD screen not only changed the way I saw photography, but also the way I saw the very landscape we beheld.

A consummate traveler and student of the wandering road, Matt and his camera have gone all over the world on both commissioned work and personal trips. Whether shooting the wilds of Chilean and Argentine Patagonia or documenting the climbing and climbers of Squamish in Canada’s British Columbia, Matty’s camera is never far from hand.

A staunch advocate of conservation and wild places, Matty believes humankind is “an integral part of nature, not separate from it.” His recent work as a filmmaker on a campaign to save the Boundary Waters wilderness in Minnesota from a sulphide ore copper mine is evidence of the transformation in his work away from recreational activities such as rock climbing and toward the greater cause of preservation.

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You can find Van Biene basing out of his newer, more permanent residence of Leavenworth, Washington, in his old home of 2006 Sprinter, on the side of one of Index’s granite cliffs, or in seated meditation in a grassy meadow. Or simply follow him @mattyvanbiene.

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Every part of you, when broken down to its simplest form, is the same as everything around it. The air we breathe, the ground we walk, the water we drink. It’s all the same, and always has been. We’re ancient in that sense too. The iron, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen that makes our bodies is the recycled mass of stars from long ago. It’s unbelievable and awesomely true. So who are we? Who would you be without this cosmic vessel. Take away one arm. Are you still you? Both arms and both legs? How about your mind? What happens when our form eventually changes and the next star explodes? Can we even contemplate that? I don’t know, but it feels good and increases my gratitude to try.”¨

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What is badass? Is it always bigger, faster, farther? What if it was smaller, slower, and closer? Hanging with @freemanexplore for a week had me re-defining this term. Their goal is to be small and humble amongst nature, move slowly across its lakes, and get closer to the land during a year in which they will live within the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area. Check in with them to see how they are raising awareness to #savethebwca and remember over the course of the coming winter that they are out there, doing their thing, to bear witness of this wild landscape for us all.

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Climbing is a practice of remembrance and trust. We already know how to move our body. We already know where the balance lies. We know what feels right and what feels wrong. We know what it’s like to be with fear. Climbing is the moving act of remembering what we already know and then trusting ourselves with that knowledge to make upward progress.

The next time you are on the sharp end, check in with yourself. Trust yourself. You know what and how to do it. Now it’s time to let go and execute. You might not “send”, but that probably wasn’t the point in the first place. It was the challenge you wanted. It’s the challenge that makes us grow.

Chris Tirrell remembering to trust his sonar on Echolocation (5.11+), high above Washington’s Sky Valley and the town of Index.

Joel Enrico, below paso superior, en route to Fitz Roy.

I like the approach to a climb. It warms up the body and mind. Every breath and step builds upward momentum so that when the actual climbing starts you can hardly contain yourself. It hones the purpose of the climb as one battles the mental demons that rear up while looking skyward at the always intimidating profiles of mountains. Getting through an approach while maintaining the energy and readiness to succeed is, I believe, almost half the battle. Once the rubber hits the rock, it’s all dancing from there…that is, until the rappels. “¨”¨Fitz Roy, 2013

The beast of burden. Patagonia, Chile.

The gauchos rig for moving our gear through rivers and over rugged terrain consisted wholly of their own crafted materials (minus some old rope). Sheep skins, saddles, leather rope, and crafted wood supports for the heavy loads allowed for a relatively easy setup and teardown. Their methods were as timeless as the land. The horses surely earned their grazing time on this one.

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Getting ready for the day, @semi_rad asks “Am I rubbed in?” The rest of the images were blurry from laughter.

Sean does his best Joshua Tree impression in Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Thich Nhat Han likes to say, “Walk as if you are kissing the ground with your feet.” I love this concept. It cultivates mindfulness with every step, every contact with the planet. It also and more subtly creates an intention of compassion from within, for every step is a moment to love. Then perhaps you can firmly plant yourself where you need to be, dig roots into your purpose, and thrive.”¨

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I wonder if those who walked these ancient pathways before us could have resisted having as much fun as we did? @emclimber chimneys through time.Ӭ

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The Pasayten Wilderness provides solitude, tundra like ridges, and perfect granite. Jenny Abegg, Pasayten Wilderness, Washington.

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Read more from Chris Kalman at chriskalman.com