Anyone who knows me well knows I adore the clothing company Patagonia. I purchased my first Patagonia shirt in 1990 and I’ve been adding pieces to my collection ever since. They are a very progressive company with solid ethics and simple, durable and sensible products. I don’t know how much I’ve spent on Patagonia clothing, shoes and bags over the past 25 years, but I don’t regret one cent of it. I take that back… there was that Sou’wester hat I snagged at the Ventura outlet in 1998 but nobody’s perfect.
Anyway, another thing I love about Patagonia is their devotion to remarkable photography in their catalogs. Each season I await the glorious images that will transport me to incredible places in the mysterious corners of the world. The photos are always compelling and flawless, and I’ve looked to them for inspiration for as long as I’ve been a serious photographer.
A few years ago I began taking note of who was making these amazing shots and one of the names that has graced many of my favorite Patagonia images is Ben Moon. Aside from his work for Patagonia I spotted his name under many other amazing images in outdoor magazines and other adventure media. For me he’s become synonymous with top-notch adventure imagery and even though I knew he lived in the same city as me, I doubted I would ever get the chance to meet him. He’s a globe-trotting explorer after all, so how much time could he possible have to lounge around in the local Stumptown Coffee shop?
When I attended the Sony event last week here in Portland, I was told that Ben would be joining the group for one of the days of shooting. I was thrilled! I don’t get all googley-eyed over celebrities but there are a handful of people on this planet who truly awe me and Ben is one of them. Photography aside, the man has the reputation of being kind, compassionate and humble. Earlier this year he produced a short film with a few friends that 10 million people have now watched. “Denali” is the story of Ben’s dog who passed last year. The video is masterfully shot and is narrated in the voice of Denali. You don’t have to be a dog lover to be touched by the film. If you haven’t seen it. Do so now. I’ll wait.
If you didn’t cry during that video you are one hard-hearted soul. Clearly Ben is a master storyteller and visual artist. I was antsy to meet him and thank him for inspiring me for years.
When he arrived at breakfast during the Sony event, he hesitated at the door, plate in hand. I gave him my best “this seat’s open” nod and he took the chair next to me. I introduced myself and thanked him for being so damned awesome. He responded by being humble, kind and compassionate. No ego. No attitude. No reason at all not to like him. We enjoyed a nice long chat and I asked him if I could take a portrait of him later in the day. He said why not.
Later that morning we had a moment in a warehouse with good lighting and I had a few minutes to make my portrait of one of my heroes. Ben has an ongoing series of very intimate portraits of remarkable people in the outdoor adventure world. I wanted to pay homage to his series with a close-cropped headshot so I put the Sony 90mm macro lens on my loaner A7RII and moved in close. I asked if I could tussle his hair a bit and he said, “do whatever you want!” I brushed his bangs down over his eye and made my shots.
It may be my favorite of the 3,000 images I made over the two day event.