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“Sometimes I put the camera down, step back, and let the photos pass by,” says Portland, Oregon photographer and cancer survivor Ben Moon. “It’s special to work in places where you can find solitude.” Like hanging from a 200-foot wall in Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park. A seasoned climber, Moon routinely rigs anchors to rappel vertical pitches and capture professional rock climbers like Alex Honnold. But Moon is just as comfortable shooting watersports and landscapes for clients like Patagonia, KEEN, and Outside magazine. “You have to be present in the moment on a climb or a wave, and I get that same feeling behind the camera,” says Moon. “I lock in and forget everything else.”
Moon first picked up a camera while living in a 1987 Ford van. As he traveled from Mexico to Canada to surf and rock climb, he documented people and experiences. “I had no ambition to be a photographer when I set out,” says Moon.
Moon, a Michigan native, knows the Great Lakes well. During a summer 2013 trip, his friend Rob Gorski invited him to visit a 91-acre island he’d found for sale on craigslist. Gorski raised $140,000, bought Rabbit Island, and built an artists’ colony. Moon’s film, Rabbit Island, premieres at the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado on May 22–25, 2015. “On this trip, we surfed waist-high point break waves. Hours later it was a giant, glassy bathtub,” says Moon.
Moon adopted Denali, a rescue mutt, when he was eight weeks old. The two were inseparable over the next 14 years; Denali even made hospital visits after Moon was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 29. The pair made one final trip to Denali’s favorite beaches and crags before the dog’s death in 2014. Denali, a short film about that trip and their years of friendship, premiered at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado this April.
Photographing Castles in the Sky, a five-pitch route in Alberta, required complicated rigging and constant vigilance. “I’m drawn to perspectives that you don’t see in everyday life, like looking down on a big wall.”
At the 2009 Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic, a 25-foot wave broke on pro surfer Peter Mel. As he outran the collapsing mass, Moon captured this image from a small, single-engine Cessna airplane above.