Category Archives: BLOG
On the evening of April 5th, 2013 I flew to Colorado Springs, CO to photograph and document the SSG Dunlap Memorial Challenge. Just months prior SSG David Dunlap, Whitney Butler and their unborn child were murdered when they came home during a burglary of their house in Colorado Springs. SSG David Dunlap had signed up for an event called the GORUCK Challenge, (goruck.com) an event that is to push people to their personal limitations physically and mentally, and builds teamwork to accomplish the challenge. Each participant also carries a weighted ruck (backpack) with 4 bricks if you weigh <150lbs and 6 bricks if you weigh >150lbs. The GORUCK Tough Community jumped to action and Philip Glorioso, with the help from GORUCK, put together a “Missing Man Ruck” to be carried by the class in remembrance of SSG Dunlap. This was a large 40L GORUCK GR2 that was filled with the same 6 bricks each participant would have to carry in their ruck.
After hearing about the death of SSG Dunlap another participate of the event, Bryan Shane of Fairplay, Colorado, offered to build a custom bench to be a memorial to SSG Dunlap and his wife. This wasn’t going to be just any bench you could buy from home depot, but a 1,000-1,500lb monument to a American Hero, and to be carried to a place that SSG Dunlap called home, The Incline in Manitou Springs, CO.
The day had finally come, on April 5th at 2200hrs in the Red Rock Canyon Open Space parking lot 39 strangers came together from all across the United States, as far as Florida, North Carolina, and Massachusetts,shaking hands, and remembering David. Everyone took a look at the amazing bench Bryan had created for this event and got mentally ready for what they were here to do, honor their friends; David Dunlap and his wife Whitney Butler.
CADRE Joel, from GORUCK, took charge of the group 2300hrs and started by putting everyone in two ranks (military term for 2 lines) to do roll call. CADRE Joel was reading the names as I have heard many CADRE do during other GORUCK challenges. but this one was different. As the names continued to be read and people acknowledged… Colleen Brooks: HERE, Kipp Clemmons: HERE, Shawn Daoust: HERE, Bryan Shane:HERE, David Dunlap… David Dunlap… STAFF SERGEANT DAVID DUNLAP… the silence was deafening. All 39 people knew why they were there, but that silence was a big reminder for them all. This challenge was not about them and their personal limits, but to honor someone who couldn’t be here himself, and for his family who also was killed that fateful night in January.
For the next 2 hours the group conducted PT (physical training) under the guidance of CADRE Joel all exercises were to be in a 21 count, just like a 21 gun salute for SSG Dunlap. The participates worked hard, struggling and pushing through together.
Their night had just begun and CADRE Joel got them moving out of the Red Rock Canyon parking lot, their rucks full of bricks on their backs, and the bench being carried in three pieces they started their long walk to the Incline.
Their first task was to get to Kissing Camels rock formation within the Garden of the Gods park, approximately 2 miles away. Throughout the ruck over to location, the team was working together carrying 3 separate pieces of the bench that each weigh in excess of 300lbs, with one section weighing as much as 500lbs.
With only headlamps and the stars as their guide they continued through the night, from Kissing Camels to Balance Rock, almost 3 miles away. Again on the move with their rucks weighing as much as 50lbs and the 3 pieces of the bench on their shoulders. From Balance Rock they worked their way to Manitou Springs to start their accent of the Incline.
At about 0530hrs the group made it to the base of the Incline, as they were refitting for the push up the mountain I had the lucky chance to run into a very interesting man. He asked about what we were doing and “Why in gods name is there 30+ people hanging out at the bottom of the Incline at 530 in the morning?” I explained that we were bringing a bench to the top of the Incline to remember a friend and soldier who was killed. The gentleman stopped me right there, shook my hand and said “Thank you!” and with one small move he slide the strap of his backpack off his chest to show me the Special Forces 10th Group shirt he was wearing, he had serviced as a Green Beret from 1979-2003 and was quite taken back by what the group was doing.. He asked to remain anonymous, but did say hello and thanked everyone for what they were doing and went on his way up the incline. (If the guys on the team don’t believe me, ask Joel)
What is the Incline, you might be asking yourself? Well it is 0.9 mile trail that rises in elevation from 7,000 feet to about 9,000 feet (a gain of 2000 feet) that for someone carrying a light pack with water and a snack can get up in about 1.5hrs. This group would be doing it with rucks that weighed in near 50lbs and three pieces of the bench each weighing at least 300lbs each. As the group was resting for a moment, everyone was excited to finally be doing this, 4 months of planning had finally come together!
To understand what this group of people did is best done with the images below; there are no words that can describe what they accomplished and what they did for their fallen friend. The entire way up, I would explain to people what they were doing and why. The crowds were blown away, people even offered to help which was greatly appreciated but was not allowed because this was the teams “burden” to carry for SSG David Dunlap and Whitney Butler. Please just take a good look at the pictures below, look at the faces, the struggle in their bodies, and the overwhelming drive to continue up one of the steepest trails in the area, with a grade of 68 degrees, while carrying over 300lbs on their shoulders.
Throughout the 4.5 hour journey that it took to get the bench to the top of the Incline there was not one complaint of being too tired, hurt or not wanting to be there by anyone. Actually the exact opposite was happening, with people wanting to help, and cheering them on trail side as well as worldwide. I had been keeping the GORUCK Tough community updated with photos on Facebook. People were overwhelmingly supportive, and jealous they couldn’t be there to do something so honorable. People couldn’t believe that the bench, almost 1,500lbs of wood and metal, was being carried was going up to the top such a small group of people.
As the bench was placed and pictures taken on top of the Incline, the challenge was not over for Class 493. The 3 mile trek down Barr Trail, then they made their way back to Red Rock Canyon parking lot for a short trip over to Memorial Park in the center of Colorado Springs. They regrouped there and took time to honor the men and woman who have lost their lives with a 21 count exercise at the National Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial and at each of the United States Armed Service Memorials.
During this challenge the team covered over 15 miles, over 4000 feet of elevation change, and a total time of over 17 hours working towards their goal to honor SSG David Dunlap and Whitney Butler.
On a personal note, it was my honor to be there to document this event for those involved personal and to show the world what can be done by a few motivated individuals and they deserved to be recognized:
Parker Smith, Ruth Clymor, Chris Way, Nicholas Sealy, Jessica Neilson, Phillip Glorioso, Ross Cook, Jonathon Mason, Mark Wise, Steven Miller, Julie Sealy, Donald Downs, Benjamin Jameson, Dana Whitmore, David tatham, Brian Reynolds, Michael D’Ippolito, Henry Hemphill, Ben Anderson, Darrin Ingram, Kristopher Levy, Jason Banda, John Brewer, Dru Harrison, Carl Suby, Katie Steitz, Colleen Brooks, David Ensley, Kipp Clemons, Jules Ostrander, Taj Mathew, Theo Nalezynski, Lucas Rivera, Ben McClendon, Shawn Daoust, Paul Goforth, Bryan Shane, Gunther Dylan Hoshijo, Jacob Ellis
To some what was done was crazy, to others it was amazing, to all of us that were there it was our duty to honor our friend, a soldier in the United States Army, and loving husband SSG DAVID DUNLAP and his wife Whitney Butler.
During this weekend I traveled to Boston, MA for another amazing weekend with the GORUCK family. I would be photographing back to back GORUCK challenges on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, oh yea we know what that means! The weekend went great, met up with old friends, and made new friends! As with all GORUCK weekends they just seem to fly by and you never really think about what happened, however with this weekend something special did happen. CADRE Lou (head CADRE for GORUCK), Kipp Clemmons, Matt Francev, Greg Stroud and Cassie Harris all raised over $6400 for St. Baldrick’s charity. (www.stbaldricks.org) Then to top it all off they shaved their head in honor of those very same children. These guys being good to their word about shaving their heads, CADRE Lou said “We may be doing this ghetto style, but we are GOING to do it” as we found the electrical outlet for the trimmers in the staircase of the Boston Common’s parking garage.
Here are some of the photos:
The complete set of photos can be seen at:
This past weekend I had the pleasure of shadowing the GORUCK Challenge (GRC) event that was held in Atlantic City, NJ. The GORUCK challenge is an extreme endurance event, that tries to give participates an 8-12hr look into what it is to be trained like a Special Forces operator; Green Berets, Navy Seals, and Marine Corp Recon. It was founded by a former Green Beret, and all of the Cadre (instructors) are active and retired Special Forces Operators as well. Part of every entry fee goes to the Green Beret Foundation. Take a look at this video to learn more. The GORUCK Challenge Official Video
GORUCK CHALLENGE: Class 423
I arrived to Atlantic City on Thursday evening with Jeff Engler, a rookie to GORUCK. He was nervous but at the same time confident, to a point. We all have a self-preservation moment before our first challenge; “why are we doing this again?” “What was I thinking?” ”Am I ready for this?” Jeff was good about asking questions, and understood when I’d say “you’ll see” or “just remember, no quitting its all mental!”
I was able to enjoy a beautiful sunrise Friday morning before the challenge.
We’ll call those pictures the calm before the storm, literally and figuratively. Cadre Chris Stokes had been taunting the members of this class for the past few weeks, warning that this would be his “Sistine Chapel” of challenges. The level of pain would be brought to new heights, and his signature “Soul Crushing” would be on point, as he said “the beach is a Recon Marine’s playground.” As a witness to this event I can say he raised the bar for every one of the participates at this challenge, alumni and rookies. No one would be the same after this, and flash backs to the Atlantic ocean would not be of a warm summer day at the beach, but a nightmare-ish date with Cadre Stokes.
All types of people come out to do GORUCK, but one thing in common is they are there to challenge themselves. To prove that they have “what it takes” to get through something as tough as the GORUCK Challenge. They will work together as a team and learn to help someone who is struggling and to take help when you need it. The main theme of a challenge is to come together as a team, 30 individuals thinking as 1 team to accomplish the mission.
The reality of heavy objects…
They slow you down, requires teamwork, physical and mental strength to push through the pain and ruck on!
When it comes to a GORUCK challenge, everyone gets wet no matter what. You could be in the middle of a desert and the cadre will find a way to get you wet. Well in the warmer months that could be a pleasant, refreshing moment of the night; however in February it is a game changer. Being wet from rain in the winter time is one thing, but being told to walk into the Atlantic Ocean at 1am in 30 degree weather is a huge mental hurdle that most people won’t ever think about doing, let alone do willingly. Cadre Stokes meant the words he taunted the class with, and he lived up to them… and in the ocean they went. Myself, and the other shadows with me just watch, cringed, while Stokes just chuckled and said “Soul Crushing” as he walked away.
Working as a team to warm up was a great idea…
Until the Cadre says “I heard there was some snow in the forecast? Can you feel it? No? Then make it happen!”
Throughout the event there were moments participates met with some serious inner demons, having to push them away and move forward I watched rookies and alumni struggle together side by side. This challenge was not like many, it was COLD, WET, and RAW. The weather was in the favor of Cadre Stokes, helping him try to crush souls. However there were moments of great strength, with an 80lb ruck being carried by Conor or Max, who don’t weight much more than 140-160lbs themselves. Also don’t forget the fact that 10-12 people were carrying a log that weight as much as some cars most of the night.
Throughout the event there are funny moments as well, like Kevin Andrews wearing a GORUCK speedo.
Or Richard Sander’s Cat t-shirt
There are times in a challenge when you think “you want me to do what? Shoes AND socks?”
When a Cadre says its “pays to be a winner,” they mean it! While others get to rest you do more work…while getting wet, and cold!
As day breaks, moral boasts slightly, as people know time is passing; the pain, suffering, and cold will end soon. The log they carried is finally put down… just to end up back in the water!
The log is back up and moving, a team is forming… mental fortitude is taking over…
…team members are sacrificing their own body for the team!
When you feel like you can’t go on any longer…
You dig deep…
Then when you least expect it… “SECURED!” You have completed the GORUCK Challenge!
You receive a 2×3 piece of fabric that means nothing to most, but EVERYTHING to you!
On a personal note, I know quite a few that were in this class, it was my pleasure to be there to document your GRC. I have done one GORUCK challenge myself, and have shadowed two others, but this one BY FAR has been the most painful to watch. To see people who I consider beasts in the GRT community pushing through on pure guts, and mental toughness was amazing! Cadre Chris Stokes raised the bar without a doubt, class 423 started with 31 and ended with 31, but not because they had one or two studs in the class… because they worked as a team throughout, and never left anyone behind!
This weekend I was given the opportunity to photograph the Sandy Hook Relief Fundraiser put on by Crossfit RedZone. As all us I had seen the ongoing news coverage, including the day of as I myself work in a school. I was unsure what the event was going to be like, what the atmosphere was going to be. However, I should have known better, as anything to do with the Crossfit community can only go one way… AMAZING!
As a photographer I have a unique view of events, from the outside behind the tape with the spectators, inside with the athletes, and behind the scenes with the staff and volunteers, (which was an army in itself) Kris and Kurt, of Crossfit RedZone, opened their hearts to a community of like minded individuals who not only donated their money, but gave blood, sweat and tears for 10 minutes in memory of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary.
Yesterday I took the time to get back out to a location I had been when I started in photography, Glendale Falls. The falls are on the Trustees of Reservation land, which from what I’ve seen well maintained and well marked. The past day of down pours made for quite a show and the power of the water was hear from down the roadway prior to pulling into the parking lot. I love hearing the sounds of the water, and enjoying the silence of the “real” world.
This is the first falls that starts Glendale Falls
About a third a way down the falls
Amazed by the power and beauty of nature
About halfway down the falls, this part to the right of the ice covered grass is not normally covered in water. With the recent rain it was flowing quite a bit higher than normal.
The main part of Glendale Falls. I could have sat here all day, even in the 28 degree weather, its just so majestic!
The bottom falls, which today was almost deafening with the amount of water rushing by.
Over my left shoulder you can see the sky and tree line, that is how far up the falls go. Actually they continue further than what can be seen. Other than an aerial shot, there is no way to photograph the entire falls together.
On my way back up the trail I found this amazingly built set of trail stairs. The hard work it takes to build something like this is incredible and the people who did it should be recognized for their efforts.
After being someplace like Glendale Falls I always sit and wonder, “What would it be like to be there all the time? Would it lose its luster or majestic feel?” After a bit of thought I always come back to the same thought, “There is no place I would rather be than in the outdoors photographing these amazing locations to share with others.”
Please take some time to visit the Trustees of Reservation page to learn more about Glendale Falls.