Eli Rush Called to the wilderness | TheUnion.com

Eli Rush Called to the wilderness

With his green pickup truck loaded with camping gear, $1,300 worth of film and two bottles of whiskey, landscape photographer Eli Rush departs for the Alaskan wilderness this week.

“I just hope my truck doesn’t break down,” Rush said.

Rush and a friend, backpacker Ed Hensley, are traveling to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where they will spend a month 300 miles from any town. They plan to photograph and write about what they find in the wild.

“I want to feel the place. If it works for you, a wilderness environment can do something that nothing else can,” Rush said.

Rush will travel roughly 3,500 miles up the Cassiar Highway through Canada, the Yukon territories and finally into Alaska, where he will meet up with Hensley in Fairbanks.

From there, the two will travel to the small town of Coldfoot, with a population of 15, to hitch a 300-mile ride with a bush pilot to the Northern Slope of the Brooks Range.

“Just lifting off – there’s nothing that feels like being on a bush plane setting off into the wilderness,” Rush said.

The healthy, tan but grizzled 58-year-old’s history of wilderness trips into places like the Amazon rainforests and the Canadian Yukon territories dates back to his early ’30s.

Rush wants to “grab the landscape” using heavy large format cameras.

“If any wildlife gets in my images, it will be by luck,” Rush said. A very “cool shot” would be a black-and-white photograph capturing a long line of 130,000 migrating caribou trekking across the rugged land.

He has modified a backpacking frame to accommodate the 50 to 70 pounds of equipment he plans to lug around the wilderness. He said he prepared himself physically for the trip by working out on the stairmaster with a backpack full of dumbbells and anything else he could find.

Rush and Hensley will spend 30 “slothful” days paddling 100 river miles by inflatable canoe. They are prepared for rainshowers, 90-degree temperatures and snow. The only communication they will have with the outside world is by way of radio phone.

The two have packed enough freeze-dried food and tea to last a month. Located 20 miles short of the Arctic Ocean, Rush and Hensley will represent a minority population of humans in a world teeming with grizzly and polar bears.

“When you actually know you’re part of the food chain, there’s a special charge to that,” Rush said.

The color and black-and-white photographs will be reproduced using an old-style platinum printing method when Rush returns home. The developed images will go on display during a public slideshow several months later.

“I want the photographs to teach,” Rush said, who plans to bring awareness to the region threatened by oil drilling. “Showing through art, I’m hoping, can be very impactful.”

Rush’s photography is on display at Aimee Taylor’s on Mill Street in Grass Valley and at the Magikal Florist on Zion Street in Nevada City.

Last winter, Rush collected $4,000 for his trip during a fundraiser. While the money helped, Rush said he’s still “sweatin’ it.” Rush is offering photographs to those who make donations of $200 or more. People can contribute to Rush’s Alaska trip through his account, Rainforest Expeditions at Placer Sierra Bank, 757 Sutton Way Grass Valley, 273-8195.


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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