Friday, October 12, 2018

Michigan Explorer: Roman Kahler

The beauty of nature is clearly communicated in Roman's photography. From the shorelines of Michigan to the Aurora of Sweden, a timeless thread connects his art. As we got to know him through social media, the love Roman has for history and the land was immediately apparent. It wasn't until recently that we learned about some of his other hobbies and passions. We truly enjoy witnessing the experiences and knowledge he shares through his photography.

Meet Roman Kahler

Go-to outdoor activity:

Rainy day back-up plan:
Restoring vintage axes

Favorite snack:
Icelandic yogurt

Favorite piece of gear:
A tie between my boots, Red Wing 1412’s, and my Zeiss 25mm

Worst adventure advice you’ve heard:
Leave your axe at home

Something you won’t do or are afraid of:
Kayak long distances in Lake Superior

What you never travel without:
A compass

Always on your road trip playlist:
Dire Straits
Kings of Convenience
Sufjan Stevens
Pink Floyd
Greensky Bluegrass

The Interview

Many people combine more than just one way to enjoy being outdoors. What are you into?
I love just being in the forest. I enjoy hiking, backcountry camping, fishing, hunting, trapping, and processing firewood.

What inspires you?
The first people to explore the upper Great Lakes Region, and the skills and endurance they had to explore such a remote hostile environment.

What are your outlets for that inspiration?
I either pick up a guitar or camera and channel my creativity into some sort of medium.

Tell us about your interest in trees.
I’ve developed an obsession with finding old growth trees in Michigan. “Old-growth” is loosely defined, but in Michigan it generally means trees that avoided the axe (or saw) during the logging era of the late 1800s. When Michigan was almost entirely clear cut, 19.5 million acres were left barren and nothing was replanted until the 1930s. Very few trees in Michigan are older than 100 years and almost all are second growth.
There are a couple places to view the towering Virgin White (pinus strobus) and Red Pines (pinus resinosa) in Michigan: the most famous are Hartwick Pines near Grayling, and Estivant Pines near Copper Harbor (home to 600 year old trees, the largest pines in Michigan). The Huron Mountain Club also has virgin untouched pine forests, but there is no public access. Only club members are allowed to walk beneath them. There are also several tracts of old growth hardwoods (oak/maple/beech/poplar) in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula, and a large part of the Porcupine Mountains (31,000 acres) is old growth Northern Hardwoods, the biggest stand in North America.

In Manistee National forest, along a tributary to the Pine River, at least a dozen White Pines managed to survive the logging era. Most likely they were considered ugly trees, or were saplings at the time, but it’s neat to find trees of this age and size hidden deep in the forest. Their canopy rises about 40 feet above the rest of the second growth forest.

Tell us about a time when adventure became a lifestyle for you.
The first time I went to Isle Royale when I was 18, I realized how much love I had for backpacking and physically exerting myself to my full potential. One day we had to hike 24 miles because our chosen campsite was closed due to wolf activity, it made me realize that the uncertainty of the unknown can be positively fulfilling.

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Dealing with the metal rod in my leg is a constant challenge, I broke my leg in a weightlifting accident 9 years ago and still get a daily reminder.

What kind of adventures do you have while photographing nature?
I was crossing a frozen lake in northern Norway in mid May, and that year was an exceptionally warm one so as soon as I got out about a half mile I realized I may have made a mistake. There were cracks in the ice everywhere and I started panicking. A local sheep herder's border collie came running after me from the shore. At first I was confused by this dog sprinting straight towards me, but I quickly realized it was actually trying to get me to safety. It’s herding instincts kicked in and it kept nudging me in the direction of the shore. I got my camera out and snapped a few pics and she seemed to know exactly what was going on and posed for me. Back at shore, I met the owner and he told me the dog’s name was Keke and that she was a 14 year old border collie that was deaf and almost blind. Thanks Keke.

What’s next for you? Are you looking forward to something or working on a project?
I’m working on a detailed guidebook for the entire Keweenaw Peninsula, hoping to share my love for the area with others.

What is your advice for choosing a place to camp in Michigan?
I follow three rules for choosing a campsite in Michigan:

1. Free. You shouldn’t have to pay to spend the night in the woods. Especially in your own state. So don’t!

2. Far from people. Camping in campgrounds is for Ohio folks; luckily in Michigan we have enough public land to find your own spot.

3. On the water. Be mindful of the 200 ft rule in popular places, but in most of the UP this doesn’t apply outside of state parks. Also be mindful of vegetation, as a lot of rare plants and blueberries grow along most of our Great Lakes shoreline. Being on the water also gives you a breeze to keep bugs down, a fresh source of water, and the sound of waves at night to help you sleep like a baby.

I encourage you to look at a map, Google Earth, or just drive down a two-track near a lake, and camp. Campgrounds are quick and easy to book, and have amenities for someone that may be new to sleeping in a tent, but it’s hard to find peace and quiet. With modern day satellite imagery, you can find a great place to camp from your computer or phone. And remember, Michigan has 3,288 miles of shoreline so finding a spot on the water isn’t hard.

What encouragement do you have for the person who is ready to step out and try something new?
Just do it, don’t doubt yourself or you’ll live with the regret for the rest of your life.

How can people get in touch with you or follow your adventures?
My Instagram is @foranova and my website is

Roman has traveled to Alaska (bear photo), Iceland, Norway (snowy road, above), and lived for a year in Scandinavia guiding northern lights tours in Sweden (Aurora Borealis). He mostly travels in his home state of Michigan, and recently backpacked in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan's Upper Peninsula where a map and compass are essential guides. Check out his Instagram account for beautiful aerial views of Copper Harbor, Agate Harbor, and Manistee National Forest, and follow along as he shares what he knows and learns about the history and natural treasures of this great state.

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