An Active Mind

Jaime Hill and Daniel Larsson dropping into the continuous 1,150-foot slickrock descent of Henriknesfjellet. Narvik, Norway.

An Active Mind Up Close and Personal with Leslie Kehmeier

What do pearl earrings, darkrooms and a Polaroid camera have in common?

They’re all elements that led Colorado-born Leslie Kehmeier to her profession as an adventure photographer. At only 9 years old she started her journey via a school program that eventually steered her into the process of developing images in a darkroom— even though she was afraid of the dark. Those early analog years of developing film, coupled with a camera that her parents gave her after a trip to Asia, ignited her interest in photography.

Her passion for adventure was also kindled at an early age. Her parents regularly took Kehmeier and her sister Carrie on trips that entailed flying on planes to far-away locations. Even at the young age of 10 she was adamant that her camera be loaded with film so she could document these travels. The Polaroid and pearl earrings were given to her later in life—after a close aunt passed away—but they are sources of significant inspiration. Kehmeier has since traveled to all of Earth’s seven continents, and wherever she goes, she wears the earrings as a way of bringing her aunt with her.

She recently carried the Polaroid on a bikepacking trip to Nepal in April 2018. As she made her way around the Annapurna Circuit, she photographed locals and left them with pictures of themselves. The joy of gifting the photos far outweighed the actual weight of carrying an additional piece of equipment along a self-supported journey that climbed above 17,000 feet of elevation.

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