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BU Seat Racing
Finding the Run
Munich - Sept 2022
St. Johankirche


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It pleases me to share these.
One request: 
please remember to credit the photographer,
Phil Stekl,
if you choose to post any on social media.  
Thx, PWS

Texas Random

Rowing Photography

Grand-road-trip-fantasy patina wears off pretty quickly.  Podcasts & music help but they never offer to take the wheel.  I tried to get my best friend Kurt to join me for a chunk of my recent odyssey but he said “not my thing” and I don’t blame him.  He did fly out to Austin from Boston after suggesting that we meet there for a few days of good music & other stuff - that’s what best friends do.  


There are many more moments when I wish I could be anywhere else besides the long road I’m stuck on than those when I’m happy about being blessed by serendipity along the way (Ipso facto).  


But there’s no question that, after covering thousands of miles behind the wheel, across a landscape as diverse as America’s, when you do shoot, you shoot a different sort of photo. And that, I suppose, is the reason it must be done. 


Click on the cotton field image above to view the series. 

Egyptian Smiles

Rowing Photography
Rowing Photography
Rowing Photography
Rowing Photography
Rowing Photography

What’s your persuasion on Yin & Yang? Do you believe that Good can flow from Bad and, well, vice versa?  


During the Christmas of 1980 some of us were still licking wounds inflicted by President Carter’s decision to boycott the Moscow Olympics, which were held without Americans five months earlier, to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For those of us who had committed years preparing, that edict, cadit quaestio, was a gut-punch - yet hardly the most severely-consequential decision made during his term. Carter juggled intractable domestic (high inflation) and international (Iran hostage) crises which rocked him squarely to his back foot. By the time he left D.C., a scant 34% of Americans approved of his work.


But wait… there was actually a place on Earth where uttering the name “Jimmy Carter” brought smiles & cart-loads of goodwill. The Egypt–Israel peace treaty, which Carter had brokered in 1979, ushered in a promise of peace for millions of conflict-weary people. Egyptians on the street were more than grateful. To them - to 100% - J.C. was a hero. 


Carter tried to make peace in other ways. He compensatorily paved the way for US Olympic athletes to compete abroad before & after the Moscow Games at supra-budget events. That opened the door for us rowers to race in the Nile River Regatta in Cairo during Christmas week 1980. Carter won the hearts of a people at best historically indifferent to Americans and then fully-funded our “diplomatic mission” to their homeland.


Imagine visiting a country whose citizens afreshly adore YOU because of your President. Can you? You see my point.  


Jimmy Carter dashed our Olympic dreams but-gosh- look at the smiles in some of these photos.  Not every in photo, but maybe in more than you'd expect.


Would I get away with taking pics like these today? I even captured an AK-47-toting embassy guard who could have jammed me up but good. He wagged his finger at me. 


That week in Egypt I met people living very different, difficult lives who yet had the wherewithal to smile for a privileged blond, green-eyed Yank imposing on their privacy with a Nikon. Could it happen today? Maybe. But it absolutely did happen, once. 


And for that, I humbly thank you, Jimmy Carter.

Click on an image above to view the photo series

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Some say being in Terlingua is like visiting the end of the world.  To me it felt like the start of a new one. 


Here in this 110-resident southwest-Texas desert outpost one meets lefties, righties, credible sorts wedged in-between, survivalists and artists from all camps, gun toters, camera bearers, hard drinkers and teetotalers, Caucasians, Latinos, North Americans, Europeans (incl. Ukrainians), a respectable sample of pronouns and the odd Martian.  


And everyone gets along. Beautifully. 


How does it work?  A three-day stay in Terlingua hardly guarantees a peek behind the curtain because who would confide in someone like me - an abeyant cat among the pigeons?  But I was welcomed nonetheless, wholeheartedly, and offered several methods to cross over into their reality.  The stars did indeed burn with extraordinary beauty one particular night.  


I heard a few things that made sense to me.  Among the more prosaic: word has simply gotten around that anyone harboring a modicum of tolerance should at least visit this desert social experiment, and entertain exercising an option to stay forever.  Among the least: it’s the spell of the old cemetery occupying much of the town’s heart - whose tenants can be heard whispering under the piercing stars that our time to find a life well-lived is not infinite.  


My card in the hat is the music here- influenced as it is by the Mexican ballad - played in all-day & night rolling pickup jams by astoundingly talented, modest musicians fleeing big-city spotlights yet enamored with the telling of beautifully-woven tales of love and loss.  It’s not easy to get pissed off at your anti-matter self when you’re listening, together, to one of these ballads performed on the porch of the Terlingua Trading Company under an impossibly-brilliant starlit sky.


There is probably a mix of ingredients at work here but there is no denying the fundamental influence of one: space. Space to be, space to flee, space between you and “The Man”.  Here in Terlingua, everyone is afforded plenty of it.  And yet, behold, there is also a glue - a community.  As one of the 110 here, Davis, a carpenter and mandolin player with urgent eyes, explained to me, “I’ve spent my whole life becoming a person who is meant for a place like this…where I can be weird ‘me’ and still fit in.”  


Terlingua (tər-LING-gwə) - a liquid, roll-off-the-tongue affair with world-altering potential.  The next time your political or philosophical adversary is flaring up over something you said or did, resist fanning it and instead gently suggest, “Hey… easy there; Terlingua, my friend”.  

Click on one of the images above to view the series.

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“Of course it hurts, but some learn that it doesn’t have to stop you.”  Harry Parker


Finding the Run
Sept 2022

You don’t have to be a rower to know something about glide - not the glide you take, but the one you make. Downhill skiing is thrilling, but a masterful skate across a frozen lake, or a skim atop another body of water - not in a motorboat - but with a crawl- or breast stroke, under your own power, is more than entertainment.  It’s more because you’ve committed, with your own juice, to finding the run.


Millstättersee is one of the longest lakes in Austria, and the deepest. Some would also say the most becoming.  It is always a treasure to behold and betake but the loch  becomes a private sanctuary in the autumn, when Alpen winds have ceased ruffling her and the powerboaters have retreated.


Inge & I try to do at least one 22k-roundtrip Millstättersee “lake shot” every fall in a 2x.  We have the entire stretch to ourselves- save for the odd cob & pen pair…. It’s difficult to imagine another way to get that high - gliding along on that placid but ethereal surface in sync with someone you truly like being with - together absorbed on nurturing meters per stroke.


At the east end of the lake, our halfway point, we beach the boat and jump out for a 15-minute stretch and a water & energy bar chaser.  When the boat is running well we are grateful to get back to it.


Here’s wishing that you all succeed in finding YOUR run - if not on the water, ice or snow, then in the manner which begs no version of H2O:  that which comes, simply, magically, with a good partner.

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World Rowing Masters Regatta Champions, Libourne, FRA

Sept 2022

Community - social, religious, political, familial - you name it, can’t buy it: how enriching it is to identify with others who lift us to heights otherwise beyond our reach.


I’ve been racing with most of these exceptional gentleman since the age of 20.  Low & behold, four decades later, we’re still at it. What a gift it is to be able to put your faith in others, who also sit in your “boat”, to rise to the occasion as much as you hope to yourself.


Every year a new anatomical challenge.  Every year a bit slower.  Every year a treasure.


R to L:

Pete Kermond

Mike Totta

Phil Stekl

Alex Cook


Photo by I. Stekl

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Munich From the Inside Out
Sept 2022


What’s the game plan when you’ve got less than 24 hours to see Munich.  Inge knew. Can’t go too wrong with starting with the cathedrals.

Click on the image above to view the series.

Hold Your Baby Tight

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St. Johannkirche of Oberfalkenstein

August 2022


St. Johannkirche, built in the 13th century, sits atop a rock face at the base of Austria’s Mt. Ankogel.  In the days when that formable spitz kept enemies at bay the church benefited, and was protected by, the soldiers of Burg Oberfalkenstein, that  towered over the same grounds.  While the church survives more or less intact, the castle has fallen in ruin.


Given the steep vertical perch of the church, it’s not easy to get a perspective that does it justice - namely, one in which the viewer is on a plane that yields a frontal view capture that isn’t distorted by foreshortening of the structure, and in which the mountain range fully adorns the background.  The perfect shot, IMHO, is the one that accentuates the imposing rock perch, reveals the lap of the mountain in which it sits and brings out the deep contrasting work of the sun on the whole gorgeous thing.


Inge, my partner at the scene, momentarily took the wind out of my sails by remarking, “You just need a drone”, suggesting that anyone with an Amazon account could render this personal test moot.  But the breeze returned when I concluded that there was simply no way I’d risk my four lb GFX100 plus hefty 32-64mm lens on the back of a non-military-issue drone.  If you want a 100mb image, you’ve just gotta hold your baby tight, with your own adoring, adept hands.


It turns out that there is indeed a perfect vantage point that checks all the boxes, which plants you up high enough, suspended in the valley graced by the church.  The suspension mechanism is the 500m-long train trestle spanning the valley -  and the perfect “spot” is the 250m mark.


The train still runs and, although there’s a schedule, timeliness is a coincidence.  But there is a signal - the overhead wires that feed the engine start to “sing” when the train is about one-minute away.  So that was the trick - to take the shot from the middle of the trestle, between songs.


The rest of this series of images captures the castle ruins.  Another story with that.  But time’s out…

Click on the image above to view the series.

Vive la Difference

La Gare de l'est, Paris
Sept 2022


The French have nothing against Uber but French Uber drivers aren’t too keen on fetching passengers deep in remote Bordeaux.  That’s where I was one recent morning - 550 kilometers south of where I needed to be by the end of that day to hop a 13-hour NightJet to Linz - namely, in Paris.  By way of a patchwork of modes - a private lift to the outskirts of Bordeaux, an Uber to Bordeaux-St Jean, a TGV to Paris Montparnasse and finally the underground to La Gare de l’est - I arrived at my NightJet “launching pad” none the worse for wear and, because I had built in plenty of buffer to compensate for bumpy patchwork seams, landed a good six hours before my N-J departure.


What does a fine art photographer do with six hours to kill in a legacy train station such as La Gare de l’est on a busy midday Tuesday?


We all probably have a reasonably well-formed, personalized definition of beauty.  Variety and contrast are at the heart of mine, and all the better when I have to sweat some to find it.  Observing patterns, people & the unique places that bring them together spark my wires.  Six hours in the right setting can feel like two minutes to me.  One can witness - spectate - the gamut of human expression in a magnet as big and bustling as La Gare de l’est: panic and ennui, the countenance of the mindful and the oblivious, the movements of the awkward and the graceful, and the heart-rendering dramatizations of the blessed and the damned - namely, in the whole, a display of contrast on (night)jet fuel.  And that’s barely the half of it - the wider angle becomes even sexier:  unleashed, unpredictable and uncorrelated human expression unfolding within the womb of a structure designed to be elegantly linear and inspire temporal precision. Wow.  That’s an Nth level of contrast that never grew in your grandpa’s garden.


We argue a lot over different positions and attitudes. But can you imagine how sterile life would be if we were all cut from  the same cloth?  John Steinbeck once wrote: “For how can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?”


Extremes certainly warrant caution, and the appreciation of variety may test our tolerance but, in my book, the French, who may indeed have had a more gender-centric message in mind, are nonetheless on the right track with


“Vive la Difference"

Click on one of the images below to view the series.

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Team Austria at World Rowing European Championships
Munich Olympiastrecke
August 2022


The heavy lifting continues but the push to raise Austrian rowing to its full potential is showing progress, as evidenced by the depth of overall performance at the European Championships this weekend in Munich, highlighted by two A-final placements (Lobnig and Schöberl).


Hats off to head national team coach Robert Sens and staff, and to the athletes who have accepted the challenge to raise the bar.

Click on one of the images below to view the downloadable series.

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A Far-Away Place

Impressions of Moravia

May, 2022

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Even natural wonders deemed “hard to reach” are likely blessing somebody’s back yard -         maybe even your own.


The host of a podcast I like was interviewing a photographer known for his rendering of “The Palouse” in Washington state.  Palouse is an agricultural region famous for its reclining-nude-like topography and fields of kaleidoscopic wonder.  As the podcast started to wind down I began scheming a Palouse adventure of my own (a 17,000 km roundtrip commitment), but fantasy planning was agitated when the host ventured, in conclusion, “Your work is particularly appealing given that there’s probably nothing like The Palouse anywhere else in the world.”  Planning momentum experienced in turn critical diversion when the photographer responded, “Well, actually, there’s a region in southern Czechia called Moravia that is very similar to The Palouse -  but it’s VERY hard to reach.”


Moravia is a pleasant three-hour drive from our flat in Linz.


Planning adopted renewed vigor, fueled by childish delight in the extraordinary good fortune of being only a stone’s-throw from somewhere “hard to reach” and the upped odds of my securing a renowned aesthetics advisor for the foray.  Inge & I circled a couple of days at the end of May when school vacation and peak Moravian colors at least theoretically overlapped.


We ended up missing peak colors - particularly the rich yellows - by a week or two, but rolling hills and cooperative sun were in abundance and gifted me enough material to capture at least a few acceptable images.


Beyond satisfying a photographic itch in a carbon-sparing manner, the trip would reward us in other, serendipitous ways for deferring Palouse.  In lieu of rich yellows we were served a plum version of Valašsky frgál - a traditional Moravian prune layer cake which was, as Inge astutely noted, in its piquant design akin to strawberry shortcake.  The engineer of said delight, the baker of the Kyjov penzion where we overnighted, was himself a treasure, relishing at table-side in our “O-lord-this-is-so-good”s and driven to near-ecstasy by the opportunity to practice both his English and German in parallel with subtle yet enthusiastic head-swivels.


I suppose the other moral of the tale is that you shut things off early at your peril.  Who could have guessed that the word “Moravia” would have been uttered at the tail end of a podcast by a photographer born, bred and forever bound to Washington state?

Visit the "Place" Gallery to view the photo series. Or just click on one of the images above.

Keep moving…  pWs


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Most of us know about “flow” moments… experiences so all-consuming and good that we are squarely unified with them -  periods of unselfconscious connection with a physical movement, an intellectual pursuit, creative endeavor, pure pleasure - or with another human being. 


Rowers certainly know about flow: those priceless moments in which mind & body find a relationship with boat & water (and partners) which optimizes the run of the whole.  It is the promise of achieving flow that keeps many of us intimately engaged with the sport our entire lives.


 I cannot claim the faculty to switch-on at will those occasions in which I stop being a                 spectator of the world but rather intimately connected to it.  Nonetheless, despite not knowing precisely how or why these moments unfold, I do know that they seem to bring out the best in me.


Shedding the role of spectator does seem to require losing selfhood.  Doing so seems to attend to something good.  I don’t really know what “self” is, or if it is, but it does clog up the pipes sometimes.


I wouldn’t mind having more flow tickets -  I bet you wouldn’t either.  Is it as simple as appreciating our dependence on the people, places and things around us - rather than assuming that we are independent, self-driven entities which randomly bump into each other - in order to recognize, if not celebrate, the role played by the external world in defining who we are - an approach that might replace what too often seems to be a first-response attitude of intolerance by one of, what - gratitude?  I’m not sure. 


But wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Wiener Int'l Regatta - June 2022

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Hot weather and even hotter racing at the Wiener International Regatta, which showcased M and U23 small boat speed trials and junior international event qualifications.  

Click on one of the above three images to view the series.

Austrian Rowing Federation Small-boat Test

April 23 & 24, 2022


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Last weekend the organizers of the world championship Regattastrecke in Linz/Ottensheim, Austria hosted an event to test the small-boat skills of virtually every competitive rower in the country.


Hundreds of athletes from every corner of Austria, ages 13 to 35, novice to Olympic medalist, convened at the world-class regatta venue with a singular pursuit- to set the course on fire.


I could have pointed the camera virtually anywhere and have captured something compelling - with every facial expression and technical nuance an exclusive story in of itself.

Click on the above photo to view the series. 


To those of you who participated in the trial: please share this link with teammates & competitors.  I tried to photography everyone who churned down the course that weekend.    pWs

Impressions of Death Valley
November, 2021


"…we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

Travels with Charley

John Steinbeck

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To drive down roads that probed earthy vanishing points seemed sufficient reason to trek out to Death Valley from Connecticut, but it was the surprise awaiting me at the end of one of those gravel lanes that would truly define the whatfor.


His name isn’t Nate but it’s something like that.  He was as surprised to see me as I was to find him, and he did pause in his tracks for a moment before recovering to ask,

“Sir, are you okay? Do you need help?”


After a wobble of my own at the thought of conveying neediness, I told him who I was and why I was there.  He volunteered his name and that the olive-green bus behind him was where he and his folks called home, and the expanse of desert engulfing us their "spot".  “Where’s your school?”, I ventured.  "Nate" again motioned towards the bus.


During the three-day drive west I had time to imagine what was awaiting me in Death Valley, and how I might do it justice with a camera.  But never did I imagine that the middle of nowhere - a place where a polite, earnest-beyond-his-years boy would reach out to me, a perfect stranger, with sincere concern - could truly be the middle of somewhere singularly special.  

Visit the "Place" Gallery to view the photo series. Or just click on one of the images above.  pWs

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Heineken Roeivierkamp -
Amsterdam, March 2022

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Head of the Charles -
Boston, October 2021

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1980 Olympic Rowing Team Reunion - Boston, October 2021

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Boston University Men's Rowing
Training (Oct 28, 2021)
& Racing (HOCR 2021)

Click on image to access 140+ downloadable hi-res photos.


Theodore Allison Nash
1932 - 2021

Ted Nash in action before the collegiate national championships in 1975-  _Sons, remember

I had a wonderful dad, so when I say that Ted Nash was like a father to me it is not because there was a void in that department.  Ted’s calling was to make fast boats, but he knew that it started with a gaze into the souls of his charges.  Ted certainly made fast boats.  But along the way he also made more complete, self-aware young men and women - because he knew us… because he cared.  


What’s the measure of sterling influence?  When you ask yourself, in matters involving your own children, what Ted might have said, you know that you’ve been deeply influenced.  Although there may be more facets to the legacy of Theodor A. Nash than one man or woman can definitively convey, I am grateful to have known him well enough to be one of those voices.  PWS


Don’t blink: 66 seconds capturing three full days of exacting work to cover the north, Danube-facing wall of R.V. Ister Linz with a mural scene designed & applied by artist team Julia Heinisch & Frederic Sontag at VIDEO.SCKRE.
Video by P.W.Stekl


Eder Empacher Maiden Row
E = MC^2
Ottensheim, September 2020

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Under-23 European Rowing Championships
Duisburg, September 2020


Middletown High School Class of '74
45th Anniversary Reunion
Middletown, November 2019

Death Valley
Ister Wall Mural
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