Mylo Fowler on Finding Your Path to Adventure, and Capturing the Moment
Show Notes for Podcast #99
Mylo Fowler on Finding Your Path to Adventure, and Capturing the Moment
Matt Scott and Scott Brady interview Mylo Fowler live at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff. Mylo shares his experiences in Northeast Arizona, and traveling the globe as a National Geographic photographer.
I'm a husband, father & photographer.
I was born at our Navajo Nation capital and raised in Northern Arizona as an 80's kid. There aren't many malls, stores or gas stations however, we were and still are surrounded by sooo much beauty!
My photography career started without a camera as I guided wonderful people through (the now famous) Antelope Slot Canyon.
While having an hour or two with each guest, many enjoyed the land but weren't as happy with their photographs. At that point I studied how light, lenses and camera settings all worked together.
Quickly understanding the relationship, I got to work!
From helping those that were completely new to photography to the advanced, I set off to photograph the world. I visited China, Europe many times, Alaska and Central America and numerous places however I felt a deep void, a lack of connection to these places.
I was frustrated!
I felt like my passion ran out of gas so I went home - home to Navajoland.
A couple days before my birthday I had the most vivid dream of a sunrise over Monument Valley. I remember waking up shortly after midnight because of how surreal it was.
The following morning I packed my photography gear, camping equipment and set off… The photo itself is special and won several of the most prestigious awards in Native American Fine art. Since then I've focused on capturing the Sweet Light of Navajoland and helping others learn about their cameras on my workshops to generate wonderful photographs.
Growing up off the land with my great and grandparents I learned the language. I'm not perfect with it however I landed the role of Crush in the Navajo version of "Finding Nemo."
My images have been featured by Adobe, Lightroom, National Geographic, Nissan USA, Adidas Terrex and in magazines like Native Peoples, Arizona Highways and many other outlets.
For many years my email signature ended with "Waiting for the Light" which has been a photographic phase. Now days it serves another purpose because many Navajo families are still Waiting for the Light.
The result of photographing the sweet light has led to powering 250+ homes across Navajoland. Roughly 20,000 homes don't have access to electricity or running water. I've been using proceeds from my photography work to instal Goal Zero solar kits on homes and hogans.
If you'd like to see how these solar installations work, view here.
If you would like to learn more about your digital camera & photograph Navajoland, click here.
Thank you for following along - may you Walk In Beauty
Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world's most remote places by 4WD and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. He is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
This episode sponsored in part by
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Matt Scott: Hey guys, we're here at Overland Expo West 2022, we have a super special guest with us, Mylo. I've just been catching up with Mylo here. I mean, you have like the craziest story! NatGeo photographer, you've had this amazing philanthropical aspect of your career? Where did it all start?
Mylo Fowler: It started with the really just a crazy idea, honestly, trying to figure out what do I want to do with my life, and how can I make a contribution or a meaningful impact.
Matt Scott: That's not a bad place to start.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, it's just like, you know, what am I going to do? And as I analyze, like, Oh, if I do this, or if I do that, that just came down to the fact that regardless of what I do, I'm going to probably be helping somebody. And the second thing is, I'm probably going to be solving problems in some way, shape, or form. And I think to a degree we all do that, you know, with our occupations and professions.
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Matt Scott: And if I remember you started off by leading tours in the Antelope Canyon and spending a lot of time out in nature. What was it about those those early trips and guiding people into that beautiful part of the world that inspired you to take your own photographs?
Mylo Fowler: You know, it's a really funny story, because I grew up, I mean, living off the land with my grandparents and I recently looked on Google Earth to see like how big the land was that we had where we had corn, squash, cantaloupe, I mean, just whatever we ate, and is basically 12 acres. And so, you know, I've always been attached to the land from as far back as I could remember because it provided for us and in the world of photography is really funny because the Slot Canyons are insanely beautiful, right? And so at that time, I would see people- this was days of film, like 35 millimeter medium format, four by five, saw an eight by ten every now and then, but digital, the biggest sensor was like two megapixels. You know, I was like whoa! You know?
Scott Brady: I know!
Matt Scott: Weren't there the cameras that had the floppy disk that went in?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah!
Matt Scott: I think that was like the first one that like- Woah! I can put my photos on a floppy disk!
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, so with photography is just that, you know, I see people come in with big backpacks and tripods and flashes, which is real- you never want to use that inside the Canyon for anything. Basically, it was like, just, okay, I figured out like where the nice colors were and essentially I would just say, Hey, you guys have all the gear and the lights really cool right here for like two minutes. And then after that, we're gonna go to this place over here. And then we have like 30 seconds, and then we'll have like, 10 minutes over here. Essentially, I just took people to these spots and I said, Okay, y'all do your thing! Step back and then go over here and then afterwards, I would ask them, so how was it? And I always got two responses, like, the canyon itself was incredible, right? If you've been to a slot canyon, it's unforgettable of like, the human experience that people have. However, their experience behind the camera was totally different, overexposed, underexposed, I couldn't get dialed in! This- you know, is struggling and the ones that had digital cameras, you could see their photos. Oh, this tripod was shaking, and it was bad and it was really kind of too a degree a disappointment, you know? And so then we were here in Flagstaff and at that time, I called a bookstore here, I was like, Hey, do you have any books about photography? And the guy was like, I've got one coming in, I think you'll really like it. It might be a month or two. So alright, here's my number, just call me. And I remember I was in middle of nowhere, going to Salt Lake, and my phone rang. And the guy's like, I got a book for you! And I said crap! I'm going to see this really hot chick! My jobs on the line and I'm not getting any tips. And I asked him, Well, how late can you be because from here to Flagstaff, that's like six hours!
Scott Brady: It's a long way.
Mylo Fowler: I'll be there around like 1am... He's like, I'll be here! All right, turned around. Went- came back here, got the book. And it's a book about this big and as I looked through it, and the guy's like this is one of the best books you'll ever like. I said cool, I opened it and it's like photos and a short paragraph, two liners, and I kept going. I was like, where's the lesson like about the math, aperture, shutter speed, and It was basically the Range of Light by Ansel Adams.
Scott Brady: Oh, wow.
Mylo Fowler: And the first page was signed by him!
Scott Brady: Oh hoh!
Matt Scott: Incredible!
Mylo Fowler: And so- and the book, it was like 80 bucks, and I was like, for me, that was expensive, you know?
Scott Brady: That's a lot of money, sure.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah! So I went through, I went through and there was not a single like, here's how you set up your camera or instruction. However, I began looking at the- his images and then afterwards, I saved my money again, and went to the camera store in Phoenix. And all I could afford at that point was a spot meter and the guy's like, here's how you use it, here's how the dials work. And then I just went into the slot canyons and metered this, that and- I worked there for a few years and so I had note cards, like, Okay, this light beam only comes in from July 2 to July 5, at this time, and it's only available for 17 seconds. And that's it. So I was really dialed in. And then the confidence that I had was really kind of scary, because it's like, these are people that have a lot of gear. And if I tell them what recommendations, how are they going to receive that, you know, so I just say, hey, you know, for this next scene, you know, here's probably what you want to do go to this ISO, the shutter speed, this aperture with what you got going on there, and let's try that. And then the guy was like, holy cow! He used other words. And then, I was like, all right, this guy likes it, I'm gonna go tell this guy. Hey, this next spot we're gonna go to, we're gonna have like five minutes, I want to set you up over here so I want you to rock right beside me. Once we get there. I'll set you up this way and when we're there, I think the settings are going to help you. You know like, just slowly, slowly, at the end of the tours, people were like, holy cow happy, you know, about seeing the place. And then afterwards, they pull out their wallet, and I got-
Scott Brady: And you got the tips, yeah!
Mylo Fowler: Fifties, hundreds! And I'm like, oh, yeah, this is it. I mean, that was really the case, I mean, for the first little bit, it was almost like a year of just, hey, we're gonna go here, Y'all do your thing. We're gonna hear, y'all do your thing. And then it just turned- and then TripAdvisor was- it's kind of new, and then people would write Oh, if you go to the canyon, you gotta go with Mylo! You know, so if you go look- like Antelope Canyon type in Mylo, you'll see hundreds of reviews. Like to this day, I mean, the last time I was working at the tour shop was probably, gosh, like, 15 something years ago, and they still get phone calls: "Can we go with Milo?"
Scott Brady: Amazing.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah. So that's how it started.
Scott Brady: You talk a lot about light in some of your articles that you've written and things like that. How do you see light today now that you've now that you have looked at that Ansel Adams book, and you've spent all these years photographing? How do you see light today?
Mylo Fowler: In the very same way. It's a source, there's a range of it, you know, it's it's either really bright, or it's really dark. Figuratively, when I go to like photograph, like, at night, or in like the slot canyons where your shutter speeds are, you know, four minutes, eight minutes long, depending on your settings, It's amazing how just a little bit of light can really illuminate the area, and you're like, wow, you know, and I think, you know, for photography, that's what it really is, is being able to understand and control light is like my number one objective no matter where I go to photograph, and then secondly, it's a reminder that I think we all have a little bit of light, and that no matter how bright or how dim, I think we probably think it's really dim at most of our lives. However, even that little bit of dim light, just being kind to somebody saying, hi, how are you, I like your truck, or you know, you have a cool beard or, you know, just something that is positive and uplifting is like, Man, I really needed to hear something and you just don't know how much of a difference that made for me. On my way down to here, going through the canyons, there's this vehicle pulled over, and I saw the trailer, it had two jet skis, I turned around, pull over, and it's a mom and four kids, as she said, yeah, nobody stopped here, we've been sitting here for like over an hour. I say yeah, it's probably because the roads are kind of windy, you know, but she's like, man, just you stopping alone just like made me feel so so at ease. I mean, they need a new axle, new bearings and whatever. You know, it's just amazing how like being in a rush, I decided just to pull over for five minutes and see if I could- I couldn't do anything, you know?
Matt Scott: Just the act of kindness of stopping.
Mylo Fowler: Just stopping and saying, Hey, are you okay? Do you guys, you know, is there anything I could do? You know, but just that thing I think that is, is something that we can do in different ways to bring that little bit of light to somebody.
Scott Brady: Light has been a theme in some of your commentary and you talk about a dream that you had in Monument Valley, and how it changed your life. Why don't you share a little bit about what that was?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, so a couple of days before my birthday, I remember waking up- I was dreaming and I remember waking up at 2:14 in the morning. In this vivid dream- and it felt so real, like I was there, and I've had a couple of those more spiritually happen in my life. And whenever those happen, it's like okay, we're doing it, you know. I mean, that was years ago, but I was like, man, I've got to go there you know. And so I go to this place- overlooking all of Monument Valley and you need you know, a really good a good rig to get up there because you're going through super soft sand and then you're slick rock and you're you're going up angles pretty steep, and then you get up there. That night, it got super cold. So my birthday is at the end of April, and that night we got snowed on. And I'm just like, oh, it's windy, worse than this, you know. And I was like, Oh man, but the next morning, about four o'clock the sun- you can see a little bit of light but it was starting- it got really calm and then by then, like around like five o'clock you start seeing the tour vehicles, their headlights, going through the park, but I didn't see any. I said, oh what's going on? And then I just saw one of the most amazing sunrises and I use my panoramic film camera to create the image.
Matt Scott: Is it one of the hostel blogs?
Mylo Fowler: It was is a Tachihara. Yeah, Tachihara, four by five back with a, you know, a panoramic setup. And then I call my friend I was like, hey, how come like I didn't see the school bus or tour vehicles? He's like, Well, it's snowed so bad that we're not allowed to go in and so they cancel everything. And so usually by then you see dust, like a layer of that, in the valleys, but that image was so clear, and so crisp, and that was in April. And then in August, I had the largest fine art show for Indigenous artists in Santa Fe. And I sold that print for a really nice paycheck.
Scott Brady: That's amazing!
Mylo Fowler: Like, it just, coming back- that dream that I had, and realized like, you know, that- why did I have that, you know, vision, that feeling, that like, impactful moment, and then I decided to act on it, and then it turned into like, believing that, okay, I can make a career out of this. However, at that point it was a- kind of the beginning of another lesson too, where it's like, I was really like, making really nice images and chasing the paycheck. And yeah, that kind of died.
Scott Brady: It's just amazing that you took that opportunity to take something that inspired you, like this dream, and you put it into action, then you ended up with something amazing.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, I think that's kinda sometimes the scary point, right? Where it's like, Oh, I've always wanted to go to this place or, you know, go apologize to somebody that I may have wronged in the past, or just that little bit of inspiration that nudges us that you know, I think somehow it happens, and then it's up to us to then... to proceed with it. And I think those moments there can be really enlightening in different ways.
Scott Brady: Yeah, no question.
Matt Scott: You know, I think one of the things we were talking about earlier was, you know, the Gold King Mine, I'd love to dive in- It's fascinating to me that, living in Colorado at the time, you know, the Gold King mine disaster, all you heard about was the water, the fish, whatever, and you had like this totally different perspective on it and how it affected your family. There's always so many sides to a story and it blows my mind that that's the story that we didn't hear. I would love for you to maybe elaborate on that conversation that we had, you know a little bit earlier because we don't know more about it because- did you know that the whole Gold King Mine thing?
Scott Brady: Is that the one where they were-
Matt Scott: In the Animas River-
Scott Brady: And digging on the side of the slope and an all the water broke out?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, well, I went to school there in Fort Lewis in Durango.
Matt Scott: Okay, yeah, my cousin went there!
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, and so the Animas runs back to town, you know? And so I heard about it, I was like, holy cow! That's crazy! And I didn't know how massive it was of an issue until I started seeing that it continued to make its way into the San Juan River. And right in that- right where that confluence is at, that's- there's a lot of farmers right there a lot of... My aunt lives right there, you know, a stone's throw from it. And then it started to become more of a serious issue. When people were seeing it further downstream like, around Bluff, Utah around the Monument Valley area.
Scott Brady: Yeah, a lot of people.
Mylo Fowler: And then even more south all the way to where it comes into Lake Powell, which is- that's quite a ways away! And so the... it happened at a time also where a lot of, you know, people were like, you know, they had crops going, they had hay or whatever else. They were just ready to, you know, to take for the season. And basically, with all that mess, everybody lost access to the water. The people, the livestock, the crops, the wildlife. I mean, it was I've never seen a river turn, you know...
Matt Scott: Yellow!
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, like it was just crazy.
Matt Scott: It's terrible
Mylo Fowler: I saw a photo in the New York Times, that was like a couple of people kayaking in it, but you think they're like in like corn pollen, or something that's like, Oh, it's a marina.
Matt Scott: Yeah, something crazy.
Mylo Fowler: Super yellow! You don't envision that.
Matt Scott: It was not a natural color. So you had the idea to throw a palette of water on the back of your truck and that just, you know, that- the goodwill that is the common theme through what we're talking about, you know, that, like, the small things that you can do just really spiraled and I'd love to hear more about it.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, the- so I had an assignment to go out and then I was also getting ready for my largest- my only photography show of the year, again, in Santa Fe. I just did a little website, a lot of drag and drop, you know, and I said, you know, hey, if you buy this image, you'll get a file and you can print it like an eight by 10, just really $5, $10 and $20 increments and I figured like, oh, maybe I'll just go to my big store here locally in Salt Lake and then throw a big pallet of water so I can go take that down to a grandma or grandpa or a single mom or somebody that just could use water. I went away for four or five days, came back, logged in, I just remember telling- you know, my wife's like, holy cow, I say, what's wrong? I was like, we have another problem because I did the math and the calculations... so my idea was basically to go get a truckload of water, it turned into being able to buy seven semi trailers of drinking water.
Matt Scott: That's crazy.
Mylo Fowler: So it's just like, at that point, that was the turning point, I think, in my career where I could use photography in a way that-
Matt Scott: To make the world better.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah. And the other thing, too, is I mean, when you look at seven semi trailers of plastic bottles that- we instituted a crazy rigorous, strict, you know, recycling process because we didn't want-
Matt Scott: That was the only way to really deliver it effectively.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, nobody else was out there. No major, like, natural disaster team was out there. It's just kind of grassroots. And to this day, they still-
Matt Scott: Which is crazy to me, I mean, it affected a lot of people.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, over tens of thousands of people, It's just pretty wild. And so from that, I mean, that then sprouted is going to visit these families who live, you know, close to the river out there and then I would ask them like, Oh, what do- you have power or electricity? What's kind of the story about that? You know, we don't know when we're going to get power, or if we ever will, I was like, well I'll be back in two weeks, and we'll bring a solar kit.
Matt Scott: I mean, respectfully, I think that a lot of Americans don't even- can't even comprehend that there are Americans that don't have power, and don't have water!
Scott Brady: Clean water, yeah.
Mylo Fowler: Clean water, yeah!
Matt Scott: Like, I'm somewhat aware of it but, you know, after talking to you earlier, I'm just like, what? That's... it's 2022 where like, you know, Jeff Bezos is sending himself up into space. And this is still...
Scott Brady: And people arent able to get access to clean water.
Mylo Fowler: I think I get that all quite a bit more regularly now, like, I was thinking about sending my kid to, like, you know, some other country, and is there a way I could just send them over to, you know... Like, the issues are somewhat similar, however, it's just right here in the southwest of this country, you know? I think it's really eye opening for a lot of folks that don't realize that what's going on, and, you know, what the pandemic, all that really did was address the challenge we have for our elders, we call them the knowledge keepers, you know, and then also brought a lot more awareness of like, what the situation is. However, it's just not like the Navajo Nation that's this way, It's almost every other indigenous tribe and, you know, throughout North America.
Matt Scott: Why are people getting left behind? Like, what is- what do you think is causing that?
Mylo Fowler: The way that some of the regulations are structured, like, to things like starting a business or being able to build a home. So I just went through this process, for example, to have a homesite lease of one acre, basically I'm-
Matt Scott: You said your home site was south of Page?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, on the Navajo Reservation. It's along the Echo Cliffs. So we have an amazing, beautiful-
Matt Scott: Beautiful area.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah. However, I had to go through a two year process for them to clear that, and then I'm basically renting our land from the federal government for about the next 70 years. And after that, it goes back to them.
Matt Scott: So does that seem a little messed up to anybody else out there?
Scott Brady: Well, just that's a big investment for you to build a home and everything.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah! There are things in place where like, I'm limited to be able to- what I can do, what I can't do. The other thing too, is that a lot of families prefer not to move to like, like a neighborhood, right? Where you got neighbors you got- you can run a big pipe water line in an electrical line in however it's like, okay, well, how do we then have like, our livestock, our culture, which is heavily based around, you know, the lands and wildlife, the animals and the language, and so a lot of that is really intricate, you have to be able to run, you know, a water line from one home to another because we're not on a grid system. The cost would just go through the roof. So some of those are just like...
Matt Scott: So some of that I understand is just like...
Scott Brady: Logistics.
Matt Scott: Logistical hurdles, but I can't help- you get to lease the land that is rightfully yours from the government, and you can't own it?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah!
Matt Scott: I never knew that.
Mylo Fowler: I never will be able to own it.
Scott Brady: No matter how much you improve it,
Mylo Fowler: No! But I could buy a home here and say, this is my land forever, right? As long- or our house in Salt Lake.
Matt Scott: That's just- that, you know, you have those "Aha!" moments. And you start to realize, you know, when you drive through Navajo lands, you notice that the quality of the homes isn't what you would see in another city or whatever, but I've just had this kind of "Aha!" moment and it's like, oh, yeah, why would they- why would anybody invest into the infrastructure, you know, or anything if in seven years, what do they do? They just bulldoze it, you know?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah...
Matt Scott: Who knows, but...
Mylo Fowler: We'll climb over that fence when we get there. It's quite wild. So, you know, there's, you know, a lot of improvement and I think, you know, for me, I'm still optimistic, you know? It's like, okay, we've got an issue and what can I do to help be a part of the solution, you know, and...
Matt Scott: Yeah, I mean, we were talking a lot about, you know, the kind of the philanthropic stuff that you're doing, you know, to bring power with GoalZero. Not to be like commercial or anything, but I think it is cool that, you know, GoalZero is kind of stepping up to the plate on that stuff. You know, and then moving on from that, but, you know, like, let's talk about that on, you know, how you've used photography as this springboard, you started with water, and now it seems like you have these projects coming up, and that your end things that you're doing now that are just, you know, you're pushing even further!
Mylo Fowler: The great thing with GoalZero, they've helped us power over 500 homes. And so later this year, we're gonna power another 100 homes right around when the kids are getting back to school. And so the big thing there was, you know, personally, I grew up without running water or electricity. And so rather than do my homework, I'd rather make sure we have all of our lambs and our sheep, and that coyotes aren't coming around because that's important to us, you know? And so with school and education, I fell behind. I mean I remember doing my homework like in front of my- our wood burning stove, or...
Matt Scott: Education is great, but so is... the essentials for living.
Mylo Fowler: So you- when you go somewhere, what am I going to eat tomorrow? You know, how much more water do we have? And how much gas is in the truck? And when can we go make the next run to town? Those are always just naturally in the back of your head. Like, you just never... you just don't stop thinking about that. And so when you get a homework or a project, or you know, a scholarship opportunity, it's like, you know, sometimes those things can take a backseat, you know? And so, fortunately, over the years, we've been able to- since 2015, actually, the week right after we did the water delivery, GoalZero said, Hey, we would love for you to come down, because when we go visit these grandmas and these grandpa's we don't speak Navajo. We haven't found anybody that could help us translate how you know, solar panel cables, lights, how the power-
Scott Brady: How it all works!
Mylo Fowler: Yeah! And so I went down and it was just amazing. And then I asked him that, what can we do to do more of this, and then began putting ideas together, and then recently, we started using a bigger 400 watt system, solar panels, and then 1500 Watt batteries, which is huge.
Matt Scott: Which is enough to power the kids Chromebooks so when they're coming home from school it's not that bad.
Mylo Fowler: And we recently partnered with Dometic so now there's families that have a refrigerator.
Scott Brady: So they can keep food longer.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah. So they keep food longer, they eat healthier.
Matt Scott: You just don't think of these things, like I'm not trying to dwell on it, but the disparity between the quality of life, you just...
Mylo Fowler: Yeah.
Scott Brady: These are real problems that are being solved.
Matt Scott: Like, maybe this is what makes a great podcast but I'm just so curious about this, because you don't hear these stories, you don't hear people talking about this stuff. Most people when they when they experience Navajo lands, it's something that they're blowing through to get to Lake Powell with their boat, or, you know, they're they're towing the Rock Crawler to Moab, and it's like, oh, I don't want to stop here. I don't want to do this, but they don't actually have any frame of reference as to like, why there are issues, what's causing them. And, you know, as you're saying, just that little bit of that little bit of light on anything can just help bring people together and understand like, you know, what's actually happening.
Scott Brady: And how do people find out more about what you're doing with providing water and power, and the refrigerators? Do you have a website that people can refer to?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, absolutely. They can go to heartofamerica.org. Heart of America is a nonprofit, based out of DC. It's really about providing education transformation spaces, addressing the inequity in education, with a lot of schools across the country, with like, NBA teams, NFL teams. Oh, yeah, one project I worked on is in Baltimore, which that's kind of a tough area too, you know? And in a day, with a bunch of volunteers, and... none of the players were there, but like staff trainers from the Ravens came, and in a day we planted over, I think, like 75 trees? We built two outdoor classrooms and just put an amazing, like, outdoor lawn, like, this, this really, it's like a school just got a crazy facelift. And the kids and the teacher were just like, this isn't the same place anymore, you know? And so out here, it's kind of really going back to the basics of providing power so that a kid can do lighht, you know, under a solar lantern, as opposed to kerosene, which is not that healthy.
Matt Scott: Yeah, like, you've got the kerosene lamp going, which then costs money. You can't do your homework if you don't have light, because you can't see. It's those little things that-
Scott Brady: Or charge the Chromebook.
Mylo Fowler: Or charge the Chromebook, yeah.
Matt Scott: You know, you have this- you know, most people consider them, you know, small handcrankable lights or this or whatever. Well, then you're like, then you start to make the connection of how everything really is connected. You can't do the homework. You don't have the power. No refrigeration, like I can't imagine living in my Jeep without a refrigerator.
Scott Brady: They have to deal with day to day that way.
Mylo Fowler: Every day. Last year, it was, um...
Matt Scott: Just a reality check to like, how easy a lot, particularly in this space, how easy a lot of people have it. Wow. It's just one of those things that-
Scott Brady: Pretty amazing.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, it kind of makes you think of like what- I think also at the same time of like, what we do have access to, you know? I mean, I live in Salt Lake and I'm always grateful for, you know, what we do have there and our kids are, like, you know, you're in the third grade right now, however, you know, you look at kids the same age as you go back home, you know, those kids are at least two to three grades behind. Now, two nine year olds, there's a four grade difference between the two, you know, it's just kind of falling a little more behind and so that's what we're really excited about is to bring that opportunity, because they are the future, you know, they're going to be the ones finding solutions for us when we get older in some way, shape, or form. And so to be able to provide them an opportunity to kind of make it somewhat equal as possible is just really a fun mission, so Heart of America, we work together with Real Salt Lake, we install solar kits on like a dozen homes around Southern Utah, and then that just grew and grew and then Solv energy. If you go towards Monument Valley, there's a big solar farm there.
Scott Brady: I saw that.
Matt Scott: It's on the south side of the road.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, just yeah, just right there. They reached out, and they said, Hey, we've got this check that we can give to a nonprofit, so whenever you start yours, we'll send it over to you. And then the pandemic happens and I'm like, okay, my bandwidth just got like to zero, however, could we send that check to over here to Heart of America and we still do the same thing, because we're now addressing education and that just took off like crazy. So during the pandemic, we delivered over 10,000 Distance Learning kits. Goal Zero solar lanterns already powered about 100 homes, with the bigger Goal Zero batteries and the Dometic refrigerators. And so that's just- the next thing now is going to be internet. So my vision is like, how can somebody-
Matt Scott: We've a few SpaceX employees that-
Mylo Fowler: Exactly, yeah! So I've got a friend who has access to that internet and just south of Navajo Mountain. And he's like, it works.
Scott Brady: It's unbelievable.
Mylo Fowler: That, I think, is going to be the next- try to figure that out, because our kids, they read books, watch educational things from their school, because we got Wi Fi in our truck. And they do all their homework right there whenever we're out camping and they continue to get ahead that way, you know, and so to give a kid that same opportunity as this, I can't wait for that day.
Matt Scott: It changes everything.
Scott Brady: Well, one of the things that's really neat about your history is working with National Geographic and so for me, it's always been a publication and an entity that I've admired. So talk a little bit about your experience with National Geographic, what projects you've done with them.
Mylo Fowler: I got an email from them, and I just ignored it. I was like, this is spam!
Scott Brady: Yeah, this could not be real!
Matt Scott: They're trying to get me to sign up for a magazine!
Mylo Fowler: Two weeks went by and then they reached out again then I was like alright, this is really exciting. I replied back, and then they wanted me to contribute on the adventure side, you know, more, like, overlanding, show trucks, and I was like, okay, and then I said, I've got this idea where I'm going to compress an image with like a 600 millimeter lens with the biggest full moon of the year, we're going to be at the Bonneville Salt Flats, I'm gonna open up my rooftop tent, and then put the moon right in that hole. And it was the- so that's where like apps and like, you know, technology came in, I was like, okay, where do I need to be, degrees and angles and shutter speed time, you know, and that was just so fun to pull off.
Matt Scott: Kind of goes back to the canyon of like, we have 17 seconds of light, we'll be here for four seconds.
Scott Brady: There was a reason why you learned all that.
Mylo Fowler: It is, yeah! And even with my film, when I go out photographing, nowadays, like- my light meter anymore, because when I had the light meter for like, three years, I made probably over 20,000 notecards of "I'm here and I'm metering this, here's the weather, the situation, the clouds, the light." If I had a camera, here's what my settings would be, and I just really memorize those. So now when I go out, it's just like, okay, here's kind of a light situation we're in.
Scott Brady: You're your own light meter now. You'll look at it and, you know.
Matt Scott: You're the one person that can use like an old school, like an M2.
Mylo Fowler: But an experience that I had with NatGeo was really one that heightend my, I think, sensitivity to the images that I create. And I sent, you know, a handful of images to them and they just said, you know, for what we want to put out there, your images are just a little soft, meaning like a little out of focus. And I'm like, wow, how did they see that? You know, like, how did they find that? And it just made me so much- it made me become more aware of what am I focusing on? And how is that- and my approach to photography to create great images that they would happily use and share and allow me to write about. It's an amazing opportunity that came my way and I always say, you know, I'm a kid that grew up in a home no bigger than these chairs right here. It was probably 600 square feet and I think sometimes I still feel like I don't matter because I come from nowhere, you know? And nowadays, I love to say that create great work, create images, and you just never know who's going to- who it's going to impact because I think to say thank you to somebody, it takes energy or courage to genuinely say, I was inspired by that, you know, we're shy about that, I think, as people. I try to do that more and, and whenever that happens to me, I always try to establish a relationship and return that gratitude for them taking the time to look at my work.
Scott Brady: Well, it's- your work is beautiful. It's, I mean, some of those images of that place, which is one of my most favorite places on the planet, I mean, Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, every time I go through there it completely captivates me. To see the work that you've done there, you know, it just makes me realize that I've got so many levels to go of my own work. When I see work like you've done, it's just absolutely incredible. You drive a Nissan!
Mylo Fowler: I do.
Scott Brady: So talk a little bit about your overland truck.
Mylo Fowler: So I've got a 2020 Nissan Titan, it's a Pro 4x, got it before dealers had it, had a really great opportunity and built it out. So I've got a- I'm running 35s from General Tires X3s, Thule rooftop tent awning, a Dometic CFX 75.
Scott Brady: Van Fridge?
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, kids need ice cream out in the middle of nowhere.
Scott Brady: We all need ice cream!
Mylo Fowler: That's the coolest thing!
Matt Scott: Biggest flex, it's like, you're in the desert and then you walk into somebody eating an ice cream.
Scott Brady: That's totally the biggest flex!
Mylo Fowler: It is, yeah! And then when you're at a campground and then we're making cotton candy, you know, it's like, we bought this little cotton candy maker for our daughter. Yeah, so it's a really fun truck and I love using it for you know, like- so once a month, we try to take one of- so we have two kids, and so once a month, I'll take one kid and my wife will take the other one, go overnight, do something and the kids are always like, Let's go camping! You know? But we put that responsibility on them, Okay, what do we need? What's the weather? Which ways the wind blowing? You know, like, what are we going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and you know, they're part of that, I load it, and then when we get out and 100% like a bonding moment, you know, where we talk about like important things, wild horses, squirrels, the environment or constellations, you know, and one question I always ask them every single time is, you know, Bubble gum, how can I be a better dad? Or to my son, I'll say this.
Scott Brady: I don't know how many parents ask that question.
Mylo Fowler: It's, it's a scary question because these kids will tell you, and then say-
Scott Brady: That's amazing.
Mylo Fowler: I'll tell you what, from the-
Matt Scott: Another "Aha!" moment, it's like, huh, not a lot of parents ask that question, but maybe they should.
Scott Brady: Yeah. What are some of the things that you'd like to share that you've learned from that?
Mylo Fowler: You know, practice soccer with me more, help me a little bit more with my homework, teach me more Navajo. You know, like, one of my funner ones with my daughter, just how I know it's been too long is like, if I'm not somewhere with painted nails. I look at my hands and I'm like, it's been a minute, It's been too long. And so my daughter, we just FaceTimed yesterday and she's like, because she knows I'm here and what this events about, and said Dad when you come home, can we go camping? It's been, it's been a while, you know? Because it- yeah, that's a big indicator is, like, how long- do I have like pink nails or my toes or whatever, you know, it's just fun, it's a really innocent moment where...
Scott Brady: It's wonderful.
Mylo Fowler: You're there with another human being, or there with another soul that's thinking things and they're reacting to their surroundings in their own environment and it's just, like, the most beautiful thing to see them blossom, you know? In return, I'm also led to figure out like, How can I be a better, you know, role model to them and then we make goals together. Look at our accountability. We talked to them about important things about work through their age group. How they can also be, um... but this morning, I say, hey, you know, be a friend, be kind and have a blast. That's our daily rule. Everyday when you go to school, be kind, have fun and be a friend to somebody. And so...
Matt Scott: We could all get that advice.
Scott Brady: For sure.
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Mylo Fowler: Yeah, and they remind us, whenever we go driving they're like Oh, Dad, you're gonna pull over they got a flat! You know, I got an impact. I've got a, you know? And it's just amazing how like, it takes three minutes to help somebody and you never know who you're going to pull over and help, too.
Scott Brady: Yeah, well, I've got one more question on on the kid thing before Matt's question, but- so your daughter's name is Denali?
Mylo Fowler: Our son is Denali.
Scott Brady: Your son's name is Denali!
Mylo Fowler: Our daughters name is Aurora Winter.
Scott Brady: Now you spent a lot of time in Alaska, so what inspired you to name your son Denali?
Mylo Fowler: There's one major inspiration that came from that is, in the early 1900s, when the weather was a little bit different, my great grandmother, she lived with us in her late age and early 1900s, she saw the northern light back home, like an hour and a half north of here. And I just remember her talking about the colors, the movements, the swiftness of it and then also the sacredness of it as well, and the prayers that she offered, the offering that she made, the songs that she sang about our relatives of the North, the holy people of the north, and I just never forgot that because I was a little kid and she explained everything, which is so much more descriptive in our own language, in Navajo. I never forgot it. So I found out that we're going to have a daughter, I said, you know, I want to tie her name forever to that story from my great grandma. And that's where we got Aurora Winter, but we mostly call her bubblegum. And then Denali was the significance of like, you know, the naming of Mount McKinley going back to Denali, and then it meaning the high one, or the grand one, or the tall one, the- you know, in terms of like, height, but also impact in terms of like, what does that name mean to you, you know? So my best friend, married a gal that's half Tlingit and half Lumbee, which is not a federally recognized tribe in North Carolina. And so we would go to Alaska a lot, and I remember the first time I went to Alaska was was my 4x5, and my Burghley bag, wooden tripod, and I took four plates for slides. And I spent two and a half weeks up there, and I came back with four photos. That was it.
Scott Brady: Amazing.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, it was just so pure. And it was in June and I was like, Man, this sunset is lasting like five hours!
Scott Brady: I know, It's wonderful. It's truly wonderful. And the further north you get to just kind of laps around.
Mylo Fowler: It doesn't go down, It's hard to sleep!
Scott Brady: Matt's about ready to goto Alaska, so...
Matt Scott: I leave on the 10th. So we're gonna go all the way up to Tuktoyaktuk, and then- I'm gonna be gone for two months. I know I'm heading north, that's what I know.
Mylo Fowler: You're gonna have a fun time, if you ever get a chance to go I say go into winter. I photographed the Northern Lights about two hours north of Fairbanks. And I remember it was -50 and open the door and in like two seconds everything freezes. Like your clothes will just get like, hard, your nose will like freeze, and it's like hard to blink, you know? And it's just one of the most like, unearthly moments I've had.
Scott Brady: The Aurora is something special.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, yeah, so... and I recently saw it in Iceland on another assignment with Sony, and so, it's just- it's amazing, it really is.
Matt Scott: You know, you had an interesting- when we were chatting earlier, you were telling me about that, you know, the Navajo family structure. There are no cousins. I had never known that or heard that before. And I tell people just want to know that everyone's a brother, or a sister or your aunt is your mother.
Mylo Fowler: Yeah, so whenever we are in a setting like this, and we introduce ourselves, we always say Yá'át'ééh abíní which is like, good morning, or referencing the time of the day, you know. (Couldn't find this one on google*), which basically means Hello, my relatives, and my people, you know, and so there's no real division amongst being what we say the holy five finger people know. It's so in our culture, like our kids will call my sister, and your arrangement would be her- their aunt, right? But for us, it's shimá, my mom, you know. So we don't have cousins, so whenever- like a lot of my cousin, sisters, served in the military but I always say my sister served and over here or over there. And it's just our family structure and it's all based around like this kinship of K'é, which is our relationships, of who are we with this next person here that sitting regardless of where they come from, or regardless of their background, or beliefs and whatever, no matter what you are my relative because when you take a step back, where you're all on the only place we'll all ever call home one time, this red earth under proverb sky, and why should we be something else besides relatives, when we call this home?
Matt Scott: Second time I've gotten too stoned for this podcast.
Scott Brady: I'm right there with you!
Matt Scott: I just feel so like- now I just feel like terrible like the amount of times I've driven through your lands and I don't even know how to say hello. You know, I don't know any of that. I mean, where can people learn more about the Navajo language and customs? Because it's just not taught, you know, like, I mean, it's on our doorstep, like in Northern Arizona it is-
Scott Brady: So close to us.
Mylo Fowler: I mean, San Francisco peak, that's our western sacred mountain.
Matt Scott: And it's not it's not supposed to be called San Francisco peak, I was reading right?
Scott Brady: What's the original name?
Mylo Fowler: So it's Dook'o'oosłííd. We have this, Mt Hedrick, Mt Taylor, and Mt Blanca, and then we have the Colorado River, so really, like, this is our holy area that we- when we leave that area, we come back with a goodness and we come back with stories and knowledge. I remember whenever we- so I grew up by Marble Canyon, above it on the Echo Cliffs. And so my grandpa, he would always say, Hey, let's go crazy today and let's go to Marble Canyon and get a Pepsi and an ice cream! That was my grandpa's going crazy for the day. And I just loved that because anytime we crossed the Colorado River, he'd always take off his hat. And he said, you know, a couple of our relatives helped build this bridge in 1920s and two of them floated away and they were never found ever again. You know, they risked their lives so that we could traverse this canyon a lot faster and easier and he'd always offer prayer whenever we left home. Even if it was to go get a can of soda and ice cream, and then he would come back and say, hey, you know, we're always grateful for protecting us. And that's, you know, one thing that that we always do in our family, whenever we're coming back, like by Paige. Paige isnt technically on the Navajo reservation anymore, however, before it was, it was on Navajo land. And so you can go online, you know, with YouTube, social media, there's a lot more opportunities to learn Navajo words. And even the word Yá'át'ééh which means hello in English, however, in us is again going back to like, I am here with you in the sacred universe. That's the literal, like, translation of how we say hi.
Scott Brady: And that's Yá'át'ééh?
Mylo Fowler: Yá'át'ééh.
Matt Scott: Yá'át'ééh.
Mylo Fowler: Yá'át'ééh, yeah.
Matt Scott: Like, your kids names are so thoughtful.
Scott Brady: They're so thoughtful, yeah.
Matt Scott: Like, did they just choose our names out of a book?
Scott Brady: Totally, like out of a hat? I think I was named after a horse.
Matt Scott: For me, like, both of us, what with the- the three first names?! We both have three first names, Scott and I,.
Mylo Fowler: Funny thing about my dad is his birth certificate is totally incorrect. So his name is James, but his name was totally- I forget what his real Navajo name was, you know, they basically looked into the Bible and said, Hey, you're James. That's how he got his name. And then my great grandmother, the same one that taught me about the Northern Lights, she delivered my dad, so on my dad's birth certificate, it shows that he was born in April. And so years went by I asked my great grandmother, like, grandma was my dad born in April during the season she's like No, he's he was born during this time. You know the lambs were this age, the Juniper were looking like this, the sage were turning colors, you know, the wild grass, were already turning yellow. See, she based on my dad's birth, under, you know, around the the environment and nature and it's fun to go back to the very tree that my dad was born at. And so you know, April is a four right? January being one, April's four. What had happened was, somebody initially put nine which is for September and the recorder put a four instead of a nine because my grandmother says, you know, your dad was born in this month, in September on his birth certificate showed that he was born at Tuba City Hospital when he was born at our summer camp. My grandmother washed him with snow after he was born. So pretty wild, stories are cool.
Scott Brady: Well, Milo, we're going to run out of time here.
Mylo Fowler: Oh yeah.
Scott Brady: You are an inspiration, man. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Mylo Fowler: Absolutely, absolutely, thank you.
Scott Brady: And we thank you all for listening. We wish we had some time for questions, but we'll have another one tomorrow at one o'clock so...
Mylo Fowler: Be good! See ya!