Name: Nick Uthe
Vocation: Creative Director, Adventurer, Photographer, Blogger
Hometown: Eau Claire, WI
Work: Grand Taiga
Fire is a man’s best friend. It sustains life, it captivates us to sit around it and stare for hours as if it has some unknown answer to man’s every question. As witnessed in one photograph, it triggered the nostalgia of my trail days out West, a vivid flashback I could not shake, one I did not want to shake. There was no denying the power of the image and I had to conjure up my trail work skills and follow a trail to who was responsible for the image. That trail led me the creative collective Grand Taiga and ultimately to its founder, Nick Uthe.
Now if this is your first time putting a fresh eye to the photography work of Uthe, make sure to store it in a bottle. Open that bottle often so you can take a pull of his explorations through the lens of his camera. Nick is energetic, a man who delivers a constant feeling of positivity, whose urge to run has taken him to the corners of this country living a life we all secretly wish we could have. From the U.P. to Washington, Nick has captured his adventures to share with all of you. Traveling the country in his “adventure van” which he constructed for a just over $3,000 and 70 man hours, he set out with the bare necessities and a camera. As if to live out Ted Nugent’s “Spirit of the Wild,” Nick was off. However, regardless of his extensive travels, the Midwest is Nick’s home, his roots and a part of him.
His work is simple; to embrace the freedom that comes with waking up in a different place. Inhaling the cold early morning breath of a new canyon, hidden lake or river bed. As a Midwestern Gentlemen, we take for granted what’s right in our backyard. In that same breath, we also forget we are free to roam and make our way outside of the Great Lakes comfort zone. Now, before we jump in too far, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Nick to chat Grand Taiga, his philosophies and of course… the Midwest. We were immediately impressed with his humble upbringing in Wisconsin and his decision to chart his own territory.
MWG: How do you respond when people ask, “what do you do?”
Nick: This is a great question! I normally base my answer off of the current project I’m working on. If I’m working on a new adventure series, I’ll say I’m an Adventure/Fitness Blogger. If I’m working on a photography contract, I might say I’m a Content Creator. If I’m working on a new branding project I might say I’m in Marketing and Advertising. Above all I am “The Creative Guy.” I’ve never stopped creating, learning and developing new passions. I really do strive to reach new heights and inspire my audience along the way.
What about the Midwest helped define you and what to you makes it special?
To begin with, my parents are from Chicago and when I was a year old they bought some land outside the small town of Dallas, Wisconsin. I grew up in the middle of nowhere and had to make do with what I had. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the peaceful nature surrounding me because I enjoyed every last minute of it. In my elementary years I would spend countless hours in the woods building tree houses, digging up vintage bottles and whacking golf balls off into our land. After Middle School I moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to finish out my high school years. After looking back, what truly defined me was my exposure to so many environments and my innate ability to see the positives in any surrounding.
How would you define a Midwestern Gentleman?
I would describe a Midwest Gentleman as someone that is down to earth, lives fervently and has some grit to him.
What were your most formative years, why?
Again, I’d have to say back when I was living out in the country. The time I spent out there developed my ability to create and just enjoy where I was. I truly lived it up as a kid.
With all your travels is there an album/podcast you can’t live without?
Gosh… there is a ton of great music out there. I grew up surrounded by Rock but fast forward to the present and some of my favorite music comes from the Vibe Guide on YouTube. I’m always blasting music and jamming as much as I can!
Being off the grid, is there a go to book you would recommend for our readers?
I don’t think I’ve ever fully made it through a fiction book. For me it’s always been the non-fiction that gets me going. Lately I’ve been recommending the book “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Hansson.
You’ve been traveling throughout the US over the last few years, much of it lost in the wilderness around the US. What’s been your mantra or mission for Grand Taiga?
The mission of Grand Taiga is to create, inspire and engage with our audience. A long time ago I realized I had an abundance of energy and I really want to continue to share this with people. I figured out quick this can be a draining lifestyle to live but it does make me really happy to inspire greatness in others.
For someone unaware of Grand Taiga, introduce us with a brief story on what you believe in as a business, and what
people can expect to see down the road?
Not everyone who works with Grand Taiga is a great adventurer of landscapes like myself, but that doesn’t mean we don’t explore the internal world of our minds. The Grand Taiga team is a true creative collective and has a vast list of services and skills within the fields of graphics, marketing, programming and more. You can expect more amazing content and crazy projects down the road. Also I’d be on the lookout for SoundsQ! It’s an amazing music management app we’re developing and should be set to release soon.
What content do you find really connects home with your audience? Since starting Grand Taiga, what, if anything, has been the most surprising takeaway?
In the beginning of my photography journey I wanted my content to resonate with the word “energy.” I think to this day that is what gets my audience the most riled up. People like to see genuine positivity.
Starting this new venture, what’s been the most satisfying part of work? How about the most challenging?
The most challenging portion for me is to stay connected with my family and friends. Especially since I’m the type of guy that can block people out for weeks at a time if I have an idea I’m working on. Also, I struggle with keeping any sort of real sleeping schedule. If I get inspired at 1am… I get to work. The most satisfying portion I’ve encountered since the beginning of Grand Taiga is the real inspiration I’ve provided followers and customers. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to complete a project and feel proud of your work. I plan to continue demonstrating positive energy through my content and creative work. On your blog, you have an experiential sort of platform. Where it’s not just the journey and place, but also existential ways to find oneself — whether it be building your own adventure van, to meditation or to exploring the Midwest.
Have you had a moment outdoors, where you thought, how the hell are we going to get out of this one?
Any type of encounter with bears is disturbing for me. Sure, there are plenty of tactics you can use to prepare for the worst but in the end they are wild animals and I can’t see myself trusting them anytime soon. Hopefully that is one situation I’ll always be able to get out of (fingers crossed).
If we gave you a week long free pass to go off the grid in the Midwest, where are you exploring, and what would you be doing?
I’d be headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in a heart-beat. The place is my perfect getaway! Nothing beats romping around on the dunes, working up a sweat and cooling off with a dip in Lake Superior.
Lastly, would you rather… have Morgan Freeman subconsciously narrate the rest of your life OR have a live studio audience that you can’t see cheer for you on any gnarly backcountry trip?
Right away my mind went to Morgan Freeman. The man’s voice is godly and I’d love for him to narrate my life. I think I’m suave like that. On top of that I really don’t need more hype, I have enough of that ingrained into my body. I’ll let Morgan can guide the way.
We want to thank Nick Uthe for sitting down with us. To get a hold of more of Nick’s work check him out on Instagram (and seriously, put on Ted Nugent’s “Spirit of the Wild” in the background as you scroll). Be sure to also keep up with Grand Taiga as they continue to Create, Inspire and Engage on the web, their blog and on Facebook.
Photo Credits: All photos are owned by and provided to MWG by Grand Taiga/Nick Uthe.