Nikolas Ray

Pay It For(e)ward

I know a unique young man, who was introduced early in life, to a neglected gift found and experienced in nature. This outdoorsman took every opportunity within his means to envelop himself in the natural world; a place discarded if not forgotten by the average person. He would disappear, often times alone, for days or weeks at a time. Only to reemerge back home, sharing stories which captivated peers. Tales of campsites with the clearest night skies, where bright stars shot and danced like they do only in fiction. Treks up frigid snowcapped mountaintops, towering over tiny little towns, where the weather below was a sun drenched 85°. Memories floating in a kayak as a massive full moon rose up off the horizon and a glowing mirror image sank down into the reflection off dark flat waters. These adventures would appeal to many, but few would consider any of it possible for themselves. “He’s crazy,” they would say. Most considered those experiences reserved for a select few, as if the average person were somehow incapable or unqualified. However, the truth is, he’s not actually crazy. He was simply offered a blessing, enlightened to a profound lesson; there's relief to be found within nature, outside of the pressures and expectations of our day to day lives.

It became typical of others to express great interest in joining the outdoorsman on his journeys, but almost no one followed through. Eventually, someone found the courage to pack a bag and take shotgun on a 5-hour drive north. It was an old teammate of his; a budding photographer, someone he had known and been friends with for years. They drove through the night, sharing music and quality conversation with one another, both deep and lighthearted; a refreshing recipe to pass time. They arrived as the sun broke the horizon. After only a short few minutes of hiking, they found themselves within a gorge, surrounded by rushing water, ice and snow. Waterfalls and tall canyon walls towered above them, the water and ice caught reflections of the rising sun. Icicles larger than grown men hung fragile alongside the trail. Snow muffled all noise except the immense volume of churning water; a sound so powerful, it vibrated within their chests. Branches reached in every direction, coated in gowns of glistening ice. The forceful blue water, whose strength and resilience was responsible for the existence of the gorge, was the only color present against the bright and reflective white scenery. All was perfectly still, besides the flowing river and the slow, ever so slight sway of trees.

The photographer was outside of his comfort zone, but he chose to follow behind the outdoorsman. He pushed on through miles of dense snow and ice, deeper and deeper into a frozen landscape unlike anything he’d ever seen with his own eyes. At one point he decided to speak up and stand his ground; he was uneasy about where the trail had lead them. The two were standing before a spiraling staircase, carved into the foundations of a mountain, the steps blanketed in a thick sheet of ice. The bottom of which, lead to a pathway underneath and behind the parks’ largest waterfall. Technically, during that time of year, it was off limits, so his hesitation wasn’t unreasonable. The outdoorsman paused, looked him square in the eyes, held a coin between their noses and said, “Let’s leave it up to the universe, heads we go, tails we turn around.” He flipped the coin without waiting for an agreement to be made and just before it landed on the ground, he stomped his hiking boot down, catching the coin between earth and rubber sole. Confident the universe would work in their favor and urge them onward, the outdoorsman said, “Let’s go,” without ever raising his foot to look down and read the coin. He began carefully navigating the frozen steps as the photographer, casting hesitation to the wind, followed behind.

Words would genuinely fail to describe the view that awaited them, but it was certainly enough to make a true impression. Something deep within the photographers mind clicked like the shutter of a camera. Later that night, in their wanderings, they discovered train tracks meandering in and out of the snow-bathed forest. It lead them to a tall bridge which traversed above the frozen gorge they explored hours before. The bridge, still an active railroad, was over 100 feet long and hovered an even greater distance above the gorge, without railings on either side. This time, there was no hesitation from the photographer, this time, the outdoorsman followed behind, as someone else lead the way toward a captivating story. One so many others would listen to, fascinated and thinking to themselves, “he must be crazy.” Truth is, he wasn’t crazy. Only until the day came where the next brave and curious soul decided to pack a bag and take shotgun, would the photographer be able to pay it forward, and share what he had learned.

Matthew Cartusciello

No More Noise. 2023 ©
Made in New York

Nikolas Ray

In Collaboration With:

Sony A7riv
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II
Contax t2
iPhone 12 Pro Max

Film Development:
Colorhouse New York

Cover & Production:
Aaron Maldonado

Layout Design:
Ryan Stewart

Web Design:
Ryan Stewart

Print and Binding:
Data Graphics

Special Thanks:
EBBS Brewery, Jahkeem Galloway, Jordan Wissler, Koma, Elijah Anormaliza, Brandon Dixon, Isaac Campbell, Jose Depina, Taylor Hawkins, Eustace Banks, Samantha Hayes, CJ Fly, Dylan Savino, Evan Strandini, Atticus Radley, Florida Man, Erik Muller, Morgan Selin, Kadeem Hudson, Jesse Young,Jarae Holieway, Pat German

Matthew Cartusciello

1998 Toyota 4Runner

Custom Vehicle Fabrications:
Danny Meyer, Matthew Ressler

Camping Gear:
Coleman, Yeti, Igloo , 23Zero, Ironman 4x4, REI, Woolrich

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any informational storage and retrieval system, without prior permission from the publisher and photographer.