Creator Series #003: Wil Claussen

Creator Series #003: Wil Claussen

In our latest Creator Series #003, we celebrate the captivating photography and storytelling of Wil, a free-spirited adventurer whose love for nature and the great outdoors was nurtured from a young age. Born in the Rockies, Wil's journey took an unexpected turn when he spent three unforgettable summers as a commercial salmon fisherman in the rugged wilderness of Bristol Bay, Alaska, documenting the raw beauty, grit, and camaraderie of this unique way of life through stunning visuals and honest journal entries that transport us to this remote corner of the world. Having worked with Wil on several projects, we at Bodie Supply Co. are thrilled to highlight his remarkable talent and the stories he has captured through his lens.



A little bit about me- I was born in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, a small town on the Colorado River in the heart of the Rockies. Many of my childhood days were spent playing in the dirt and adventuring in the mountains with my godmother, Joanie “Mumsy” Mc Guern, who was one of the most influential people I’ve had in my life. She introduced my parents to each other and taught me many values that make me who I am today.Mumsy was never afraid to say it like it is, and her personality was larger than life. She was a free spirit, the salt of the earth, and a talented photographer. For nearly a decade, I would spend weekends hiking around western Colorado with her, camping out in the back of her ’86 Toyota Corolla named “Bluebird,” and she took pictures of everything. This was not only where I gained my sense of adventure, but it was also my introduction to photography.


Fast forward many years, I was visiting Washington State to check out Seattle and spend some time in the outdoors. Of course, it was beautiful; the Puget Sound, Alpine Lakes, Lush Green Trees; experiencing the essence of the Northwest was amazing. What really drew me, though, was an unforgettable visit to Fisherman’s Terminal. I saw giant Crabbing Vessels with bright colors lined against the north end of the marina. Shiny aluminum Gill-Netters and Seiners with their salty, weathered surfaces were scattered among the pier fingers, and I could only wonder about the stories each vessel could tell. I wanted to experience it for myself. Well, through some fortunate networking, it happened. In one of the biggest adventures I’ve had so far, I spent the summers of 2018, 2019, and 2022 in Bristol Bay, Alaska, as a Commercial Salmon Fisherman, creating stories and memories of my own.

By this time, I had become a decent photographer, and I knew from the beginning that this would be an amazing opportunity to take some cool pictures. I always loved shooting landscapes or products for clients in the outdoors. Still, I had never truly experienced the magic of visual storytelling like I did in Alaska.I was dead center at the intersection of passion and creativity,with no expectations other than capturing the moments that were most important to me. I reckon this is the feeling we “artists” are always chasing. I shot both film and digital, and to this day, this series is still my favorite personal project. I also kept a journal each season and included some entries to complement the images.

I often summarize Bristol Bay as “about as close to the Wild West as I’ll ever get.”  It isn’t easy to describe a six-week-long rollercoaster ride. Things are constantly breaking; some days, you’re all alone, and others, you are aggressively outmaneuvering other vessels for the pole position to the freshrun of Salmon against a district boundary. We once had another captain jump aboard our boat with a knife in his mouth and cut our entire net in half (we earned that one, though). You’re the most tired you’ve ever been and feel every emotion possible. The midnight sun on a clear night is incredible, but the weather and swells are also challenging; I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

All your time is spent on the deck of a 32’ vessel picking fish out of the net, putting them in the holds and then delivering the catch to the tender. Wash, rinse, repeat, day in and day out. The most thrilling part is peak season when the majority of fish make their push towards the river mouths. Sockeye like to jump out of the water, and it is unreal to see a mob of Salmon rushing toward the boat. “GET THE NET IN THE WATER!” It is an absolute frenzy, and damn, is it a rush when your crew is working like a well-oiled machine, and the nets are loaded with fish. This is what we’re here for.

Commercial fishing isn’t as physically demanding as you would think, either; it is more of a mental challenge. You’re running on very little sleep, and there is no set schedule; the fish are coming 24 hours a day, and right when you think it is time to rest after you’ve delivered to the tender, Cap’n says it is time to mend holes in the nets. - “Damn, time for another cup of cowboy coffee.”- We had a French press on board that probably hadn’t had the coffee screen changed in about a decade; if you pushed the press down too fast, the coffee grounds would pop around the screen and fill the entire container. That memory makes me laugh; it was a good day when we didn’t have grounds in our cup. 

What makes the most successful crew, in my opinion, is a good Captain and deckhands that you get along with because it’s six weeks of living within arms of each other. I hold fisherman in high regard because this shit ain’t easy.

 I miss those days a lot and I am grateful to have been a part of the Bristol Bay Community. I was stoked when the guys at Bodie asked me to share a little bit about this part of my life; I appreciate the way they highlight artists’ stories and their spirit of adventure. I hope you enjoy the photos I took. Thanks for reading.