July 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


"Best Outdoor Media Website"
"Best Outdoor Feature Photograph"

"Best Nature Photograph"
"Best Overall Photograph"


Los Angeles, Calif. (June 23, 2015) - The Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) honored High & Dry: dispatches from the land of little rain this week at their spring conference in Big Bear Lake in the "Best Outdoor Media Website" category of their annual Craft Awards competition.

In addition, High & Dry's work was honored with the First Place award for "Best Outdoor Feature Photograph" going to "Call of the Wild," by Osceola Refetoff. The photo appeared in the October 2014 Palm Springs Life Magazine, accompanying an article written by Christopher Langley. This follows last year's win at the 2014 OWAC conference, when Refetoff received the "Best Feature Photo Series" award for One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a High & Dry collaboration with Langley on KCET's Artbound.

Refetoff was also honored for "Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail" in the "Shirley Miller Memorial Photo Contest" (a one-day, on-site challenge). The photo took First Place "Best Nature Photograph" and the "Judges' Choice" Grand Prize for "Best Overall Photograph." He had previously won in these categories at the 2011 OWAC conference.

The website, desertdispatches.com, is an on-going collaboration between writer/historian Christopher Langley and photographer Osceola Refetoff, exploring the California deserts and the people who live there.


Call of the Wild - Palm Springs Life Magazine - October 2014Call of the Wild - Palm Springs Life Magazine - October 2014Call of the Wild - Palm Springs Life Magazine - October 2014

Dead Tree, Nests & Thermal Plants - Red Hill Marina (Salton Sea), CA - 2014
2015 OWAC 1st Place Award: Best Outdoor Feature Photo: Osceola Refetoff/High & Dry



The project investigates the issues facing the California desert, and how economic and environmental challenges affect residents and visitors of the desert today. Deserts have traditionally been viewed as a wasteland for mining, military exercises, and waste disposal, and are now attracting interest from energy corporations in search of "renewable" resources. High & Dry strives to create compelling stories that draw attention to the value of these arid lands, their communities, and their history. The website and its "dispatch" format are designed to be visually appealing and accessible to a diverse audience, in a busy world fragmented by social and political divisions.

Beginning in February of 2014, Langley and Refetoff's observations have been collected in the form of integrated essays and images and disseminated via the website desertdispatches.com. The content is re-syndicated through a variety of online and printed media, including a regular feature on KCET's Artbound, The Inyo Register, The Sun Runner; as well as social media, gallery exhibits, panel discussions, and other venues.

Some of the topics that Langley and Refetoff have investigated are a three-part series on the Salton Sea, dispatches on Trona, a struggling mining town on the southern edge of Death Valley, and pieces evaluating the merit of industrial-sized, Mojave-based, green energy projects.


Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail ­- Infrared Exposure - 2015Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail ­- Infrared Exposure - 2015

Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail - Infrared Exposure - 2015



Osceola Refetoff's interest is in documenting humanity's impact on the world - both the intersection of nature and industry, and the narratives of the people living at those crossroads. He holds an MFA from New York University's Graduate Film Program, where he earned the "Paulette Goddard" and "Warner Bros" Fellowships. His films have been broadcast in France (TV1), Spain (Canal+) and the United States (PBS), receiving numerous awards.

Refetoff's photography is featured in The Los Angeles Times, Hemispheres, and WhiteHot, amongst other publications. He has exhibited at Photo LA, the San Diego Art Institute, and numerous Month of Photography Los Angeles and Los Angeles Art Association/Gallery 825 solo and group exhibitions. In addition, he operates Chungking Studio, a portrait studio, commercial production and exhibition space on historic Chung King Road in Los Angeles' Chinatown.

Refetoff's directorial background informs his approach to photography in a variety of ways. His parallel careers as a location scout and as an editorial and fine art photographer are each characterized by an evocative, cinematic understanding of how scale, point of view, architecture, and motion can be expressed as both information about and experience of a given place. His current focus is an expansive set of portfolios surveying the human presence in the deserts of the American West. His fine art photography can be viewed at his website ospix.com.


Mule Train Winds through the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA - 2013Mule Train Winds through the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA - 20131st Place Award- Best Outdoor Photographic Series

Outdoor Writers Association of California - 2014

Mule Train Winds through Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA - 2013
2014 OWAC 1st Place Award - Best Outdoor Photographic Series


Christopher Langley, a life-long educator, has lived in and studied the Mojave Desert for over forty years. Achieving his BA in English-History at Dartmouth College, he first encountered the desert landscape teaching as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Khash, Iran. After teaching in the isolated New Idria, CA, mining camp's public school for 3 years, he went on to teach for 29 years in Lone Pine, CA.

A History-Geography Fellow at UCLA, teaching educators during summer sessions, Langley was appointed an American Memory Fellow at the Library Congress and worked as a Fulbright Fellow in Japan. This research and practicum focused on teaching history with primary sources, the suffrage movement, and women's rights, both in the U.S. and Japan. He is currently President of the Inyo Co. Board of Education and helps run an innovative program in "entrepreneurial education" at 24 L.A. Charter High Schools.

Langley works as a film historian, and is the founder of the Museum of Western Film in Lone Pine. He is also the Inyo County Film Commissioner, where he focuses on the desert's complex relationship with cinema and the story of our lives. Some of his publications include a history of Lone Pine, CA, a cultural history of Mount Whitney, and From Jayhawkers to Jawas: a Short History of Filming in Death Valley. As the founder of the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, Langley's environmental advocacy won commendations, including a "National Conservation Cooperation Award" and a "Sierra Nevada Business Council 20/20 Vision Award."


Benny Eldridge - Argus, CA - 2014Benny Eldridge - Argus, CA - 2014

Benny Eldridge - Argus, CA – High & Dry Dispatch Sept 17, 2014



The Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC), is an association of media professionals who communicate the vast array of outdoor recreational opportunities and related issues in California and the surrounding western region. The membership includes newspaper and magazine staffers, freelance writers, radio broadcasters, video producers, editors, photographers, lecturers and information officers.

OWAC was founded in 1986 to expand public information on outdoor recreation and conservation, provide professional craft improvement, and increase recognition of outdoor media as a specialized field. The annual Craft Awards recognize and honor the finest work in outdoor communications.

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