Simply stated, this trip was my best excursion out west I have ever taken. I’m not exactly sure what was the cause behind it, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with the interaction I had with others instead of the usual solitary existence that I’ve experienced in the past. Was it the fact that I had plenty of time and did not feel under any pressure to get in as much photography as possible in the limited amount of time I usually take on a trip like this, or just circumstances that fell into place through sheer luck?
The fact that I happened to run into Denis in Aspen and we both had similar itineraries for the next week, as well as traveling in the same way; namely sleeping in the car and photographing every sunrise and sunset possible, was a stroke of luck to be sure. And that made the first week a whole lot more enjoyable than had I just done exactly the same things alone. But I also learned quite a bit from him, both photographically and on how best to travel the way we do, although I don’t think I’ll be eating as many meals of Ramen Noodles. We both had different styles to our photography, but he attempted a “JJ” photo once or twice. I’ve always felt that a shared experience is much more memorable than alone and it was never illustrated more than on this trip.
Right after Denis and I went in different directions, I hung out a bit with two guys in the Bisti Badlands having an enjoyable ice cold beer and long talk before they headed out for an overnight and again the following morning when we found ourselves in the same spot for sunrise. I had shown them a great spot for the morning and they showed me a spot after the sunrise that I spent several hours in before hiking back to the car.
A few days after that, I hooked up with two other photographers in Canyonlands National Park and they both helped me push my own envelope a bit by encouraging me to hike to the False Kiva. It was not an easy hike, without a specific trail even mentioned on a map and with a 700 foot elevation gain on the way out, which would be done in the dark with headlamps since we were to stay for sunset. I would have never done that hike alone, but they assured me they would stick with me if there was any trouble and so I went along. It was a very satisfying hike and photo shoot even if nothing photographically came from it. It is an experience I will always remember and treasure because I met up with those two. While at the Kiva, we met two other guys and hung out with them the rest of the day, ended up seeing them the very next morning at the same location I had chosen for sunrise and again a few days later on the trail to Calf Creek Falls, several hundred miles away!! Just amazing!!
Was it destiny or just luck that I had noticed a NJ license plate on NJ Jeff’s car earlier in the day, and ended up parking next to it at a sunset location all three of us had chosen and after talking for quite a while after the sunset was long gone, agreed to meet the next morning at 4am for sunrise at Mesa Arch. Walter was the third who is another fantastic photographer. And then the hike and just hanging out together the entire day and the next morning for breakfast in Moab.
So for the most part, the first half of the trip was a shared experience and thoroughly enjoyable. While even though the second half was more solitary, it too was enjoyable as well. I met three women in Valley of Fire State Park just outside Las Vegas who get together once or twice a year to photograph a location and get away from their normal lives. I was fortunate enough to run into them at the Fire Wave and we all talked while we shot the sunset and they invited me to their campsite later where we chatted for quite a while and I helped finish off their supply of cookies and Frangelico. They were just a happy group and I enjoyed their company that evening instead of sitting alone in the car typing out the events of the day.
I met other people through the rest of the trip, but never spent any amount of time in their company as I did earlier in the trip. I photographed iconic locations standing shoulder to shoulder with other photographers, squeezed into the most desirable spots and I was lucky enough to shoot in solitude, mostly at night trying to record the Milky Way, but I was also fortunate to witness two sunrises in the Grand Canyon in complete solitude which in itself is quite an accomplishment. Speaking of the Milky Way, before this trip, I had never done anything like that and as the trip progressed, I found that the images improved quite a bit after my first attempt in Aspen. And the idea of light painting was just icing on the cake. I have to say that I had a lot of fun with the light painting while shooting the Milky Way. I always started out a bit nervous being somewhere alone in complete darkness, not knowing what was out there, and then being totally involved with the photography and being almost oblivious to the fact that you are completely alone. Eventually, the starlight is enough to give you some comfort within your isolation.
After I shot in solitude at Shoshone Point in the Grand Canyon, I took a moment to give thanks for having the opportunity to take this trip, to have met so many enjoyable people, and to have gone through the experience without injury or illness. I don’t believe I could ask for more.
Soon I expect to work on some of the images I recorded in the last four weeks and hopefully post only the ones that others will enjoy as much as I do, and describe how each came to be. Thanks to all of you who took the time to follow my daily travails, even though I’m sure some of the details were a bit boring, but were part of my recollections for possible future information for myself or for others who follow a similar path.