8,141 American miles are in the books. If you made me choose, this is probably the thing I love doing the most with a camera. It's all fun, but this is really the tops for me. Just being out on my own for weeks at a time can't be beat. Every trip is different and great in it's own way. This one started off a bit rocky. Not long before leaving, I had some work done on my truck which I assumed was all set. Then, a couple days into the drive, the engine started screaming while going up Monarch Pass in Colorado. Keep in mind that this is practically a brand new truck. So I pulled over and opened the hood only to see that the coolant was actively boiling. I was supposed to be meeting a buddy at Denver airport the next morning and then on to our mutual friends house to surprise him for his birthday. It was obvious that wasn't going to happen. I let the engine cool down then put it in neutral and coasted as far down the mountain as I could to try and get some cell service. After trying for an hour I was finally able to reach a tow truck driver. He came and got us (Mojo) and dropped us off at the garage, which of course was closed until the next day. Threw a couple bags on my back and we schlepped it to a hotel about a mile+ away. The only hotel that would allow Mojo had no air conditioning to combat the brutally hot summer temperatures. Oh well. Next morning we schlepped back up the hill to the garage. Owner said he wasn't sure what the problem could be, but would take a look ASAP. That ASAP was about 3 hours, so Mojo and I walked into the woods(the only place we could sit down and be out of the sun) and read a book. Garage ordered the part they thought would fix the problem, but it wouldn't be there until about 3:30 and they close at 5. This was a Friday and they don't open again until Monday. Now I was faced with the real possibility of the truck not being fixed until the following week. So I started looking into rental cars. The only option was a local guy who had a few vehicles to rent, but when I started filling out the paperwork I realized that his vehicles aren't aloud to go more than 150 miles away from town. Next. There was one car left in a town that would require $115 cab ride, and the rental fee was going to be $400 for 3 days. Plus I would have to drive 6 hours southwest to Pagosa Springs to return it, when I needed to be continuing on northeast to my final destination (Cape Cod). Tried arguing with RAM to give me a loaner vehicle for a couple days, but that didn't work. The customer service woman called back twenty minutes later and said she was able to get me a rental in Durango under their very reasonable corporate rate. So I took the $115 cab ride and got the rental, figuring that 3 nights of hotels staying in town waiting would be costly anyway. Picked up the car, then went back to the garage to grab all my stuff, only to find out that the truck had been fixed. Now I had a fixed truck and a rental car. Screw it, I left the rental at the garage and hoped that the rental company could come pick it up on Monday. Turns out the 0-ring on the cap for the coolant reservoir was bad so the coolant was leaking out the whole time I was driving. And it got low to the point of not being able to cool the engine and just when through the roof while going up Monarch Pass. A tiny piece that probably costs 2 cents to make caused that much trouble. Unreal. Things really sucked for about 20 hours, but I made it up to Denver on Saturday morning and we were still able to surprise my buddy. Looking back now, I can't even believe that was part of the same trip as all the images below. It's funny how things start melting together on the road. You're so stimulated by everything you see that it's hard to make sense of it until you get home and let it all digest for a while. Love the road. Can't wait to get back out there.
Side note: It seems that on every trip there is one state that treats you better then all the rest. Not sure why it is, but photographically things tend to gel in one state the most. It's a different state every time, but it always happen. On this trip, I believe that state was Illinois. Cheers Illinois!
Last month I watched an on-line talk given by a photographer that I very much respect. He dished out a lot of great information, and briefly mentioned something about another photographer that he very much respected. The remark was about a book that photographer was about to publish, and the speaker said "I already know what it looks like". He hadn't seen the book, or any of the images, but was referring to the fact that the photographer was very predictable. And that stuck with me. He also didn't mean any disrespect at all, was just stating a fact. After thinking about it for a while, I realized how important it is to constantly be charging ahead in different directions. That's something I've always believed, but it was cool to hear from his perspective. As a photographer, you'll always have your "bread and butter", but it's boring to rest on that. Branch out and try new things. Develop portfolios in areas that your audience is expecting. Challenge yourself even if it means failing miserably for a while. In the long term, I believe that's the only way to make it.
Last month I did another cross-country trip from San Diego to as far as Plymouth, Massachusetts. Time on the road was shorter than I initially planned for, but it's always great. Shot a lot of images that are probably a lot different my norm, and people might not connect with them right away, but whatever. Some of them are certainly winners. I enjoy looking at them, and can see this stuff developing into a much larger portfolio. My main objective on this trip was to wrap up shooting on the barbershop project. So all of this "America" stuff was on the side, but I love it, and am always eager for more.
My America gallery of images is the one that gets the least attention and interest from people/clients. Which I find strange because sometimes I think it's my best stuff? Either way it's something I've been shooting for a long time, and will continue shooting forever. Lately I've been getting a lot of images request from clients for other bodies of work, which is always a gift because it forces you to go back through old hard drives, causing me to look at images I haven't seen in a long time. And whatever it is about time, that factor has made turned me on to images that I thought were worthless in the past. That might be a problem, but then again it might just be part of the process. Regardless, I'm happy to have stumbled upon these images that have been during road trips from as far back as 2011, and as recently as a few months ago. Can't wait to get back out on the road.
Among the many lessons I continue to learn during cross country road trips, is that things inevitably come up. Things that cause you to deter from the original plan. And it's easy to get frustrated because you're time shooting in one place gets cut short, but it always seems to come back around. I used to be extremely high strung about this. When I got to a place, I couldn't relax until a shot was in the bag, which would sometimes take away from the whole experience. Now I like to have faith that the shots will come, just maybe not in the way I was expecting. Being open to that idea is a lot of the key though. Sometimes the shots you originally had planned, turn out to be your least favorite anyway. So when you just go with the flow, and take advantage of situations that pop up, great things come about. This past road trip to Cape Cod and back was rushed due to other commercial responsibilities (a great problem to have). Even so, my time shooting on the road didn't amount to all that much. The set of images that resulted are far from my favorite. However, because I was rushed, it made me look for other places/times to shoot. And in the end, I am left with another batch of images and potential assignment/partnership that never would have otherwise happened.
During my time on the road one thing I've always got my eye out for is hoops. I don't really see an end to this project. It will probably be something I continue to shoot for the rest of my life. That being said, it's getting harder and harder to find hoops that I actually like. Over the past 4+ years, I've come across some amazing hoop scenes, which means the bar is now set pretty high. So unless I find something at least as good or better than the previous ones, then I'm not shooting it. These three are (in order) from Nebraska, Colorado, and India.
Life in rural Kansas works a bit differently then it does in most other places. A fascinating place to explore.
One of the many great things about road trips is the food you can find along your way. Some of it is totally random. And then there are places which are obviously known for a certain kind of food. Buffalo, NY is one of those places. Birthplace of the chicken wing. I'm originally from NY, so naturally have a deep appreciation for the chicken wing. Now living out in San Diego, it's hard to find a proper wing. So while traveling through western NY, I thought it only fitting to try the best. I'd never been to Buffalo before, and it seemed like a good enough excuse? Buffalo itself was a pretty cool place. Has a very "neighborhood" feel to it. Like everything is friendly and local. The outskirts though, were much different. Lots of deserted old factories. Great for shooting. And had it not been for the chicken wing, I never would have stumbled on this scene. Sometimes it pays to eat.
Back in my hometown now, after a cross-country road trip. Photographically it wasn't the most productive. I got some cool stuff, but not as much as I was hoping for. The main focus was BASKETBALL HOOPS, which is something I've been shooting all over the country for the past year and a half. It's a lot of fun and brings me to some amazing small towns that are completely off the grid. The longer I do it, the harder it gets to find unique hoops. That all part of the treasure hunt though.