Embarrassing America, Pt. 3: Nevada is the Actual Worst, Glacier National Park, and Some Rock Heads

Oh, Nevada. I had no idea how useless you were.

(No offense, to those who live in Nevada. At least you have Las Vegas?)

We drove and drove and drove through Nevada, looking for gas, food, civilization, anything. There was nothing. We started to play a game: Ways to Die in The Middle of Nowhere, Nevada. We were getting very creative with how to end ourselves, should we be stuck in this desert purgatory. (We came up with 36 ways to die, for the record.)

Finally we found a place to stop for gas, in a little city town village place called Middlegate, Population 18 17. The town was a gas station at the side of the road and a sketchy motel. They had newspaper clippings from the civil war framed in the bathroom. It was that kind of place. So, lemmie tell you, we were more than relieved to get to Idaho and sleep that nightmare of a state off.

When we got up the next day, we powered our way through Idaho and Montana, and after a series of stops and wrong banana peeling (I’m looking at you, Sean,) we made it to Glacier National Park.

To be honest, we really struggled the first 24 hours we had in Glacier. We came just before the start of the season, so almost everything was closed. We got in to the park in the early evening and were hungry, and couldn’t find a place to eat, save for the random fancy restaurant where the cheapest meal we could get was $25. We were too poor for that, so we ran before the waitress could even give us water. We weren’t prepared for a $25 chicken strip.

What made up for our repetitive faux-pas was Montana itself. They call it “Big Sky Country” for a reason. It’s absolutely breathtaking, and a place I could totally live… If they had more than one Starbucks in the entire state.

But they did have a rainbow, so that’s a win from me.

We also needed firewood, and a tarp, and a lantern… It was much colder in Glacier than Yosemite, so when we woke up the next morning in a puddle from the rain the previous night, we were miserable. And nothing was open. So we did a lot of driving to get what we needed, acquired firewood and a tarp, and made it all work out in the end. We finally got to go hiking after spending most of our first day there trying to get our bearings, but after that was smooth sailing (or should I say hiking?)

Also Sean is a lumberjack.

We were very excited to see snow at Glacier. Granted it was still late May/early June so it wasn’t too surprising, but still neat just the same. This was my second time in Glacier National Park, and I still loved every moment of it. My favorite was Avalanche Lake, which was a super easy hike with a super gorgeous pay off in the end. I even made a deer friend– a little prince of the forest. It was a really lovely time. 10/10 highly recommend.

After our adventures in Glacier came to an end, we headed back east to our lonely, boring lives. On the way back we stopped at Mount Rushmore, which was rad. I seriously loved it. Yes, I know, it’s just a bunch of rocks that were carved into heads and yes it may be one of the tackiest, self-important things in the country, but you know what? I too am tacky and self-important, so that’s why I loved it. I live for this kind of tasteless thing. It was really neat, and a good way to end our trip (well, we did drive 14 more hours after this, so it wasn’t really the end, but… It was a good send off.) I think my favorite part about Mount Rushmore was the older gentleman who I photographed– well, I photographed his cool backpack, that had different patches from national parks. I asked him if I could take his picture and he told me “This is my better side anyway.”

Okay, old man. You’re classy.

It’s been like a month since the end of my trip and I’m still pining away for the mountains and my friends. I miss them terribly, and I can’t wait for my next adventure. I am truly happiest when I am traveling and taking pictures, so if you need me I’ll be on pinterest updating my travel board until my next journey.

Happy Shooting!

Embarrassing America, Pt. 2: Pacific Coastal Highway and Yosemite National Park

Part One of my road trip was getting from Chicago to LA, which was an adventure. The next part of my trip was even more adventurous, which I didn’t think was possible. Man, I was wrong.

We drove up to northern California via the Pacific Coast Highway, which was GORGEOUS. I thought we were going to die a couple of times (man, those road were narrow, winding, and didn’t have guard rails sometimes,) but we made it. It was breathtaking, seeing the biggest ocean stretching out past the horizon. I felt so small, but that feeling was welcome. I loved every moment.

I also fell asleep after a while. Because it is me, and that’s what I do for some reason?

The PCH was really, really, long. I thought it would never end, but we did get to our goal, which was the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I’ve always wanted to see it, which may be a little silly because it’s a bridge, but still. It was really awesome, and I’m glad the evening was clear and not ruined by the infamous smog.

We were such tourists. It was great.

I think one of the most special things about the PCH was what was waiting at the end of it. After years and years I finally got to see my friend Amanda, who lives in northern California in the middle of nowhere. However, the middle of nowhere still had a Denny’s, and after being in the car for over 15 hours, it was much needed.

Nothing says “desperate road-trippers” quite like a Denny’s. I feel like Denny’s isn’t a place you choose to go. You just kind of end up there with everyone else who is questioning their life choices.

We stayed the night at Amanda’s place, and before we left in the morning I took Amanda’s portrait for a project. We set up a VERY impromptu studio in her bedroom, and while she was getting ready for her close up, I was testing the lights on Sean and Dana. We had a little bit of fun, shenanigans happened, and even though it isn’t the most professional or well done studio portraiture, my heart is warm looking at these goofy picture.

Especially Sean and his coffee mug.

After a heartfelt goodbye and hugs, we set off to Yosemite National Park. I actually stayed awake for this portion of the trip– I really did– and it was worth it. I have hardly seen a place so gorgeous. We got there before dusk and stopped along the road to take photos, because like I mentioned before, we were SUCH tourists, and we got to the camp ground we were planning on staying at, only to find it was full.

Whoopsie daisy.

If there is anything I have learned on my travels, it is to go with the flow. So, even though we couldn’t set up camp, I figured out what we needed to do, which was show up at the campground at 4AM the next day to wait in line for a spot. After we figured that much info out, we needed a place to stay for the night. I figured worse case scenario we’d sleep in the car at some random gas station, but thankfully it didn’t come to that. We camped in an RV park and ate PB&J sandwiches for dinner. We’re the real winners.

We got our camp ground (which was Camp 4, if you’re wondering– one of the few campground in Yosemite where you don’t need to make a reservation like 6 months in advance,) and we did a short, easy hike to Mirror Lake. It was a pretty little hike, and it was nice being under El Capitan. It was a good start to our time, even if I did find a pair of underwear in the middle of the road.

Since we were only there for a couple days, we did two larger hikes. The first one was to Upper Yosemite Falls, and the next day we hiked up to Glacier Point.

Confession: I am grossly out of shape and I am still wondering how on earth I made it up either of those mountains.

Hiking up Upper Yosemite made me hate these words: dozens of switchbacks. I thought my thighs were going to detach themselves from my body and jump off a cliff. I have no idea how we made it up, but I’m glad we did because the views were breathtaking. It was easily one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my entire life.

I even had a moment to sit alone and take it all in. I may have sang a little hymn. It is those moments that I live for.

When we woke up the next morning to hike up to Glacier Point, I didn’t think I was going to make it. My body hurt so bad. I could almost hear my knees whispering “go to hell.” But, through sheer willpower, stubbornness, and lots of breaks, Sean, Dana, and I made it up that damn mountain.

Shout out to Dana for demanding breaks I was being too stubborn to ask for. And shout out to Sean for taking those breaks, even though he was fine.

So Yosemite was the bomb diggity and all that jazz. 10/10 highly recommend. I wanna go back and hike up Half Dome– and next time I go, I will be in much better shape so I can accomplish that.

I think one of the best parts of Yosemite was channeling my inner Ansel Adams and Sierra Club. Shout out to my home boy Ansel.

Then, we went off to Glacier National Park, and man, that was an adventure…

An adventure I’ll write about next time. Until then, safe travels and happy shooting!

New Orleans in 35mm

I went on a wonderful trip to New Orleans, Louisiana over my spring break for the national Society for Photographic Education conference. And, of course, I brought a few cameras with me, one of those being the camera I take with me everywhere, the Fuji Natura Classica.

So, here are some pictures from that wonderful 35mm film camera.

I started taking pictures in Nashville, and continued into Alabama, Mississippi, and of course, Louisiana. Getting down to New Orleans was quite the trip (because it literally was, y’know, a trip,) and I made sure to pull out my camera or my iPhone (do it for the snapchats!) whenever it was fitting.

I think some of the best places to take pictures are antique shops. We stopped at a few in Alabama (our butts were hurting from the driving, so we needed to walk it off and go on a treasure hunt in the process,) and man, you can find the coolest and weirdest stuff. I found a flashgun for my Polaroid Automatic 100 at one, so I’m looking forward to trying that out.

Actually, the southern United States are interesting in general. You should go if you’ve never been, and the rest stops are wayy nicer than they are in the north. They have security and everything, if you can imagine that.

Because rest stop areas are obviously the most important thing on any journey.

At least they are when you live in Michigan, and most of the rest areas look like a place where Freddy is hiding in the forest… Can’t really rest at those rest stops without sleeping with one eye open.

Well, that’s all for this installment of my trip to NOLA. Keep an eye out for some medium format prints, digital photos, and snapchats!

Happy Shooting!