Embarrassing America, Pt. 1: From Chicago to LA

I finished my first year of graduate school at 2AM in a Las Vegas hotel room.

But I’m getting ahead of myself there.

For about two years now, some of my friends and I have been talking and planning on a cross country road trip. It finally happened and it was surreal and awesome and wow.

To begin, my friend Sean lives in Virginia, and he drove his ol’ reliable VW Rabbit to Chicago to pick me up. The next leg for him (and the start of the journey for me,) was to voyage across dubious Iowa and the way-too-large-and-empty state of Nebraska, to Denver, Colorado.

Seriously, Nebraska was awful. I’m sorry if you live there. The only redeeming thing about Nebraska was the plethora of bABY COWS. They were the cutest little things with their little legs. Good job, Nebraska, on the cute cows.

The next leg was Denver to Vegas. The mountains in Colorado were gorgeous and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’ve been to the Rockies before, but those were in July. There was still snow on these mountains. It felt like a dream.

It was so dreamy I fell asleep. But not after Sean and I delivered an excellent rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High”.

I woke up when we were out of the mountains and I did what any reasonable person would do at 9AM: find the nearest Starbucks. I’m glad we found one, because we then got into Utah and I thought we were gonna die. It was some The Hills Have Eyes vibes, man. No gas stations, no food, no people. The day before I had thought Nebraska was the worst. But I was wrong.

Until about halfway through Utah, when we started seeing canyons and such. Then it wasn’t so bad. Good on you, Utah. You’re a useless state until you get to the middle/western side. Then you’re alright, I guess.

I also almost got in a stranger’s vehicle. My bad. #swag

If you’re ever traveling through Utah, fill up your gas tank or you might end up on the side of the road. And, if Utah is a horror movie, you know how badly that might end up.

We eventually got to Vegas, where we checked into our super classy hotel, Circus Circus. I’m telling you, that is one swanky place. But Sean and I walked down the strip and endured the usual Vegas debauchery, were dog tired, and went back to the hotel around midnight. And that is when I finished my graduate school research paper… At two am, in one of the biggest party cities in the world. If that’s not a good way to end your first year of graduate school, I don’t know what is.

We got up in the morning and went to a tacky gift shop, then promptly left for Los Angeles, where we were meeting our friend, Dana. We spent a few days in LA, which were incredible. We went to Mt. Hollywood and checked out the observatory, which I HIGHLY recommend if you’re into space and such. My fellow nerds and I love space, so we spent some time there playing with the telescopes and reading about radio waves and all that jazz.

We also visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was pretty neat and touristy, which is what I like. I am not ashamed to admit how kitschy I am. I embrace it. Which is probably why I enjoyed our other destination, Santa Monica Pier. I LOVED IT. It was everything tacky and more.

On our last day in the LA area, we went to Laguna Beach. Now, I’m from the Midwest, where 70 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t beach weather. It’s just chilly enough to hate yourself. However, in SoCal, it’s fine. I went into the Pacific Ocean, expecting to die of hypothermia, but in two minutes I got used to the water and was having a blast getting slammed by big ocean waves. It was great. Bless you, California.

We went adventuring on the rocks and I got to see tide pools– which made my life. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a child, so seeing tide pools for the first time made me giddy like a child. I thankfully had my waterproof camera with me, so I snapped some photos of the tide pools. The little hermit crabs were AWESOME and I even saw an anemone. It was my favorite part of the trip so far, climbing on rocks with my best friend and experiencing a piece of nature I had only ever read about.

I did have some issues. The camera was a cheap point-and-shoot in a waterproof housing, so the focus was all off. And, for some reason, the film was discolored. I was a little bummed at first, but I think I like the out-of-focus dreamy look some of these have.

Little did I know that my journey was going to continue to impress me, as we drove up the Pacific Coastal Highway, through San Francisco, and onward to Yosemite. I’ll tell you lovely readers all about that part of my adventure in my next blog post!

Until then, safe travels and happy shooting!

 

 

 

California Dreamin’

Happy New Year! I hope 2014 treats you kindly. My year is off to a FANTASTIC start! I spent New Years Eve in Los Angeles, California. Actually, I spent December 29th to January 2nd. I went on the trip with the Spartan Marching Band in order to perform at the 100th Rose Bowl (thanks to our awesome football team) and the 125th Rose Parade. While we were there we also went to Disneyland and LA Live.

And.

Wait for it.

I took pictures.

Super shocking, right? I brought six cameras with me, but only ended up using four. First up is the Fuji Natura Classica. I am IN LOVE with this camera, and the photos below should give you a hint as to why.

The camera captures light beautifully. I love digital, don’t get me wrong, but you couldn’t get a photo like this without editing it in Photoshop. 10/10, would use again and again and again and… You get it.

At Disneyland I got the chance to play with my Fuji Instax- and man, I have a lot to learn on it. All my pictures were tourist photos. For some reason, I had it stuck in my head that the Fuji Instax HAD to be the camera I took to Disneyland. I had this romanticized vision of Polaroid-esque pictures of me and my loved ones. Not sure why this appealed to me so much- maybe it’s because all the pictures from my childhood are Polaroids and I was in Disneyland, a child’s dream destination. Or I couldn’t suppress my inner hipster or something. I really should stop drinking Starbucks and wearing trendy flannel shirts.

So yeah, even though they aren’t artful or anything, here they are. You are now subjected to my touristy photos. Boo-yah.

Now, I’m not the only one who had fun in Disneyland. There was another group there, a group that you haven’t heard from in a while…

THE BOXHEADS HAVE RETURNED!


And they made their creepy comeback in the happiest place on earth. Whoops? sorrynotsorry

Quick story about the Splash Mountain picture: I managed to get the BoxHeads into Disneyland in the first place because they are actually those collapsible storage drawers, so they fit in my backpack. Right before we got on the ride, I took one out and put it under my arm. I got on with no problem, and as soon as we turned the corner and were out of sight of the ride operators, I opened it and set it on my lap in the ready position. My group and I were super giddy about the idea, and when we started going up the hill to the drop I put the box on my own head. I hardly believed I had the guts to do it, since I’m not a fan of drops and I wouldn’t be able to hold on to the boat thingy because I’d have to hold the box on my head… But the box muffled my terrified screams as we went down and got soaked.

When we got off the ride, we went to the photo screens and found a group of people pointing and laughing at our picture. When we saw it, we practically fell over laughing. We ran over to the photo kiosk to buy it, but we forgot to look at the photo number. So, my friend told the cast member, “Ours is the one with the box on someone’s head!”

The cast member did NOT look happy.

“Well, that’s not allowed, so it probably didn’t end up here. We have moderators that take care of the photos and-”

“There it is!”

I guess the moderators missed our photo. The cast member still looked unhappy while she bagged our photos, but it was so worth it. Have a sense of humor, lady.

I have a shoot planned for these gems this weekend, so stay tuned for that. I have another set of photos from the trip that I took on my Horizon Perfekt, but I haven’t scanned the negatives in yet. So there is more to look forward to!

That’s all I have for now- I’m very excited to see what 2014 will do for everyone’s photography!