Memento Mori

The nice thing about road trips with friends is you can bring ridiculous awesome outfits for them to wear in national parks and ask them to change in the middle of the mountains.

Which is exactly what I did with my friends, Sean and Dana.

I was going for a kind of antiquated look, thinking about how time passes us by and how small we are in the scheme of things, how young we are in the presence of mountains.

I used Impossible Project B&W Film.

When I travel, I like to create a narrative inspired by the place I went. I’m super happy with how this little narrative turned out. Shout out to Sean and Dana who put up with feeling ridiculous when passing hikers were staring at us, for helping me carry the costumes, and for throwing themselves into it despite never posing for me before.

Happy Shooting friends!

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!