Early December snow fell on Alleghany County, North Carolina. We got about six or eight inches, with deeper drifts in the usual spots. Of course, as a photographer, as the flakes start to fall, and it becomes apparent that we’re going to get some serious accumulation that will stick around for a while, I start thinking about the best spots to shoot, and how to get there before they’re disturbed, especially by other humans.
And I start checking the weather forecast to figure out when and where the light and snowscapes are going to be best, thanks to clouds, wind, and all those intricately interwoven variables we just can’t know.
December 9th, 02017
My father and I started on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the gate near Mahogany Rock Road, at the base of Bullhead Mountain. Technically, I can easily hike here from the house, but I wanted to save some time and get to some good spots while the conditions were good — and potentially before anyone else got there.
As I continue to travel the world—and spend more time exploring my own big backyard right here in North Carolina—I’ve come to realize that I can apply my academic training, professional experience, intelligence, and creative abilities in a combined effort over the next few decades to produce what I think and believe will be experiential documents worth consuming as materials for lifelong learning and understanding. I am conceptualizing an ongoing series of experiential documentation, taking appropriate form over time as ebooks, print books, magazines, interactive apps, websites, and perhaps even videos.
This concept first came to me when I was looking at a map of the United States and thinking about the difference between national parks and national monuments. Based on my personal experience onsite at various national monuments, coupled with my research and perusal of the maps of these monuments and the surrounding areas, I realized that I would love to commit to exploring and documenting a sense of place in each of these areas—demonstrating their importance as sacred spaces for maintaining the natural order of our relationship with the environment and all other species with which we share it.
So, to put a stake in the ground, I created a map of all the US National Monuments. (Yes, there is at least one that does not appear in the image.)
Inspired by my recent trip to Helsinki, which included a stay at the hostel on Suomenlinna, I decided to add UNESCO World Heritage sites to the map. I figured it would be interesting to see how many UNESCO sites in North America are within reasonable proximity to US National Monuments, thus allowing me to combine several locations into exploratory experiential documentation journeys of 1-3 months in duration.
During the entire month of August 2017, I traveled to Norway from the United States. Based on the fact that it is so easy to find cheap flights between European destinations, coupled with the relatively low cost of staying in hostels (not to mention the option of Couchsurfing for free), as well as the fact that I’d never been to Finland, I decided to take a side trip to Helsinki at the beginning of my travels.
I left the United States on the evening of July 31, connecting through Munich to Oslo on August 1, ultimately landing in Helsinki late that night. I was so tired that I didn’t realize I left my copy of The Snow Leopard (by Peter Matthiessen) in the seat back pocket on the plane until I got to the airport hotel. I was quite disappointed, as I was thoroughly enjoying the book, and had made several notes in the portion I had read so far. Matthiessen recounted an experience from the Himalayas that was strikingly similar to a recent stargazing experience I’d had while camping atop Mount Mitchell in North Carolina.
This afternoon, I had a chance to take a break and enjoy a fast-paced solo hike on one of my favorite loops through Stone Mountain State Park. I’m making an effort to increase and maintain a focus on life work balance, especially since I continue to find that launching a tech startup has the potential to be all-consuming of my ever increasing waking hours.
This loop is a hike I’ve been doing since I was a kid, and many aspects of the trail have changed a bit over the three – almost four – decades, including the installation of several long sets of staircases. These staircases help people stay on the trail on some of the steeper sections of Stone Mountain, which can be pretty difficult to ascend due to the slick granite of the monadnock. Continue reading Life Work Balance – Foggy Hike On Stone Mountain
I love shooting winter mountain landscapes after a relatively heavy snowfall here in North Carolina. As the winter storm started on Friday night, I was happy to go to sleep knowing there’d be ample snow for a day of hiking and photography.
Sleeping in Saturday morning, my first excursion was a quick walk down to the small lake at the bottom of the hill. As anticipated, the lake was mostly frozen, and there was a brief reprieve in the continued snowfall and somewhat stiff breeze. I spent some time with my 7D on the tripod in the stillness, and then managed to snap a few decent phone shots as well. Continue reading Shooting the Storm – Winter Photography
On Sunday, July 5, we went for a hike in one of my favorite places on this planet (Stone Mountain State Park) on a section of what is becoming one of my favorite trails, the MST. One of the many reasons I love Stone Mountain is that it is such a photogenic rock:
But on this day, we skirted around the rock and headed for the base of the escarpment, just past Widows Creek.
I’ve used Strava for quite some time to track my bicycling efforts, and recently I’ve discovered that it is also pretty good for tracking hikes. So, I thought I’d track my Sunday “stroll” up the escarpment. Results below, and here.
With my father, I had done the hike before in reverse, one way — from the Blue Ridge Parkway down to the Stone Mountain backpackers’ parking lot. On the 5th I wanted to go up and back, hoping to turn around at the ruins of an old mountain shack. Continue reading Hybrid Learning: Get Soaked
When I drive solo along looooong stretches of remote roads, I see many things in my periphery and often forget them, especially when the musical selection that my in-car DJ (aka Yours Truly) has made is rather choice for the current terrain. I’ve been making a concerted effort to record my observations as they happen. This means that I also often tack on additional thoughts about whatever I’ve been rolling over in my head as the original observation-inducing roadside stimulus has occurred.
This can make for some interesting juxtapositions….just listen (and beware of a few possibly-not-work-friendly “cuss words”):
I’m staying in Lone Pine, California tonight. Getting up at the crack of dawn and heading into Death Valley tomorrow morning for a few days of camping and shooting. It looks like the weather will be cooperating. I’m also hoping to find a nice spot to finally shoot a video for my Kickstarter campaign: http://kck.st/1eEDQxl
Earlier today, I managed to get a decent shot on my phone from the Mono Lake vista point on US 395:
Notice anything? There’s hardly any snow anywhere!!! Not a good sign.
I spent two nights at Bryce Canyon as well. The first night, I walked a few steps from my campsite to the rim of the canyon to play around with some night shooting, including the moon rise and, later a series of bulb shots. The 7D has a great bulb setting, and coupled with my tripod (of course) and a nice remote triggering system, I think my first endeavor with bulb shooting on the 7D was a success! I almost fell in the canyon, but I didn’t, so, all’s well that ends well. 🙂
The following morning I headed out on the Fairyland Loop trail (approximately 8 miles) and took my camera along with me, including my filter wallet. I started out with the rose UV filter while the sun was still low, but after a while I switched to the circular polarizer. After stopping for lunch, I came across this wicked shot of a twisted, burnt tree set against the red rocks, practically grabbing the sun (I think the lens flare is a nice touch!). This is, without a doubt the best shot I got in the canyon, and it’s probably the best shot I’ve taken so far on this road trip. In fact, given time, it might find its way on to my top ten of all time! If it does, who knows how long it might stay there?