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.
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.