Here on Gold Beach, I sit with my camera on my lap, overlooking the shipwreck of the Mary D. Hume, hoping to catch an Osprey diving for fish in mouth of the Rogue River. The tide is still too high for the shot I wanted of the wreck, so I cook a dinner of Pasta Roni for what must be the 30th time on this trip, and wait. There's been a lot of waiting in the last 7 weeks.
As many of you know, I left Salt Lake City in mid June to live out of my car and build my library of photographic work throughout Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon. I could not have imagined the places I've seen, and hope that my work can help inspire others to get out and do whatever it is you're thinking of doing. Seriously, what are you waiting for?
Along the way there have been not only incredible places, but people as well. Some old friends and new, photographers, farmers, shop owners, whale watchers, homeless, wanderers, police officers, and the works. Most people all say the same thing when they learn I've been on the road for nearly 7 weeks. That is: "Wow, I wish I could do that." Then anyone who learns HOW I've gone about it, usually follows that with: "Oh I couldn't do that." But a select few are unfazed by my methods. Those are usually the most interesting people to talk with.
Personally, I think it's a great way to travel. Let me elaborate. In 7 weeks I have paid for exactly 0 hotels or campsites, eaten nothing but food from grocery stores that needs no refrigeration (I have no cooler) or, unfortunately, more fast food than I'm proud of. For all but 3 nights at a friend's place in Seattle (thanks again for the shower, Brad!), I have slept outside or on the make-shift bed in my car every night, and never in the same place more than once - minus 5 nights in a tent in Yellowstone with my cousin, and 2 whilst backpacking. Basically my only expense has been gas to get out here and a few stuffed souvenirs for the niece and nephew. I've spent less on food than I usually do at home thanks to easy meals like chili and pasta that require little work. And fruit stands. Oh do I love the fruit stands out here!
I almost always travel in a similar fashion - though it's easier to find free camping in Southern Utah that doesn't involve the back of your car in a rest stop or Wal-Mart parking lot - so I don't really see the fuss behind it. Yes, there have been stressful times looking for a place to sleep at 1am, and once being woken up by local police (camping is off-limits within the city of Cannon Beach - fair warning if you go there). But I've also been taken to some amazing places I would never have seen if I had stayed in a Motel 6.
You'll be able to see more photos of these awesome places once I'm back to working on something other than a laptop powered by the sun, but for now, I've provided a few tips for fellow photographers or just plain wanderers on traveling - on the cheap.
1. Pick Your Destination.
I chose the Northwest because I wanted to spend more time exploring Yellowstone but also to see something new. I've never been to Oregon or Washington, and knew I had a few friends in both. Friends can really help out when traveling, as a bed and shower can usually be purchased with beer. Check with local friends to find out exact rates. They will also usually have helpful tips on what to see/do in the area.
2. Don't Plan Too Much.
Pretty much all I knew about this trip when I left was that I was going to Yellowstone, Seattle, and Oregon. Seriously. I had a few objectives, I.e. The cities of Seattle and Portland, most national parks, and as much of the coast as I could fit in, but I let suggestions from locals, Park Rangers, as well as Google, fill in the details as I went along. Talk to as many people as you can. Locals know the good spots, some that will never show up on a Google image search or a state map. While recently in Depoe Bay, I sat along the shore taking photos of waves. I struck up a conversation with an older couple nearby and later leaned they were there to whale watch. Turns out Depoe Bay is one of the best places to do that in the summer. I had no idea. I swapped lenses for the 400 mm and saw my first Grey Whales.
3. Make Yourself a Comfortable Living Area.
The worst part of sleeping in my SUV has always been that the back seat doesn't fold all the way flat. So for this trip I hand cut some plywood to lay across half of the back and laid my foam pad and two camping air mats across it. I sleep in my sleeping bag or a blanket on that and it's perfect. Another small blanket doubles for a curtain to keep light out and the other side is so full of gear no light stands a chance. Extra points of you have tinted windows, I don't (yet). You can also cut plywood for truck beds or vans to make room for storage space. Which brings me to...
4. Stay Organized.
If you're a photographer you (hopefully) know the importance of an organized file structure and redundancy of photos. Can your system stand up to a Terabyte of new data while running on limited power access? I had to rework mine a bit. Now I have easy access to current projects as well as two copies of everying I've shot, safeguarded in waterproof cases to keep hard drives safe from sand and humidity. Never keep your only copy on memory cards! I've had several fail in my life and on this trip had my first complete failure where I cannot retrieve photos from it or even run an image rescue. Luckily it was only a few hundred photos, not an entire catalog. Backup your files and organize them in a way that will make sense when you get back home, or you will be hating life later on.
Within two days everything in the vehicle had changed living spaces. The camera had to be ready at a moment's notice, extra batteries, cards, tripod not far off. Then everything had to move to sleep. I've now worked out a system where nothing has to move and everything is easily found. So long as I put it back where it belongs. Always put everything back where it belongs! I've lost a few things that I'm still convinced are in there somewhere...
5. Enjoy It! And Take Some Downtime.
Whether for work or play you have to have time to enjoy yourself. Don't spend too much time focusing on where your going, where are you now? Make the most of it. Don't forget time to just sit on the beach and relax or you'll end up uninspired and not wanting to do much of anything (definitely from personal experience). Even if every place you visit is the most incredible thing you've ever seen, if you focus too much on getting that great shot, you're forcing it. Nothing good comes from that. I sometimes just need to leave the camera in the car and go pick up sea shells and chase seagulls for a while.
6. Keep an Objective In Mind.
Don't let under-planning get the best of you. Two days ago I finally realized I still had the entire Southern half of the Oregon Coast and Crater Lake to see before Wednesday. There's been a lot of fog and I spent a lot more time than necessary waiting to get a better shot of a couple lighthouses. Unless the place/item in question is of the highest priority, take what you can and if you have the option, come back when the weather is good. You may get a mile down the road and realize there is something better anyway!
7. Don't Fret About Where to Sleep.
Here are some hints:
When tent camping public land is always free, with certain exceptions. BLM land and almost all National Forest land is fair game. These two agencies also occasionally provide free developed campgrounds. (Or others that are very cheap). Special interest areas like National Parks and some forests (as marked) are not O.K. National Recreation Areas (think Lake Powell for you Utahns) are acceptable with limitations.
Just do your homework on the areas first.
If you're going a step further and living in a vehicle it's easier to get away with things like the side of a dirt road, the parking lot of a hotel or 24 hour business. I wasn't joking about the Wal-Mart thing, I've spent two nights doing that and three in hotel lots. Think about it, people come and go all night, everyone's car is loaded with crap so you don't look a bit out of place, it's perfect.
Over the last two years nearly every trip has been planned this way. More often than not, grabbing a map searching for some nearby forest land or making a turn onto a road simply because it had one of those little brown signs next to it has led me to some truly incredible places.
8. Rework Your Sleeping Schedule.
The hardest part of this trip was always wanting to shoot the sunrise and the sunset, as well as travel or shoot all day and sometimes all night. Now I sleep from about 2 to 5. Both am and pm. And when the weather is bad, I catch up on more sleep. It makes for some rough mornings, but sunrises can often be surprisingly more spectacular than sunsets.
9. Make Use of Available Power (and Internet when Necessary).
I constantly find myself needing to charge batteries for some reason. I also need power for a laptop as well as the two external drives I'm using as backups. A car DC to AC inverter will save your life! A solar panel with 12v capability will change it forever. I now have both and no longer have to worry about running into eating establishments and looking for power outlets before I decide if I'm going to eat there. If you have to have internet, public libraries are perfect. Also most smaller food joints or coffee shops offer it. It's good to update your friends and family once in a while and brag with photos.
10. Write Things Down!
As most people who know me know, I have a terrible memory when it comes to names, experiences and chronological order. Now I write notes every day about what I've seen and names of important places and people, as well as anything I need to research or visit later. Even a weekend trip can be difficult to recall after a long week at work when you finally get around to looking at your photos.
11. Get Out There!
I cannot stress this enough. Get out and explore, even if you cannot go any father than the city park down the street after work. And for all you other 'starving artists' out there who love what you do; I leave you with a little quote I found on Pintrest just now:
"This is the time for small paychecks and big memories."
Thanks for reading,
Look for a bombardment of photos to begin next week.
- Cryosphere refers to any portion of the Earth's surface where water is in solid form, including glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, sea ice, snow cover, frozen rivers, lakes, and permafrost. The Cryosphere is closely linked to the Hydrosphere and plays a crucial role in the ecosystem and our everyday lives.
- I've chosen the name because Cryosphere encompasses a wide range of ice around the world. This blog is meant to chronicle not all glaciers, but those that I experience and photograph in my travels. My vision is to visit and write about as many glaciers and other ice forms as possible while I pursue knowledge and share experiences of a beautiful world of ice. I hope you enjoy the photographs and follow along as I go!
* Beware: Glaciers area a dangerous place to those that do not know the risks and have the proper skills to navigate them safely. Do not attempt travel on or near any glacier without proper skills or an experienced guide.