View Full Version : Road Trip
David R Munson
I'm in the preliminary stages of planning a road trip in the summer of 2004. I know it's a long way off, but I figure it can't hurt to start planning now, espe cially since I've got to start saving now... Right now, I'm just feeling out id eas for a possible midpoint destination somewhere in the US or Canada. I'll pro bably be starting out in Missouri, though I may have to swing through Ohio to pi ck up a friend. The limits I'm setting myself are no more than 30 days or 10,00 0 miles driving. When I say I'm going on a road trip, I mean a loooong road tri p.
Given the chance to go on a road trip anywhere in a 5,000 mile radius of Columbi a, Missouri, where would you go? The one idea I've had so far is Yellowknife, N orthwest Territories, Canada. Are there any particular spots in North America t hat you think would make an appropriate goal for a LF road trip? Any suggestio ns in terms of locations, logistics, traveling long distances shooting LF, and a ny other ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Why not follow Lewis and Clark? 2004 is just about 200 years since their trip.
Follow the coast road (US Highway#1)...Or travel the national road (route 40). (What would be a similar highway in Canada???)
Never put your tires on a highway with more than 2 lanes, never eat a meal at a McSomethings, never drive over 50mph, stop at least 1 time every hour, 200 miles a day maximum, drive around any city over 5,000 people, avoid all national parks, and don't be too shy to stop and say hello!
Do the Walker Evans and James Agee, "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men", type of tour... I think too many people travel too fast to get to the "GOOD SPOTS" (national parks), and never take the time to see the Americas.
Well Dave I guess that's about my 6cents worth... -Dave
I don't know which is more important to you - the journey or the photos - but my in experience I have found it best to drive to a spot with many subject types, or one you particularly like, and spend as much time at that spot as possible. Really get to know the area, and your best photos will come after you've been there a while. Take the scenic route there and a different one back of course, but remember that using a large format camera when your driving is probably illegal in most states (ie you can't take photos while you're in the driver's seat).
Wouldn't you like to be the one who says "You should have been here last week - the weather/foliage/wildlife/girls were magnificent!", rather than the person being told? By staying in the one area, you increase your chance of catching the conditions you want and knowing where to go in that area when those conditions arise.
Of course, this is all invalid if the road trip is the important part!
I would try to avoid a "destination-based" trip. Instead, focus on a specific type of subject matter or, more broadly, some type of concept or theme. Then let the concept drive your destination. At the end of your trip you will hopefully end up with a more coherent body of work.
You could also try something random, such as a series of dart tosses at a map. (How would John Cage have planned a road trip?)
Finally, you might try depicting the road itself or documenting your relationship to it. This approach has been taken by a number of photographers and, with a lttle research, you can look at plenty of inspirational material in advance of your trip.
David R Munson
Lots of good suggestions- thanks much. I like the idea of avoiding "destination based" road trip as well, but we'll need some place to stop along the way to call my mother and tell her we got "there" ok. I'll just make it up as I go. The trip itself is pretty important, but the photos are too. One of my favorite places to take pictures I've ever been is the Sangre De Christo range, so perhaps that would be a good general area to go. Thanks again for the suggestions.
Tops on my list are Yoho National Park and the Pacific Northwest (Olympic Mountain range and Vancouver Island). The mountains in Yoho are by far the most spectacular I have ever seen. The only problem will be not using up all of your film. They will surely give you wide angle lens a workout. The old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest are equally amazing but require a completely different way of seeing. You frequently cannot see the forest for the trees. The pictures that you take here will be less obvious and require more work but will be worth it. I thought Carmannah Valley on the coast of Vancouver Island was particularly good. Either place is awe inspiring. As for the eastern part of the continent there are alot of 'nice' places but nothing that really knocks my socks off.
I've driven alone on two-lane roads to all fifty states, and one of my favorite places in America is the Sandhills of Nebraska. This is ranchland, privately owned but accessible to you if you politely ask permission of the owners. Or there is good shooting to be done from the roads and state parks. The Sandhills are a huge tract of grass- covered dunes that cover a quarter of the state. There are numerous small ponds with interesting birds, and treeless vistas of rolling yellow hills (or green, depending on the rainfall that year). Even if you don't stop to photograph, the drive out Route 2 through this area is wonderful-- long swooping curves, very little traffic. You can stay in the town of Alliance which has several motels.
Ask your fellow Columbian, William Least Heat-Moon, about the underappreciated glories of the prairie grasslands. Better yet, read his book PrairyErth before you go. And definitely read his book Blue Highways, now. It will help you plan your trip.
If you decide to come down this way (the Sangre de Cristos), send me a note. I've been here since '75 and can make suggestions etc. One thing to think about is that right across the Rio Grande from the Sangre de Christos is what is known as the Valles Caldera, a huge tract of land high up in the Jemez Mountains which was just now acquired by the federal gov't after years of negotiation and legal wrangling. It is about the most virginal virgin alpine forest in the West. As of now, the only access is by pre-arranged tours, but it will open up some by 2004. I think there's a website. -jeff buckels (albuquerque nm)
Head over to New England and then go up to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
You must have already read Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" and know that just posing the question stirs the wanderlust in the rest of us that can't go! If you land in Central Nevada, you can use my darkroom to change filmholders and I'll point you towards the Ancient Bristlecones and Death Valley. Weston's "California and the West" will be a fun read as you plan. Best of luck! J
Yellowknife is a looooooooooong way away. Pretty cool place though (figuratively and litterally). I was there briefly in November about 5 or 6 years ago. The Northern Lights were fantastic, the local architechture ecclectic and the people warm and inviting...
but I would not want to drive there. And I don't remember it being a particularily stunning place to photograph. Though I did not go there as a photographer and I was there when it was snowy and when there was not a whole lot of daylight to work with.
Be aware that part of the road (there is only one main hwy going in and out of town that I could find in any atlas) may be unpaved and open only seasonally. Much of the road leading there is in the middle of nowhere. You may want to invest in a personal emergency beakon or a HAM radio in case you get into trouble.
You might get more scenery per driven mile by starting the trip inland and exploring the different mountain ranges, and plains in Montana, Alberta and BC (I particularily love the Kootneys and the Okanagan Valley). Working your way to the West Coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Be sure to stop in Catherdral Grove and explore some of the protected old growth forest near Tofino. Continue down to San Francisco along the Washington/Oregon/California Coast and come back via Yellowstone, Nevada, Utah, Colorado.
Hmmmmmmm.... now you've got me thinking of a road trip...
Good Luck. I'm turning green as I type this!!!!
I've done your type of trip three times in the past 8 years. Always planning for the next time out. The wife thinks I'm completely crazy. I go for 15 - 20 days. Gotta make a living too, ya know. I go totally solo. Can't be with others when I'm making photos. My time's mine and mother nature's. Each time I go I learn more about myself than the places I've been. What I'm capable of and what I'm not. I'm assuming that your a scenic LF guy. Me too. I've found that the journey really is the whole idea. Destinations are just points on a map. I've also found more and better images as I'm traveling without any ideas of what kind of picture I want. Many times images jump out ahead of me. So, here's "Steve's Law": 1. Follow the road 2. Follow the road less travelled. HHHHHMMMMMMM Poetry 3. Look behind you once in a while, the view is different. 4. Don't always follow the road. 5. Make your own road. 6. Take breadcrumbs (sometimes you gotta get back to #1 above.) 7. Take 2 exposures of all subjects. But develope only 1. Hold the second exposure as insurance. B & W 4x5 film's cheap compared to driving thousands of miles and loosing that 1 neg to bad processing.
BWT my personnal fav's are slot canyons in AZ, coastlines in N. CA, OR and WA. Death Valley sand dunes at dusk.
Best of luck. Let me know how it goes.
The one thing I always fall prey to when I'm on a trip with a destination is my tendency to rush by places that appeal to me in some way without stopping, because I'm so "destination-bound".
I second the recommendations above regarding the Pacific Northwest and also the observation that "seeing" those old growth forests photographically speaking can require a different sort of eye.
David: That website is www.vallescaldera.com. -jeff buckels
David R Munson
So much good advice- this is why I love this forum!
Yup! We be awsome.
Given the time of the year, I would stay in the North West. It's too hot/humid further south/east. Others have suggested avoiding the national parks, but as you know I am partial to them, and would take a road following Lake Superior, the South Dakota Black hills, the Colorado Rockies, Yellowstone, the North Pacific Coast from CA to WA, returning through Glacier NP and the Canadian Rockies. If you time the trip right, you can be at the peak of the wildflowers on most of your itinerary. At this time of the year, I would photograph in the morning, then drive to the next destination during mid-day, photograph in the evening, camp and go to sleep early. It helps if you have a vehicle you can sleep in because it's much easier to crash anywhere.
I also crash when I'm sleeping in the vehicle...........
David, go to AAA and get the road maps of the states you will be driving in. Then look for the scenic by-ways as the most interesting roads to travel. Never plan to be at a certain place at a certain time. Get on the road but only use the maps in the case of emergency. If you don't plan a route, you will never be lost and what you see will always be fresh. Some of the best sights I have seen have been on roadways that I decided to drive to see where I would end up. Good luck and happy shooting. Pat.
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