View Full Version : Craziest photo trip.

Kirk Gittings
15-Feb-2015, 11:59
In a conversation with friends over breakfast this morning I was reminded of a crazy photo trip I did once back in the early 80's. I drove all the way from Albuquerque to Yellowstone to take one photograph, took it, turned around and drove back home. I had been waiting for overcast light so I had been watching the weather. When I saw it develop I had a bunch of commercial work to get to. I calculated that I had just enough free time to get the trip in if I didn't fool around. So off I went-1850 miles for one image. The light was perfect. The image was good, not great-it filled a hole in a larger body of work. No regrets.


John Layton
15-Feb-2015, 12:22
I think it was January, 1993 - We drove into Death Valley via. the Titus Canyon road...one week after a family was swept away in a flash flood through the narrows on the lower part of this road. A bit higher up we got stuck on an icy stretch above a drop that must've been over 1000 ft - no guard rail - and we spent about an hour digging sand out of the icy uphill bank to spread on the road so we could proceed. Spent a bit of time at a ghost town (where E.W. photographed the toilet - "Golden Circle Mine?") but took no photos - then continued into the narrows to find that the road had washed out, and suddenly a storm came roaring at our backs....so we could not go back (thoughts of that unfortunate family in our minds!). Mind you, we were driving a rental - a small Chevy Lumina (the rental contract specified - no dirt roads!). So...amidst a mix of wind, rain, and hail, we moved rocks into the washout - and as I watched my companion attempt to navigate this, the car slid and bounced sideways down what amounted to a talus slope. But not a scratch on the car, and we got through the narrows in the nick of time. Later on the same day, the weather had cleared and we found ourselves in a turnout on the main north-south road in the valley, and I noticed Stovepipe Wells dunes in the distance. "That is where I need to be," I told myself and my companion. So we drove to the north side of the dunes, and I shouldered my backpack and literally ran through the soft sand - I think over a mile - and set my 5x7up with a 90 grandagon/orange filter, quickly focussed in the fading light and got off one shot before the light faded. Following my tracks back in the dark with my flashlight, I noticed in these tracks something new...the tracks of what looked like a large cat! At any rate...here is the only image I managed to take that day:

matthew blais
15-Feb-2015, 12:24
Crazy is as crazy does I suppose.. Not 1850 miles but a rather difficult hike up a smallish mountain through bushes and brambles and stuff to shoot Squaw Island up near Shore Acres. Got up to the point and realized there was a white sign on the Island facing my way. Back down, up a hill on the left side, over a fence and sat on a narrow point a hundred feet above the crashing surf..couldn't see the sign from there and actually a better angle/image.
The things we do...

15-Feb-2015, 12:36
In 1993-94 I was in college in Worcester MA and longed to get out of the city and into the woods. It was thanksgiving weekend and my brother, a friend, and I drove to Acadia National Park. We had a couple extra days because of the holiday weekend. We setup our tent in a dark and snowy un-attended campground and had a great time driving/hiking/photographing in the park pretty much by ourselves. We got food at the grocery store as the whole downtown tourist area was shut down for the season. It's probably a little more year-round oriented now. From the little trip, I got enough nice 35mm slide photos to do my first solo exhibit.

John Olsen
15-Feb-2015, 17:59
Thanks for the stories. It helps fuel further craziness, and make mere eccentricity seem normal.

15-Feb-2015, 19:21
Well, I don't call it crazy but my friends say it was. I drove a total of 7,000 miles in 3 weeks from Georgia to as far as Mono Lake including Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon and Death Valley. It is by far the longest photo trip I have taken. A month late and I am still working on compiling all the film/digital shots. I figure I have about 3,000 images.

The oddest trip was with my brother. A line of thunderstorms popped up right at sunset. Being the lightning nut that I am we setup on a hilltop as the storm passed hoping to shoot the backside of the storm. As storms do, one died as another popped a bit further away. We packed up and blew over the two land black top of northern Arkansas heading east sticking to the hilltops. We stopped three times hoping to capture the lightning ending up some 200 miles from home at three in the morning.......and only two photos worth talking about. But with my brother the storm chasing, like his rock hounding, was not about what was found or captured. It was about the journey.

Leszek Vogt
16-Feb-2015, 01:21
Originally I was going to talk about the wacky trip that I took all over SW and then parked my car at ABQ airport, flew to SF, went to my class and found out that the class exam (univ) was not going to take place. Grrrr!!! OK, returned to ABQ the following day to continue the trip, but the rest of the trip just didn't have the same excitement.....and I ended the trip sooner than I wanted to.

But, the real strange trip was to Crater Lake, OR. I came up the coast from SF...and it had to be mid '90's. I was having lunch at the lodge on the rim, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed, what looked like a sightseeing chopper, which was descending rather low and then dipped below the rim. Suddenly the folks that were present there, they ran to the rim and drama developed. Yes, the chopper went into the lake and later investigation revealed that two people were in the cockpit (the bodies were never recovered). Once I got to the rim, I took some pics of the oil being contained and rescue boats patroling the area....it was rather eerie-weird. Eventually, I learned that the chopper will remain in the depths of the lake due to rather expensive cost of recovery (over mill, I was told). On my previous trip there was exactly on the day the quake hit Santa Barbara in 1978. More crazy-bat....


Brian Sims
16-Feb-2015, 03:00
My brother and I drove from Seattle to Smith Rock in central Oregon to take a photo of the comet Hale-Bopp with Smith Rock in the foreground. On the way, we stopped in Detroit, Oregon to get gas. The woman pumping our gas (you know it's way too dangerous to do that yourself) asked, "Where you boys headed?" I Said, "Down to Smith Rock to take a picture of the comet." She said, "Is that where it landed?"
My brother set up his camera on the rim of the canyon by the parking lot. I hiked down into the canyon. We had two-way radios. He would open the shutter and I'd start blasting the Smith Rock with a big flash unit. We took about 5 exposures about 5 to 10 minutes (film). When I got up to the parking lot, my brother was still laughing at all the group of rock climbers who had hiked out of the canyon talking about "Dude, that was an awesome lightening storm."

John Layton
17-Feb-2015, 07:27
Gotta share this one too - not LF but really funny. I did a number of photo gigs awhile back for a foundation working in Ethiopia, making yearly visits to that country - typically flying in to Addis Ababa, spending a week or so covering meetings and photographing projects in and about Addis - then either driving overland or hopping into a DeHaviland Otter (twin-prop, 19 seat) and roaming about the country covering various projects (water, health, education, etc.).

On this particular trip our little Otter was balky. When the pilots did their required "rev to max" engine test prior to takeoff from Addis, the entire instrument console vibrated so badly that the gages were unreadable. Despite this, they decided all was well and attempted a takeoff - just getting up to airspeed when the left wheel bearing blew out (thump-thump-thump-thump). Pilots managed to stop the aircraft (we would have crashed had we first become airborne), then, for "security reasons," we had to sit on the tarmac, in the plane (which had no working bathroom) until another plane could be found - a total of two hours. The replacement plane (another Otter) felt much better, but still no working bathroom!

After a two-hour flight to the village of Dembidollo, we circled over the small airstrip to give time for kids to chase animals out of the way of the plane and then we landed. Mind you, our presence here was a huge event. I'd guess that there were at least five thousand (more likely twice this) people there to greet us, many of whom had travelled for days on foot - now dancing, singing, bearing gifts, etc., and completely surrounding our plane as it came to a halt. Such an amazing welcome, and all we could do, every one of us, was to bolt from the plane and head for the bushes - we all had to pee so badly! The previously ecstatically thankful crowd was now completely confused...why were we acting so strange? Were we suddenly afraid? What had they done to offend us?

Luckily for us, there were enough villagers in the crowd who knew enough english to translate our "situation," and what then ensued, as word spread, was at first a collective sigh of relief, followed by infectious laughter...not derisive in the least but instead very affectionate, and this feeling washed over us - that we were being so warmly welcomed into the fold of a very large family. On later flights to Dembidollo the villagers would exhibit an amount of good-natured teasing about what had happened on that first trip, but we'd since gotten a bit more creative, having learned that airsick bags are sufficiently waterproof to make a very serviceable "jonny-on-the-spot!"

17-Feb-2015, 08:31

17-Feb-2015, 09:16
Well..heard about this 'tattoo convention' at the Pomona (CA) fairgrounds..so we decided to go see and see what we could photograph

I woke up early (sunday) - drove about an hour to my friend's house.. put all my junk in his van and took off for the convention

It was oddly quiet in the parking lot when we arrived..but how popular is a tattoo convention?

started gearing up and immediately realized I had brought the wrong batteries for my strobes - HELL

and then my friend realized he had brought the wrong film for his cameras (he was shooting 120, and he grabbed his 35mm film bag)

I was shooting 35mm and had an extra camera..so I let him borrow one and off we went

only to find out the convention was the following weekend

so we spent some time photographing people and their birds outside the bird convention that WAS going on that weekend

Kirk Gittings
17-Feb-2015, 09:36

:) I bet!

David Karp
17-Feb-2015, 10:39
Well, there was that time I went to Yosemite with my 4x5 kit, minus the tripod. No small format camera either.

Kirk Gittings
17-Feb-2015, 11:05
Yes me and my assistant drove to a commercial shoot about an hour north of Gallup (maybe 4 hours), a res school in the middle of nowhere, some years ago and forgot my tripod. I did a walkthrough with my client told him I didn't like the light and would come back tomorrow-drove back to ABQ got the tripod and headed back. Light was no different and fine. In my case, especially on a commercial job, I don't put this in the "Crazy" column but "dumb shit" column :)

17-Feb-2015, 11:08
I forgot to take a fresh battery for the Mamiya 645 on my last trip. I could not find it anywhere, even Las Vegas.
Got back home and found them at the local Walgreen. Carted that camera across county and back and did not fire a shot.

David Lobato
17-Feb-2015, 11:10
Mine was when I drove my truck in the Wasatch mountains in Utah with my first 4x5, a Toyo 45E. I pulled off the road to set up a shot and the ground dropped off steeply away from the road's edge. My truck almost rolled over. After a lot of thinking I managed a self rescue and kept at least 3 wheels on the ground until I was on the roadway again. It was a back road and for the few hours I was there, no one drove by. I did get some 4x5 transparencies I liked out of the trip. And I'm very cautious about pulling over since then.

John Olsen
17-Feb-2015, 17:53
Yes me and my assistant drove to a commercial shoot about an hour north of Gallup (maybe 4 hours), a res school in the middle of nowhere, some years ago and forgot my tripod. I did a walkthrough with my client told him I didn't like the light and would come back tomorrow-drove back to ABQ got the tripod and headed back. Light was no different and fine. In my case, especially on a commercial job, I don't put this in the "Crazy" column but "dumb shit" column :)
Good save. My experience along these lines is to hike in with everything but the mounting plate for the tripod. Ugh. Now I mount before packing.

Sal Santamaura
17-Feb-2015, 18:21
I forgot to take a fresh battery for the Mamiya 645 on my last trip. I could not find it anywhere...On one trip a thousand miles from home I had my Mamiya 645. A friend who lives there, whose equipment is all large format, said "real cameras don't have batteries." :) Fortunately, being anal retentive, I always carry a tested fresh spare, even now for my Pentax digital spotmeter.

David Karp
17-Feb-2015, 18:45
. . . I don't put this in the "Crazy" column but "dumb shit" column :)

I am in 100% agreement. My wife might remember some of the other "terms" I used to describe both me and my bonehead maneuver!

Andrew O'Neill
19-Feb-2015, 16:17
A friend of mine has been to Iceland several times and he always comes back with some awesome images. Crazy, but I'd do it if I could afford it.

Drew Wiley
19-Feb-2015, 16:50
I've had so many crazy trips and incidents I wouldn't even know where to begin.

20-Feb-2015, 09:32
Crazy? I'm not sure. One of the most gratifying photo experience of recent years past was when I shot the work for my MFA thesis exhibition. I spent three months camping and living out my car traveling to almost twenty states and and many thousand miles photographing protected lands and recreational/national parks. I was studying the ways people interact with the landscape and how the design of those spaces might have influenced peoples' interactions. Each photograph took a full day to make. Several hrs observing peoples' patterns, drawing of maps, waiting for the right light, making my 'hero' exposure, then layering multiple exposures on that same sheet of film once the sun had set with light trails that showed the traffic patterns for a certain area for that day. Long process but well worth it. I dragged my sinar through a lot that summer, but damn was it worth it! Had such a great time camping, eating cheap food, making g art, and being in such great places. Wish I had some different glass to use in making that work, but it was still a great time. I'm still trying to make more work like that, but haven't been that successful. Perhaps my next trip out will be more fruitful :-)

Drew Wiley
20-Feb-2015, 10:26
The things I remember are the incidents when I darn near died on one harebrained LF trip or another. Seems like I was always testing the elements, seeing how
close I could get right to the edge of extreme weather in the mtns. No more, though sometimes recently the weather has volunteered to come to me. I'm prepared.