A couple of weeks ago, I headed back out on the road for a good old fashioned American road trip.
It’s incredible what you see and experience on those wide open roads and big vistas.
Some of my favorite photos were taken in the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. That’s wide open spaces like nowhere I’ve seen, with these gorgeous mountains appearing in the surrounding flat plains. It’s been an unusually wet spring and early summer in what is usually an extremely dry part of the world. We could see that in the forests and farmlands, and in the tree-filled slopes of the lower Tetons.
But then you get to the Grand Tetons themselves, and those peaks are all rock and snow. That’s a stark, wild beauty if I’ve ever seen it.
The American West, even in a wet year, is a dry landscape. It was hot and dusty on those long days, and even though we stopped frequently for a quick photo or to stretch our legs, the wear and tear of the road got draining. But then we'd arrive at some extraordinary place and the miles would fall away behind us. Bear Lake in Utah was one of those places--a chance to cool off, wade in, and relax. Plus we caught some cheeky wildlife photos in the surrounding area.
The trip also took us to Logan Canyon, which is one of my new favourite places in the world. It’s in northeastern Utah, and is absolutely glorious. The road winds through the canyon, combining riverside meadows with forested hillsides and sheer cliff faces. We only had a couple of hours there as we were passing through at the end of a long day, and there was a place to stop around every bend in the narrow road. Watching the sun set on the canyon walls has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever seen anywhere (even though I was driven crazy by the fact that we weren't at a good vantage point for a photo).
Long stretches of northern Utah and southern Idaho are pretty desolate by any measure of the term. But there are hidden gems, including some we literally stumbled upon by accident when we got tired of racing along at a mind-numbing 80 miles an hour along the freeway. Shoshone Falls and the Snake River Canyon in southern Idaho were unexpected and startling, making a jaw-dropping detour and a chance to breathe in some deep beauty after a dusty morning's race across country.
I have a particular fascination with places in the process of falling apart. This is not unique to the US--if you cross Ireland you'll see all kinds of half-crumbling homes and businesses. The thing is, though, they crumble differently. One reason for this is a simple question of materials--in Ireland and most of Europe, buildings are made of stone and therefore fall apart in a more ancient-looking fashion. But there's more to it than that. There's something about the wide-open American surroundings, combined with a quality of light and a sense of heat and desolation that makes disrepair feel different here. In any event, these American ruins certainly caught my imagination.
In non-road trip parts of the trip, I spent time with my girlfriend’s family and friends. Her cousin was getting married, and I took some shots at a family brunch the day after, complete with her almost 96-year-old grandmother (who cooked the breakfast) and the newest addition to the family. I also popped along to a construction day with her mom's friends, who are building a common house together for community events. AND to her dad's Irish band performing at a great local bar.
So it was a busy non-road trip moment for a road-weary photographer.
The final day of the whole trip was spent descending the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, crossing the Mount Hood National Forest amid startling views of the snow-covered peak and twisting forested highways. The morning started at the gorgeous Smith Rock, a favourite destination for hikers and rock climbers. All that last day we were returning to familiar territory--this was the area where I shot some of the wilderness photos in the current A5 collection. It’s wilderness and highway that’s beginning to feel like it’s in my own backyard.
Over the course of the adventure, we drove over 3,000 miles and made the whole trip in a week. That’s a long way in our adventure car, Spike, listening to podcasts and books on tape, scheming schemes, and watching the world go by.