Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Drive (Sturgis or Bust!)

So, it's crunch time.

We've started looking at routes, and have decided to take the most direct route there is. We could've taken I-10 out to Dallas and then made a right, but we've opted to head north on I-75 off I-10. We'll take that through Atlanta and Chattanooga and up into Nashville.

From Nashville we'll hop onto I-57 and stay on that until St. Louis. There we'll hop onto I-70 into Kansas City, which is where we'll pick up I-29. We'll follow that through Sioux City, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. When we hit Sioux Falls, South Dakota we'll head west on I-90 and follow that until we hit Rapid City, South Dakota.

Despite it being somewhat late in the game as far as planning goes, we were able to get a campsite, with full RV hook-ups, at the Lake Park Campground in Rapid City. Our other option was a primitive site at the Buffalo Chip and, to be honest, there's going to be a lot going on there. But "a lot going on" also equates to "a lot" of noise at all hours.

Lake Park is roughly 30 miles from downtown Sturgis, but they offer wi-wfi, a shower house and a laundry. There are shuttles which run from all of the area campgrounds into Sturgis and, while they don't originate rides in Sturgis, I can take an Uber from Rapid City into Sturgis. I also have the option of toolin' around in the camper, because it's not so big that it can't be used for day trips.

Ah, yes, the camper. 

 It's a Mercedes-Benz "Sprinter" type camper, although I'm not certain of the exact model. Seeing as it's Greg's, he'll get the king size bed in the back. I'll figure something out, as the captain's chairs behind the driver's seat and the passenger seat don't fold out into a bed. They do, however, swivel, so I'm sure I'll be able to make due.

And, if worse comes to worse, we'll be packing a huge tent that I can always crash in, as well. The reality of it all is that I've fallen asleep in my desk chair so often that I'm not really concerned with where I end up sleeping on this trip.

Greg and I plan on leaving around 1:00pm on Tuesday. That way, hopefully, we'll avoid the rush hour nightmare that is weekday Atlanta traffic. We'll take turns driving; probably five hours at a shot, so that we can drive straight through.

Our total drive time, assuming we make gas and sanity stops along the way, should take us right around 32 hours. That'll put us rolling into Rapid City Wednesday evening. Otherwise, we'll stop along the way to decompress and and roll into town during the day on Thursday.

Either way it's gonna' be a fun trip!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Just A Week Out...

So, for Sturgis, I want to make sure I'm ready for whatever shooting scenario I find myself in.

The primary rig I'll be using for photographing around downtown Sturgis and the madness there will be the Canon 5D MKIV and the Tamron 24-70mm f/28 VC. I bought the Tamron lens after my Canon version died. I was looking at a repair bill of around a grand for the Canon, and it just didn't make sense to me to send it in.

I recently shot the Mecum Summer Special with this lens, and I'm impressed. The vibration control is, according to Tamron, good for five stops. I thought that was a bit enthusiastic of a claim but, man, I gotta' tell you, I was shooting at 1/30 of a second and getting razor sharp images. So, yeah, call me a convert.

So, I'll have that wonderful "downtown rig", but I don't plan on staying in downtown Sturgis for the entire 12 days. There's a lot to see and do. Badlands National Park is just over an hour away. Devil's Tower, in Wyoming, is 90 minutes away. I've been to both of those already, but I wouldn't mind going back So, for that reason, I'm packing up the ol' Pelican case (which has been empty for far too long):


The gear...


In addition to the aforementioned rig, I'll also have my Canon 6D, my 100-400mm, the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the 17-40mm. I'm hoping to be able to convince some people to let me shoot their portrait. For this, I'll be bringing the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART lens. I was on the fence but, since space isn't an issue, I figured I'd bring it along.It can be a tricky lens to use, but the results are stellar. This is a photograph I took of my friend with the Sigma lens:


The image quality produced by this lens is... it's just different. It's not necessarily "better", per se, but there's something about it which makes me want to use this lens more. I'm just hoping I can get some willing participants!

And, as if all of that wasn't enough, I'm also bringing my Fuji X100F. It'll be great for shooting in the camper and during those pit stops we'll make along the way:


So, now that the gear is all inventoried and packed, it's time to start in on the more mundane things; laundry, packing, yadayadada. The reality is that the next week is going to fly by and I don't want to get caught short.

I likely won't make another entry until, the earliest, a day or two before we depart. Thankfully the camper has wi-fi, so I'll be able to do updates from the road here on the blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc. during the trip, and I'll definitely be checking in from Sturgis after we arrive...

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Sturgis, Baby!

Well, after having not posted anything for quite a while, the traveling bug has bitten down once again, this time putting me on the road the South Dakota and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.


I was actually in the process of planning a trip to Colorado Springs to photograph the Garden of the Gods. It's been a kind of bucket list shoot for me, and I'm excited to finally get the chance to head out there. I got a really good price on a flight, so the end of August was looking like a perfect time to schedule my next photo excursion.

And then my buddy Greg bought a camper: 


Mercedes Benz Sprinter Camper

So, after a few beers and "what if" scenarios, we're leaving for Sturgis on August 2nd, and we're planning to return to St. Augustine no later than August 14.

Now, I don't ride, but Greg does, and we'll be dragging a trailer with his bike in it. He'll ride his bike whjle we're there and, due to its relatively compact size, I'll drive the camper to get around. Greg assures me that there will be parking areas in Sturgis where I can park the camper, which will be good. That way we can have the camper more local for those times when we want to take a load off for a while. It'll also be good in that I won't have to carry all of my photo gear with me all day long.

While I expect Sturgis to be a target rich environment, photo-wise, there will also be those stops along the way where I'm sure I'll be breaking out a camera.

I'll have my Canon 5D MKIV and 6D, my Fuji X100F, my tripod, my iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone tripod (with remote!), assorted lenses (including the new Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC (vibration control) and a comfy camp chair.

I'll be banging out a packing list, and I'll confer with my brother, who rode to Sturgis on his Street Glide back in 2014. I'll have a bit more room to pack things, but it'll be good to get his input for those "must have" items.

So, there it is! If you know me, you know I love an impromptu road trip and, given the scope of this one, I think a two week lead time qualifies as "impromptu"!

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Wrapping Up Another Year...

I'm finding it a bit difficult to believe that's it's been six months since I've posted anything. It seems as though, as soon as I made that last entry, things went sideways and the schedule went into overdrive.

Looking back at 2021, the first thing I would say is that at least it was better than 2020. But there were still things we couldn't do. People were still worried about getting Covid. I understand all of that, but I'm not exactly a fan of giving in.

Of course travel was different. My daughter and I were supposed to go to Belgium last year but, of course, Europe was pretty much locked down, as was the rest of the world. So, we decided we'd go this year, but there were still too many travel restrictions for it to be feasible.

So we made do.

Without question, the highlight of this year was the six weeks I spent on the road in April and May. The journey from St. Augustine to Boston to Seattle was pretty epic. But then to turn around and drive from Newport, Oregon back to Boston, with my kid in the passenger seat, was a gift. Sure, we got on each other's nerves from time to time, but it's a trip neither of us would ever say we wish we hadn't made. Hell, I even let her do some driving.

After returning to Florida, it seemed like mere weeks before I was working again. The college shooting gig was a bit abbreviated, but thank goodness it was robust enough to keep me from having to get, dare I say it: a regular job. Also, the magazine gig picked back up. I had been writing articles (and including photos for free), but a revamped St. Augustine Social, with a new format, has me only doing photography (which I was originally hired for) and I'm making more money with it.

And then I blinked and it was the end of February.

I was able to attend Mecum again in January and, as is always the case, the automobiles on display and up for auction were nothing short of amazing. This was also the case at the recently held Amelia Island Concours d' Elegance. The level of automobile at "The Amelia" is, generally speaking, quite a bit elevated from an event like Mecum, though, such as this 1935 Packard Twelve Sport Phaeton, which was expected to sell for around $500K:

1935 Packard Twelve Sport Phaeton
1935 Packard Twelve Sport Phaeton

Or, if you like a more modern ride, perhaps this 1994 Porsche 911 Turbo "S" Package, expected to fetch around $1,200,000, is more your style:

1994 Porsche 911 Turbo 911 "S" Package


Now, for me, the Amelia Island Concours d' Elegance signals the star of my photographic year (Mecum notwithstanding) and, given that, this year, it coincides with the opening of Daytona Beach Bike Week so, if my luck holds out, I'll be looking forward to a busy spring...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Back In The Saddle...

Seven years ago, I was hired by St. Augustine Social Magazine as a photographer. It was a real magazine with a shiny cover and pages and an editor and everything. But before the first issue ever went to print, I was asked if I wanted to write articles for the magazine, as well.

My first article was what became known as "Spot Check". I would check out local eateries, sample the food and photograph it.

Tough gig, right?

My product photography background was, let's say, "lacking", so photographing food helped me hone those skills.It finally got to the point where I was quite comfortable doing what I was doing, despite the fact that my role with the magazine was more on the literary side than I expected:


I then started a column call "The Music Chair", with an idea stolen from a friend of mine in California. I dragged this gawd-awful green wing-back chair all over town, and photograph local musicians sitting in it for a photo to accompany the interview I did with them. It was a blast:


I retired the chair when I sold off my 1999 Ford Explorer. The sad reality is that the chair wouldn't fit in the Nissan Altima I'd purchased. "The Musical Chair" then became just a metaphor for being photographed for the magazine. It was now more the article than the chair. This allowed for some interesting "environmental portraits" that the chair would never allow: 



Not soon after, the world was hit by Covid-19. Everything stopped. My photography business ground to a halt in a hurry. Because of when Covid hit, and the fact that I did some traveling overseas in 2019, it was almost three years before I had any work with the magazine. It definitely sucked, but it also allowed me time to focus and re-evaluate things; what I wanted to do, what I felt was important, yadayadayada. I did some traveling with my daughter and drove coast to coast, seeing and experiencing those things you can only experience from the highway. It was worrisome, to be sure, but there was also a part of it all that was a bit exciting, too.

I definitely enjoy writing, but photography is where my primary interest is. If I get to write some, that'll be great. But the photography aspect is where I want to spend the majority of my time. And, the best part is that it looks like I'll be able to do exactly that, as I've been asked to focus on photography for the magazine. Seven years ago, in 2014, I was the magazine's first employee. They didn't even have an editor yet. Naturally, I feel a strong connection to the magazine so, when the publisher asked me back as a photographer, I couldn't say "yes" quickly enough.

I'm excited to see what a post-Covid world will bring, photograph-wise. The phone is starting to ring, the e-mails are starting to come in, and it's beginning to look like we may even get back on an even keel before too long. That'll be nice, especially considering the seas in which we've been sailing the last few years...



Sunday, August 8, 2021

So, What's On Deck?

You know, I really hate unpacking. I'm just now unpacking from a weekend trip I did to New Orleans back in June. It's horrible, I know. Somewhere, I think, I may even have a yet to be unpacked bag from the cross country trip.

The upside, though, is that I've now got time to do that unpacking. See, not long after coming back from New Orleans I have two week long shoots in the time span of three weeks. It was fun and profitable, but also time consuming. I decided I would rein it in a bit in August. The only shooting I plan on doing in August is for my tattoo project.

What's that? You don't know about the tattoo project? Well, click here: The American Ink Project

That project's been going on embarrassingly too long, so I need to give it a swift kick in the ass to get it back on track. Let me know if you'd like to take part!

Travel-wise? I don't know that there's anything on the calendar just yet. I'm always up for an impromptu road trip, but as far as one of those trips which requires actual planning? Yeah, I got nothin'. In all honesty,  the next thing  I actually "gear up" for to shoot will be Biketoberfest in Daytona. There are also a few smaller regional car shows that I want to hit to generate some content for another website of mine, High Octane Photography. 

Oh, you're not familiar with that? Click here and check it out: High Octane Photography

And, of course, seeing as schools are reopening post-Covid, I'll be getting back into my college photography in September. That should carry me through the end of November and then start back up in January.

So, it's not like I won't be busy, I just won't be on the road that much (I think I did enough of that this year, anyway). It'll be nice to be able to not worry about packing a bag for a trip.

Which, of course, means I won't be unpacking, either...

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Road Trip - Epilogue...

You know, this road trip really was the journey of a lifetime.

I won't lie: I can't sit idle for too long. I have to move. I need to go. I want to travel. This road trip was the result of my daughter Jessy and I not being able to return to Europe for her birthday. We were going to go to Portugal last year, but Covid-19 simply made that impossible. We were going to go this year, and I was even going to spring for first class travel, but there were still too many travel restrictions in Europe, and Portugal in particular, to make it a viable option.

So I hit the road.

One day in February I decided I wanted to drive the longest road in America: US-20, from Newport, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts. But it would take some work to get there. An entire adventure unfolded on the road before me before I ever even got to the west coast. I use the word "epic" to describe this trip because, really, it's the only word that fits.

Suffice it to say, a trip like this doesn't come cheap. While it's still cheaper than first class airfare and accommodations to Portugal, the receipts do start to add up over a while. My total cost for fuel was just over $1,000 and, for that, I squeezed 11,126 miles out of the Malibu:


Also, food, souvenirs, and the various other sundry things you buy along the way can put your wallet on a diet real fast.

But the one cost that always seems to be the greatest when traveling is lodging. Six weeks of hotels would've been prohibitive, especially with two of us traveling from Oregon. To this end, I have to thank some folks who were beyond kind in opening their homes to me on the way west, and to both me and Jess while coming east:

Kenny & Karen Koumjian - Billerica, Massachusetts

Mike & Tamara Gladstone - Rochester, New York

Ron and Gwen Sommer - Wooster, Ohio

Chris Rausch - Missoula, Montana

Mark & Deborah Acerenza - Frederick, Maryland

I cannot overstate how much we appreciated the kind hospitality shown to us. From a place to lay our heads to filling our stomachs with amazing meals, those folks are a very big part of why I was able to tackle this type of trip, and they'll forever have my undying gratitude.

It's probably not surprising, given my "travelin' jones", that people have already started asking where I'm going next. Well, I can't really say. I'd like to say Europe, but there's just no way to know. 

I'll let you know when I get that figured out...

The Drive (Sturgis or Bust!)

So, it's crunch time. We've started looking at routes, and have decided to take the most direct route there is. We could've take...