Archive for the camping Category

Kernel came a callin’

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Ventura on July 26, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Note to readers: Kernel duties came knocking at my door, or ringing at my phone if you want the truth. I doubt they would have driven 130 miles to ask me to write a column to fill space for today’s paper. Shannon Mason, the summer editor-in-chief, said I could write about whatever. I didn’t know what else to write about besides this trip. I took the ending from a blog post I had already written, but only because it had a good point that fit the lead I had used. So here is what you could find on the Kernel Web site. Or if you want to find it for yourself, click here.

            If home is where the heart is then I should be scanning through the classifieds for an old Airstream trailer to move into. 16′ of class to tow behind me, complete with a single bedroom, couch, television and microwave. 
            This summer I found out something about myself that I have always claimed but can finally attest. I love to travel. Even more specifically, I just love driving. I can’t think of too many experiences better than having a few good friends, a case of CD’s, two or three bags of animal crackers, a full tank of gas, an atlas and all summer to do what you want. I’ve lived and relived this scenario all summer.
            Three friends and I set out for California to spend the summer there shooting photographs for a stock photo company one of our professors is starting. The idea was to shoot photos that books or magazines would purchase, which translates to really generic photos. After two or three weeks we were released and told to have a good time. We spent the next three or four weeks exploring California in all of its beauty, which totals out to only be about 30 percent of the state. The other 70 percent turned out to be barren, dreadful and scorching desert.
            My friends and I had made a home out of my car, minus the Airstream. For 10,000+ miles this summer I relied on my Volvo to house my clothes, toiletries, cameras, sleeping bag and other things you bring along for road trips only to later find out you don’t need, like fireworks, two-way radios and fancy light stands.
            It took us two weeks of camping and 5,000 miles to reach our destination, Ventura, Ca. With minimal showering and a week of below or near freezing nights, it was nice to get a break. But it wasn’t long before we were off to see a few of California’s own attractions. The biggest tree in the world is just that. Yosemite is every bit as beautiful as Ansel Adams’ photos depicted. L.A. traffic inspires road rage just badly as every movie I have ever seen portrayed it as. Death Valley is so blistering and desolate that by the time you drive through it you’re delighted it’s 2,000 miles away from where you reside the other 10 months of the year.
Elliott and I left Martha’s more excited to do what we love: drive. I was nearly in tears a few steps prior to this high one.
Photo by K-Smiles

            On the way back “home” it was only one of my friends and me. The other two traveled back separately. So Elliott and I had planned on driving the 2,300 miles in the normal three days but things changed a bit once we got to our scheduled exit. I asked my buddy if he wanted to stop in Flagstaff, he said no. Once we got to Albuquerque I asked again and he said, “Let’s just go onto Lexington.” So we did.
            In a day and a half we drove across the entire country. In 31 hours, we saw the Pacific for the last time this summer and crossed from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and into Kentucky.
            We didn’t’ stop for more than 15 minutes, and most stops averaged about 5 minutes. We only had two meals on the road. Most of our diet consisted of beef jerky and Doritos. The second morning’s McDonalds catered to my hunger but came along with a bit of a side effect. Symptoms included nausea and constant word vomiting which mostly pieced together as complaining. Elliott diagnosed it as the whines and I treated it with biting my tongue for as long as possible, at least until someone new called. Then a new symptom came about when I began regurgitating the situation to my new listener.
            Aside from the severe stomach ache that lasted a week after I got home, I’m glad we pushed through. On the way back that we had one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. One that makes it easy to take residence in a car for an entire summer.  
            The sun went down somewhere near the end of Arizona. The same sun that set behind us would be rising in a few hours in front. Elliott traded off with me and drove through the night. I took back over somewhere in Texas only to watch another beautiful sun peaking over the horizon. For two hours it was a spectacular view.
            If you ever get the chance to drive across the country I beg of you to plan your trip so that you can drive through the night just once. It’s an influential feeling you wont soon forget to see the sun go down and know you’ve been pushing on the whole time it was lighting the rest of the world when it gets back around to you. I can’t think of a bigger way to realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. But when I was driving and seeing it peek back up over Texas at 5 AM, I still felt like it was rising for me.


Help, I’ve driven to Utah and can’t get out

Posted in camping, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 18, 2007 by Keith Smiley

(Whiny) post by Keith 

My plan all along was to take it slow on the way back from California, to make some detours to national parks in Utah and heading to Salt Lake City to visit a friend before swinging through Denver. But the pace has been a little slower than I’d planned: Since Monday afternoon, I’ve driven less than 70 miles.

For the last two nights, I’ve been stranded in Panguitch, Utah (pop. 1623), waiting for car repairs. The Color Country Motel has been home:

See the painting on the wall? It’s a jigsaw puzzle. Seriously.


Saturday night was my last at Martha’s; I packed the car Sunday morning and drove through California and Nevada and into southwest Utah. The air conditioner in my car was barely cooling in the 110-degree desert, so I mostly just used the vent.

I stopped for the night in Zion National Park, paid for my camp site and grabbed my tent from the car. And that’s when I realized the poles and stakes were still strapped to the side of Ed’s backpack — in Lexington. I took my tent out of his pack when we returned from Yosemite, but never thought to get the poles from the outside. It had just finished raining and was threatening to start again, so frustrated, I turned around and drove the short distance back to town to find a motel.

It’s not a good picture, but it shows you that a Utah sunset beats a California sunset, no contest.

The next morning, I picked up a cheap tent at Target so I could spend Monday night in Bryce Canyon National Park. I went through Zion, stopping once to shoot a few touristy pictures in bad light, and headed toward Bryce, but never made it.

The check engine light came on a couple minutes before I stopped at a scenic pullout to shoot more touristy pictures, this time of Red Canyon (which I can attest is quite red). When I started the car again, I was without power steering, along with a few other niceties like an alternator. And my cell phone had no signal.

My car sits half dead at a scenic pullout. I obviously wasn’t thinking straight, as I didn’t shoot any pictures when I bright yellow and blue tow truck pulled up in Red Canyon to haul the car away.


Two cars that were caravaning pulled off as I started looking for someone with cell phone reception. I’m pretty sure they only stopped so the driver of the first car could talk to the driver of the second for a few moments, but I managed to interrupt them and find out that one of them had a phone with one bar of reception.

So for 30 minutes, the occupants of the car stood around and alternated between chatting among themselves and staring at me while I tried to get AAA to send a tow truck. The people in the first car made the short hike up to the top of Red Canyon and returned. “It’s nice, you should go see it,” they told the people in the second car, including the lady who’s phone I was using. So they hiked up the hill and back down, while I stood in the driver’s door of their truck, scared to move because I might lose the signal. The phone was running out of battery, but if I leaned into the truck to use the charger, the reception would drop. I got lucky; the last words I heard from the phone before it died were, “Alright Mr. Smiley, I’ll go ahead and send that tow…”

The clouds really were amazing Tuesday night, though they started to rain on me right after I took this picture. I suppose I should have seen that coming.

It turns out my air conditioner wasn’t working right, and when it finally died, it dragged the rest of the car down with it. The clutch on it seized up and snapped the serpentine belt, so the car was drivable but not very far.

Panguitch, about 10 miles from where I broke down, was the nearest repair shop, and by nearest I mean my other option was to tow it two hours to Cedar City. The shop was closing down as I got to it on Monday, Tuesday was spent waiting for parts, and on Wednesday they spent five hours putting the compressor, which is conveniently buried under the rest of the engine. And in the end, the air conditioner still doesn’t work; no one in Panguitch has the equipment to charge an AC.

So now I’m spending the night less than 70 miles away in Richfield, hoping to get to an AC shop as soon as it opens in the morning so I can get on the road toward home.


It’s unfortunate that I had to see Panguitch under these circumstances, because it really is a nice small town. Tourism seems to be all it has going for it anymore — it has something like 14 motels that do decent business, considering the town’s proximity to so many national and state parks — but it has a great view in every direction, and the people at the auto shop and the motel were extremely helpful.

But the delays and expense of the car repairs have left me frustrated with the whole trip back and have made it difficult to enjoy the scenery. I’m not going to bother with any of my stops now; I would rather just go home. Seeing Bryce canyon and Arches National Park will just have to wait; those rock formations have been hanging around for a few thousand years, so surely they can wait one more.

California Catchup

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Ojai, road trip, Santa Barbara, Sequoia, Snappers, Ventura, Yosemite on July 12, 2007 by Keith Smiley

By Keith Smiley
The guy that Brad tricked into writing

As far as road trips go, driving a few thousand miles across the country is just an appetizer. We could have spent our entire trip in Ventura County, splitting time between the beach and the hills of Ojai, and been happy with the experience. But we kept logging miles instead, taking side trips to places like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Yosemite and Death Valley.

A park ranger at Glacier Point in Yosemite talks about the sunset at Half Dome as the sun sets on Half Dome in the background. Funny how that works.

But anyone who’s reading the blog already knows about our excursions because Brad works so hard on keeping the blog up to date. Before the trip to California started, Brad said he would try and update the blog “3-4 times a week.” But for at least the last month, there’s been a minimum of one post each day, and they rarely come from me.

All the blog’s regular readers and everyone who’s been following the progress of this trip online should thank Brad for his dedication to keeping the blog current. I’m sure he enjoys writing and sharing his photos; otherwise he wouldn’t have started this in the first place. But I’m sure there have been plenty of days when he’d rather be out doing things instead of writing about the things we’ve done.

So I hope everyone appreciates the effort Brad puts into his work, both on the blog and elsewhere. I certainly do; it’s a lot easier to point everyone that asks — all three of them — to the blog instead of trying to recount everything that’s happened on the trip.

Everyone likes feedback, so I’d encourage more people to post comments on Brad’s  posts; something like, “Hey, thanks for all the thought and effort you put into the blog. I use it to kill time at work but enjoy it so much that I read it at home, too.”

For reference, here’s who I’m talking about:

That’d Brad in the middle; he’s the one not made of wood.

The problem with Brad writing so often is that it I don’t usually have a reason to post; he’s already covered the best parts of each day with quality writing and awesome pictures, so there’s not much room for me to put anything up. But I’ve still taken a few pictures here and there, so I’m playing catchup and posting some photos from our road trips to Simi Valley, Santa Barbara, and Yosemite.

Not many words in this one, so if you’ve had to force yourself to read this far, it’s paid off: there are only a few words left in this post and I’ll totally understand if you don’t read them.

What’s unusual about this scene? It’s not the hairpin turn, the randomly placed traffic cones or the hundred-foot drop right off the side of the road. No, it’s the guardrail that’s a luxury California doesn’t usually bother with.

This railing protects the casual hiker from a three-thousand or so foot drop. If you choose to look over the edge anywhere else, well, you’re on your own.

The scene from around where the above railing is. It’s hard to tell at this size, but there’s a spot on that trail on the right. That’s a person.

Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

Camera, Nalgene bottle, reporter’s notepad poking out of camera bag… what else do you need?

Santa Barbara

Sequoia National Forest
That’s a pretty good sized tree sitting in that pool of light, but the sequoias on either side probably just laugh at it and call it a pipsqueak.

Yosemite National Park


Travel recap:

Posted in California, camping, Hess, lexington, luttrell, Mary Margaret on July 11, 2007 by lenscapremoved

We can’t see the Star’s photo editor because she’s out of town on vacation for a week. Since we can’t hang around for a week, we’re heading out. I’ll be sleeping in a bed (any bed would be fine at this point, since I’ve only slept in one four times since we left in May), which happens to be my own, on Sunday night.

New plans are to leave here on Friday after breakfast with Dave. We’ll get to Flagstaff that night where Elliott and I see there is a KOA. I told my dad I would stay in a hotel but I’d rather stay at a KOA anyday. KOA’s are fantastic. Is this free advertising? Yes. But I’m OK with that.

We’ll probably make it to Tulsa, Oklahoma. That’s a little under 14 hours and under 1,000 miles. The next day will only be about 11 hours to Lex where I can then drive the two home.

My emotions are running wild. I can’t decide when to be excited and when to be bitter. Low-spirits are coming in with the highs. And the good seems to be causing the bad.  I miss Mary Margaret. That emotion weighs a little heavier than the rest. But leaving a day early isn’t going to get me any closer to seeing her. I still have to wait until the 20th.

Taking one from the team

Posted in California, camping, Hess, Martha, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Ventura on July 8, 2007 by lenscapremoved


Tonight is the last peaceful night the five of us will enjoy together. At least for the summer of 2007.

We’ll be together tomorrow night, but we’re most likely to come in late and go straight to bed after our trip to Malibu and LA. Tuesday night will probably be like tonight. All of us will be on our laptops. Elliott’s phone will ring and vibrate constantly. Keith will sit at the dining table surfing the vast unknown on the interWeb while Martha knits and I sit next to her on the couch playing on my computer trying to tone a summer’s worth of pictures. The missing link that will make Tuesday night different will be the empty chair by Martha’s computer. Ed’s claimed seat because it’s the only chair close enough for his borrowed Kernel computer to reach the interWeb plug-in.

Tomorrow is basically the beginning of the end, to be completely cliche. Ed has a flight out of Oxnard early Tuesday morning.

After Ed leaves we’ll probably be disoriented for a few days in trying to figure out what we want to do for the rest of our time. We had to pick between going to LA or meeting the Ventura County Star’s photo editor tomorrow. We picked LA. While I know I should be seeking opportunities and making connections, I just feel like right now, this is more important. I have my whole life ahead of me to work in journalism. It’s not often I’ll be able to take off for a summer and do what I want. That kind of freedom just doesn’t come with a photojournalism job.

Ed is a hardworker, but he’s not all work and no play. During one of Dave’s classes he takes a break on top of a mountain of bean bags that Tucker had constructed.

We had a nice meal tonight. We threw our actual cookout for leaving last night where we invited Dave and his family, Greg and Penny (Greg’s mother). I cooked my pineapple chicken, which kind of bombed since I’m not used to charcoal. Tonight we cooked out again and through a group effort we had a great meal. I cooked BBQ chicken and steamed a few vegetables, Ed made hamburgers, Elliott fried potatoes, Penny brought desert and I grilled peaches for ice cream. Keith spent basically the whole time setting up our family portrait, which I’m sure you’ll see eventually. It was beautifully lit and well composed. The whole time we took them, we couldn’t stop laughing at each other to take a serious one. Then we kind of decided that it’s who we are. We’re a goofy group who has fun together. Why pose it as anything else?

But it will be something else after Ed leaves. Ed brings a lot to this group; his highest achievement being the title of the Patchy Beard Contest. He has yet to even trim it and it’s pretty impressive.

Ed’s whiskers actually stick out farther than any hair on his head. Maybe he just looks up to Dave so much he wants to look like him.

Despite his hate for my driving, I’ll miss Ed, especially on the way back. Camping with him is a blast because he’s the kind of guy you want to have around. He has chopped every log we’ve burned because he likes to do it. He was the architect behind every tent we put up. Every time we hiked he set the pace. Elliott says after Ed leaves he’s going to start wrestling me, which I don’t really look forward to. Ed’s ninja skills are advanced enough for him to entertain Elliott but keep him tame. I’m not sure I can step up.

Here is one of my favorite things about Ed Matthews. He hasn’t found a ground too dirty or place to crowded to throw himself in an awkward position to make what he thinks is the best picture possible. Seen here throwing himself in front of a jumbo jet to take a picture of Air Force One. 

I’m sure one day when we’re older, more professional and established, someone will need to introduce Ed for an award he has won. I hope I’m around to be able to talk about how I’ve known the guy since his introduction to photojournalism and I can tell about him crouching in front of a herd of buffalo or how if you pull over for longer than 30 seconds he’ll be out of hearing distance from that car. He springs on opportunities to shoot pictures and isn’t afraid to get his feet wet. Or dirty. Since it doesn’t really rain out here. I could talk about how he can throw a hatchet better than anyone I’ve ever seen, or how he threw a wooden skewer into the bark of a tree.

I’m sure I could find other things to talk about. Things that would make his mother proud. But after having the entire summer’s worth of adventure together, I wouldn’t make it too far before I spilled a few good stories on him.

If I ever do get to talk about Ed in front of a group of people, I hope I get to put a slide show together and embarrass him a bit.

Green square or green horn?

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Yosemite on July 5, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Elliott checks out Half Dome in Yosemite with a very complicated piece of equipment too expensive and advanced to hit the public market yet. The machine consists of thousands of mirrors and inches of priceless glace and metal to magnify for your viewing pleasures. The lens and camera around his neck aren’t worth the presence of this compound scope. The automaton even has a unique tool to “make view clearer” (not focus or sharpen, for those are of the past now) to see the 3 miles across the valley to the face of Half Dome from Glacier Point.

We’ve come up with a new saying for the Kernel while we’re out here. “The Kernel giveth and Kernel taketh away.” This is true because when you come in you’re going to lose friends, girlfriends, time for other hobbies and whatever good diet you were maintaining is out the window as soon as you start. But just as this happens you will gain new friends, girlfriends, new hobbies become professions and you get to have free junk food pretty often when the Kernel orders pizza or there is left over food from a catered event in the Journalism Building.

Looks like someone got too excited to shot another picture that they left their long lens behind. Oh, hi! It was Ed.

The one thing that people at the Kernel aren’t in this business for is self recognition, because you sure aren’t going to get much. Most students don’t appreciate the fact that a student led newspaper is a daily (and the only one in the state). We know the massive hours that go into putting out a paper aren’t recognized when we see the top corner of the paper ripped off for the sudoku. Our friends joke about it and say they don’t care enough to read it, or they only look for our pictures. Little do most of them know that comments like this aren’t flattering, they’re insulting. It’s a team effort and everyone wants you to appreciate the final product, not our tiny contribution, although it is appreciated to hear compliments.

This isn’t dedication. Elliott actually stepped in front of the shot Keith and I were taking just so he could walk in the water. After he said he wasn’t going to take a picture I gave him crap about getting wet so he could just track sand into my car. I said if he was going to do it he needed to take a picture. So he did, but I’m not sure he even thought about it.

Nothing has really brought more recognition to me than Dave telling me that he thinks I’m shooting well and that I’ve made the trip worth it through a few photos. He really liked one I shot of the kitesurfers and the one of the pine tree that I loaded up on that last post. I look up to Dave more than anyone when it comes to editing photos. More than anyone I want to hear him compliment me, because he is tough to impress and doesn’t flatter. We’ve really worked hard and wore ourselves thin trying to get up early and staying out late shooting.

Above: Ed takes a break in Yosemite to try and nap during the bad light of mid-day. Below: Keith isn’t actually trying to crack into UK’s web servers or anything scandalous. He’s just watching our stuff while we take potty breaks. Photos by Elliott Hess


While cameras are a good opportunity to start a conversation, you actually have to have a personality for most situations to get beyond how much your camera cost.

This is proof that anyone can have a big expensive camera and use it about as well as Dick Cheney can use a shotgun. This fellow, who was from Ohio, was trying to use his “big zoom lens” to pick up one or both of these two girls from LA. The conversation was relatively disgusting but still hilarious to tune in on. “This is a push, pull lens. You can push it to make it zoom,” or when one asked how much it cost he said, “I’ll tell you once you give it back to me.” The guy had a 100-400 on there. He was bragging about his camera and I swear I heard him referring to his flower settings, which is “for close ups of flowers,” in case you didn’t know. I wanted to inform him that his camera (same as mine, Canon 20D) was only worth about half of its original value since the new Canons came on the market. But we all shut up and let him have his fun. He quitened down after we all stood over his shoulder and shot the heck out of the beautiful sunset when it hit.

While everyone else is trying to take landscape photos in this ugly light, I just said screw it and took the snapper. Ed mocked me for not including the subject of the shoot, but I suppose sometimes we can be the subject. If you’re interested in where this was taken click here.

I’m not sure that this isn’t an example of using your camera to hit on someone. You can never be sure. I know she initiated this conversation by asking Elliott how far his zoomed compared to her camera. She didn’t believe that 200 is 200, no matter the aperture. Elliott proved it to her and got a kiss on the cheek or something for his kindness.

No matter how professional we feel we’re never too professional to stop shooting and pose for a picture.

Once again a lens falls to the ground for the sake of another photo. This time it was me. Click here for the results.

The road trip within a road trip

Posted in animals, California, camping, Hess, road trip, Sequoia, Smiley, Snappers, Yosemite on July 5, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Blogger note: After looking through how many pictures I’ve actually taken over the past few days, I’ve decided that this wont be so much the whole story as it will be just to show you my best from Yosemite and a bit about Sequoia. There will be another post about Yosemite and Death Valley later.

All of my photojournalism friends who are looking at this are thinking, “Where is the runner wearing the red sweatshirt kicking up dirt while having perfect separation and framing with the trees?” To them I would say the only runner that came through wouldn’t put on the red sweatshirt I carry with me for such situations and threatened to call park services if I didn’t stop trying to convince him to change clothes and buy photos from Pictures with Purpose. This photo was taken around 7 am so he was the only one.
Keith and I were walking back to the car when he saw this picture. The blue bird that was there before flew as soon as he tried to take it. It was a nice photo and as we started walking again I saw it just in time to shoot this and completely steal Keith’s idea. I told him about it after I got a few good frames off and skipped a few rocks across the water to scare off any wildlife that might be thinking about stopping on this stump in nice light.

Elliott told me he would switch to Canon if he couldn’t push over General Sherman, one of the largest living organisms in the world. Here he is in action after hopping a fence no more than 50 yards from a park ranger. With a little spring in his step I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but he proved no match for the beast which weighs in at around 2,000 tons. After seeing how easily I overexposed these snappers, he said the deal was off and he was sticking to Nikon.

What kind of tourist would we be if we didn’t break the rules? We managed to go through three National Parks for three nights and only pay for one campsite and avoid any daytime fees for trails or parking. Since we all have a National Parks Pass we can avoid the silly 20 dollar entrance fee every time we pass a park gate. Also, we may have a few unique souvenirs in the trunk of the Volvo.

Most of my souvenirs from this trip will be my photos. I found a deal today where I can have a photo book made with all of my photos up to 100 pages for a flat rate of 20 bucks (Becky, I’m not sure if you can get this same deal but if you want to check it out click here). I think this will be the best way to show people how my trip was rather than to have to whip out a laptop, load up the 10,528 photos plus however many more I shoot, then go through the tagged ones in Photo Mechanic and wonder if they’re able to see the screen right, if I’m showing them too much or too little and if they know what they’re looking at. With a book I can do my own captions and just throw it on the table and say have at it.

Remember the post We make a scene? I had about 15 tourist standing behind me while I was over the edge and off the paved path shooting this photo. A few were starring, wondering what in the heck I could be shooting pictures of. Others just kind of stopped, glanced and walked on. I guess I stood out about as badly as this tree.

This picture of this pine tree will be one of my favorites in the book. While it may not seem like much, I really worked this frame a lot, taking 99 pictures of this one tree. Trying combinations of different exposures, compositions and focal lengths I think I finally found this frame. It’s simple, quick and beautiful. This is a sunset at Glacier Point in Yosemite.

Sunrise in Yosemite. Taken from inside the valley.

To most tourists it doesn’t matter what time of day you see something. Most people plan around how hot it will be during mid-day or try to wake up early enough to cover their planned territory. While I’m not saying you can’t shoot good pictures at mid-day or at any time of the day, the best time to shoot landscape pictures is at sunrise and sunset. This means waking up early, which sucks when you spent the night on rocks or a stump. Clouds really make or break these pictures too (so important that Elliott wanted to leave Yosemite early because the lack of clouds). Unfortunately, we didn’t see one the entire time and haven’t seen but a few in about a month.

Note to my photo friends: Yes I know I have an intersection with the branch and mountain. Its not perfect. If you’re looking for perfection and bliss click here.

When you don’t have clouds you have to work around it by either cutting out more of the sky, using its emptiness to your advantage or filling it with something else. For this picture, I picked tree branches. I’m not crazy about this frame, but I thought it helped show why clouds are important. I could have found a better foreground if I already had clouds bursting up over this mountain.  

Sunest at glacier point provided incredible light and one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. I really like the second one and feel like the light hits that top left rock formation like a castle in the distance and gives the picture a surreal feeling. I hope I have a few good pictures to show for it. If not I figure I can just buy some post cards and scan them into my computer to claim and brag about.

From left to right: knee socks rolled down with apparent golf shoes, two different colors of denim on one body, rolled jeans with Hush Puppies, fanny pack and socks so high, thick and strong they can be used as a pocket and a Sari with nursing shoes.

 Like I’ve said, people are the by far the most interesting animal in the world to watch. If you want to get as many random people together as possible, or at least as many interesting characters, you should once again whip our your atlas and find the closest National Park to you. The photo above makes me smile every time I see it because it perfectly represents who we’re around at all time: total strangers. People who are leading totally different lives are in this one place to see a few of nature’s most impressive (and convenient) features.

I’m sure the person with the fanny pack was carrying a cell phone in there with all of their loved ones and friends names in it. Some of them may have their own ring tone. Maybe the guy with the shoes that look like they should have golf tread on them really is a golfer. Maybe he’s the best at his country club. I have another photo of the lady in the sari posing with a loved one for a frozen moment together that may end up on his or her work desk, in their vehicle or wallet. It’s such a heavy feeling to think about how everyone is seeing the same sights, making similar memories and yet never really acknowledging each other or sharing it with anyone around them.

The wide shot of the valley is pretty, but this girl in her red sweater sitting next to this single tree was really beautiful. She was just taking in the view and not paying any attention to me standing about 30 yards or less behind her taking this photo. Sometimes though, the people are a part of the view.

The view is divine but the massive crowd is more exciting. If you don’t like to take pictures you can at least appreciate the strange conversations you can tune in on. Look out for a blog about using your cameras to pick up dates (no this isn’t about Elliott or any of the rest of us).

After so many people gather at these places, the real feature, the land, isn’t the only spectacle anymore. The four of us have shot almost as many photos of the tourist as we have of these natural masterpieces. In some of my photos I want people I don’t know in them. It kind of seems like the opposite of what makes sense, but if you think about it that’s all part of being somewhere like this. Everyone is there for the same reason. It’s all about experiencing something so eminent and beautiful it needed to be a part of your life. All to be able to say you’ve been there. Together, not individually, people have made these world wide wonders just a bit more interesting, at least to those of us have zoomed out for the wide shot.

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