Archive for the road trip Category

It’s like out West, only without the 5,000 mile drive

Posted in Also removing lens caps (or pen caps), California, Diary, friends, Harlan, Hess, home, Matthews, photography, photojournalism, picture kentucky, road trip, travel, UKPJ on December 23, 2007 by lenscapremoved

With a dead story and only a day and a half to shoot, I wanted to leave Evarts, Ky with more than what I came with.

I could be sentimental and say, “Oh but I met so many new friends and had fun and it was a great learning experience.” But really, I wanted good pictures. Workshops always provide you with all of these. Connections. Good times. Learning experiences. Portfolio pictures.

I didn’t have time to shoot much of a story, but in between being honked at on the side of the road for standing at memorials, I shot landscapes. Some of which are really nice and telling of the area, others are just OK.

Shooting landscapes reminded me of this summer. It made miss just driving, not knowing where I was going to sleep. Evarts, a place so different than the West, caused me to miss California and its diverse land. It made me miss Elliott and wish he had been able to be in Evarts not only to shoot good pictures, but to hang out with me and Ed when we’re not having to make newspapers. Staying in an unfamiliar house for the sake of photographs made me miss Martha.

I will probably never have another entire summer to throw away for the sake of pictures. These trips when I get a full week to just think about them are some of my favorite times each semester. I hope, with Jim’s help, we can keep building these workshops and having great experiences.

This is the main cemetery from Ages through Evarts. There are other small cemeteries, but this is pretty much it. In my lifetime, I’ve had 6 family members buried here, including Clyde Wilson and most recently, my grandfather, JC Luttrell.

Good light and old, pretty houses make for good pictures.

I am going to reshoot this sometime. I need to be closer to downtown, or get a hold of a 300 with an extender. There are two steeples right in this area, and I think if I moved around I could probably frame this up a lot better.

I think my dad called this area Sunshine. I told him there’s nothing there but a few playing fields, but he said it used to be a community.


ROAD TRIP to Washington DC!!!

Posted in friends, Hess, road trip, Washington DC on October 25, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I’ve been waiting for today since early September.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve probably been more excited about getting to drive for 8 hours straight than why I’m actually leaving. I guess I should explain the latter.

Some of you may remember the Kernel being awarded a Pacemaker for general excellence. We were in St. Louis the night the St. Louis Cardinals won the world series, then won what is the Pulitzer of college journalism for our entire staff. That meant we were one of the top four papers in the country.

This year, we have not been nominated to win a Pacemaker as a staff. But four of us are up for individual awards. Keith Smiley and myself are finalists for photography in two different categories. You can go to this site about the Pacemaker  to see what categories. Sean Rose is a finalist for reporter of the year. And Chris DeLotell and Sean are finalists for story of the year.

For the past two years this has been the most anticipated weekend of my semester, and by far the most enjoyable. Win or lose this weekend, I know I’m going to have fun with my friends plowing into Washington DC at full speed.

So, you know me. I’ll be posting pictures, updates, and a recap on Monday night. So, come back. Check out what’s going on.

Relax and stay a while

Posted in Mary Margaret, road trip on August 16, 2007 by lenscapremoved

The Kalamazoo River is home to numerous boats, restaurants and a hotel or two (I think). The most significant attraction would have to be the Saugatuck Chain Ferry. Unfortunately I don’t have any great pictures of it. If you’re interested, click the link or contact Russ Wayne.

This is a picture of the 20th state I visited this summer (counting my home state) and 12th that was my first time being there. Mary Margaret’s family was generous enough to take me on their family vacation to Saugatuck, Mich. Complete with a beautiful beach, quaint lake house, clean and taintless downtown, and excellent food, the trip was a great time and I can’t say thank you enough to the Waynes.

This is Kilman’s Candy Store. The entire block near Kilman’s was always hoppin’ with ice-cream-carrying couples, families in line out the door for ice cream and fudge, and loaded park benches of those enjoying their cones and digging through paper bags of candies. Mr. Wayne was a fan of the raspberry candies that are pictured two photos below this sentence. I think we all helped to eat three pounds of them while we were there.


We’re probably on our way to Kilman’s in this picture. Mary Margaret became a lot more comfortable with the camera on this trip. I think if you’re going to date a photographer it’s not an option. It would be a break-up to ask one to put it away. I know how annoying we (photographers everywhere) get when we have our cameras, so I tried not to pack mine around when we would go out at night to dinner. If I’m carrying a camera I’m more likely to take advantage of the good pictures I see, and the bad. The bad ones are where I feel I would get annoying. The last day I packed my camera to dinner and downtown, which is where half of these photos came from, that last night.


We had a lot of fun this last night. After a great meal we made our last run to Kilman’s for the trip. I fired off 40-50 pictures inside then walked out the door to work on this photo through the window. After working it for about 10 frames, the girl got uncomfortable (so Mary Margaret said…I was busy motoring the shutter). You can see Mr. Wayne isn’t really engaging or interacting with me at all. He said he denied knowing me when she asked if the creepy guy in the window was with him. It’s fine. I have photographic proof.

I had a nice relaxing week with the Waynes. Once again I appreciate everything they did for me. They made me feel welcomed and more like a member of the family than a guest. Which is pretty significant if you remember this was only my second time meeting them. They gave me a trip that was the most like a vacation out of my whole summer. I see our trip to California as something that can’t be duplicated or used as relaxing, at least not in the same sense. We took on a lot with that trip and much of it was a task.

Thanks again Waynes. And P.S. – my dad started eating the blueberries immediately once I got home. He loved them.


It’s how you deal with it

Posted in California, Hess, lexington, Martha, Mary Margaret, Matthews, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 24, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I’m not sure that Ed, Elliott and Keith would agree with me on this but since I’ve been home I’ve felt like I was one of the celebrities that we were accused of taking photos of this summer. Every time I have been spotted for the first time it comes with points of fingers, shouts and commotion. This kind of attention doesn’t interest me at all and honestly the reactions are quite surprising, despite happening over and over. The reuniting of friends and family has been as overwhelming as I would have expected if I had gone abroad for a semester. I’m sorry to be a bummer to all of this, but I feel like if I had just gone to Middlesboro for the summer and holed up for the same amount of time that it would be less climactic.

I hate to even write this blog post because I feel like this will surely come across as ungrateful but I’m nearly certain it’s an abstract road trip and transcendental appearance of Southern California that brings attention to the four of us, not what we’ve gotten out of it. Take any four students and 10,000 miles and I believe you would have a good story. But for every story I have to tell I feel an underlying moral that I learned, some of which I told you about after only two weeks on the road. One of my good friends from home said “I’m sure you feel different” and I told him this summer has changed my life. When asked how, I can’t figure out how, or even why. And not being able to assess it immediately kind of angers me at first, but it’s just too hard to take in all of it at once.
The stats are out and it’s eight thumbs up for this trip’s impact on our lives (despite only seeing five).

I was talking to Elliott about telling stories. People ask to hear about it, and it’s hard to think of anything specific. We both agree that we are more likely to tell stories if we’re just sitting around talking. It’s simple things that remind me of stories. For the first few days I was home I couldn’t stop talking about Martha and her house. I was afraid I was talking about California so much it would be tiring to my family. I was also afraid of seeming ungrateful to be home. I’m starting to figure out it’s OK to miss Ventura, and that liking some parts of it more than home is OK because there are some things about Kentucky that I like more than California. Nowhere is perfect.

My grandfather is doing much better. I don’t want to spill too much about that. I feel like it played such a part in my summer and leaving Ventura that I may do a blog about it. But I do want those of you who have been asking to know he’s much better.

I really need a tripod. This picture only shows you that I in-fact did see fireworks. I probably couldn’t have done much more though since my neighborhood isn’t exactly the most beautiful street in Lexington. More like one of the biggest eye sores in town.

I was finally able to see Mary Margaret last Friday. She met me at my house in Lexington, which sits behind the Red Mile racetrack, and I told her had she gotten there just a bit sooner, fireworks would have gone off right as I kissed her for the first time since I left (there must have been some kind of festival there this weekend, as they shot-off fireworks twice that weekend). My weekend with her went really well. The only thing I really want to tell about it is that the same guy that threw a going-away party that I met her at was throwing another one (officially) before he went back home to London. So Mary Margaret and I were at the same house we were the night we “met”. Ed was there with Alice and Keith was there with Chris Miles…no they’re not partners but Chris was more than excited to see Keith. It was kind of sad that Elliott wasn’t there but he was tying loose ends. I hope all went well for him.

I’ve been back I’ve noticed that I’ve missed out on the bonding that happened between my friends back here in Lexington. I don’t even mind it. My trip was nothing but perfect and one of the best summers I’ll ever be able to enjoy. Two summers ago I went to Spain, Italy, France and Hawaii all in a few months. This summer still beats those two trips. When I left, I was going with three guys who were more like coworkers than anything. Now I feel like we’re carrying something together. This is as best as I can even think to put together how I feel about this. I feel like this year is going to be different for a lot of reasons. I’m interested to see how previous friendships change and three of my new ones keep developing.

I guess you’re noticing this blog post isn’t going anywhere. I’m feeling it too. I thought by now I would have my final post about California up, or at least my recap of the trip. But I’m still not ready. I have one sentence typed of it, and it’s more of a fragment than anything.

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


Yeah, I’ve been there

Posted in California, Hess, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 7, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Death Valley not only boasts some of the most uncomfortable conditions I’ve ever been in, it’s conveniently not located near anything useful or remotely interesting. In fact, it’s about 300 miles out of the way, just to be hot and wet for the whole trip.

In a recent post I made the comment that everyone was heading to these National Parks for the same reason, to make something eminent and beautiful a part of their life. Only going to say you’ve been there. Our disposition led us to this same reasoning when thinking about whether or not we wanted to see Death Valley National Park. Curiosity may have led us there, but being so close to hell is what drove us out.

When standing in the parking lot for Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the continental United States, you see this sign perched in the mountain across the highway. It’s roughly 270 up, which means what kids? That’s right! We were 270 feet below sea level!

The entire way to Death Valley we had joked about running the air conditioner all the way to the middle until the car thermometer said it was 120 degrees and then getting out of the car to see how fast we could sweat. The joke was over when we had to turn off the air because the car’s temperature gauge flew up after about a mile of disregarding the sign that said, “Avoid overheating, switch off air conditioning next 10 miles.” It takes about 21 seconds or so before you realize you’re going to soak through your shirt and probably 3 minutes to actually have a sweat spot. The good news is when you get out of the car, you will dry very quickly. The bad news is you’re standing in 120 degrees and have to get back into a car that was closed up (my car is black too!). After we had made it beyond that first mountain and began our descent into the valley, it had become a challenge to drive all of Death Valley with the windows down.

I can’t imagine there being much good about being 282 feet below sea level. The worst part of the water in Badwater Basin was the lack of it, although I’m sure if you were to find it there probably is some kind of problem with drinking it.

Getting into Death Valley was 170 miles from the main road. Driving through it took several hours and would have taken longer if there wasn’t such a lack of park rangers in the hell hole. I really can’t figure out why they even need park rangers there other than to take up fees and maybe regulate speed. There is no wildlife there so you don’t have people stopping to shoot pictures of anything besides a natural bridge or the basin. Since it was a desert it was pretty easy to blow through it and just take in the view and let out all of our fluids. We completely depleted our water supply while there; each of us probably drank a gallon of water.

The roads were pretty much the best roads I’ve driven in California. It makes perfect sense to have excellent road conditions on the nations least desirable road to drive.

The roads were mostly fresh paved. This means dark blacktop, like in the photo above. If you’ve ever gone to jump on a trampoline in the summer you know that black gets hot. When we pulled over to refill our water bottles Elliott hopped out of the car and began dancing on the blacktop, I guess to see how hot it was. Now, once I realized what was going on I knew I had to do one of two things. I needed to take a picture to show how thoughtless this experiment was. Since I only had one camera out and it was a long lens (and Keith had it), I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the shot. So instead, I chose my other option. I put the car in drive as Elliott tried to get into the car and laughed hysterically while he pranced on the blacktop screaming and yelping behind.

Elliott was full of bad ideas while in Death Valley. His body hadn’t seen the sun the entire trip and he decided it would be a good idea to strip his wet shirt off here in Badwater Basin, where the temperature was about 122.

I didn’t have a passing lane here, but I didn’t have anyone to pass anyway. After we left Badwater we didn’t encounter another vehicle for over a hundred miles.

The roads in Death Valley are fun to drive, despite being in the middle of a freaking desert. Apparently we aren’t the only ones who think so either. Shortly after entering the park and experiencing a questionable temperature rise in our vehicle, we approached two cars on the downside of the mountain who were not having any problems. Two unmarked BMWs were taking the turns at a rate that seemed way too fast to be typical tourist. They were driving almost as fast as we were! So after a while we had all decided they had to be doing a test run for a concept. Where better to put a car to the test than a desert? Death Valley is the ultimate desert to do it in since it’s almost always the hottest place in the United States.

This is the front-runner of the two cars. If you look closely you can see two holes where the BMW symbol should be and the license plate isn’t a typical plate. The other car was a little more obvious that the make and model had been removed. Photo by Keith Smiley

Elliott was pushing for me to race them the whole time, of course. Since I had just had a BMW for a rental a few months ago, I was certain the Volvo wouldn’t be able to keep up. These cars were sportier than the one I had too. We did keep up with them just to watch them go through the turns and put their all-wheel-drive to use. It was fun, but got better.

As we topped a hill we saw a Trailblazer pulled over to the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic. On the side of the road was a photographer and his assistant. Suddenly we all realized what was going on. This was a magazine shoot. These weren’t concepts, they were next years models. The three of us came barreling down the hill at nearly 70 miles per hour tightly spaced and tailing each other. The photographer was already locking his eye on the first vehicle. He began firing and quickly moved to the second vehicle and shot off his frames on it too. About this time Elliott and I both are hanging out the window waving. I’m not sure what he was thinking, but he moved his camera to us after the second BMW passed and may have even fired a frame or two on us. When he realized that this 2002, absolutely filthy, black Volvo was not a part of the line up he dropped his camera to his hip and gave us a priceless confused look.

He loaded up into his GM vehicle and pulled out, far behind the threesome. We’re all laughing hysterically and uncontrollably. The fact that my dirty and loaded car had been a part of a photo shoot was too good to be true. I’m certain that we were in his frames of the second car. There’s no way he could have cropped us out with the lens (70-200).

Keith said it would be great to open up a magazine and see the headline, “New BMW leaves competition in the dust.” He did a little digging on the inter-Web and found out that this time last year there were two or three BMWs seen being test driven in Death Valley. The car is a 2008 M3 that hasn’t hitten the streets yet and is expected to debut soon. The beast sports a V8 and is packing well over 400 horses. It’s pretty cool to say we saw it’s testing or promotion or whatever it was. It’s even better to say we were a part of it and probably ruined a few frames.

The trip out of Death Valley took hours. The heat stayed even after the sun went down. It was over 100 degrees until about 9:15 or 9:30. We drove all night until we made it to Martha’s. With the lack of sleep I had gotten and the amount of napping everyone else had gotten, I finally decided to let Keith man the wheel for the last hour and a half or two hours.

Death Valley was something I’m glad to say I’ve seen, but don’t really think I want to go back anytime soon. The only way around that plan is if it’s in December when Dave tells me the temperature may go down to the lower 80’s and possibly below. Even thought that agrees with what I’ve looked up, I would have to be a part of it before I believed it.