Even for me, this roadtrip has been challenging. Thankfully, mostly challenging in a good way. We are five cities in to our ten-city, three-week road trip. I currently sit on a patio in Cleveland, Ohio. The air is cool and crisp, the birds are going off and the day looks to be gorgeous and sunny. All seems well until you realize how much work I have in front of me. We left home ten days ago and all along the way I’ve been shooting, filming, writing, and recording. As soon as I’m done with a specific shoot I return to the van or hotel, or friend’s house and I download, backup and recharge. Then I go into the field and do it again. The issue is I don’t have the time to do anything with the work. So, in the background, my ideas of a hometown film, a birding film, and a vlog get pushed further and further back. At some point, I will face a few weeks of editing time but I can’t see that happening until the middle of June when I finally get to be motionless for a multi-week stretch of time.
Kansas was ninety-five degrees with high wind and dust storms. Not to mention the campground we stayed at least year, a campground that was both beautiful and quiet, had been transformed into a chaotic, trash-filled party scene inhabited by the lowest common denominator of undereducated, self-centered, clueless high school kids who partied until 4AM seemingly oblivious to the fact that other humans were attempting to camp nearby. I say “undereducated” based on their moronic conversation that had you overheard would be all the evidence you need to conclude that humans have ZERO chance of saving ourselves, and perhaps the best thing that could happen is that COVID23 comes along and wipes us all out, or an alien comes species descends on the planet and puts us all out of our misery. Yes, I was a dumb kid once, but never THAT dumb.
We moved on to St. Louis where we stayed with a friend we hadn’t seen in over a decade. Just wait for the interview I did with her. If you think you have lived an interesting life, and many of you have, just wait till you hear her story. I did an hour-long audio interview I will release after I receive a few images I can use along with the audio. We toured the downtown area, took in the arch, which really is a remarkable structure, and I also had two meetings with an amazing MagCloud user/friend and a former colleague who happened to be in town.
Then it was on to my hometown in Indiana, a place I hadn’t really visited in forty-five years. When my grandfather died we did pass through for the funeral but this years’s trip was the first time I had a day and a half to really look around, connect with an old family friend and even got a tour of the house I grew up in. We even visited my elementary school where the staff was kind enough to show us around. (I pooped myself once at this school, which I didn’t mention to the staff. This is a great story, so remind me to tell you at some point.)
After Indiana it was on to The Biggest Week in American Birding, an event I was actually nervous to attend. I knew what kind of chaos I was in for and it lived up to expectation. Thousands of birds, thousands of birders and what felt like my first real photo-assignment in years. I was the ONLY person there using Fujifilm and the ONLY person there will a short lens on one body and my 200mm on the other. The man who was portrayed by Jack Black in The Big Year told me I was only the second YouTuber he had ever seen at the event. He said he was intrigued by how I worked and what equipment I was using.
Birders are incredibly nice people. Driven, highly-educated, competitive at times, and the only reason I was able to identify ANYTHING at the event. Warblers were the main course, of which there are thirty plus flavors. Small, frenetic, buried in foliage. I loved this event. Two days was not enough, and I’m already planning a return trip next year. We stayed at a lodge on the edge of Lake Erie.
Now we sit in Cleveland where I’m on the hook for a photowalk, lecture and software demo. I’m also going to The Cleveland Museum of Art. The curator is a friend I met in 2016 when she created a DIY photobook exhibition that was incredible and one of the best book exhibitions I’ve ever seen. She is intimidating as her knowledge of art, photography, and books is far beyond where I will ever be. I’ve not been to Cleveland in decades so the chance to explore is a good thing.
That’s it for now. I just decided to skip today’s exploration of the city so I can stay and start working on films. I just printed a few images for my journal with my Instax printer and also wrote four letters to friends who asked for updates along the way. I need to charge my generator and need to get in a run. We have five more cities before we park the van and head to the Balkans. Drinking my eight shots of espresso and scanning for vagrants in the yard. Oh, I met the Swarovski rep and played with a $4,000 pair of binoculars while wearing my $88 pair around my neck. I have to say, their optics are incredible and I can see why someone would pay that much for a pair if birding is your thing and photography is not. Imagine how easy it would be to board a plane for Colombia with only a pair of binoculars and a notepad.