Accidental Winners: Sometimes your best photo is unintentional

Saturday was an awesome and busy day for photo taking. One of the photography groups I am involved with here locally called “Ogden Wide” put together a fun 25 point photo scavenger hunt during the farmer’s market in downtown Ogden. I figured, given the size of the list, I wouldn’t get all of the images, so instead I would focus on getting a couple of really good shots instead. I’m delighted by both the quantity and quality of the shots that were taken by everyone who participated (which you can check out on Instagram by searching the hashtag #ogdenwide). Even better, one of my photos was selected as “Most Creative” even though my intentions for the photo were not at all what people were taking from it. But, I’ll come back to that later.

Of the 25 options I only shot about 8-10 (double dipping on a couple of the points) and snapped the following images:

A Handmade Craft Item
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This was one of the first pictures I took in the morning. I set off from the booth after helping with the setup and within twenty feet or so of the #OgdenWide booth was this crazy looking chicken statue made of Hay and who knows what else. It was so weird and out of place from everything else at that booth I had to snap a photo.

The double dip: An Unusual Perspective/A Statue on 25th Street

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So here’s the photo I won a prize for and the root of some of my agony. But first, a quick backstory:

When I was in college studying Philosophy, I was a part of the club called Sophia. We’d have meet-ups every few weeks in which a student would get up and present a paper or thesis they were working on and the rest of us would attack it like a pack of ravenous dogs. The purpose being to provide heated and valuable discussion on the merits of the work. You never saw anyone attack the person, or something petty like grammar or syntax (unless the paper was related to those topics) but always the underlying theory. So anyways, in one of the first meetings a guy named Vincent got up and presented a defense of Leo Tolstoy’s theory of Art. You can read more about it here. It stuck with me as a solid way of separating “art” from “not art” and has been something I’ve used in whole or in part for most of my life since.

Why all that is relevant, is mostly because when I took the photo I had a distinct “feeling” I was intending to transfer to the viewer with this shot. There was this awesome moment in which the little boy in green wanted to play the piano so badly, and even though the parents were trying to get on their way, the dad stopped and helped him up to reach, knowing that inspiring a sense of art and music is worth the 15 second delay in their day. From the angle of the photo, I wanted to show the statue as a silent witness to what is likely one of hundreds of times when something similar had happened. Because of the placement of the statue and the piano, the little wheelbarrow boy (which is what the statue is called, I believe) often gets to see the foundations of what may, later in life, become a healthy obsession with art. I was hoping for a feeling of hope or excitement about the future. What most people saw when looking at it, was a statue “checking out a guys butt”. That one stings a little, not gonna lie. Nonetheless, I am still happy I won a prize and that people enjoyed the image. I suppose to some degree, a “feeling” was transmitted to the viewer, even if it wasn’t the one I wanted. So by good ol’ Leo’s standard, I still made me some art.

Aside from all that bananas, after the farmer’s market, I went down to the “City Creek” shopping center in Salt Lake to shoot some street photography with another buddy of mine. I had a goal in mind of finding a stationary person and getting a long exposure of them with blurred people all around. What happened was a couple of shots that ended up working well.

The first, was lucky as there was a younger couple who was sitting on the bridge between the two halves of the center comfortably talking for about five minutes. This let me snap off a few dozen frames trying to get the perfect one. I ended up with two good shots, each one with one of the two people in focus. So I merged them together and got this:

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I also like that because of the position of the sun, there was a harsher light on the back of the couple which made for a lot more dramatic shot.

The next one was pure happenstance. I had moved spots after the couple got up and wandered off and was just shooting for the motion itself with no real purpose in mind. Then, a cute little girl wandered into the frame while I was talking to my buddy and stopped to look for her dad sitting on a nearby bench. What I caught with the camera was this:

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The shot just has so much going for it. If only I was talented enough to catch these things on purpose!

After that we figured we’d gotten lucky enough for one day and opted to stop at the capital building on the way out of town as I had never stopped by it before. I managed to get a couple of frames in HDR that worked out alright, although I’m not nearly as happy with them as I am the motion blurs.

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The shot feels good and all, if not a little generic. The crop could stand to be fiddled with, but I’m not happy enough with it to put forth the effort.

So if there is any single take-away from this whole spiel, it’s basically: Better lucky than good.

As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

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A busy week of decent shots

Last week the kiddo got the chance to spend some time with her Great Grand Parents which meant I had some free time to get out and shoot some photos and my wife got some time to relax by herself. All good things.

The week in question started last Saturday when my buddy Collin and I decided to try and go shoot some wildlife at one of the various birding spots. Unfortunately, they had decided to close and lock the gates early, so we had ended up driving there for nothing. After some humming and hawing, we ran a few errands and then I got convinced to do a midnight hike up Adams Canyon. Normally, I really enjoy the hike as it’s quite scenic and the stream is a great relaxer. However, it was dark and I was in flip-flops. Thusly, I was not in any way ready for this. In hindsight I’m glad he talked me into it as we got to the top and shot some long exposures of the waterfall with the stars in the background. Here’s the shot I ended up with:

Adam's Canyon at Night

I tried fidgeting with it to see if I could post in a Milky Way trail behind the waterfall, but none of those images looked very good so I decided to stick with the original.

On Wednesday, I was invited out for an impromptu photo walk as a buddy of mine Zach Leroy (IG: @zacharyleroy) was wanting to get some iconic Ogden shots for his upcoming gallery for next month’s FFAS (First Friday Art Stroll). I always enjoy following him around as he has an extremely unusual perspective by which he sees normal or boring things. I’d recommend check out his Instagram as there is a real sense of art in the mundane objects he shoots. I do think these excursions make me a substantially better photographer. Of course the trip wasn’t just watching someone else snap pictures, I managed to get a few myself. I was pretty happy with most of the keepers. Since I have been trying to work on my HDR skills a little more, I opted to shoot things that would push me more that way. My favorite shot of the evening ended up being the little coffee stop on the corner of Washington and 25th:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28664980052

I also managed to get a few decent shots around sunset (which was the entire point of the trip) one of which had a funky painted van, and the other a nice shot of the Well’s Fargo building:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28692785041

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Aside from those, we stopped on 24th to snap a couple of pictures and swap IG follows with a few kids who were out skateboarding in the area. I’ve always liked snapping photos of skateboarding as the action shots are always super dramatic. If you catch someone mid trick (whether they land it or not) they always look like a bad-ass. Example:

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The week wrapped up yesterday as Collin and I went out to snatch some more sunset shots from a place I visited a few years ago by accident with my buddy Trevor. Unfortunately, the mountains ran in such a way that we didn’t get the sunset hitting the valley we were in like I was hoping. We did however get to pet a couple of beautiful and sweet horses, which was nice.

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Unlike with most photos where I really waver back and forth on whether or not to go black and white, this one was obvious from the start. Going Monochrome here just adds so much more texture and drama. I really loved this shot (even if it kind of looks like there’s a horse-centipede going on in the back).

Since we knew early on the valley was going to be a bust, we moved on as quick as we could in hopes to catch a sunset. The sky was cloudy and it was raining in various parts of the Wasatch front so we figured the sky would be exploding with color if we could just get high enough on the mountain to look out west. We ended up missing it by about 10-15 minutes, but we know where to head to next time. I did manage to get one more pretty solid HDR shots, and a couple mediocre ones. Here’s how those came out:

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I’m not 100% sure I’m going to keep the bottom two in color. I’m not even entirely sure how much I like them. But, I figure I’d post them here and see what everyone else though and if they stink I can always dump them later.

It felt really good to be able to get out and shoot more this last week as prior to this, the last time I got to take a photo of something was around the 4th of July, and that is much too long to go without being outside and roaming about. I think that will do it for this one. As always, until next time– Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 2: The Sunshine State

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this yet! As it turns out, the reason you never read about the second half of our family road trip is because it somehow got axed out of my pending post list. Whoops! Nonetheless, here’s the details:

After spending some time with family, we made the long trip out towards Santa Cruz, California. When we set out I figured it would be a drive, but I had no idea just how long and exhausting it was. We did get to cruise along the route 66 for a bit which was fun, and stopped at this quirky gas station somewhere in the west-Arizona/East-California mess:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28037848591

Once we got into California, it got so hot and miserable that I wasn’t sure if I could do it in one swing like I had hoped. In fact we actually had to stop a little town called Bakersfield to spend the night and make the last few hour drive the next morning. That night was largely uneventful. We drove around a 3 block radius trying to find a hotel with some vacancies in it which took a while, then grabbed some IHOP as it was the only place still open at 10:30 at night. Apparently. the town rolls up its streets around 8:30, and is dead most of the time. But since there was a wildfire going through most of Northern California, a lot of the fire fighters were staying in Bakersfield.

We got up the next morning and shoved off hoping to see some beach before too long. When we got in around lunch time, we stopped at a little Choice Hotel near the boardwalk and took the first room available as I didn’t want to fight to find one later. Once that was done, we headed over to the boardwalk to take in some sweet sweet ocean living.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27500783604

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27834995520

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27500779314

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27834984730

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Thursday and Friday were spent lounging on the beach and hunting for shells/sand dollars for the kiddo but I did manage a few good shots when we toured the wharf.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28081477276

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28081538516

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Of course one of things I was really looking forward too was finding the Kraken piping, which was something I’d heard about online and it was an even cooler sculpture in person:

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Saturday was spent driving around the Santa Cruz area trying to find more stuff to take pictures of. The entire reason I had planned the trip out that way was to hit up Natural Arches State Beach, but when the kiddo and I got there, it was crowded, dirty, and consisting of only a single small arch covered in seagulls. The disappointment was super real. However, while the main objective was a total bust, the rest of the trip was incredible. Even the Saturday excursion ended up with some pretty strong shots.

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Better yet, the waves seemed to be good (not that I could tell if they weren’t) as there was a pretty decent number of people surfing. I opted to stop along the walkway and see if I could snatch a couple pictures of some sweet wave action and ended up with a few I was happy with.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28037926041

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27500871274

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28037919401

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/28037920161

I really enjoyed the feeling of the top two images as they are part of a large memorial to those who have been lost while surfing, and in the spirit of the sport, the rules of sharing the ocean so that everyone can enjoy the waves. The other shots were of various surfers either scouting the landscape or riding out the end of a pretty large wave.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. We hung around in the evening and ordered in pizza to the hotel as everyone was sunburned and tired. I figured it wouldn’t be the worst idea since we were going to be driving back to Ogden on Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful. There were a few places in Nevada I would have stopped at to snap some photos, but I was tired and had been on vacation much too long at that point. I just really wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as much as I’ve enjoyed taking them. In the spirit of the Santa Cruz surfers: Be good to each other, and until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 1: The Land of Enchantment

Wednesday June 22nd at an ungodly hour of the night, My wife and I loaded up the car and started the long drive down to Albuquerque, NM to spend the next few days with her family. Her grandparents had put together a family reunion of sorts and we figured we could lump that and some time with her parents in together as the first leg of our trip.

The drive itself is around ten hours if you don’t stop at all, but since we need things like food, water, and gas for the car (not to mention the occasional stop for a photo-op), it is in reality around 12 hours. However, even though it’s insanely long and not terribly interesting at 2:30 in the morning when it’s too dark to see, the sunrise on Thursday outside of Monticello, UT was super worthwhile:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27912802546

It’s also only the second time I got to break out the new camera. I recently (about three days prior) had upgraded into a full frame Sony A7Rii. The only shot I had managed to take with it prior to the road trip (that was salvagable) was this one:

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I snapped this one from Willard Bay on Tuesday night as my wife and I drove around the greater Ogden area trying to catch the sunset. Of course, all that is neither here nor there.

The rest of the drive into New Mexico was fairly uneventful as I tried to sleep for most of it. I’ve always found New Mexico to be fairly ugly –largely the opposite of picturesque. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with having grown up here and spending roughly twenty plus years of my life in various parts of the state. Once you’ve kind of seen everything a place has to offer it tends to lose its luster. Given that, I haven’t really broken out the camera a whole lot on this initial leg of the trip as there isn’t a lot that inspires me to take any pictures. I did however feel that it would be worth getting up one of the mornings while we were up in Los Alamos to try and catch the sunrise. The reason being, is that the mountains sit fairly low on the horizon from the vantage point of the east canyon you drive up to get into town. So that mixed with a valley and the few trees that have managed to thrive in this barren wasteland of a state looked like it might be worth an early morning. As it turns out, it was. I managed a 4-shot panorama that came out surprisingly well:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27667732690

While it isn’t going to crack into my top tier of photos I’ve taken, it was pretty good considering how biased I am against the aesthetic value of the state as a whole.

The trip however has been anything but a bust though, as we’ve gotten to spend some time with family, in which I repeatedly put my foot in my mouth trying to be funny. We got the chance to see some friends we haven’t seen in a while and catch up/reminisce about the olden days; and on Tuesday we went down to the Albuquerque Zoo/Bio Park, to take the kiddos (our child, and my wife’s little sister who’s eleven now) out for a fun filled afternoon of complaining about how hot it is, and how much their feet hurt. I even managed to take some pictures while I was there and ended up with a few winners:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/27868043922

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As for the next stage, Wednesday morning finds us heading out super early in order to make it to Santa Cruz as the second leg of the trip will involve lying on a beach and enjoying the sun. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that. So the next post will likely come on Sunday or Monday pre-4th once I’ve gone through those photos and recharged the batteries on both my gear and myself enough to write another post. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Pulling out all the (f)stops

Thankfully, yesterday I was able to get out and shoot some photos again. It’s been a couple of weeks (thus the lack of blog posts) due to a very hectic schedule on both mine and my wife’s part. Nonetheless, it felt great to get out and do some hiking and I opted to try one I hadn’t done before. So I charged my camera and headed out to the Layton area to explore Adam’s Canyon.

This hike was both gorgeous and grueling, taking me just a little over three hours to finish. The hike portion felt a lot like when I attempted Indian Head trail a few years back. There is a series of switchbacks at the start where you pick up a majority of your elevation. It also was similar to Waterfall Canyon in that the payoff for completing this 4 mile (round-trip) hike is a decently sized, albeit not quite as big, 40 foot waterfall at the end. I figured this would be a great place to try and work on pulling water again since you hike along a pretty fast-paced river the whole way. Best of all there were at least a couple of points throughout the hike where you had a few drop offs on the river to make for some great shots, like so:

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The Last shot of the above group was probably my favorite of the three. There is a small bridge that crosses over the river at around the 75% mark of the hike and the surrounding area is absolutely gorgeous.

Of course, what good would I be if I didn’t provide a shot of the payoff at the end of the hike. I have mixed feelings about it for a couple of reasons:

1) I had managed to keep myself (especially my feet) dry the entire way up to the top. Except that in order to see the actual waterfall you have to tread through the river thus wasting all that effort and subsequently making for a soggy and sloppy hike back down.

2) The waterfall while wonderful, isn’t near the size and scope of the one at Waterfall Canyon, and as such will always feel a little lackluster given that the hike to get to it is substantially more difficult and time consuming.

3) On the positive side, the water was exceptionally cold and refreshing, and I managed to run into a trio of awesome humans who had made the hike for the purpose of cleaning up garbage along the trail. I chatted with them for a little bit, but didn’t think to get their names, so if you happen to know them, give them a big hug and another thank you from me!

Anyways, here’s the money shot:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/26375575125

and here’s a shot of the three lovely souls who help take care of our trails:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/26375602845/

With all that said, I want to take a quick second as an aside to this to say something.

If the burden of carrying the extra 3-5 grams of weight that your snack wrappers, ziploc bags, or empty water bottles is too much for you to bear, then you should not only skip hiking altogether, but you should probably stop breathing all of out air, you filthy lazy slobs. Please, do us a favor and stay home, where you can be free to lie about in your own filth like the garbage monster you truly are. /End Rant

Now, where was I? Oh yes! Hiking.

All in all I was pretty happy with most of the shots I got and I feel like I am definitely getting better at the silky water thing. I also managed to snap a panorama on my way out right as the sun started setting which I’m pretty happy with as well.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/26349739676

There were some other shots I took of the sunset itself as the clouds lent themselves to a pretty epic shoot, but my angles were either way off, or the Sun was much too blown out to be salvageable. Maybe next time I’ll get some that work.

That’s all for this time. As always, thanks for reading!
-D

TFW You’re Actually Productive!

Yesterday I had every intention on waking up early and going out to a spot near park city that a friend of mine and I had stumbled upon last year. In case you’re wondering, it would have been magical. However, when 5 O’clock rolled around, things went awry and it didn’t happen. Had this been like any of the last few weekends, I probably would have been discouraged enough to just fart around the house and not get out and take any photos at all. However, yesterday was a little different. I actually felt somewhat inspired to get out and shoot! Knowing this feeling has been coming in waves as of late I figured I shouldn’t pass it up and decided to find my way out to a place that I had been wanting to see for a while.

I did end up puttering around the house for a bit before eventually leaving, double-checking the google map to make sure I knew the right unmarked dirt road to turn off on to get myself out onto the Southern Pacific Causeway. I’m pretty glad I went. while the drive itself was a little tedious given the awful condition of the dirt road that runs along the side of the train tracks. Once you get out far enough down the road to where you’re in a part of the Salt Lake where water is a thing, the view is nothing short of incredible. Just clear still water as far as you can see. So still it’s basically glass. Which makes for some nice reflection shots:

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I did even try recording a few videos on my iphone while I was out there too. I’m not entirely sure I’ll be uploading them though as I um’d and uh’d quite a bit and have no idea how to edit video. So it would be long and awkward, which I’d rather not subject you all too.

One of the main reasons I chose the causeway was because I’d heard of various ship/boat wreckage that was located along the road and given my love of old, ugly and rusty stuff I knew this would be right up my alley. I was not disappointed at all when I finally stumbled upon them:

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I think this trip was probably one of my most productive excursions to date. I got to try some more infrared work, which to be honest didn’t come out nearly as well as I had hoped, but was still pretty cool:

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This one is MUCH too blue, but at the same time, if I tried warming it up in post, it just got this ugly purple hue instead. I had a few shots that would have been the right color mix, but I forgot to set the manual focus and ended up with blurry blue blobs. Whoops! So I suppose I’ll chalk this up as a loss and try again the next time I go out.

As for the rest of the excursion, I got to meet a guy I’ve only known online to this point who is also a pretty talented photographer (who specializes in Sports Photography, which is awesome!) You can check out his work here:

https://www.facebook.com/saltedempirephoto/?pnref=lhc

I also managed to find lots of neat broken junk like so:

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I’m not entirely sure why there is a calculator out there, but it made for a cool photo. I also managed to shoot a few other reflection shots that I am pretty happy with:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/25535764006

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/24931400684

And here’s an artsy one of some stacked rocks out in the dry bed part of the lake:

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On top of all the fun new photos I got, I also made it a point to snap a few on the way home for my “There’s No Time” Project, both of which ended up WAY better than I expected for a point and snap while shooting out the window of my car. The Bottom one was especially neat as I was turning a corner to get back on the road to head home and just started snapping away knowing that if I pulled over to try and get a “good” shot the deer would have long since ran off. Sometimes you just get super lucky. Which is entirely the point of the project!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/25446187252

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That’s it for this one. As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

THERE’S NO TIME!

2015 was an excellent year overall. Kiddo started learning to read, I got to take some sweet photo trips, I got a new job working with Google, and I’ve learned a ton when it comes to picture taking. One of those things, is how to find inspiration where none really exists. I can safely say there were probably a half dozen points this year when I had the time and opportunity to get out and shoot but felt completely unmotivated to do so, so instead I would stay home and play on my phone, or surf the web or something else. Really, anything else. It sucked because I knew I should be out taking some kind of photo. For most of the year, my time to do photography was always limited by some outside factor: Work, Family etc. So being blasé about it made me not only unproductive, but sad.

However, being the man of silver-linings that I am, I started to use that downtime more constructively. Even though I wasn’t shooting, I could still be doing something photography related. So instead of taking pictures, I’d find myself pacing about the house brainstorming photo shoot ideas, or new photography projects. Basically things I knew I’d likely not get the chance to do, but at least my creative juices were flowing. Usually if I had a few days off, I could spend the first one puttering and brainstorming, then for whatever reason I was always really excited to just go out and shoot anything the next day. It was a true Christmas miracle of sorts (minus it happening in like May).

The reason for all that rambling above, is to introduce a new photo project I’ll be working on this year. I am pretty excited about it and hope it will turn out as well as I imagined on my insanely long car ride this last weekend. Which of course was the other half of my inspiration.

More backstory:

I HATE DRIVING. I really do. It is one of the most inefficient forms of travel invented in the last 100 years, but since it often costs a fifth of as much to drive somewhere as to fly, my over-arching frugality wins the war of things I hate and I end up driving. This last weekend I drove into Denver and back to pick up my kiddo from her grandparents and in the 16+ hours of highway driving I had what I felt was a great idea.

Behold, my 2016 photo project: THERE IS NO TIME!

The idea of this project is to shoot interesting photos from the front seat of the car. Most of them will likely end up blurry and awful, but as with this trip sometimes you get a winner (or two):

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/24075695171

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So for the rest of this year, anytime I am driving, I’ll be also snapping photos along the way and trying to post-process at least one good shot and add it too the collection. I’d also like to get other photographers involved in the project and see what kinds of things people will come up with. So be on the lookout for more posts like this one with pseudo-decent photos from the driver’s seat.

As for the name of the project, I feel like that stems from this weird quirk of mine when it comes to road trips. Since I hate driving so much, I try to get it over with as fast as possible. So while I could (and probably should) be stopping periodically to pull over and shoot some, I tend to just roll straight through only stopping for gas. I never feel like I have time to stop and enjoy the scenery. While I know that on some level it isn’t true, my utter contempt for the road creates an anxiety in me that forces the narrative of the hurry-up-and-get-there ideology.

What I find most uplifting about this potential process, is it’s something I’ve always done since I got a camera. In fact some of my favorite shots from when I first started shooting were like that. So, this seems like it bodes well. Here’s one in case you’re curious:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthquakephotography/14677974427

With all that being said, this is one of a couple projects I want to get done this year, so be on the look out for those and as always:

Until next time, Thanks for reading!
-D