Welcome to my 2018 photography and travel annual review. Each year I take a look back at the progress of my Mountain to Sea Photo Journey along with a recap of life as a nomadic photographer. If you missed the start of my journey, be sure to check out: 2017 Travels and Photos.
By sharing the details from my photo journey here, I hope to help others prepare for the realities of a nomadic photographer’s life.
Let’s begin by looking at the roads I traveled, places I photographed, my campsites, and some of the major events I encountered during my travels.
Notice- I am currently experiencing issues with Google My Maps displaying here. Please follow this link to my 2018 Travels until I can resolve this issue.
A french term, Deja Vu for “already seen” was a befitting description for the first two months of 2018. Here I was in January at the same place I was last year, Lancaster, California.
My initial plan was to stay for two weeks in Lancaster for RV warranty work but a last minute decision changed that to 2 months. Why?
Trailer and Car Repairs
The Lance Factory did such a great job of removing the shower stall and fixing the loose hot water fitting within one day that I decided to add another repair. Mistakenly, I had not idea it would take so long.
That was not the only reason my stay was extended. On my way to drop off my trailer to the factory for the second repair, the power brakes on my, not even two year old ,Tahoe failed! Talk about a heart stopping moment.
I later learned that power brake failures were a systemic issue with a number of Chevy SUV’s and trucks of my model year. Chevrolet’s answer was to just replace the failed part with another defective part meaning the power brake failure could happen again.
Buying a New Car
It was clearly time to go car shopping and trade the Tahoe for a more reliable vehicle. In the prior year, at 6000 miles, the transmission had failed and now this brake failure. I was no longer comfortable towing a trailer with this SUV, especially over the mountainous west.
My criteria for a new tow vehicle, however did limit what I could buy. I needed the cargo space of a van or large SUV since I was full time on the road. I also needed a vehicle that could handle a tongue weight of 1000 lbs or more. (My 2185 Lance was a very heavy tongue weight trailer)
The only vans that met the tongue weight requirement were either the Chevy Express or Nissan NV. After driving both, the Nissan NV was the hands down winner. In the end, it took me 5 weeks to find a Nissan NV 3500 van.
Out with the Old
In with the new
The Nissan NV Van V8 turned out to be a great tow vehicle with so much more room for cargo than the Tahoe!
The Photo Journey Finally Continues
It was now late April and even in Williams, Arizona where I was camping, it was getting hot. Wildfires were beginning to break out so it was time to head north. In fact, one day heading back from Flagstaff to Williams, trees in the median of Interstate 40 were on fire.
The first major stop of 2018 on my photo journey was Monument Valley.
Even at Monument Valley, wildfire smoke filled the skies. I was not going to let that stop me from photographing the area.
I explored Monument Valley, camped nearby at Gooseneck State Park, and attempted Milky Way photography at Valley of the Gods with a fellow photographer.
Gooseneck State Park
Leaving Monument Valley, I headed north towards Moab only to be met with soaring temperatures and smoke filled skies. Since my plan was to dry camp with no air conditioning, I decided it was too hot to camp there, especially since I travel with a cat.
Begrudingly, I drove past Arches and continued northwest in search of cooler temperatures until I reached Twin Falls in Idaho.
By the way, my summer destination was the Oregon Coast.
The Drive to Oregon Begins
In Twin Falls, I booked a campground for a week in a pretty but very tight campground that was more like an afternoon playground for children than an RV park. In fact, although the owners were extremely nice, I would not stay here again due to the constant noise.
Photogenic Twin Falls
Wow, I had no idea the area around Twin Falls was so photogenic! Not only was I able to photograph the famous Perrine Bridge that Evil Knievel jumped over but also stunning Shoshone Falls, springs, waterfalls and deep canyons.
Now it was time to head to Oregon coast for the summer but first I wanted to return to Crater Lake. I was there in 2004 for a week but it snowed heavily the entire time I was there. In fact, I road around the crater was closed that entire week.
Guess what, my first day at Crater Lake it suddenly snowed again! Thankfully the subsequent days were picture perfect. In fact, I could not have asked for better conditions during my stay.
After a nice drive through Central Oregon, I arrived on the Coast and just in time as record setting heat blanketed all of Oregon except for the coast.
I was not alone on the coast as campground full signs were everywhere.
Due to lack of availability, I ended up staying in casino and marina parking lots and was only able to secure one national forest campsite all summer. If the combined length of trailer and car has been shorter, it would have been a different story.
This was definitely not how I had envisioned camping on the Oregon Coast.
Take it from me, don’t rely on first come first serve sites during the summer in Oregon, make a reservation early in the year.
A review my entire stay on the Oregon Coast is beyond the scope of this recap. Instead let me refer you to a few of my Oregon Coast blog posts:
To see more images from my Oregon Photo Journey, please visit: Oregon Photos
Summer Ends-Time to head South
After leaving the Oregon Coast, I again encountered wildfires everywhere from Bend, Oregon all the way south past Salt Lake City. In fact, one of my planned fall photo destinations, Utah’s Nebo Scenic Highway, was on fire and closed.
Once again, it was time to change photo plans. Based on weather reports, Moab looked like the perfect destination with good weather and no nearby fires.
Moab and Beyond
My visit to the Moab area was met with some of the most incredible light I had encountered on my journey to date. I photographed parts of Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park and even wrote this blog post on Arches National Park.
I was in photography heaven when the weather gods decided to shorten my time in the Moab area. In fact, I never got to finish photographing Arches National Park!
The remnants of a hurricane were coming through the area with significant flooding in the forecast. Also, the area I was camping in was known to flood so I knew it was time to leave.
Dead Horse Point
Before leaving the area, I decided to make the 30 minute drive to Dead Horse State park for a sunrise shoot. As I drove, I kept thinking am I nuts to do this and can I make it out in time before the storm floods the area.
My suspicions grew as I arrived at the main Dead Horse Park overlook to discover I was the only car in the lot. (a few other crazy photographers arrived later)
Distant lightening lit the Dead Horse overlook horizon as dark clouds swirled overhead. This was going to be either a complete washout or an incredible sunrise.
Dead Horse Point State Park
After photographing this awesome scene, I drove quickly back to my campsite, hooked up my trailer and headed towards Zion. Later that afternoon, the area I had been camping in completely flooded.
Zion National Park
I arrived at Zion the next day and checked the weather forecast to only discover more storm bands from that same system were headed to the area by early morning.
Since one of my favorite times to photograph landscapes is when a sunrise is met with approaching storms from the west, I knew I had to be out for sunrise. This is how it really looked!
Zion Sunrise and Storm Clouds
After two incredible stops, Moab and Zion, should I tempt fate and add one more photo destination to my 2018 stops or head to Lake Havasu for some winter camping? I could not resist making one more stop.
Return to Valley of Fire
I just could not pass up the opportunity to photograph Valley of Fire again. In fact, this is one of my all time favorite state parks in the entire United States.
Once again, I was met with beautiful light.
Lake Havasu City
I closed the year out boon docking in beautiful Lake Havasu City where I photographed lighthouse replicas, the original London Bridge, and holiday decorations.
Photo Journey-Second YEAR THOUGHTS
-Wildfires were becoming a constant issue from mid spring through fall and definitely impacted my photography goals. Not only were the images negatively impacted by the heavy smoke, but many places on my list, the air quality was hitting dangerous levels for all humans.
-Coupled with weather issues, repairs, normal life duties along with starting this blog were slowing down my ability to capture the number of places I had hoped to photograph by now.
-Lastly, traveling in an RV was not allowing me to be as spontaneous as I had hoped. In fact, dreams of traveling in a camper vans were filling my head each night.
Good Bye 2018 -Hello 2019
Again, it is now late December and I must leave the beautiful open spaces of Lake Havasu to settling into a California RV park for a next month so I can pull in and run my heater.
All in all, despite the rough start to the year, I had an incredible fall and early winter photographing wonderful places and close this year being very grateful for the opportunity to be traveling full time for photography.
What will 2019 bring?