We’ve been busy… About four months ago, Trish and I were exploring New Mexico when communications confirming a job stopped us in our tracks. We were charged with photographing eight utility grade wind energy sites across the country, but those images and stories are for another time…
Battle Mountain, Nevada
With confirmation of the job, Trish, Rusty (the cat) and myself made ourselves ready for a four month cross country journey in our 2012 Mercedes Benz Sprinter. The Sprinter had just had its 100,000 mile service performed and was already packed and ready to go. It didn’t take much for us to get ready either (digital camera and lens upgrade). it’s time for an adventure!
Mills Creek Camp, Nevada
We mapped the most direct and efficient route for the client, but drove a route keeping our travels to slower, rural highways so we could stop and explore the attractions along the way, or so we thought!
Tucumcari, New Mexico
For the most part we needed to keep to a predetermined schedule as we had appointments to keep for access the wind farm properties. We thought we had allowed plenty of time to dilly dally along the way. Unfortunately, that part didn’t work out too well thanks to construction, detours and routing! Just the act of traversing America’s rural highway system slowed everything down quite a bit, making it impossible to travel much more than a couple hundred miles a day, and that’s on a good day! Bad travel days were usually good camera days and we typically didn’t make much progress mileage wise. So, we needed to pick up the pace, pushing through places I would have liked to have spent time. Giving ourselves weeks in between sites was clearly not enough time to explore all the curiosities along the way. It was barely enough time to drive the back roads to the next wind site!
Taiban, New Mexico
Still, we managed to drive coast to coast and back again with very little use of the interstate freeway system. We saw so many places we wanted to stop and make photographs, but our schedule dictated we keep on truckin’. Unfortunately and sadly, it’s very unlikely we will ever return to so many of those places.
Woods, South Dakota
The western landscape disappeared into the rearview mirror as we drove east across the High Plains. Continuing east we dropped out of the High Plains into the industrial agricultural complex known as the American Midwest. If you really want to experience the grandness and scale of agriculture in the American Midwest, drive the back roads across it to experience how many days of feedlots, fields of corn, soy beans or sorghum it takes to get across a region. The shear volume of land devoted to the cow is staggering…
Driving only rural highways and byways, looking for the unusual or under appreciated spots to photograph was the best way for me to create images both digital and analog. I have created a record number of digital images that have been developed, archived and backed up since hitting the road. I also have a shopping bag filled with exposed film, ready for that lab I haven’t built yet, in a house we haven’t purchased yet…
The first thing you notice about the Midwest is not how flat the landscape is, but how foul the air smells! Dairy cows, feedlots and things dead have the largest influence on your nose, then add some agricultural chemicals to top things off.
I was looking forward to visiting the smaller towns of the midwest, searching out the older communities for photographic inspirations. But, what we were not ready for was how we were treated by a lot of people we encountered in the region.
Don’t get me wrong, we met some wonderful folks along the way. Some of the nicest people we met were fellow travellers, traversing the country looking for something… We met a very, very small group of local folks that were also true gems, people trying to make a better place out of where they are. Some of the usual “locals” we encountered along the way didn’t seem to trust outsiders, or maybe they’re suspicious of everyone. Some even came across as down right mean spirited. Strange and sad at the same time, as half the fun of travelling is the people you meet along the way.
In a very small number of these rural communities we were made to feel like we should leave! In those cases we followed our gut instincts and kept moving… We heard, “We don’t serve yer kind” and “Yer not from around here, I’d suggest you move along” and price gouging happened to us outsiders a few times that we noticed. The suspicious nature of these folks makes for a real dome scratcher. In some communities people would actually follow us around their town, taking photographs of us when we would stop to make images of their community. And, sometimes, these leary individuals would escort us to the the city limits. Yep! We’re not from around here. Sorry, you don’t trust outsiders! Get over it…
Saint Sylvestre, Quebec
Everything changed entering the Northeastern United States. The landscape massively changed and the people became far more friendly and not suspicious of outsiders. Plus, the food became edible again. We arrived just in time for leaf peeping! We ended up going into Quebec and Ontario, Canada as we had never been to any of the Eastern Provinces before and the fabulous fall colours were a huge enticement!
Adirondack Mountains, Quebec
It rained a lot in Quebec, making the Crown roads a bit muddy, but the fall colours were nothing short of spectacular!
On our return west across the United States we took a more northerly route yet, still keeping to backroads.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Leaving the industrial agriculture complex of the Midwest, crossing the Missouri River and finally arriving at Badlands National Park, we felt as though we had made it back to the west again!
Reed Point, Montana
The last wind farm to be photographed on this trip was near Billings, Montana. Winter had hit, with high winds, a light smattering of snow and temperatures barely breaking the freezing mark. Beautiful to behold, bone chilling cold to be outside photographing in it.
Yellowstone River, Montana
It’s cold in Montana this time of year and getting colder! Once photography had been completed on the wind farm we started to drive south hoping to catch up with warmer weather to better accommodate camping. A cold arctic front met us in Montana to photograph the site. Then, another cold front chased us south. We drove two days staying in motels as the weather was so cold neither one of us was interested in sleeping in the Sprinter.
Tonopah Test Range, Nevada
What an amazing trip! We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore all of the possibilities. The Northeastern United States has lots of amazing historic opportunities and the landscape is quite a relief from the mundane flatness of the Midwest. We found the NE over populated and difficult to navigate due to said population. We saw lots of photographic opportunities everywhere, but with so many people around it’s hard to get any good images. Getting through to the paranoid people of the Midwest that you’re not a threat to national security is another. We found several places in Kansas that I would be interested in returning to for a photographic expedition. Missouri and Iowa I hope to never set foot in again…