Browsed by
Month: December 2016

Here in Sunny/Rainy Southern Cali

Here in Sunny/Rainy Southern Cali

Well I figured it was time for a little update. I do not have any photos to share as we are hold up right now waiting for Christmas. My brother and sister-in-law were nice enough to allow us to do a little moochdocking in their driveway. We arrived last Wednesday after Valley of Fire State Park in NV near Las Vegas. I would like to tell you that we explored all over the park and show you some amazing photos, but sadly that did not happen. Ashley and I needed a break, so we were super lazy and spent the day in the camper with the kids doing school and watching Netflix, ūüôĀ . In the end we needed the break and we awoke charged up and excited for the 4 hour drive southwest to San Jacinto, CA where my brother’s family lives.

It was great to see them as we have not been able to see my brother in several years. He is a nurse and has almost the same terrible schedule that I used to at the police department. But that is the point of making this life change to see family and reconnect with friends. So we made it a point to spend time with him and my two nieces. The kids are having a blast playing together and enjoying their long lost cousins. They Skype on a regular basis but that cannot replace face to face interaction!

The accommodations are pretty swanky! Josh has an amazing home with a hot tub and pool which the kids have made endless use of almost every day!

Ashley and I managed to complete Santa’s shopping list for the girls, so that is a relief. I wish we could have done more for them but it is what it is, despite our best intentions this trip has been expensive and will have to serve as part of their Christmas. We managed to get them some nice and unique gifts. One I am really excited about is a “real” chess set for Zoey. I was able to find tournament weighted pieces for a board that my brother gave me. It is going to be an amazing Christmas! But not because of the chess set :). You see Ashley and I have been married for Going on 13 years, I know amazing right, we have beat the original odds! But in all seriousness we have shared an amazing life so far but it has not been without sacrifice and strife. One of the greatest sacrifices was made by Ashley, her family. You see 12 years ago we made the choice to move back to where I grew up, St. Louis, MO. We envisioned it being a better place to raise our children then southern CA. Where we right, who knows? But that cost Ashley the chance to spend time with her family as much as she would have liked. We have had a few visits for weddings and sadly the funerals of both of her parents. But we have never come back to celebrate Christmas, mostly because of two things money, and my job. But this year we are free from both of those shackles. We are free to celebrate Christmas with her family, loving people that she has not seen for a long time and that makes me happy. Every time this lifestyle opens a new opportunity I am reaffirmed about the choices that we have made. It has been a pretty amazing trip so far, with a ton of fun yet to go! ¬†So here is to X-mas Cali style, warm and sunny. By the way even tho I have lived in Cal before I have never gotten used to a warm Christmas, I kinda miss the cold and the snow on just that day, but not really.

Another development, I got a job! I will be assisting a friend with installing solar panels while we are hanging out in AZ, just for a little extra spending money. I was hoping to use the landscape photographs to avoid this but that has not worked out the way I had planned. But I will continue to shoot when I can and post those images to www.abi-photo.com/art for sale.

 

Until then,

Zachary

 

 

Some minor changes to the blog.

Some minor changes to the blog.

This is a quick post from the heart of Zion National Park. I just wanted to show case the newest addition to the blog. If you look to your right you will see a google map plug-in that will show where we are currently at in the great nation of ours. Below that you will find a feed of our latest Instagram images. Also, please follow us on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/8feet12paws/

I hesitated to add this portion to the blog but here goes. As you all know we are motorsports photographers and this time of year we have no work. That is the reason we travel. I really enjoy landscape photography and have created a page on our company website offering it for sale. Thank you to those that have supported this trip by purchasing our work. You can find that collection at www.abi-photo.com/art

A blog post and photos will follow shortly about Zion!

 

Zachary

 

 

Well the sun has set on our time in Page, AZ

Well the sun has set on our time in Page, AZ

Well we are really in Utah just a mile from the Arizona Border, but hey who’s counting. We have had an amazing time here in Page, AZ. It is a really nice little city built to serve those wanting to see it’s amazing sights. With in a few minutes of Page you can feast your eyes on some of the most beautiful sights that the desert southwest has to offer. We did the hike to the famed Horseshoe Bend, a place where the Colorado river seems to defy logic and physics. The river takes a 270 degree turn on itself and presents the viewer with an absolutely jaw dropping and mind altering view. ¬†Few words can describe the feeling that I had when my eyes peered over the thousand foot drop and saw what was laid before me. I could not help but get excited like a school boy as I readied my tripod and camera. I took several hundred photos to ensure the chance of getting the one, the shot that would make my year.

When I retuned home, I knew I had it. I immediately opened Lightroom and loaded the images. I was in awe of what mother nature had provided me, a picturesque landscape that was more of a work of art than a geological marvel. She was amazing in all of her glory and I feel truly grateful that she allowed me to capture her in her best light, sunset.

 

But the Arizona desert was not done, she still had tricks up her sleeve, she still aimed to amaze. The next morning I woke up with a nervous anticipation, a knot was in my stomach. Because I would have a great personal and well as artistic struggle laid before me this morning. I was going to attempt to capture an image at Lower Antelope Canyon. This posed to issues for me. One, as some of you may know I am pretty claustrophobic. Now I am okay in things like elevators and small rooms but I do not far well with tunnels and small places that make it difficult to move my body. I knew that this slot canyon would produce fears and anxiety, but I calmed myself with the mantra that dead people are bad for tourism, so it must be safe.

The other challenge is capturing the unique landscape in a way that does it justice. ¬†The canyon provides a bevy of difficulty capturing the perfect image from low light to mixed exposure to random tourist walking in front of your 30 sec shot. I decided that I would pay the extra few dollars and go on a Navajo led “photography” tour. The main difference is that on the photo tour you are allowed to bring a tripod, a huge asset in these low light situations. My guide was a younger guy named Braiden, he was knowledgeable about the canyon and boosted about his own abilities as a photographer, sharing amazing images from his phone while we walked to the canyon entrance.

As I peered down the steel staircase that descended into the canyon below I saw the walls getting closer and closer. There was that nervousness again…. “dead people are bad for business….” I repeated that as I took step after fearful step. Once on the floor, the beauty of the canyon melted away my anxiety and calmed my fears. I was in awe, almost speechless. As we twisted and turned our way through the slot stopping often to setup for the next amazing shot, with one view more amazing that the last, I was astonished by the shear power of mother nature. She carved this canyon with water like a chef carves butter with a hot knife. Twisting and turning this raw but amazing beautiful landscape that from the air seems like nothing more than a laceration in the crust of the earth. From inside you can see her true majesty, the ribbons of flowing colors cascaded¬†along the walls begging for photo after photo. Before I knew it we had transversed the 400m canyon and approached the exit. I was sad but at the same time excited to see the images that I captured.

As I powered up the Macbook Pro and loaded Lightroom I was once again like a school boy waiting for Christmas morning. I was amazed by the colors the camera was able to capture, even more impressive than what I witnessed with my own eyes. This canyon did not disappoint, that is for sure.

It was not possible to select just one image, but the ones above moved me in a way that provoked thought and deep examination of this worlds landscape and made me grateful for this experience that my family is on.

Last but not least was our front yard, yep Lone Rock Beach was more than a “campground” it was a landscape waiting to be captured. The sky lit up like the forth of July after the sun went to bed and the stars were endless. Zoey and I setup on the first chilly night with my camera and captured some really neat star scenes.

 

I finally was able to capture this place with a camera that way that I wanted to see it. But it was from a whole other type of tripod. ¬†A “skypod” pardon the pun but I was able to capture this lonely rock from the air with my Phantom 3 Pro. I have never really used the Phantom to make still images, I have always been consumed by it’s amazing video. But I knew it was more than capable. I was able to take 1.6 second shots from the air, in the wind. They turned out really well, but they also showcase something that cannot be seen from the ground and that is what is truly amazing. These images were taken just after sunset, when the light was long and soft.

 

Well that wraps up what has been an amazing photographical experience here in Page, AZ  and Big Water, UT. But more than the images that were captured is the memories made. We met new friends, had new experiences, I over came personal fears, and we grew closer as a family. It was also our first real long term boondocking test, one that I must say the coach and family passed with flying colors. Worry not, for the best is yet to come, today we head to Zion a place that is sure to impress, and render me speechless once again.

P.S. I have to thank Tim Clark, a photographer that I met during my stay in Fenton, MO. Page was not even on our radar, he opened our eyes to it. Thank you Tim because without your advice, this would have been lost to us.

Till then,

Zachary

I am glad I had a shovel….

I am glad I had a shovel….

Ok, this post will start off a little odd. You see I bought a shovel. Why did I buy a shovel, because it will look cool. Ok, let me explain. Ashley and I wanted a tow vehicle that was 4wd capable and needed to be in our budget of next to free. We ended up trading our 1990 Miata for a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It has been a welcome addition to the family, but not without it’s issues. We have whipped it into shape and really enjoy having it. But what would a Jeep be without a¬†few off roading accessories. But this is where Ashley and I had a difference of opinion about our fun little Jeep. You see she refers to it as a “princess” Jeep, one that is made to go from this baseball practice to that dance recital and so on. Basically Ashley views it as a 4×4 minivan. I on the other hand see it for what it is, not a lifted Wrangler, but as a fairly capable off-road vehicle with limitations. So I decided to purchase a basket for the top of the roof to carry a second spare tire in. As you can see below.

The next step in true off road awesomeness would have to be a shovel and an axe strapped to the side of the basket. So off to Lowe’s I went to acquire the “required” equipment. The plan was simple I was going to instantly take my Jeep from soccer-mom to badass mobile in just a few short minutes. Needless to say Ashley made fun of me, asking “when the heck are you ever going to need a shovel and an axe.” She even offered to buy me a plastic one as it would be more¬†appropriate. But despite her ribbing I kept the shovel and the axe and threw them into the rear cargo area to be installed at a later date.

Fast forward to just a few days ago here are an amazing location in Lone Rock Beach, UT I needed that shovel!

Lone Rock is an amazing place located just north of Page, AZ near Big Water, UT. The only issue with Lone Rock is that the roads are very sandy, except for one main hard packed gravel road that runs down the center. Being a chicken I stayed to the main drag and found a place close to the road to setup camp without incident.

A few days into our stay¬†I received a startling knock at the door. I opened the door to find a guy asking if I had of all things…… a shovel. I looked back at Ashley and then back at who I would later meet¬†as Blake, and said as a matter of fact I do!

Blake explained that he and his wife Brittany had become ensnared in a sand trap on the road over from us. So I hopped in the Jeep and met him at his entrenched rig. It was a small RV, what he referred to as a B+, not quite a van camper, but not a full blown Class C either. It is a really neat option for a couple like Blake and Brittany. I met Brittany and their two pups Huckleberry and Teddy when I arrived with my trusty shovel. To make a long story short, after a few hours of shoveling, two broken tie-down straps, a bunch of laughs two things happened. One we met two really nice people that we are happy to call friends, and two we realized that we suck at removing a RV that is stuck in the sand and gave up and called AAA, which by the way had Blake out in about 3 mins. The driver looked and us and asked, isn’t it a little cold to be at the lake? I turned to Brittany and said, “that is his way of telling us that we are stupid.” So what is the moral of the story, the dang shovel. Without it we would have never had a chance to get to know Blake and Brittany, the girls would not have had a chance to ride on a stand up paddle board on Lake Powell in December, and we would not had a chance to meet such great people.

You can meet Blake and Brittany and hear about their big adventure living full time on the road in their Class B+ at http://campsomewhere.blogspot.com/

It all ends with this, sometimes it is good to have a shovel.

Zachary

The night sky beckoned.

The night sky beckoned.

Well as you read we are at the Grand Canyon National Park. I was excited to shoot images of the park and really got into it. But I knew I was missing something. I need darkness in my life, I needed dramatic color, I needed 30sec exposures. So after the day with the family we headed home, and the research began. Where was the best view of the winter setting sun? That was a simple google search away, Hopi Point. This time of year I would be able to drive my trusty Jeep, right to the spot. Normally you have to take a tour bus to access this section of the park, but after Dec. 1st they stop the line and allow private vehicles! So I took my dedicated and astute photography assistant Zoey and we loaded up the car. I packed every type of gear I could possibly think of needing, Zoey planned for the important stuff, snacks and blankets. ¬†We headed out early to get a prime spot on the rim, away from the pesky railings. I do have to confess I have zero fear of heights, heck I think they are awesome. However, add your beloved 10 year old daughter to the mix and they be come slightly terrifying. I made her sit on a small perch above where I was shooting. My tripod settled in just inches from the edge of the canyon, this would be my place, my haunt, my easel from where I would create my master piece. This was the plan, then came the others… ¬†People started crawling all over the landscape, what was once isolated was now looking like Wal-Mart on black Friday. One guy even sat right in front of my tripod holding his selfy stick trying to get an image of himself. I waited for him to move, but he settled in. I would move my lens and he would move with me, it was like photo chicken, but I had the advantage, I had a cliff. He could only move so far, I ended up liking the composition better anyway. So we waited, then I captured what will be one of my favorite images of the trip.

256a7737

It was a candid image of Zoey, really melting into her photography. She was engaged, committed, and devoted. It was 31 degrees and getting colder. She did not wavier, nor complain. This was one of the most heart warming moments of this trip so far. My daughter taking a true and deep interest in something that has brought my family and I so much, photography. The way she was peppering off questions about images and settings reminded me of myself, when I would sneak down to Ms. Grey’s office in high school and pummel her with photography questions. She lit a spark in me that has forever changed my life. It is funny how God places people in your life that alter your path, change your perspective, and help define who you are. Ms. Grey did that with photography, encouraging me to explore my abilities and strive to learn and grow in my art. I hope that I can do this for Zoey, keep here engaged, and nurture her artistic spirt.

Back to the edge of the world, the sun was setting and it was go time. I took my shot and knew instantly that I was on target. I looked at the image as it appeared on the viewfinder and knew that I had done it, I had made my image.

img_1887-hdr-edit

As I looked out into the Canyon with Zoey by my side I became a little emotional. Zoey asked me what was wrong, and I said “nothing, dad is just having a moment.” It was a moment when all the sacrifice, all of the doubt, and of the stress had become worth it. We were doing it, living in the moment. My daughter was seeing and doing things that she could only have dreamed of last year. She now truly was engaged, and it was all worth it. It brought a tear to my eye and a calmness to my heart, Ashley and I did the right thing, we made the right choice, the payoff is coming.

It was cold, and getting colder, but we came here for stars. So we headed to the car to warm up and share about our experiences. As night descended on the canyon we exited our warm safe haven back in the what was now a brutal wind and chilling night. We setup in the same spot as before, which was now 100x more sketchy in the dark, but worth it. It was really neat seeing the small flecks of lights on the canyon floor, I assume it was camp fires of those camping near the river. But I was here for light in the sky and the canyon did not disappoint. The Milky Way was visible with the naked eye despite the moon shining down on us. We endured the cold to capture what we came for, the night at the canyon.

img_2064-2

Till the next time,

Zachary

Our first big adventure.

Our first big adventure.

Well we headed west. We are currently sitting in Trailer Village about 7200 feet up in the Grand Canyon National Park. It was pretty cool seeing the girls faces as we twisted and turned our way into the park. Ashley looked out the passenger side window and saw a small gorge for the Little Colorado River and asked if that was the Grand Canyon, I said, “kinda.”

We then crept into the ranger station and paid our fees, $30.00 bucks, kinda steep but then again this is one of the seven wonders of the world. I was excited to get to the entrance as I thought the driving was almost complete. I had been driving all day as we left from¬†Albuquerque, NM and headed into Page, AZ. On that note Page was our intended destination for the day. But that is one of the amazing byproducts of this lifestyle. While in route we said, “hey, lets go see the Grand Canyon.” So we did, we turned left when the plan was to go straight. Back to the entrance, I asked the Ranger what our “boondocking” options where like and received a less than stellar response, “zero”. My goal was to avoid paying camping fees whenever possible, hence the solar and other upgrades to the RV. He then laid on me what at the time seemed devastating, we still had 22 miles of twisty, ice patched, and slow driving to go.

As we made our way past the entrance we saw a sign that said “first look at the Grand Canyon 500ft. ahead.” I called to the girls to look out of the right side of the coach, thus fulfilling my dream of saying “this is your captain speaking, if you look out of the right side of the plane…..”

The sound of the gasp and glee was pure delight for me. The thought of the $30.00 and the next 22 miles faded instantly and I was struck into silence at the shear sight of my daughters eyes as she looked out of the huge RV windshield at what was sure to be one of the most amazing things her young eyes have laid upon.

While the experience was amazing for three of us, one was struggling. You see Ashley, while brave like a lioness and fierce as a grizzly protecting her cubs, is a wee bit afraid of heights. When I say afraid I mean grappling with the seatbelt, making it as tight as possible, all the while refusing to look to her right and see this amazing vista. When I was able to coax her into a sneak peak it would be followed by tightly closed eyes and rhythmic slow breathing in an attempt to quell her fears. So as any good husband would do, I tried to get her to look as much as possible. ūüôā

So we arrived at our destination Trailer Village RV park, the only thing open and able to accommodate the size rig we have. I looked at the sign and my heart sunk, $44.00 per night! The checkin station was closed so we found an open site and settled in for the night. The park was tight, everyone was stacked on top of one another, I was surprised to see so many RVs here.  It was a balmy 27 degrees when we parked and the site was snow and ice covered. The water spigot was frozen and the sewer dump snow covered, but hey we were on top of the world.

The next morning I slipped out trying not to wake the girls and headed over to the check in station and paid the fees for the next two days of camping. I wanted to try and escape with only paying for one night, but then I remembered the time and gas that it took to get here and I didn’t want to sell that short by cheaping out on some camping.

I headed back to the “house” (we are trying to use that term as opposed to camper, it makes it feel more like home) to find the girls bustling around and begging to go see the sights. After a bit of¬†breakfest we headed to the vistor’s center, that led us to our first glimpse of the canyon, Mather Point. It was just as amazing this time as it was almost 20 years ago when I was a freshman at Pattonville Sr. High School on a trip to compete in the National Speech and Debate Tournament. Our government teacher insisted that we see the Canyon, a gift that I will forever be grateful to Mr. Schulte for.

The girls where awestruck, they were taken aback by the sight before them, mean while Ashley was standing just close enough to see, but not to close. ūüôā

I was able to photograph the canyon and really enjoyed the day with the girls. So all in all it was an amazing day, but the best was yet to come…

 

To be continued.

 

Zachary