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Big Big Trees

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If U.S. auto manufacturers are doing one thing well – it’s the air tight seal between you the driver, and the gentle breezes of cool life giving oxygen from the outside. Seriously – the new Dodge Journey could take you on a day trip of sightseeing through the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown area, and you would still be in good health for your daily tea time crumpet. How do I know this? …Because the damn car almost killed me on my first day out in the Redwoods to photograph the above and lovely Erika. The six hour drive from San Francisco International airport brought me deep into the Humboldt Redwoods just south of Eureka. By that time it was dusk, it was raining, and I didn’t feel like putting up a tent just to knock it down the next day as a soaking ball of mildew. I did what any reasonable photographer would do in this situation – I started my fire with extremely thick wood blocks and a 1/4 can of lighter fluid, ate a few hot dogs, sipped a Corona, then went to sleep in the back of the SUV. It is in fact quite comfortable, so don’t envision a cramped night in the front seat of the car bruising your legs on the steering wheel – no – the back seats fold down flat and you can stretch all the way out with plenty of room. And so I did. I passed out at an early 10pm.

The next morning I awoke with sluggish eyelids. My head was nearly plastered to my pillow and I had a splitting headache. I closed my eyes. I awoke again, this time with an even worse headache and the urge to shut my eyes once again to sleep away the pain. I drifted off. Again I came to and mustered up the strength to take a look at the clock…2 p.m. Oh shitttzzzahh, no – don’t fall asleep again, must…get…up. I turned my body over and realized that everything was working at half speed. My arms, my thought process of figuring out how to get out of the sleeping bag. It took me ten minutes before I was able to open the car door and launch my legs out. A long deep breath in ensued slowly realizing that I had almost accidentally suffocated myself to death, or rather the Dodge ‘Journey’ had quietly tried to take my last breaths and recycle them until the last one was gone.

For all you car-campers out there take my advice: Don’t sleep in the back of the rental SUV with all of the windows closed. A few advil, a pot of cowboy coffee (which I will explain in another post), and two hours later I was starting to feel a bit more normal again. Considering that I just slept about 16 hours, and hadn’t come even close to snoozing that long in 10 years, something very serious just happened to me. I vowed to remember that experience and make sure to crack those windows for the rest of my journey.

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Here is a glimpse at a few of the images I shot while on that trip. The trees inspired me to hire the wonderful model Erkia from Eureka, CA to help me put these trees to scale for you. She was an awesome girl and quite trusting I might add. There are not too many women out there that would willingly answer a casting call email to head out into the woods with a traveling photographer, not from the area, to be photographed for a few hours. She did great. I wasn’t fully prepared for this shoot so we just improv’d it and did what we could. The hardest part about shooting in the redwoods is the extremely little amount of light that reaches the ground. I used a tripod and slightly longer exposures than recommended for live action shots – and because of that I had to toss out quite a few. In the end as the sun wore down and started to filter through these enormous goliaths, I feel I got the best shots of the day. Now I know where and when to go to get that perfect shot for next time (shots 1, 4, 7).

At the end of the day we drove back into Eureka and I dropped Erika off. I couldn’t help but notice what a strange place this town is. It is surrounded by such beauty, yet this mass of strip malls, cement plants and lumber mills feels like a decrepit crack town. If you stop for gas, you are likely to get queried about the possibility of walking to an abandoned vehicle around the corner where Ron would like to sell you a dime bag. I challenge you to drive through the town a few times, go 20 mph, and tell me if you can spot any gems worth stopping for in this place. I had to stop a few times, so I gave the locals I encountered a few shots at convincing me to move there. Every one of them told me not to. So there you have it, the largest town between San Francisco and Portland and the best thing anyone there can think of to do is to drive as far away from it as possible. And that’s the secret, the gems of this area are spread in the hills and beaches a few hundred miles north and south of here. In another post I will give a glimpse of the areas worthy of a few more photographs.

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I am still pondering the idea of setting up a collaborative show with fellow artists, a DJ, drinks and a dance floor – but I may wait until I have a whole body of similar work first. Ideally I want to create an event that locals can come to and enjoy local artists’ work. Something more than your average drab art opening with stale lighting and wine. No – what we need is something bigger, something fun and unique that is more of an experience than a reserved and modest 10 minute gallery walk through. The problem becomes where to show – who will let me use their space to invite other artists and the community? Contact me if you have an idea I should know about.

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2 thoughts on “Big Big Trees

  1. Anna says:

    Love the pictures! I go to school at Humboldt State in Arcata, which is about 10 miles north of Eureka. Sadly Eureka does not do Humboldt County justice. Arcata, Blue Lake, and Trinidad are cute towns with a lot more character and class than Eureka.

  2. Anael says:

    We must have a photo shoot someday- I will kidnap my sisters and dress them in moss and mud and climb up trees and say “blueberry pie” which will give them a look of longing- then say “christmas morning” which will make them look whisteful with a faraway glow…. someday

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