I recently returned from a photography adventure with the guys over at Timescapes (Bernard Chen & David Nguyen). The ultimate destination for this meet-up was Glacier National Park in Montana (a personal dream destination for me). The particulars read something like 1 1/2 weeks duration, ground transportation from Washington D.C., group lodging outside of Glacier National Park, additional locations included as possible during incoming/outgoing travel. We covered a staggering amount of ground driving from Washington D.C. to Montana, stopping at several additional National Parks along the way: Badlands National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, Yellowstone National Park and a short detour to Mount Rushmore on the return trip. While time was extremely limited during the additional stops (outside of Glacier National Park), the ability to see and get a feel for different landscapes around the Western United States was invaluable to me. A big thanks to Buddy and David for hosting the group, planning the adventure and facilitating the resources necessary to make it happen. And a big thanks to my fellow group participants who made the experience what it was despite the challenges inherent in close-quarters travel and in the physical outdoor work of landscape photography.
Timescapes specializes in providing photography meet-ups for adventure seekers willing to pool resources to achieve as a group what individuals couldn’t alone. If anyone is interested in a uniquely active and close-knit kind of tour experience, check out the offerings from Timescapes (Bernard Chen). You’ll get a tremendous adventure value for your dollar. I would highly recommend Buddy and his tours based on my own experience. (http://www.bernardchen.com/product/workshops/).
We pulled out of the Washington D.C. area as a group for the first time on a Friday evening, proceeded to drive twenty-four hours straight, and arrived at Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota about one hour before sunset (thankful for the time zones tossing us a few hours along the way). A couple random observations from the road: Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota were all more beautiful than I expected; while Wisconsin is known for cheese all I saw was wall-to-wall corn; South Dakota, on the other hand, was all sunflowers…acre after acre of yellow, showy flowers along the highway. In addition, it was in South Dakota that I began to observe a feeling of desolation in the landscape–immense stretches of agricultural and open land devoid of development–this would be a theme that would intensify throughout Montana on the eastern side of Glacier National Park later in the trip. Back to Badlands National Park… the landscape was rugged, dry and dramatic–layers of rock eroded from what I can only imagine has been some combination of wind and water over time. Various textures and colors showed in the strata depending on the composition of material. Unfortunately, the light was all but non-existent. I could only imagine how beautiful the landscape would’ve appeared with the warm, diffused light of morning or evening; how rich the green praire grassland would’ve contrasted the rugged buttes and spires; and how the oil-darkened, smooth black asphalt road in the park would’ve snaked through the jagged landscape underneath big skies. So much potential.
We decided upon arrival, with the helpful advice of the Ranger at the entrance gate, to hike up the Notch Trail and cross our fingers that something would materialize as the sun fell to the horizon. It never really did; the clouds were too thick. I still ran around the landscape lost and confused trying to make something of a fleeting opportunity. It’s always difficult to accept the fact that a great photograph is largely out of my own control–a certain amount of luck and serendipity must be granted from the place and the atmospheric conditions to combine with the things that I can control: technique, place-based knowledge, experience, etc. Following sunset, we all piled back into the vehicle and drove through the night for the second evening in a row, hoping to catch a beautiful sunrise within Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. More to come on day two!