December 2021

“A Year in review”

In the scheme of life, a year is but a passing moment. Discover the highlights of a rollercoaster 2021.


THE PREAMBLE

As we say goodbye to 2021, a year more similar to 2020 than most would have liked, it seems appropriate to expand the scope of the “Moment” to the blip in time that the year felt like.  This was the fastest a year has gone by in my life, despite many of the individual months feeling eternal.  Time is strange.

When 2021 began, I was still at my parents’ home in Wimer, Oregon waiting to hear about whether or not my life was going to change forever with the anticipated news of the Pure Gold Chief Exploration Officer job.  Sophie was still trapped in England at the mercy of an immigration process that the government seemed content to remain locked down indefinitely, the presidency was uncertain, a new Delta strain of Covid-19 was just being reported re-expanding the pandemic timeline…. in other words, everything felt uncertain and uncontrollable.

As I write this on December 30, Sophie is pottering away in the kitchen downstairs of our first rental home together.  We are living in a new city with new (and old) friends, the “life changing” CEO job has concluded, and an entirely new strain of Covid is threatening a third year of pandemic living.  

Minute by minute but all at once, another year has gone by.

JANUARY

January was a month of weighted anticipation.  With the result of the Michelob interviews still hanging heavy overhead, not to mention winter weather, there were not many chances to get out.

Fortunately, beauty found me! I woke up one morning to a fresh snow dusting that had covered the Rogue Valley in beautiful powder.

Right there from my backyard, I took the drone up and capture the winter wonderland you will see below.

FEBRUARY

February rolls around and I continue to await final word from Michelob.  In the meantime, however, I decide to hedge my bets a bit and purchase my uncle’s old Yukon to convert into a campervan. 

February rolls around and I continue to await final word from Michelob.  In the meantime, however, I decide to hedge my bets a bit and purchase my uncle’s old Yukon to convert into a campervan. 

After having a friend convert it, I take it on a short maiden voyage to Mt Shasta to photograph the Milky Way and test it out prior to the REAL journey – a winter trip to Yosemite National Park to photograph the incredible natural phenomenon known as “Firefall“. 

While there, I also discover some incredible moonlit landscapes and spend my nights running around the park witnessing it under a lunar glow.

MARCH

Where are all the photos?! March was when the Michelob job officially “begun”, meaning that I was having to juggle Zoom calls and contract signings and orientations and planning for my new role as Chief Exploration Officer. 

The trip was originally supposed to begin in early March but I talked them into pushing back til April 1 hoping it would give Sophie more time to join and also figuring the time would be needed to prepare.  Accordingly, this was a very exciting month but there are no photos to show for it.

APRIL

The CEO journey begins!  After a long and painful drive across the country from Ohio to Texas, my first stop is at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Temperatures get to 108°F (42°c) in the van that first day, which proceeds to break down.  Fortunately, my mom arrives the next day with a working vehicle and reinforcements.  Together, we explore one of the few parks I had never been to and discover a variety of stunning desert landscapes to photograph, as well as the darkest night skies I have ever seen.

From there, we roll on to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  While battling further van issues, we find some time to explore this mostly-unknown park, which proves to be among the least impressive of the 63 US National Parks.

Still in April, the big gold van rolls on to Carlsbad Caverns NP in New Mexico.  This is my second visit but my first time photographing this impressive underworld.  Unfortunately, the problems continue to mount with the Michelob campaign due to poor communication and a total lack of support from the NPS.

The final stop of the month is at White Sands National Park.  Plans to shoot the full moon were scrapped when they wouldn’t let us in at night, but the park proved to be my favorite of the trip.  The sweeping white sand dunes stoke the creative fires within and each sunset provides unique  conditions from the night before.  My final April days in White Sands NP temporarily revive the trip.

  • Big Bend NP Sunset

MAY

May begins at a National Monument most people, myself included, have never heard of: Chiricahua National Monument.  

Also known as the Wonderland of Rocks, I find myself intrigued by the landscape but wearing thin with the NPS.  Despite a collection of beautiful photos captured during my time, the memories I have of my time in Chiricahua are almost entirely tarnished by a ranger who seems hellbent on asserting his authority, unforgiving heat, and a night stand-off with a mountain lion that I thought might be the end of me.

With no escape from the Arizona heat, my other stops of the month include the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix, the unspeakably beautiful city of Sedona, and another equally underwhelming trip to Saguaro National Park.

By this point in the journey, the suffocating, relentless heat in a van with no air conditioning when stationary is getting the best of me.  The parks I’ve been assigned to visit are among the least impressive in the country and there is no worse time to be there. 

Feeling no support from the team at Michelob and in the crosshairs of an NPS that seemingly wants this campaign shut down, I call in my resignation.  I was done with the “dream job” and have decided I would rather be back on my own, scraping two nickels but being in charge of my life than subjected to the shackles and indifference I was feeling.  After a few tough calls, I am convinced to stay.

  • Made from 50 light frames by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.8.0. Algorithm: Min Horizon Noise

JUNE

In the wake of a tumultuous May, I spent the first week of June escaping the summer heat in the Northern Arizona mountain town of Flagstaff.  For the first time all trip, I was able to sleep comfortably in the van without sweating and used the time and conditions to recenter.  I also used that time to explore a bit more of Page, which is perhaps the most beautiful place in all of Arizona.

When the permits were ready, I headed next to the Grand Canyon where I spent time at both the North Rim and South Rim.  Fortunately, the high elevation of the North Rim meant pleasant conditions and is my preferred section anyway.

The South Rim, meanwhile, was mostly the opposite.  Temperatures were in the hundreds, crowds were dense, and wildfire smoke began to pour into the park from the west.  

Things only got worse as I headed west for my final stop in June; Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.  The temperature was 122°F (50°c) the day I arrived and even the nights never got into double digits.  Having very little patience and resilience left for my situation at this point, I basically sought refuge at Starbucks all day and only ducked into the park for sunset and night shoots.

Fortunately, Sequoia NP was next but after the NPS failed to come to terms with the team at Michelob, I was denied access to the park and suddenly had a couple weeks of much needed time off.

I finished the month being spoiled by family in the Bay Area while counting down the days until Sophie arrived.

The day before her flight, Sophie tested positive for Covid.  Suddenly, we had no idea when she’d be able to join or how she would meet up.  It exacerbated an already rough time.

  • A view of an arch inside Lower Antelope Slot Canyon, the most famous thing to do in Page Arizona.
    Slot Canyons in Page, Arizona

JULY

July was the best month of the journey so far.  I spent the 4th of July weekend with friends in Portland after surprising everyone back home with my arrival.  I was missing friends and family as a whole and after Sophie’s canceled reunion, I needed them more than ever.

Then, one day while sitting in my old room at my parents’ house catching up on photos there she was (see the July MotM).  The trip turned around almost instantly with her arrival.

Our first stop was Yosemite NP, perhaps my favorite in the country.  We explored and collected some of the best photos from the trip with a renewed energy and vigor.  The heat proved brutal, but we were able to find solace in the mountain town of Mammoth Lakes.

Our time in Mammoth Lakes is perhaps my favorite from the trip.  We explored natural hot springs each day, saw a bear, photographed incredible lakes and landscapes, and spent each night under a blanket for the first time all trip.

To this day, Mammoth Lakes holds a special place in our hearts.

Those days of cool temperatures were vital, literally.  Our next stop was Death Valley National Park on the final days of July.  The high was 128°F (53°c) and even plugged in with the AC running, we couldn’t keep the van below 90°F (32°c).  The surface temperature read at 138°F (59°c) which seeped through the walls.

At night, it felt like someone was blasting us with a hairdryer while we tried to capture some starlight magic, but the haze would not cooperate.  We got what we could and got out of there as fast as we could.

  • J

AUGUST

If you’re sick of reading about the heat, imagine how sick we were of living in it.  August began with 2 weeks in Las Vegas that turned into 3, nearly all four.  More issues between Michelob and the NPS caused more delays and were it not for family taking us in and saving us from 115°F (46°c) average days, I don’t know that we would have survived it.

Our assignment was Red Rock Canyon which certainly has some beautiful sights, but in the scope of the American Southwest it felt a little underwhelming.

Fortunately, Sophie and I had decided to take matters into our own hands a bit and told Michelob the conditions in which we were willing to proceed.  They begrudgingly agreed, essentially going with a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.  Rather than sit idle in our aunt’s living room another week, we snuck into the park to get our shots and move forward.

By the end of the month, we had managed to sneak in some time exploring the area around St. George in Utah, particularly Snow Canyon,  where Sophie got her first true glimpse of the Southwest and what makes it so spectacular.

[metaslider id=”16438″

SEPTEMBER

September was a big, exhausting, amazing month.

It was the last month of our journey and by no coincidence, all the best stops were packed into this one small region.  Southern Utah is home to the “Mighty 5” parks which we explored one after the next.

Words cannot describe how exhausting but amazing this month truly was.  Instead, I will let the photos below demonstrate the amount of amazing moments we experienced to conclude the trip.

  • Made from 23 light frames by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.8.0. Algorithm: Min Horizon Noise

OCTOBER

Officially, October 1 ended a 6-month journey as the Chief Exploration Officer. 

Before heading home, we decided to check out the early autumn colors in Rocky Mountain National park.  What we found, surprisingly, is that we were completely burnt out.  The joy and energy in doing this was depleted and we found ourselves shooting just for the sake of it.

We arrived home and spent most of the month just trying to catch our breath in the midst of “calendar season”.  Suddenly, 6 months of neglected tasks felt like they were sitting our chests.  Amidst finding a new place to live in Portland and distributing hundreds of calendars, we tried to juggle family, our relationship, and planning for the next chapter of life.

Our only break in the action was a trip to Silver Falls in Northern Oregon where we found the joy again in shooting, this time on our own terms.  The colors were incredible and the experience was reaffirming. 

  • Rocky Mountain NP

NOVEMBER

November is another month completely lacking any new photos.  While we’d hoped to feel more caught up by the end of October, finding a home was proving difficult from such a long distance away and it seemed like every time we crossed something off the to-do list, another two things popped up.

By the end of the month, however, we had found a home.  Now, amongst juggling everything else including multiple birthdays and Thanksgiving in November, we were packing and planning for our big move.

DECEMBER

A dear friend invited us to borrow her studio dwelling on the coast the first weekend of the month and while we felt too stressed to even think about photographing, we also felt too stressed not to.

While the King Tides we were there to photograph proved to be an absolute bust, the trip was a total success.  We were able to spend some quality time with our friend, some quality time alone, and capture a view of Arago Lighthouse that is only available to locals.

We moved into our new place on Dec 8 but things have been non-stop ever since.  As we have never had a home bigger than a campervan before, we are realizing just how many things we need.  There are also holidays to consider, friends to see, and winter weather to contend with, but as I write this the day before a new year begins, everything is starting to feel like its coming together.

For once, we hope, things might, just might, feel like there is some stability.

THE AFTERTHOUGHTS

In lieu of “resolutions”, Sophie and I have a different tradition that has served us well.  Rather than setting down specific tasks and goals and diets, we choose a word that is going to be the thing we focus on in the coming year.  It is usually a part of us we wish to improve and without fail, it sticks with us.  Previous words have been balance, dedication, gratitude, and self-care. 

I offer this as something to consider in your own life.  I see a world too scared to live, too angry to be kind, to stressed to be patient, too docile to be dedicated, too busy to be disciplined… 

However you chose to go into the new year, we wish you all safe travels and good health, and we want to say once more how grateful we are for your support of our art.  

ORDER PRINTS

WANT TO TAKE HOME ANY PHOTOS?

WE DREAM OF TRAVEL PRINT GALLERY

With the link above, you can browse photos from past Moments of the Month, and have the choice of printing those that speak to you on traditional photo paper or metal.

Metal prints produce more vibrant colors, deeper contrast, and a three-dimensional aesthetic that accentuates the stylistic ethos of our photography.

If you see anything you like in this Moment of the Month that you cannot find on the gallery, just send us an email at: [email protected]

RELATED GUIDES

Below is a link to EVERY Moment of the Month for 2021.  I know many of you have had trouble accessing them or even receiving the emails, so we decided to make it easy to find them all.

We hope you have enjoyed being a part of this as much as we’ve enjoyed writing and creating for you.  Having a supportive audience provides so much motivation to press on; to never stop exploring and creating.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Sophie and I have a lot going on and nothing at all at the same time.  We both are trying to settle into a new home, new city, and new lifestyle (and a new country for Sophie!) so our first priority is getting ourselves anchored in.

January is likely to be quiet in terms of adventures but we aim to find our adventure in the new people we hope to meet and new friends we hope to make.  

If you are in the Portland area and don’t mind coming to Hillsboro, we are making a point to keep some evenings free to make as many new friends as possible.  Feel free to email us if you’d like to meet face to face!

MOMENT OF THE MONTH FAQs

If you have any questions about the Moment of the Month club, you can find frequently asked questions and more information by clicking here.

If you have a question that is not covered, just send us an email or message on social media!


WE TRULY HOPE YOU’VE ENJOYED A BEHIND-THE-SCENES, GENUINE LOOK AT THE LIFE OF TWO FULL TIME TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHERS.

Where to Next?
Who knows?! 2022 is full of promise and adventure, but first we need to find center and forge healthy friendships again.  Perhaps the adventure this year will be in the people more than the places…

Leave a Comment