The Art of Everything

I believe that almost any activity has the potential to be an art form. It’s in how you look at it, and how you practice it. I cannot envision an art that doesn’t require passion, dedication, and a little bit of love.

For me, road trips and the habit of sleeping in (or near) my car, became a form of artistic expression. Anything worth doing, is worth doing artfully.

When I used to pull out of my driveway in my car or truck for a long trip, that car truly became my home. What better place to create art than right at home.

As a child, my first time sleeping in a car was with my family, as we left in the wee hours of the morning for places like The Smoky Mts., New York City or Washington D.C. I hadn’t slept a wink at home but a trip through the darkness was all I needed. A few years later when my parents and I headed for Yellowstone N.P. and other points west, we stopped at about midnight for some shuteye. My Mother slept in the car as my Dad and I retrieved our two army cots from the rack on the roof, and set them up next to the car, along a remote South Dakota road. On the other side of us, we had a rusty old fence. Just as the sun broke to the east, my blurry eyes opened to find a cow attempting to lick my face from the other side of the fence. I loved every second of that experience. I am sure my parents didn’t think of it as an adventure and certainly not art, as it was designed to save money, but to me it was sleeping outdoors in the wilderness with Mountain Lions, cattle rustlers and noble Indian Chiefs. I went on to take life on the road, car sleeping, to be an art form. Sometimes art happens without intent. In other words, you just do it until it becomes art.

I have also car slept many times with my ex-wife and others. Maybe it was adventure, maybe it was poverty, but she and I car slept along the Mississippi River, and high in the Rocky Mts. Money however, was not the main purpose. Car sleeping has a mood and an atmosphere. For those of you who know me, you also know that mood is more than enough for me to treasure an experience. I have also traveled with photographer pals where we were forced to spend the night in a car either to save money or because of car failure

I began car sleeping by myself for a decided purpose. So I could be close to a photographic subject when it was bathed in the sweet light of morning. From there I learned to love and expand it. It is an artful experience to take the things you do with others, and learn to appreciate and maximize them when you are alone.

I have car slept in the parking lots of churches. I have done so in highway rest stops, in the parking lots of truck stops and in the tractor lanes of corn fields. I have done so on the edges of major cities, and on wilderness roads (trails?) that were deep in our northern forests, or high in our western mountains, or far back among the cactus forests of our southwestern deserts. There is nothing like waking up with America’s most beautiful scenery right outside your window. Even if the window is in a car.

I have told you many times that I once stayed awake for over three days. I did however on three occasions during that adventure stop and snooze in the car for up to an hour. There’s nothing like a short nap. Then I drove and made pictures, and I drove and made pictures, and I drove and made pictures. I of course, made good time during those long drives through the night. Many an epiphany has struck me at 3 a.m. on a deserted highway. If only I could have remembered what they were the next day.

Sometimes instead of car sleeping, I camped. I am not speaking of those great camping trips with campfires and breakfasts that I like to reminisce about, but instead I speak of grabbing a sleeping bag or some blankets, and sleeping out of doors instead of in the car. Sometimes a few feet away, other times a few thousand feet. I did this several times in 2007 while in Colorado. On one occasion I hiked down a hillside in the late afternoon light to a roaring river. Once I found a spot where I was sure I wouldn’t roll into the river, I let those musical rapids lull me to sleep. My best nights sleep of the whole trip. Of course I woke up in the morning, not realizing where I was and almost had a heart attack as I seemed to be “in“ the river, not next to it. All was well..

There are of course potential dangers when you use your car as a bedroom. People are your greatest threat and on rare occasions, I have been frightened. I was in northwestern Wisconsin in early spring to photograph the mating ritual of the Sharp-tailed Grouse. I had intentionally reserved a blind in a remote wilderness setting. The day before my reservation I decided to drive my car as close to the location of the blind as my DNR map showed was possible. I didn’t want any surprises the next day when I would transverse the rut filled roadway in the dark. About half way through the journey the road began to turn into mud. I have had countless adventures with mud. My car was a full-sized, rear wheel drive V8. We usually called a these cars “ big boats”. Despite that name it could easily get stuck in a puddle. That meant that my whole drive was spent making sure that I did not slow down….for anything. I made it without getting stuck but I was not looking forward to the drive back out. Or the return trip the next morning. I made a decision to drive back to town, buy some food for supper, and return to the road, driving just until the serious mud began. No motel room for tonight. There was a small creek and a hunter’s parking lot just before the serious mud began, and this was to be my bedroom. After a pleasant early evening of exploring and making pictures near my car, I chowed down on my food and retired to my bed (car seat) for a long spring’s nap. It of course got cold. I would guess in the upper 20s F. Almost exactly at 1 a.m., I was awaken by gunfire. It seemed like four, maybe five shots. I shot up (no pun intended) in bed (car seat), and saw a dark pickup truck about 200 feet away. The pickup sped off into the wilderness. I got out to see if there were any bullet holes in my car. There were not. I then got out my light a hiked around the area to make sure there were no wounded animals or people. There were not. I believe they may have been hunting illegally by shining lights from their truck at deer. The only thing that baffled me was the sound of the gun. I know guns fairly well and this sounded like a pistol rather than a rifle.

I never found any answers to my questions about that night , but it seemed as though no harm was done. Thankfully that was my only car sleeping episode where I was awaken by gunfire. My trip through the mud at 5 a.m. seemed a bit tame after the “wild west” shootout incident. Always be careful and realize that when you stop in remote locations, while you are less likely to encounter the human animal, but you are also more at the mercy of whoever you do meet.

Car trips and car sleeping are like any little adventure in life. Whatever hardships you may endure, and whatever dangers you may encounter, eventually they will become a special memory and a great story.

One of the best things I ever did was to stop flying to locations and renting a car at the airport. It is true that once I got there, it also became a car trip, but I was missing some of the best places. Much of Americana resides in out-of-the-way places in states like North Dakota or Oklahoma. That’s where the old-fashioned (and genuine) diners still live. There are (or were) still drive-in theaters out there. Many of our nation’s National Wildlife Refuges are in what would normally be considered, “fly over” country. Many of my best times on car trips were had on the portion of the trip that was before or after my primary destination. I often car slept in these places..

I cannot imagine a life, where nothing I did was destined to become a great story. Maybe soon I’ll recant the week my sister and I spent on horseback in the Canadian Rockies, or the time way back when we were kids, we were camping in this enormous tent, affectionately called “the circus tent” with our parents and aunt and uncle (yes. all in one tent) and a skunk took a liking to us in the middle of the night. That was of course a part of a car trip.

Car trips allow you the freedom to explore not just at your destination, but the route as well. You can be where you want to be tomorrow, today, if you so choose to use that car as your bedroom. Of course compared to actual outdoor camping there is one great advantage of car sleeping that I’ve not spoken about before. Many times when the temperature drops and it is bone-chilling cold even in the car, I have started up the engine and made everything warm and comfy. For a little while anyway. That’s the part that we adventurers usually manage to forget to tell. I am pretty sure we have all done it.

Whatever you do, turn it into an art form.

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I love sharing words that are a work of art. I have shared on these pages great writings such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is high art. Today I am sharing the lyrics of what is likely the best known and loved gospel song ever written, Amazing Grace. Those lyrics were written by a man who was once a ship’s Captain in the slave trade. John Newton went on to be a poet and a clergyman.

The words are anointed, and they are beautiful art. Sometimes what’s in the heart of man, can hold a calling so high that it lives on forever.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

Chorus:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

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A couple of pictures.

I’ve shown this abstract that I created in a geothermal area of Yellowstone N.P. before. The second shot is a variation from the same location. In the third image, we find some grasses that are just out of the picture frame of the first two. Note the beads of water. That is from the mist from the thermal spill, but the interesting part is that it was well below freezing when I made this picture. Those drops were very hot.

I love capturing and sharing the natural history of a place like this. Just the same, this is fertile ground for abstracts. In many ways the abstracts here tell the story just as well as traditional overviews would.

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I’ve always believed that the greatest asset a photographer can have is the ability to see in life-like visions, and abstract visions as well.  Just because a subject is shown in the abstract, doesn’t mean it has to be bazaar or unrecognizable. It’s all a matter of how you, “see” things.

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Light can transform anything. It amazes me what the light of sunrise/sunset does to snow-capped mountains and the skies that oppose the actual sun.. This was made in Yellowstone N.P.

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A reminder to all of you photographers who love autumn. When the leaves fall, the image possibilities are not over.

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My goal in my next post is to share some great images by other photographers.

God Bless,                                                                                                                                       Wayne

 

 

 

 

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