Vacation debrief

We made it home late Saturday evening from our week spent roaming the Southwest. It was a fun but exhausting family expedition; and it further confirmed my love for the region. I’d like to live in New Mexico or Arizona someday. And evidently, October is a great time to visit; it was never uncomfortably hot anywhere; the light was glorious.

I shot many pictures—18 rolls of 120, to be exact, with the Mamiya 7 and the Hasselblad. I was in dad/tourist mode rather than Serious Photographer mode, so I expect few of these to rise above the level of snapshot—we’ll see. All day yesterday the Jobo whirled away; the processing is done, and I’ll be scanning and posting as quickly as I can get to it. I expect to be dribbling images your way (mostly via my Flickr feed or social media) for weeks to come as I slog through this backlog.

We started and ended the trip in Las Vegas, a destination itself but also a convenient staging point for the places we wanted to visit. The day we arrived, we drove south to the Grand Canyon, and spent a night and a day in awe there. (“It looks like a green screen”, was my daughter’s pithy summary.) From there we drove to Williams, Arizona, situated along that famed artery from a bygone era, Route 66. From Williams, we were able to see several attractions, including Meteor Crater (near Winslow, AZ) and Sedona, Arizona.  Also while there, we took in Bearizona, a drive-through critter refuge sheltering animals native to the Southwest. This was the most Griswold-esque thing we did on the trip. Evidently it was burro-breeding season; my thanks to the furry fellow who gave my 11- and 13-year-old kids the impromptu NC-17 biology lesson. We returned to Vegas mid-week, and based there the rest of the trip.

In the course of our travels to and from Vegas, we drove over the Hoover Dam twice, and spent another day touring it inside and out. That was the highlight of the trip for me. Turns out that we were among the last to drive over it. Two hours after our final transit while returning to Vegas, the new US 93 bridge at Black Canyon opened for through traffic, permanently diverting US 93 around the dam. At that instant, the old segment of 93 over the Dam became a one-way entrance to the dam complex, accessible only from the Nevada side. (The new bridge has a pedestrian catwalk facing the Dam, a perfect vantage point from which to photograph that massive structure—pictures pending.) Hoover Dam had been a longstanding traffic nightmare, given that US 93 is the major land route between Phoenix and Las Vegas. A bypass bridge had been in the works for a long time, but the project was given new impetus after 9/11.

I’m ambivalent about Las Vegas. My kids enjoyed the circus-like atmosphere of the city, but my wife and I were less thrilled with it. I hate crowds, noise, and frantic activity, all of which Vegas has in abundance, as I should have known. It was just aswarm with people—what recession? Plus, I hate paying $90 for burgers and drinks for four people; I hate cigarette smoke; and gambling bores me. On the plus side, we did see a great show, O, at Cirque du Soleil. And while the girls shopped, my son and I spent a terrific day at Red Rock Canyon about 17 miles west of the city, in the Mojave Desert. Its placid natural beauty was more my speed than the glitz of Vegas. We both found it ironic that, after months of drought in lush, green Kentucky, we had to fly across the country to the Nevada desert to spend an entire day in the rain.

Previous grumbles notwithstanding, I’d really like to get back to Las Vegas to photograph the city away from the Strip. There are a lot of the same themes to photograph there that I examined in 52 miles: alienation; imposed order; a sense of transience and rootlessness. I saw it all around me, but I find it very difficult to do “serious” photography when I’m also playing husband and Dad. So that will have to await a return visit. And I’d like to spend a bit more time meandering along Route 66. I know that it’s been done to death from the nostalgia angle; I’m more interested in the surrounding landscape as it’s been marked by man, whose works in turn have decayed with the passage of time. I see the road more as a proxy for this alteration of the environment.

I hope to have more to say about the trip, and about photographic subjects related to it, over the coming weeks as I process and scan my hundreds of images, and further order my thoughts. And I haven’t forgotten about reviewing the Fuji GF670 and Portra 400. I can’t find the film for sale anywhere yet; if you guys know how I can get it, please get in touch. As for the camera, it arrived less than a week before our departure for the West, so I ran only a roll or two through it before we left. And frankly, I wasn’t sure I was going to keep it; and I didn’t want to bring an unfamiliar camera on a high-stakes (photographically speaking) trip like this one. In retrospect, it would have been an ideal camera to have along.

Plus, I still have some gear for sale as I mentioned in a previous post. The RZ stuff has mostly sold except for odds and ends. I’ve had a few nibbles on the Mamiya 7, but no one’s closed the deal yet. And the C220 is also still available. So let me know if you’re interested in any of this stuff.


7 thoughts on “Vacation debrief

  1. Sounds like a great trip. It is glorious in the desert, isn’t it?

    Next time you fly into Vegas, point your rental car toward Death Valley. A truly breathtaking experience.


  2. I grew up in the Phoenix area, and have spent time in many of the places you visted. If and when you do make a return trip to Vegas. I recommend spending some time in southern Utah. It has some of the best National Parks around; Zion’s, Bryce, Arches, and Monument Valley (and those are just the top tier, there are a handful of others). Monument Valley and Bryce Canyon are a must see. Joel.


    1. Joel, we thought about doing just that, after our plans to visit the west rim of the Grand Canyon fell through. It would have meant several hours of driving at a moment when everyone was sick of being in the car. Kinda regret the omission, though. Gives us another reason to go back. I really hope I can live out there someday. thanks for commenting! BTW, how did you find this blog?


  3. The southwest is wonderful, a lot of open spaces and curious places for shooting or even just for admiring. It’s great for shooting all year around. Even in the summer months if you stick to the golden hours its not too bad.

    I think I saw your site get posted in a “photo blog” thread on APUG. I wound up putting a handful of those in my newsreader and here I am.


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