I may have failed at camping 101 but I did not fail at photography.
I haven’t camped since college, a time when young men do stupid things. That’s not to say old men don’t do stupid things. We do. But volunteering for camping in the frigid cold at my advanced age is beyond stupid. Why would I do this, you may ask? It is the only reasonable way to see the White Pocket at sunrise.
The White Pocket is an isolated, notoriously hard-to-reach patch of sandstone hidden within the desert expanse of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument near the Arizona/Utah border. It is about 2 1/2 hours outside of Kanab, its closest town, down a long dirt road with considerable wash boarding, holes and deep sand. A four wheel drive vehicle is a must. Since we don’t have a four wheel drive vehicle, we hired a guide. Ours was not just any guide, ours came with a 4-wheel vehicle, full set of camping gear, and a lot of knowledge of White Pocket. His name is “G”. On the surface G seemed to be a good natured and compassionate man.
We arrived mid-afternoon to beautiful weather. G says before we can begin shooting we have to set up camp. I’m thinking I paid a lot of money so he should set up camp while Kas and I go out shooting. Since G is much larger than me, setting up camp quickly became a new passion of mine. My job was to set up the tent. G rationalized that if I was going to sleep in it, I should set it up. After 15 minutes of flailing around, Kas bailed me out. Good wife! Camping is so much fun.
That evening it got cold, bordering on frigid. G started a fire. I never saw a match so I am guessing he used a couple of pieces of flint to get a spark. No matter how big the fire grew, I was cold. I couldn’t stop shaking. Then the fire started to die out. I really didn’t want to freeze to death, though it was becoming an increasing possibility. G took pity on me and went out foraging in the pitch black for wood. As the last ember starting to die, my panic rising, G, with his Paul Bunyan-like physique, brought back an entire tree. He tore it limb from limb and rebuilt the fire. G is good. Camping is so much fun.
That night I slept with all my clothes on, my gloves with hand warmers, my hat and any other piece of clothing I could find. The only piece of clothing not on me was my jacket which I had to use as a pillow. I was so tired from using up all my energy on shivering, that I quickly passed out to the sounds of owls hooting and coyotes howling. I woke up at 4:00 needing to visit the bathroom. It was so cold, it’ll have to wait. Camping is so much fun.
All exaggeration aside, except for the cold and the tree G dragged back to camp, G was a phenomenal guide. Once shooting at White Pocket, G transformed into a superb photographer with excellent ideas on where to shoot. His Sherpa skills were very much appreciated.
Visiting the White Pocket was an amazing experience, from camping (G told me I did pass though I think he is buttering me up for a return visit), to sunset photography to sunrise photography. We almost tried astrophotography but it was too darn cold!
Remember it’s all about the light!