Field Trip 2015

A few weeks ago I left the cold nights of Chicago, IL to enjoy the cold nights of Santa Barbara, CA. After first landing in L.A. to spend some time with a few friends, I hopped on a shuttle with a handful of photographers to spend 3.5 hours in traffic, eventually enjoying the view on the 101. Most of us had no idea what to expect, we only knew where we were going – Photo Field Trip. So what is Field Trip, you ask? It’s kind of like going to summer camp; jam packed with hundreds of different kinds of photographers, bon fires, booze, coffee, dancing, learning, exploring, and lots of friggin fun! All this creativity just waiting to explode in a little place called El Capitan Canyon. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?


When given the choice, always choose the window seat. Always.


Arriving at our destination, we disembarked the shuttle and dragged our bags uphill to the main tent to check in and find out where we were staying. Some had cabins, some had yurts, some were in true camping style tents. Myself and two others shared this canvas tent – complete with hardwood floors, electricity, and two beds. Super hot during the day, super cold at night. This would be home for the next five days.
It was awesome.

Dinner in the main tent felt like the first evening at Hogwarts. Everyone is there, voices filling the air with excitement, rows of long tables packed with students and food, and an atmosphere that can only be described as magic. Instead of different houses, I feel like we were all Hufflepuffs. Halfway through our meal, the headmaster rose to speak. The entire hall fell silent as Whitney Chamberlain stood to welcome us – Photo Field Trip had officially begun. After being greeted by other staff members and receiving some welcome gifts, we all left to attend our first class and only class of day one.


You can’t spend a night at camp without sitting around the fire. Did I mention this place was filled with magic?


Lots to explore in El Capitan Canyon! I followed a path into the hills and took this shot above my tent. Under stars and moon and trees, we flourished, we grew.


Looking south from the hills, the ocean awaits.


Good morning, California.


In no time at all, folks made this their home – their own – their sanctuary.


Classes were held in all sorts of places. Outdoors on the grass, in cabins and yurts, and then there’s this thing; a big, orange sweat lodge.


Lots of great photographers came from various fields in the industry to let us pick their brains and share their wisdom. Consuming a wide array of information from all sorts of different perspectives, we covered anything from business practice, self-discovery, techniques, and just simply being a better you.


…and of course, we played with a bit of dust, sparks, and magic.


We hiked through the hills to soak in the view.


We met farmers and goats.


And met Llamas, too.


Among so many people to thank for this experience on so many levels, there’s this guy – whose hands surely fell off by the end of the weekend. He single handedly screen printed these awesome designs onto all of our shirts, sunup to sundown.


On the last full day we went to the beach. Jeff Newsome took our photo, just like the kind you take on school field trips where everyone is in them.
Except, of course, Jeff…


We played in the sand –


Among all sorts of colors –


Like Blues, and Golds, and Greens –


We made portraits and rainbows –


And got good, drunk, and wet –


Very wet.


Even my camera. Totally worth it.


Golden hour was over, and soon we would share our last supper.


During dinner I left my camera outside our tent to capture a single, one hour exposure. It wasn’t quite what I hoped for…


So of course I went back to the beach to get more. I wanted to photograph this cluster of trees the entire weekend and with a little help from my flashlight, I was able to capture exactly what I wanted.


More long exposures at the beach – flashlights and oil rigs and misty blue waters.


Both of these sentinels stood out to me every day in the sun, but I wanted to capture them at night.


Four of us went back to the beach Sunday night. Mary & Roy got engaged right before Field Trip, so it only felt appropriate to give them a fun portrait together, though I’m sure they got plenty hanging out with hundreds of folks who also do this for a living.


One last view from above. Twenty five minutes of stars and moonlight over the canyon.


Leaving the beach and the hills of the canyon, I headed back to the main tent to see the concert, which featured two artists I’ve never heard; Phosphorescent and Lo Fang. Listening to them play was a bittersweet ending. The entire weekend experience was just so mind-blowing. We asked questions, we shared answers. We ate breakfast burritos, we ate pizza, and homemade popsicles – we even ate cereal from a van. We drank beer, and cocktails, and wine. We played with fire, we played with smoke – we breathed in dust that made us choke. We danced, we sang. We hiked, we climbed. We swung from ropes, we rode on bikes. We jumped in the ocean, we bathed in the sun. We made bracelets, and s’mores, and friends. We met idols and peers, we even shed tears. We traveled the globe to join together. We were so many, we all shared so much. We listened, we laughed, and we grew.
We were, in the end, inspired, to go into the world with a bang.

This double exposure was the very last photograph I took. Standing in the crowd while Lo Fang began the last song, I looked through my camera to find just the right image to use. Surrounded by so many other creatives in such a wonderful, natural atmosphere, I felt it was fitting to use something interstellar. To me, this really represented the magic of the weekend. More photos from my Field Trip experience are here – I know I only met a handful of those that went and I cannot wait to meet the rest of you next year. Endless thank you’s to all those who made this happen and everyone involved.

Look to the sky, a mirror of who we are; scattered stars blanketing the surface of this Earth.
Get out there and make life awesome.

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