Recently though, I spent almost a week in the Tioga State Forest area of Pennsylvania with my friend Andrea. Andrea and I have been friends for a few years now, we met in an on-line photography class. We had never met in person before this trip, our sole communication over the years was via email. We have talked many times about meeting somewhere for a week of photography. In January of this year we made the decision to make it happen, we would met for a week of Autumn photography in October. Andrea is from New Jersey and I am from Michigan, Pennsylvania seemed like a nice place in the middle.
I first heard the term Artcation while I was listening to the podcast Lenswork, narrated by Brooks Jensen, while on my two day drive to Pennsylvania. Brooks describes the Artcation as a vacation dedicated to your art, whether it be photography, painting, writing, etc. I had never taken an Artcation before, but that was what I was embarking on, a week dedicated to photography.
Andrea and I are very different people, which is probably why we worked so well together. Once settled in at our cabin, she pulled out her leather portfolio of maps of the area, things to see, and her checklist of things she wanted to photograph that week. I, on the other hand, had my very large road atlas of the entire United States, two tourism guides on Ohio that I had picked up the day before on my way through Ohio, and my cell phone with Google Maps on it, the Google Maps app. that was rendered useless due to the fact there was no cell service in the valley where our cabin was. Thankfully our cabin owners had also provided a variety of travel literature on the area, and Andrea had things planned out for us to do the next day.
Every day we were out shooting. Sometimes early in the morning, hoping to catch a sunrise but generally getting misty fog, which was alright by me, I love fog. While Andrea had her checklist of things to photograph, I tended to shoot more like a starling attracted to a pretty bauble.
A week of dedicated photography and conversations about photography gave me time to analyze my work. What did I like shooting? What did I not like shooting? I kept coming back to the question that Brooks posed in his podcast - Instead of: where do you want to go on your Artcation? The question should be: what do you want to shoot on your Artcation? I came to realized that woods filled with colorful trees is not what I would chose to shoot. It felt too closed in to me, too much chaos. I came to realize that I like to stand on the edge of what I photograph and observe it, not be in the middle of it.
I prefer a muted color scheme, like the blues, browns, and grays of my summer photography at the Lake Michigan state park near my house. I do not like an abundance of color, again for me it creates chaos.
I loved shooting right near our cabin, where there were barns, houses, a horse in a pasture, fog for muted color schemes, and the open space of the rail trail that ran right in front of our cabin.
My favorite day of shooting was the morning we went to a marsh area, and set up in an enclosed, wooden structure out in the marsh. A structure, muted colors, and open space. Heaven.
The thing I learned most, was that this trip to Pennsylvania was necessary in so many ways. I had to discover what I didn't like to shoot in order to finally put my finger on what I do like to shoot. Also I learned how wonderful it is to share an almost week with somebody else who has a passion for photography.
So where would I chose for my next Artcation?
- Circle Tour of Lake Michigan
- Maine, along the coast
- Covered bridges in Indiana
- US 2 from Michigan's U.P. to Montana
- Ireland (saving that for my 50th birthday)
You may be wondering about the term "almost week". Unfortunately Andrea had a slip and fall accident on Wednesday afternoon and broke her leg. She went back to New Jersey that night in order to see an orthopedic doctor on Thursday. Sadly our week ended too soon. I stayed another day by myself, but then packed up and headed for home, it just wasn't as fun without my friend.
Lenswork Podcast Episode LW0910 The Artcation