Friday, November 6, 2015

The Artcation

Where would I go if I had a whole week to devote to photography? Honestly, I had never given that question much thought before this year. Before this year, I had neither the time or the opportunity to take a whole week away and devote it to photography.

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)
This doesn't mean that I don't want to go other places, I love traveling. Each trip I take, no matter where, provides valuable experiences. This Artcation provided extremely valuable experiences for both Andrea and I.

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


  1. I enjoyed your narration. You really do have an eye for photography. You find simple things to photograph and they turn out to be well worth while viewing. It all comes down to knowing what to do with the camera. For instance if you understand depth of field you can create a scene that is attractive and pleasing to the eye. Perhaps you should try shooting things you don't like. :) Keep on clicking. ;)

  2. An Artcation . . . I like the idea of that! Taking a whole week and focusing on nothing but photography would be such a great learning experience. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience up until the fall and wonderful images to tell the story. So sorry for Andrea, hope she's healing nicely!

  3. What a lovely trip with a friend and lots of lovely photography! I hope that Andrea's leg will heal as quickly as possible.

  4. The coast of Maine - I know of the PERFECT place for you to stay right along the coast, along the edge of the ocean with lighthouses galore and not only rocky shorelines, but sandy beaches as well.

  5. That was wonderful thanks Sarah. I also love the term Artcation. I am halfway back to normal so that is the good thing. It is interesting how you different you felt in the heavy woodlands. I must say even though it did not end up the way I wanted it was more than I expected and so looking forward to more Artcations. Thanks for being a wonderful friend.

  6. I always love your photos . . .
    Number #4 I would love to purchase . . .
    Maybe the fog drew me in but the fine touch of colors in the foreground wrapped arms around me!

  7. What a wonderful post. I loved going on the journey with you. I love the term artcation. I hadn't heard it before. You photography is beautiful.


  8. Stumbled across your blog and just had to compliment you on your stunning photos! Sorry to hear about your friend, but at least you had a partial week to devote to your craft.

  9. Beautiful shots as always Sarah. I will watch the podcast as I am about to have surgery which means six weeks of recuperation and having time with my camera, so having time to think about what I am trying to do will be a welcome luxury. I hope your friend recovers quickly, it was a shame to cut your time short. Take care xx

  10. Maine is a heavily forested state, and I love the beauty of it...but sometimes I do miss the wide open skies of the desert where I grew up. I love the colors of our New England autumn, but have to admit that there is something soothing about November when the leaves go, leaving bare branches, open vistas, and subtle, subdued colors. I'm so sorry Andrea got hurt and your trip was cut short but clearly you got much more from it than some new photographs. I hope her leg is healing well!

  11. I am sorry about your friend and shortened week. But it still seemed like a enriching time. I would have come and kept you company the rest of the week! :) You will love the coast of Maine - very rocky. And the many lighthouses. I can't even say how much I love it. I wish I could get there more often.

  12. I love the idea of an Artcation. It makes perfect sense to me, as does your description of how you feel about fall colors and shooting from the edge rather than in the middle. So many times this fall, I've taken photos and attempted to share them on instagram, yet couldn't pick an edit or filter than I felt looked good with them or made them look how I'd like.
    I've been doing a boatload of portrait photography this fall, as I seem to do every fall and is truly NOT my passion or goal, yet I usually do find some fun or challenge doing it. Anyway, everyone wants "fall color" in their photos, they want to plan their pictures around the peak of the leaves changing. I try so hard to get them to understand that a simple background works better.. I love an open field of faded dry grass, or a grayed and weathered wooden building. I could go on and on and talk about this.. but I'll stop and just say - yes! on so many levels, this post speaks to me.
    Such a bummer to hear about your friend's leg!! Hope she mends up well. It sounds like a wonderful experience before it was cut short.

  13. I love this concept and it absolutely would have to be with someone else with the same objective - art. I've had a somewhat similar vacation when I visited my sister in California where we both would head out with photography as the chief objective. Me, my large camera; her, her android cellphone camera (mostly).

    I am sorry your friend suffered the accident and hopes she heals quickly and without complication. Your images are wonderful and your insight, as always, refreshing.

  14. It looks like a beautiful place. It sounds like you both had a wonderful time even though your time was cut short. ( I hope Andrea's leg is on the mend.) I shoot what I am attracted too also. I love your description of the 'starling attracted to a pretty bauble'. That is me. I scare my husband when I am driving and get distracted by something I want to photograph. :) Covered bridges are on my bucket list too. :)

  15. Ohhhh these photos...and the idea of artcation!! But I'm so sorry about horrible.That foggy road and the binoculars overlooking the forest....ahhhhhh to die for.

  16. A week in the autumn just for photography? Oh, I'd be in heaven. Maybe I'll try and do this next year. I, too, am like your "starling attracted to a pretty bauble." But thankfully, my husband is well tuned to my quick turn of the head and pointing finger, and starts looking for a place to turn around before I say a single word! Your photos are lovely, the fog and the meadows and the woods, just lovely. A shame about your friend though... I hope she's doing well and you can do another artcation next year.

  17. shame about your friend, I hope she is ok. I love your shots, those autumn colours are so stunning and what fantastic scenery.

  18. So fun having this opportunity for an "Artcation". I think it is great fun going on a photography trip with a friend new or old who values photography like you do. Sometimes i really get looks from my family with my obsession, so really fun to appreciate the scenery with another photographer. Lovely shots Sarah!

  19. Sarah, I always love reading of your adventures! So sorry that your friend broke her leg . . . surely an adventure she will never forget. I do hope she is one the mend and making the most of the down time. Your photos tell the story of a beautiful vacation with glorious color and texture and discovery.

  20. What a great week of discovery but I'm so sorry it ended short and Andrea OMG I hope she is doing better.


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