The Long Version: I really like the idea of road trips. There's a long tradition of photographers getting into cars and driving all over America just to see what they could see. There's Robert Frank, Steven Shore, and William Eggleston, to name just a few. But I'm a working photographer - at a day job, like the vast majority of us - and I can't just head down the road to places unknown for as long as it takes me to get there. And even if I could wander for months, I have a family that I'm not willing to leave; there's also the practical matter of my never learning how to drive.
So instead I take the bus, and go for the weekend.
Last fall, I did a 24-hour round trip to Ottawa, which is about six hours away from Toronto. That was a test run, like doing a 5K before attempting a marathon, and now I'm using what I've learned to prepare for my next endeavor. This weekend will be the true challenge: sixteen hours to Chicago, incoporating a 4 hour layover in beautiful late-night Detroit, nineteen hours in the city, and then back on the bus for twelve hours to get home. While I'm there, I want to ride the "L", take an architectural tour or two, and visit the Rothko painting and William Eggleston exhibition at the Art Institute. And, needless to say, I want to take a lot of photos, capture some video, and record enough audio to create a couple of A/V works from my time there.
Hit the ground running way too early in the morning after a lousy night spent barely sleeping in a cramped and uncomfortable seat. Spend the day trying to make the best use of my time without having a clear objective or knowing enough to make informed choices. Plunge into a situation where I need to perform without knowing what tools I'll really need, and having to carry everything with me all the time. What's not to like?
I've been debating and deciding what to bring for at least two months, so here's the list:
• Camera: Panasonic GH1, 7-14, 14-140, and 20mm lenses. Several extra batteries and 32GB of memory cards. A 46mm ND filter for the 20mm lens. Manfrotto 345 tripod, Colorchecker Passport.
• Audio: Sony PCM-D50, Rode windscreen. Giant Squid powered omnidirectional stereo microphone. RM-PCM1 wired remote.
• Extras: Leatherman S2 flashlight, Blackberry, iPod Classic, Fuelcell booster battery, and earphones that will also be used with the audio recorder. Maps printed on 4x6 photo paper with interesting addresses on the reverse. My skinny new Mighty Wallet. Peanut M&Ms, and 8oz Stanley flask for water.
• All of this will fit in my Billingham Hadley Pro, which is small enough that it won't need to be checked at the art gallery.
So that's where I stand right now, thirty-eight hours before I leave - or eighty-five hours before I'm back. Ten of my named items have already been written up; I'll be using four different things that I expect to write reviews for. Chicago will be the proving ground for my Panasonic 7-14mm lens, like Ottawa was for my Nikon 105VR, and I'm also hoping to review some of what I see while I'm there. And as soon as the travel trauma wears off, I'll be writing a 'what worked' recap of my trip to give a general overview of what I discovered about the concept and execution of the entire weekend.
See you next week.