A blank spot on the map

“Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?” Aldo Leopold, 1922

I love those blank spots on maps. If you look at them on Google maps, they’re green areas with few roads that terminate in trail heads and no towns. Big blank spots that hide the best part of living in the west.

shoot-563I’ll sit and look at those nice green swathes and think about what they hold. If I’m curious enough, I’ll go get the topographic version and trace the dotted lines denoting trails with my finger. If something catches my eye, a pen will come out. It will tap on the table for a bit. If it gets serious, a Moleskine or Field Notes will come out and there will be scribbling. Scribbling is a good sign.

Sometimes, there may be an afternoon walk after that. A stroll down Cherry Creek to the REI store. I won’t always buy something, although often I do. But I will wander over to the ORIC. The Outdoor Recreation Information Center. I’ll go over to the huge tabletop map of Colorado and find that section I was interested in, and then I’ll ask questions. What about this green, blank spot? What about this trail leading in to it? How are the trail conditions? Are the bears behaving themselves? A water resistant topo of the area will be purchased and slipped in to a thigh pocket for the walk back home. The walk will be accompanied with a smile.

shoot-561Soon after, gear will go in to backpacks, film will go in to cameras, gas will go in to the 4Runner, and we will go on our way. Aimed squarely at that blank spot.

A Rocky Mountain Photo Expedition

Sometimes, I get jealous of photographers in the north-east. I am envious of the fact they have a ton of fellow photographers to talk to and be around. And while shooting street is not my thing, the ease of doing it astounds me if you live in a big city. Just go outside your apartment and photo walk. No real logistics needed. Not so much where I am and shooting what I like to shoot. It’s more of a photo expedition.

Still, I’m thinking about mounting an expedition and inviting folk to attend, a western equivalent of a photo walk.

Of course, nature of the beast being what it is, it will be a different sort of undertaking. Distances will be greater, logistics will be more difficult, and in some cases, it will require a lot more fitness on the part of the participants.

The way I see it, a photo expedition could be centered around three approaches. Either landscape oriented, ghost town oriented, or wilderness oriented.

shoot-559Of the three, ghost town oriented would be the easiest to pull off. The Front Range is lousy with ghost towns, and the majority of them can be reached by high clearance vehicle. Abandoned mines, stamp mills, log cabins, tramways, and even the ruins of the hull of a gold dredge can be seen close in to Denver. Large format guys would be able to get shots without knee damage or over-exertion.

Landscape would be the next level of complexity. There would be a bit more travel, of course, and timing would be more of an issue. We could visit Rocky Mountain National Park, The Great Sand Dunes, or the Colorado National Monument, in any combination. Crowds would be more of a concern, of course, and it would take longer. Covering ground in between locations would take up more time than anything else.

shoot-558Wilderness would lead to some unique opportunities, but would be the hardest to pull off. I know an overnight camp spot with an arch, abandoned buildings, a cave, and amazing rock formations, but it’s got some caveats. It’s at a bit of altitude (9,500 ft), and it involves a bit of hiking (5 or 6 miles) with camping gear. That may be hard on sea level attendees.

I still want to get a group together for the Rocky Mountain version of a photo walk. I’m curious if anyone would want to come along.