Father And Son: A Photo Road Trip To Oregon
After 30 years of making a living as a professional photographer I reached another milestone this past July—I traveled with my 17-year-old son Justin around the entire state of Oregon, our goal being to create an in-depth documentary of this beautiful state. We had never before traveled together solely as a photo team. This trip served as another milestone for me—it would be my first photo trip with my new Canon digital camera, having finally said goodbye to my beloved manual Nikon SLRs and Fujichrome slide film.
I had once sworn I would never give up my manual cameras, but when I added up the cost of film and processing, never mind that it is much more difficult to get now, digital seemed extremely appealing. And while I always loved the craft of using film and seeing the slides on my light box, I was excited by this new phase in my career.
Justin, on the other hand, was an experienced digital photographer so I knew his insight would come in handy on our journey together. Justin’s enthusiasm was contagious and I soon realized there were many advantages to digital besides the cost. I vowed to be very open to the exciting new world of digital photography.
Having traveled to and photographed nearly every state in the country, Oregon had been one of the few that eluded me. Our plan was to become immersed for long periods of time in scenic locales and experience the best of what Oregon has to offer. Raging rivers, powerful waterfalls, colorful rock formations, deserts, enormous sand dunes, snow-covered mountains, sapphire blue lakes, and a stunning coastline—all can be found in Oregon.
The first major change I noticed with digital was that I was shooting twice as many pictures than I would have with film. I knew that would translate into more postproduction work with editing later on; nevertheless, I have to admit that I did enjoy seeing my images every step of the way and tweaking exposures and settings if necessary.
Much to my delight, I soon realized that my style of shooting documentaries would not have to change with digital. Photography, film or digital, is all about finding the right subject matter in the right light and composing it in innovative ways.
As we traveled and photographed together, Justin and I loved comparing our photos and seeing how our perspectives varied. Throughout the day there were instances where Justin was the first to see a striking photograph and others where I led the way. In some locales, he would shoot extreme close-ups and I would concentrate on wide-angle shots.
There were many times when photographing dramatic landscapes that I really appreciated that I was not going to have to change a roll of film at a key moment. This was especially true when I was trying to capture the fleeting light at sunrise and sunset. Justin was more experimental with his images and liked taking risks with certain shots. He was very generous with his time, helping me to learn and evaluate new photographic concepts and skills, such as hand holding at slow shutter speeds. I found this much easier to do since I was able to get instant feedback on the LCD monitor.
As we got into the rhythm of our road trip and photography expedition I started gaining more confidence with my digital camera. I came to realize that change is often for the better. Even as we headed back home it felt good to not have to worry about getting the film through x-ray machines at the airport.
All in all I came to understand that there are milestones in one’s career, and I will always look back at my Oregon trip as a turning point in my life. Justin and I realized that we travel well together and can spur each other on creatively. The adventures, magical experiences, and body of work we created will always be something we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
Photographs ensure that we will never forget the simple, quiet beauty that is part of our everyday life. As long as there are new places to see and new roads to travel, my photography will continue to excite and rejuvenate me. This is a way of life for me that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. My only hope is that Justin will be able to join me for many more journeys to come.
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