Camping Over the Past Year!

    In just a few days we’ll be capturing Minnesotans Mikayla and Matthew’s wedding here in South Bend, Indiana for 10 hours and then on Sunday we’re then capturing wedding couples’ Engagement Sessions at Notre Dame (since they’re ND alum). We’ll be photographing their wedding the first week of March this winter, but haven’t seen them in quite a while since our last meeting with them, so we’re excited for everything this weekend is bringing! This week has been a lot of prep for those things as well as final photos printed for other clients, getting wedding more contracts signed for 2019 and 2020, location scouting, and everything else that comes with owning a full-time professional photography LLC business! Since we’re busy doing all of that (and are up in Grand Rapids today), we figured we’d do a throw-back blog post about our 6 states and 7 campgrounds that we’ve stayed at in the past year!!

Over this past year we have camped in a whopping 6 states: Ohio, Indiana, California, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh & Philly), New Jersey, and Michigan! We’ve done mostly tent camping and pop-up trailer camping (with our trailer that we bought in February of this year (‘18) for $300- great condition ‘80s pop-up with 2 massive beds, storage, dinner table, and sink!) we’ve also done a few nights in tiny cabins both in Ohio and Indiana.

     In September '17 we camped in Hocking Hills, Ohio (about 6 hours from us here in Indiana). We were in for Amber and Walter's waterfall wedding in Hocking Hills State Park and started the camping out at a small, one-family wood cabin (with a full kitchen, AC, heat, loft, shower/ full bathroom, living room, cable, and hot tub). We weren't exactly "roughing it," but the cabin portion was a belated birthday celebration for Jenny whose birthday was two days prior and we had an AMAZING time. We first had gone to Ohio Caverns nearby in Columbus, Ohio (a place Jenny also visited 5 years prior when home from her California MFA program for her dad’s retirement party), then the cabin at Hocking Hills. We dedicated all of our time at the cabin cooking, hot tubbing, and enjoying a little birthday getaway for Jenny.

We then moved on to tent camping at Top 'O the Caves campground at Hocking Hills for 4 nights! Neither location had cell phone service at all in the hills, so we weren’t able to communicate with friends also coming in for the wedding. Here we used Jenny’s REI tent that she got when we lived in California. This campground was awesome for what we needed. It had individual enclosed showers with real doors, bathrooms, blowdryer plugs in the bathrooms, etc. The pool was sadly closed because it was after Labor Day (WOMP), but we loved the spot we had in the woods, the playground, camp shop, AND the fact that it was literally connected by a trail TO the EXACT waterfall that Amber and Water got married at. The electric in the bathroom came in very handy for Jenny’s wedding prep i.e. hair/ bangs prep. The trail down to Ash Cave’s waterfall was downhill and perfectly easy making for a nice little walk to the wedding location. After the wedding festivities, we took downtime and an extra day or 3 to relax while tent camping. Jenny’s parents were watching our pets, so it was a nice getaway. We drove to a different town to get reception and were able to chat and then met with Jenny’s friend Ilke and her boyfriend who we’d met earlier when they visited us in Michigan in July 2015. We hiked with them a bit in Hocking Hills (to celebrate Ilke’s birthday!), caught up, then bid them adieu so that they could head back home to Columbus.

     In the fall of '17 we also camped in a cabin we'd stayed in before back in '16 near Indiana Beach Amusement Park in Monticello, Indiana (about 2 hours from us). We were in to photograph Sarah & Nick's wedding and pulled from our own money to stay at the tiny cabin for a couple nights so that we wouldn't have to drive 4 hours the day of their 7 hour wedding. This cabin is maybe a glorified tent: literally 2 cots in it and a dining table with benches a foot away in the other "room"). This cabin is may be close to the smallest cabin in existence, but it's literally across the street from the amusement park, was minutes from Nick & Sarah's wedding, and is the cheapest lodging you can find in that area that has a solid roof over your head (especially helpful for when it rains).

The main problem with the tiny cabin at IB Crow campground is how quickly it retains heat. At least Jenny’s tent has an option to unzip the top portion so that it’s mostly mesh, but in the cabin it was HUMID on that 97 degree end-of-September “fall” wedding AND Jenny was sick. It's a decent campground with a huge shop, though we've never gotten to do any of their fun activities like mini golf and such since it’s always “Off Season” when we go. Sadly the heat and humidity jumped from 70-something degrees up to a whopping 97 degrees, so the cabin turned into a glorified sauna and we couldn't wait to be in the AC of the car. Sarah & Nick's wedding was an outdoor wedding and reception, but luckily the day started off with us photographing 2 hours of prep inside air conditioned homes on the property, so that helped us cool off before the following 5 hours of outdoor 97 degree heat with who-knows-what humidity heat index (likely in the 110s) in direct sun. Whew-!

    In January of this year ('18) during a belated Christmas trip out to California to visit Jason's immediate family and our friends, we headed up to our old home of Santa Barbara and specifically right next to Jenny's old mountain house in the Los Padres National Forest. At first when getting to California we stayed in Los Angeles for about a day and a half and ended up staying in an RV around L.A. That hadn't been the plan, but because our plans fell through, we found this RV to be the cheapest & safest option on AirBnB! It did have a shower (probably the tiniest Jason has ever used) and mirror/ sink and multiple bed options AND was safely behind a house, so if we had gone to bed at a decent hour and NOT gotten up early (because our clocks were wrong- set 3 hours ahead due to the time difference) it surely would have been great rest.

      We had flown on multiple airlines to get to California to keep the costs low (and then Mexico with his brother and his fam afterward), so because Spirit was one of those cheapest airlines, we literally could only bring a tiny carry-on backpack… and not even a normal sized carry on. Somehow in hers, Jenny squeezed her 2-person REI tent into her bag, so we ONLY had a tent- no blankets, pillows, sleeping bag, etc. Then… due to the worst fires in the United States history in December 2017, January was left with no defense. The day we were to drive the maybe 2 hours to Santa Barbara, the rain and floods started. There were mudslides that took out the 101 and many roads and homes all the way to the ocean leaving Montecito right before Santa Barbara devastated with many deaths. Since it was our old home this did not deter our trip… though it did make it a lot more difficult. What was going to be a short drive ended up being a 6.5 hour drive for Jenny around the mountains through fog. It was difficult to say the least, but we did it.

While visiting Jason's mom & grandma in California we went to Walmart in Jason's old home city of Lancaster, CA and got a cheap $9 blow-up mattress & pump that we acquired at a Walmart prior to the 6+ hour trip to Santa Barbara. We have a favorite thrift store (VERY cheap) near Santa Barbara that Jenny has been going to since 2012 for art supplies, furniture, kitchen goods, etc., so we went there and also got a couple SUPER comfy $1 pillows and a comforter. We were set to sleep well. The campground was the most simple that we've been at in the past full year (and definitely in years), but it was absolutely lovely. We were sad that we couldn't go to our favorite hiking spot of Red Rocks to go swim in the waterin' hole due to the rainfall and mudslides, but we did get to camp for one of the 3 nights there in the wilderness with Jason's best friend Bryan and Bryan’s girlfriend Anika. The place up in the Los Padres National forest was merely a road over from where Jenny had lived in the mountains of Santa Barbara and was down in a valley. We saw flocks of wild turkeys run through and enjoyed the quiet winter solitude in the nice 60 to 70 degree weather. (The place had a 1 person bathroom near us made of cement- probably the most primitive we’ve been to in the past few years next to the one near Miami University of Ohio’s campus.)

     This past March we attended the annual SPE: Society for Photographic Education conference- this year taking place in Philly a whopping 11 hours from us. We brought all 3 of our pets along with us: Marco the 10 year old bunny, Kevin the 14 year old cat, and Coco the huge 4 year old dog. We first stayed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania- one of Jenny’s favorite cities. We camped just above the city at Rose Point Park which was one of the few campgrounds actually opened in March. It was a lovely campground with a dog park within it (right across the path from us- probably 10 feet) which came in crucial during the cold early morning doggy pee breaks). BOTH campgrounds were amazing in that they BOTH had dog parks literally next to our new pristine $300 '80s pop-up trailer.

After stopping in Pittsburgh for our first night we moved on to another campground right across the border of Pennsylvania in New Jersey. It was a nice 60 to 70 degrees and sunny as planned, so it was a nice warm time at the start of a wintery March. This had recently been an independent campground, but then switched hands to become a KOA campground so it was a little unusual to find ourselves at a chain camping area. The campground itself was fine, offering free showers and some laundry facilities, but no privacy since it was just a stretch of flat land with people right next to each other and very few trees (and us literally next to the main road). Again we were right next to the even bigger dog park, so we loved chatting with the dog owners and letting our dogs run together! The bathrooms were great with real doors and also amazing doors and changing areas for the showers in the bathroom. Our first afternoon in Philly we got the animals all settled in (all 3 in their nice, expansive crates) and then headed from our campground in New Jersey just across the bridge/ water/ border over to Philly in Pennsylvania. We headed to a cool massive Russian-esque grocery store, stocked up on foods we’ve never seen (and still sadly haven’t seen next- WHERE is the cool Russian grocery in Chicago?!) and then headed back to the camper to eat and feed the animals.

After we headed into Day 2 of our SPE photography conference, we looked out of the hotel window the conference was at and saw snow: Something that was definitely NOT in the forecast. Needless to say the washer and dryer were greatly appreciated as all of our clothes managed to get soaked from a combination of heavy rains followed by the snows of an unforeseen nor'easter blizzard that graced the area. This definitely made for an interesting experience camping in the popup trailer, as it had been in the mid 60’s just the day prior, then dropped to the 20s quickly with snow and horrific wings. We all survived intact and the trailer even managed to hold it’s own against the gusts of wind peaking at over 50 mph.

After the Photo conference in Philly, we headed back to Pittsburgh on our way home. We added another night onto our stay making it 2 nights (and portions of 3 days there) since the drive was about 6 hours. We LOVE Rose Point Park just outside of Pittsburgh. The dog park is smaller, but the grounds are gorgeous with hiking trails. When in Pittsburgh we also checked out the fine art museum The Mattress Factory and ALSO took a ride up one of their many hills to check out the gorgeous lights of Pittsburgh at night.

     Sadly in July we had to cancel our 3-day plans to camp in Ohio with friends near a lake with a fun Christmas in July event where we'd planned on decorating the pop-up with Christmas decorations and swim in a lake. Jenny's cousin suddenly decided to marry her beau of 9+ years here in South Bend, so we cancelled plans with friends of 10 years Dan and Caitlin (who we’ve adventured with in Ohio, Colorado, California, etc.) and then decided to make camping plans for the same week, but the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday leading up to Jenny's cousin Jessica's Saturday wedding (i.e. the week leading to the weekend we were supposed to camp in Ohio).

We opted for a campground just 40 minutes from where we live for ease of getting back to work and having our animals in the car for the least amount of time. Jenny and her family had camped there at The Warren Dunes nearby in Michigan twice when she was growing up (once specifically with 4 of Jenny's friends and two of Jill's for their September birthdays). The Warren Dunes themselves are visited by us at least 3 to 5 times a year due to their proximity of just 45 minutes from us in Indiana, but the camping is hidden away behind ALL of the sand dunes and beaches, so it's a different world back there in the woods. There's even a treacherous 2.5 mile hike through dunes to even get to the beach/ parking lots of the State Park, so we managed to get a fair amount of hiking in with Coco our big dog.

     Having just gotten back from a cruise in Alaska this month, we definitely feel that we have gotten pretty good at staying in small places with miniature showers (with questionable shower and or bathroom stall curtain doors at times). We hope to again camp this fall, but we do have 4 more weddings to photograph along with 4 Engagement Sessions and a ton of Fall Family Portraits to capture through the start of November, so we’ll have to scrounge up the time at some point as we don’t want to camp in frigid snow again anytime soon. This past weekend and recent weather has been around 90 degrees and humid which we’ve also found to be not ideal for the pop-up camper (though it can be unzipped to the mesh sides giving a lot of nice wind flow), so we’re hoping that the weather gets better to a more manageable 60 to 70 degrees for us to camp in! We’ll likely camp more locally either in Michigan, Indiana, or near Chicago to keep it a quick camping trip mid-week at some point this fall (maybe the start of November). If you have any suggestions we’re opened to them! Reach out to us!

Like we said, we’ll be photographing Mikayla & Matthew’s wedding this Saturday (10 hours of it) and then onto Lex & Jessica’s Notre Dame Engagement Session on Sunday! Check back next Weekly Wednesday for at least 150 Teaser photos from Mikayla & Matthew’s wedding-!

On a sidenote and related to Fine Art rather than commercial photography: We have friends showing at the semi-local ArtPrize10 in Grand Rapids, Michigan (a little over a couple hours from us here in South Bend, Indiana). Our friend Andrew Caldwell from our alma mater (back in California) who was a year below Jenny in her MFA (Master’s in Fine Art Photography program) has some amazing cinemagraphs on display (photos displayed quickly on a screen making a sort of movie-type moving photo) in the MAIN building: the Devos Place Convention Center. Go check out his work called “Curb Appeal.” (It’s gorgeous!) To vote for him to win ArtPrize10 his code is: 68104. The art of all of the artists at ArtPrize will be up for about 2.5 weeks from today through Sunday October 7th. The public (about 500,000 people visiting to see it) votes on one artist to decide who wins the $200,000-! We’ve had friends create for ArtPrize in the past few years, though we’ve never gone up to see any of ArtPrize, so we’re excited to attend in the next week to see all of the very creative art and fine art (and then vote for our favorite!). Another local friend/ artist who will have her work out in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize is Tess Cassady (formerly Godfrey- also an art teacher though for high school with her undergrad Bachelors in Fine Art). Her paintings can be viewed in Sundance Bar & Tavern in the back hallway leading to the adjacent building, so check that out too!