Monday, May 31, 2010

Space Aliens, Pie Plates and a great Bar in Sundance

Okay, so some of you are wondering why it has taken me so long to get to the Wyoming part of the adventure? Well it took me a good part of thirty years to get back to this part of the world (just missed getting out this way back in 96' - got sidetracked in Sturgis for the rally) so what is the rush? Spam and I were stoked. Here we were on highway 24, driving through little settlements on our way to the Tower that had been made famous in that crazy film Close Encounters of the Third Kind and we had a photographic mission!

I had picked up two aluminum pie plates in Belle Fourche and I am sure that the store clerk thought I was on some sort of mood-altering substance as I left the shop giggling. I had brought with me one of those little green space dudes that were featured in Toy Story and in homage to the film and the tower Spam and I had decided to shoot an alien motif of the tower using 35mm and medium format gear. (btw the photo pictured here is not mine but I thought it was cool)

When I told Spam that I would be recounting this road trip she reminded me of the colour of the soil near the tower....a brilliant red. I have only seen soil this colour in parts of Georgia and in the tropics so I was left wondering why here? Perhaps it has to do with the volcanic activity that created this wonder. This region from Idaho right across to Wyoming has a varied and rather interesting geologic history and just for that one reason should be explored further and no, I do not mean going to see Old Faithful but rather getting out to the parts of Wyoming and Idaho that are just positively strange. This area is geologically-active and rumour has it, and this was long before the film 2012 came out, that a caldera will form that will be an earth-changing event.....bye bye humans!

As a side note here I highly recommend this book - RISING FROM THE PLAINS by John McPhee. McPhee, a very meticulous and prolific author, makes reading about the geology of Wyoming, amongst other places and activities he has written about, a delightful experience. I always feel smarter and more humbled after reading anything by McPhee. I hope to someday make his acquaintance and buy him a drink in some strange little watering hole. For me, he has made geology something that is not daunting but rather something to be appreciated so now when I am on any road trip there is invariably some sort of geological sidebar to be explored and studied.

Spam and I are definitely excited as we draw closer to this massive upthrust that comprises the tower. The day was however getting dull and we could see the gathering rain clouds forming so we had to move quickly if we were going to get the shots we wanted.

Perspective, depth of field, these are the elements one must appreciate when shooting. I wanted to have my props set up in such a way as to best display the tower, give it a certain size and focus and of course to add whimsy. Oh yes, we were dead serious about this endeavour so much so that we could not stop laughing as we composed the settings. Add to this mix, car loads of tourists going by gawking at us and pointing - it was fun. (see polaroid test shot on part one of this story) I am sure they were reaching for their cell phones to alert the authorities as to some nefarious activity we were up to.

Mission accomplished and none too soon for it did start to pour. Even if we had planned on hiking it was now out of the question. The fact that we had finally achieved a travel goal was good enough for us and we did have a hotel waiting for us in Deadwood, South Dakota, to get to but first, a needed diversion/side trip was agreed upon - the small town of Sundance where we were very sure we could find a cool watering hole to slake our thirst. A quick look at the atlas showed us the way and no, we did not have to double back - god, I hate doubling back unless absolutely necessary.

24 takes you to 14 where you cut back briefly to I-90 then catch the turnoff for Sundance, not to be confused with famous film fest but yes, definitely associated with Butch Cassidy and his famous sidekick the Sundance Kid. This is the town that gave the kid his nickname. Spam and I figured this was as good a place as any to have our first official beers of the road trip. One must pick and choose carefully the right spot for this activity...not any old bar will do and within a few minutes of arriving in the historic zone of the town we found just the right place.

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