Last month I decided to go on an adventure through the southern states, it was something I had been wanting to do for a long time. This past year I have lost family members and friends to the other side and it has made me realize that you can't wait, you can't hold back, tomorrow may never come.
One thing I always teach others about photography is that you have to be prepared and well researched. Every detail matters.
First things first, I had to map out the trip, I had key spots I wanted to visit so I planned the trip around that. In all my research I found that the best way to do this trip was to do a road trip, this would be the most cost affective and epic way to go. So where to start??? The where drives the when, the how, etc.
gas money just in case.
Now thats over it's time to address food, this was pretty easy to do, Im not picky with my food. For the most part I stuck to Subway (every once in a while I would get some junk food, stuff we didn't have in Canada), I had variety, I had somewhat healthy choices, they are located everywhere like Starbucks and cheap under $10 per meal. I skip breakfast so lets say $20 a day, but factor in a little extra for a nice hot sit down meal now and then plus supplies like water for the road and for hiking.
I stopped in Salt Lake City for The Cheese Cake Factory (you know I love to go there) I love this dish.
The must do stop at In and Out Burger
If you head to Page make sure you go get some BBQ at Big Johns. It was so good.
Ok, 2 down. Next accommodation, this one was tricky and was for sure the most expensive part of the trip, or at least it can be. I am not adversed to camping but in the hot Utah and Arizona weather I figured I wouldn't be too happy doing that, especially with all the hiking I had planned. So I did two things, for spots that were just over night pitstops I slept in my car. I built a platform for the back to turn it into sleeping corders. The platform allowed me to store everything underneath like my camera gear and I was able to sleep on the top with some blow up camping mattresses and a sleeping bag. I also converted some standard window curtains into shades for my car windows to block out any light from the early sun to cars and trucks, this proved to be extremely helpful. Most of these stops were just outside towns and cities and rest stops, this way I didn't have crazy town folk around and I would pretty much blend in with the long haul truckers.
So that took care of the nights I wasn't hiking, for the major stops in my journey I had to book some sort of room. Near Zion I booked a KOA campground Cabin, I was about an hour away from Zion itself but the costs went down a lot. The town of Springdale Utah sits right outside the Zion gates and they have a bunch of hotels and campgrounds there but they can be expensive. In Page Arizona (near Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon) there are very little options and unfortunately the hotels there know it. The hotels are expensive but you really don't have a choice, my Motel 6 room was $140 a night and it was in pretty rough shape. My advice would be to plan the largest part of your budget to go to this place if you go to Page. Choose one of the better chains of hotels, the costs may be high but it will be worth it.
My Zion cabin.
All 3 major costs planned, whats left? Park fees, depending on the place you go you might have to pay to enter the parks (like national parks). Toll roads, luckily I didn't come across any. Tours, at Antelope Canyon you have to book a guided tour to enter the slot canyons so be sure to do this ahead of time. I booked upper and lower canyon tours for photographers and it cost under $200 for both. Some "splurge" money, not much something for stickers, t-shirts etc. The all important emergency funds, this is important, I've had tires blow out, camera batteries lost, you name it, it's happened. Don't forget a sim card for your phone to have data on the road.
Stickers are a good idea if you want to buy a keepsake because they are light and small and don't take up a lot of space.
Now that all the logistics are taken care of lets talk about the photography stuff. When going on a trip like this you need to make sure you have what you need beyond the camera and lenses. I made sure to bring a myriad of charging options so that if I'm at the cabin or on the road I can power up batteries. You need to bring a laptop or something to check the images, it would be terrible to go all that way and shoot a location only to learn you had soft focus on that one epic sunset. Now listen carefully this is the most important thing you need to know about a big trip like this. Back up Back up Back up!!! You could not imagine the horror of loosing all your work, all those miles, all that money and time invested to have a card corrupt. Every day I budgeted time to back up the images to my computer and an external drive.
My entire schedule was based on shooting at sunset and sunrise and the occasional night shoot.
Bonnieville Salt Flats
Zion National Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon
Monument Valley Look Out
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Arches National Park