A bad start to the year.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to my blog and I’m sorry about that. While I like sharing my work and thoughts with everyone, I often get busy and just forget about it. With then end of last year now behind us, I meant to get back to the blog, but I ran into one of the worst starts to a year I’ve ever had. While the first 2 weeks were great, the next 2 became a complete disaster medically with my Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

My wife, Margaret, and I attended a Gallery opening at Calumet Camera in Los Angeles of an excellent show of the work of Kathy Curtis Cahill entitled “Night Echoes” on Thursday evening, Jan 9. It was a great show and I enjoyed the evening even though my MS was definitely limiting my mobility. After the opening we headed out to Palm Spring to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The film festival was great we saw some excellent films, though we did catch a few that didn’t quite make it. We did get a chance to see a great film, “Finding Vivian Maier”, on the discovery of the excellent work of a nanny that had never shown her work but was discovered by a person that buys storage locker contents. After her death, a locker where her Negatives, Slides and undeveloped rolls of film were stored was auctioned off. If you get a chance, definitely see the film.

I had to use my scooter to get around Palm Springs and also get into and out of the theaters with the films. The previous year I could get around on my own, even though it may have been a little slow. This year I could definitely se a worsening of my MS. Even though I had to use the scooter, we had a great time at the festival and also enjoying Palm Spring. We returned home late Sunday Evening after 3 enjoyable days.

Monday morning I had a doctors appointment to gat a Shingles shot as I had had Chicken Pox as a child. The nurse informed me that I might have a small reaction to the shot. It would probably be in the form soreness in the area of the shot and a minor fever. The arm was definitely sore by that afternoon and I also started having a dry scratchiness in my throat. After dinner I realized it wasn’t a reaction to the shot, I was coming down with the flu, even though I had a flu shot a few months earlier.

I woke up about 3 am with a terrible fever, my Pj’s were soaking wet as I was sweating so hard with the fever. I just slept off and on the rest of the night before arising about 6 am. I definitely had the flu. I struggled through the day, I was definitely very weak and my legs didn’t work very well. It was difficult to even walk about the house. This was not unusual when I get the flu, a couple of days a weakness and being very tired before things started to return to normal.

I didn’t do much during the day and just sat in the living room that evening watching TV. About 9 pm decided I needed to go the bathroom and started to get out of my chair. As I got part way up my legs collapsed under me. I couldn’t move my legs at all. I couldn’t draw them up under me to get up. I drug myself forward with my arms but couldn’t do anything with my legs. Lying on my side, I could bring my legs up toward my chest, they just wouldn’t move. It took me over 20 minutes before I could get myself up off the floor. All I could think about was will I ever be able to use my legs again. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before with my MS.

Now that I was up, I was able to slide my legs on the floor without actually picking them up. I was able to make it to bed and was hopeful that may be the legs would be better in the morning. In the morning the legs were no better than the night before. I contacted my neurologist and discovered he was out of the office with an injury. His nurse arranged an appointment with a colleague for a consultation early that afternoon, Tuesday, Jan 14.

I will continue the story in the next couple of posts.

Death Valley & Badwater Ultramarathon – 1

This is the first of a few blogs, at least hopefully a few, from the Badwater Ultramarathon that starts in Death Valley tomorrow morning, Monday. It will depend on access to the internet and the amount of time I have during the race. It is pretty remote out here. I have internet access at the Furnace Creek Ranch where I’m spending the night tonight. The is also cell service here but little other service during the 1st 100 miles of the race.

The trip here this morning was routine and took about 5 hours including stopping for gas and a quick meal in Baker, CA. The weather is about like you would expect in DV this time of year. It’s clear with a few clouds that stand out against the blue sky. The temperature was a warm 122˚ F. Not nearly as bad as the 127˚ F. it was a few years past. Here is a photo of the temperature display at the visitor center.photo

Why heat doesn’t seem to bother me with my MS I don’t know. Of course to me, I wonder why it bothers other MS’ers. I’ve quizzed my neurologists, but none can answer the question. I’ve asked them if maybe what I have isn’t MS, but they say I do have MS. But, I wonder how I can be so unaffected by heat while most others MS’ers melt at just the prospect of heat. I guess I shouldn’t complain.

I hope to be able to add a couple of other posts during the race, but we’ll have to see if it works out. Even tonight the access is slow as race staff and 97 competitors and there crews all try to access the internet.

Heading for Death Valley in July? Crazy!!!!

It’s summer time again, which means it’s time to head to Death Valley again. While I wouldn’t go there for vacation at this time of year, I will go there to photograph athletes that come there to test their toughness against it. It’s time for the Badwater Ultramarathon, http://www.badwater.com, a 135 mile race from Badwater, Death Valley, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (-280 Ft) to Mt. Whitney Portals (8300 Ft). The race covers 13,000 ft. of climbing with 4,700 ft. of descent.

Many wonder how I can survive in the heat with my Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It is predicted to be 120˚ F for the start on Monday, a little warmer than the last couple of years but cooler then the 127˚ in the past. Heat is one of the most complained about problems associated with MS. Most people with MS don’t like temperatures over the mid 70’s. While I don’t enjoy the heat, it doesn’t bother me anymore than it does normal people. So, will it will be extremely hot, I won’t suffer anymore than the rest out there.

DSCN0332I thought I’d share a photo of the photographic equipment I’ll be taking along.

  • 3 Nikon Bodies: D2X, D3 & D800E
  • Lenses from 17mm to 500mm
  • Flash Equipment: Flash Units, remote triggers, Light Stand, Unbrella, reflectors & Other modifiers
  • Tripods
  • Light Meter
  • GPS Units
  • Many memory cards
  • White Balance Units
  • Computers for backup and communications
  • Lots of tape, you never know
  • Batteries and battery chargers and spare AA batteries
  • Radios for personal communications
  • Bag with all the cable you need
  • Knife, flash lights
  • Hats, sunglasses, knee pads and tone of Sun screen.

This is most of what I have already assembled though there will be a few more things added as I get ready.

Hope to post a few blogs during the race, though most of the time we aren’t near normal cell service.

Chasing the Big Idaho Potato

As you know my latest project has me photographing the Giants that exist in our society. Most don’t notice the large versions of ordinary people or objects. You can see some of these images by visiting the Giants Gallery on my web site: http://www.djnphoto.com. I’ve photographed many different giants around Southern California for my project. The one thing all these giants have in common is that they are stationary. That is they are anchored in place, I don’t have to chase them to photograph them.

When I received a tip that there was a large potato on a semi that was traveling around the country, I became excited about having to stalk my prey. I investigated and discovered that this was the Famous Idaho Potato Tour, http://www.bigidahopotato.com. I visited the web site and found a contact, Laura Martin, and sent her an e-mail asking about the truck and when it would be in the Southwestern States. I received a very pleasant call from Laura and she let me know that they would be heading this way shorty and that she would keep me appraised.

Continuing working on my project, I arranged a trip to the California, Arizona border near Parker, AZ to photograph a large chicken on the roof of an old restaurant. See the two previous posts to see the trip. A couple of days before I left for Parker, I received a call from Laura informing me the Truck would be arriving in my area, the problems was it would be arriving the day I was leaving. The good new is that it would still be here when I returned. Laura was great and even offered to bring it by my studio. My studio is in my home and we live in a quite neighborhood with small streets that don’t allow large trucks. Laura informed me that the truck crew would be staying at a hotel just a couple of miles from me.BigIdahoPotato-(20130615)-043

When I returned from my chicken run, I contacted the crew and they informed me that they would be leaving the next morning at 8 am to head to Las Vegas. I set it up to meet them at their hotel and would follow them out to Baker, CA as I wanted photos of the Potato on the road. The truck and potato are definitely big. The truck is 72 ft. in length, with the Potato is 12 ft. wide and 13 ft. tall, and weighs 44,320 lbs. What a subject more my first mobile giant!BigIdahoPotato-(20130615)-058

I met the crew that morning, Paul Humbracht, the driver and the Tater Crew, Kristie Wolfe and Tyler Pagel. They were great and wanted to assist me in getting the photos I wanted. Other than I would have like to be out on the desert at a more photographic time, they have their schedule, the only thing I needed was for them to make a stop in Baker, CA to pose the Potato in front of the giant thermometer. They let me know that it would be no problem.BigIdahoPotato-(20130615)-089

It was fun following them out of the LA area out on to the desert. Once we were on Interstate 15, traffic would often back up behind the truck. As cars came up to the truck, the passengers in the truck would see what it was ad would slowly pass so that they could get out there cell phone cameras and snap a few pictures. My wife and I would leap frog the truck so that we could get shots from the side of the road with the desert in the background.

BigIdahoPotato-(20130615)-094-Small Baking the Big Idaho Potato in Baker, CA

In Baker, Paul positioned the truck in front of the thermometer and I got my shot. We had a great time with the crew and the truck. I’m definitely hoping that it will make another trip to the Southwestern States and that I can meet up with them again. Will I got some good shots, I have so many ideas for shots with the truck, it would be great to have one myself so I could not only get it to certain locations, but also get it there at times with great light.

Did we find large Chickens?

My previous post gave a little of our journey to Vidal Junction to photograph a couple of large chickens. I had been told by an acquaintance that there were 2 large chickens atop an old restaurant at the intersection of US Highway 95 and California Highway 62. I searched the Internet and found a couple of photos and sure enough, there were 2 large chickens. There was a chicken at each of the front corners of the restaurant. In the photos, it looked like the business was no longer. Well, the world isn’t perfect.

After being on the road for 4 & ½  hours, see previous post for some of the details of the trip, we arrived at Vidal Jct. Over the top of mini market/gas station, I could see a large chicken. With growing excitement, I made a left at the stop sign and headed to the restaurant. It was then I could see that there was now only one chicken on the roof. Where the other chicken was located, there is now a light on a pole, probably for security reasons. Having spent the previous few days planning my angle to get both chickens in my photo, I now had only one. The best laid plans…LavidaJctCA-(20130612)-003

Back home after the trip, I see a post on Matt Kloskowski’s Blog, http://www.mattk.com, a blog titled, “Photographing Something Different Than What You Showed Up For.” How appropriate since that is what I just encountered. Sometimes in life you’re handed lemons, that’s when you make lemonade. The restaurant was out of business but it wasn’t in derelict state as often happens. I had something to with which work. I now would have to look for some good light.LavidaJctCA-(20130612)-039

That afternoon we decided to drive up to Lake Havasu City to look around. As we came around a bend in the road, we found the other chicken. It turns out the owner of the mini market/gas station in Vidal Jct. has another market/gas station and had removed the chicken and placed it upon his other store.GiantChickenOnGasStation-ParkerStripAZ-(20130612)-003

Here’s my wife Margaret taking a picture of the chicken the next morning at sunrise. That morning was bright and clear, not a cloud in the sky. But luckily the evening before there were some great clouds that were light nicely at sunset.LavidaJctCA-(20130613)-073

Note: all photos are not yet processed.

Coming home Thursday morning, we headed north on Highway 95 to Needles. It was a very beautiful drive with some great scenery. Definitely I’ll have to come back to this area in the future. Before getting on the interstate to head west, we stopped in Needles to get a couple of pieces of fruit for snacks along the way home. As we drove west on Broadway St. in Needles just scouting for interesting photo opportunities my wife suddenly site a giant, a metal sculpture of a giant snake. I couldn’t pass that up.GiantSnake-MetalSculpture-NeedlesCA-(20130613)-010

Overall, this was a great trip for us. I got a couple of giants and we had a great time. The weather was nice, temperature in Parker, AZ. was about 110˚. After lunch in Parker on Wednesday, I spotted a mini-van with bicycles on top of it. Having been the bicycling photographer for 30 years, I easily spot bicycles. It looked like a support crew for cyclists. I was the photographer for the Race Across America (RAAM) from 1984 until 1999 and this definitely looked like a support vehicle. We stopped at the restaurant where the vehicle was and went inside and found the occupants. It RAAM and they were a support crew. The race had started the day before in Oceanside, CA. Sometimes it seems as if your past is always following you. But, it was a pleasant surprise.

Trip to find large Chickens

Driving today from the LA area out to Vidal Jct., a few miles west from Parker, AZ. It’s a nice warm day in the deserts of Southern California. It was 98˚ about 9:30 in the morning. By the time we got to Parker, it was about 110˚.

When we arrived in Parker, we notice a van with bicycles on top and lettering on the side. On further inspection it was the support crew for an entrant in the Race Across AMerica bike race. We stopped and talked to the crew for a few minutes and found the race started yesterday. I was the race’s photographer from 1984 until 1999. I’ve been busy the last 2 months and hadn’t even given the race a thought. It was a pleasant suprise to catch it.

Here a couple of photo from the trip out.

An interesting directional post.

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We next found a shoe fence where passerby’s deposit their shoes and a lot more.

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We also found the remains of an old gas station along the road.

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These images are raw from the camera with no work done other than to shrink the size. These are some are some very interesting items that I’m adding to my log of things I want to return to in the future to capture them in better light.

We’re leaving to get some dinner before we head out to out chicken for some photographic work. I’ll be adding another post later with the chicken.

Dave