Wednesday, November 19, 2014

5 Day B&W Challenge

My friend Travis Scotka has challenged me to a 5 day B&W photo contest. I rarely take challenges nor do I pass them along but this one intrigued me. For me it's not the photo but the story. I have randomly chosen bits of my life across several cameras and countries. This was originally a Facebook challenge but since that is such a fleeting media, I collected them all and posted them here. 

Day 1:

This photo was taken during a Double-decker bus tour of London. It was an all day, on and off, type of excursion. All the highlights, little substance. I don't always get to pick my own journey.

I spotted this opportunity as we turned a corner. I had seconds to stand, turn, and fire off 5 shots. No aim. Auto focus. No idea if I shot the sky, the street, or the faces of the disapproving riders behind me. No standing on a moving bus is some sort of rule in London.

One of these photos hangs in my living room. This one has never been seen by anyone but me till just now. This was from a 14 day trip. I have but to look at it for the briefest of moments to recall the entire adventure. It is my looking glass to a world I spent a brief moment in time yet yearn to return to one day.

Day 2:

This photo was taken the first day of my first ever solo vacation. I dropped my daughter off at horse camp in Georgia and headed up to Gatlinburg TN. I chose a nice drizzly day to venture onto the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail. Between the elevation spikes and hair pin turns I never got my stick shift SUV out of second gear. I was also one of 5 cars I saw that day.

I've always wanted to take a shot like this. To get it I had to hop rocks to mid stream. I was a good distance from the road, those rocks are a lot bigger than they look in the photo and covered in a wet moss slicker than ice.

As hard as I tried to be careful and in hiking boots, I slipped into the stream hurting my knee, elbow, and bruising a few ribs not to mention soaking wet in ice cold water but with my camera safely in the air. It could have been much worse. I spent a lot of time thinking how much worse it could have been.

My worst fear was that I would do something stupid like this, alone, and need help. It held me back from living the life I wanted. Almost no one wants to travel the path I'm on. I've done crazy, terrible things since and will continue till one of them gets me. But I will never be held back because I can't find a travel partner willing to share the risks.

The next day I rode the front seat of all the roller coasters in Dollywood twice each. When I look back at this photo I always smile. It was truly the first day of a life lived with no limits.

Day 3:

This single photo nicely sums up my trip to Arenal Volcano Costa Rica. Beautiful pool with built in bar, tropical setting, 5,000 foot volcano spewing rocks the size of a car up to a 3 bedroom house, pouring lava, and making it's own weather just a few miles away. The entire trip was hanging bridges, zip lines, 4 wheelers, horse back riding, and hiking across a 1968 lava flow that buried a town under millions of tons of rock and shoved this volcano suddenly skyward. This was by far the most dangerous trip I was ever on with no chance of medical rescue should a disaster strike. I make mention of this because the very day I got home safe and sound, I tossed myself through a shower door and sliced my arm fairly badly. No matter how careful you are or how close to home you stay, this life ends only one way. Get out and live it for all it's worth.

Day 4:

Bergen Norway. The last bit of home my Grandmother saw in 1914 when she and her sister, just teenagers, were put on a ship and sent to America. I've seen the documents they signed when they arrived at Ellis Island. It was not till I stood on that dock did I fully understand the magnitude of their journey. I don't know if they took a steamer or a sailing ship. I do know my Grandfather left from a different port and traveled the world on Windjammers and Clipper ships. He was a high rigger unfurling the top sails. Starting his career at 13. I tried to imagine that crossing as our cruise ship ran into 50 foot seas on the way to Iceland slamming water against the windows at the bar on deck 10. What it must have been like working 12 hours days, 7 days a week in a yarn factory or sailing on cargo ships up and down the East coast just to survive. How I will never know anything like that in my life. How grateful I am that they made those sacrifices and lived the American dream.

Day 5:

To make up for being an absentee Dad, I would take my daughter on trips during spring break in high school. The Smithsonian, crawling through a Mammoth wild cave tour in Kentucky, 100 year old B&B in Micanopy. She requested I never take her to Disney. I had to dig deep to impress her and myself. For her senior year, California. In the month before we left, the Pacific Coast Highway lost a big chunk into the Pacific Ocean and Yosemite got 6 feet of snow. As usual I had a full week of back to back adventures planned and the slightest mishap could throw the entire trip into failure. As it turned out, these week long trips were an outrageous success. My daughter has always been my very best travel partner. The highway was opened days before we arrived and Yosemite just hours. We were the only car at the gate in fact. We had to walk two miles up hill in the snow to take this photo (love saying that). I have thousands upon thousands of photos and every one is a snapshot of a life lived well, a tiny window on a much larger memory, and a goal achieved and enjoyed.


  1. These shots are so awesome, Bob! I love B&W, but I never use it - your shots make me realise how much I rely on colour to tell my stories. I'm not sure I could capture the same things in B&W with no colour cues. Then again, my Aussie scenic loo shots probably wouldn't have made it into a book if they'd been monochrome!! Have a great weekend (we're already in Friday night downunder)!

  2. Well maybe you could just leave the RED in them. But then would I be talking to a famous author? Probably not.

  3. Haha, you're STILL not talking to a 'famous' author - but 1 out of 2 ain't bad :D