Bay Area Wedding Photographer Gabriel Harber » Fun, Artistic, Joyful Photography that is Real and Full of Stories

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Post Category: Personal

Some adventures are more epic than others.  Our yearly voyage to Saline Valley Hot Springs in Death Valley tends to rank pretty high on the epic scale.  This year was no exception.

I spent a lot of time driving, cooking, being a dad, and just kicking back and enjoying life.  Somewhere in there I managed to take a few pictures.

For more on our adventure, scroll to the bottom of this post.

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Packing a vehicle with food, water, sleeping and cooking infrastructure, and all other camping accoutrement for a week and a half trip into the desert with two small kids can be a little daunting.  This year, Loretta and I had some kid help from her aunt and her sister which made the packing much easier.  I started cooking about 2 weeks before we left, block froze several meals, and bought snacks and other food stuff for an army.  We got under way in record time and with relative ease.  The gravitational pull of one’s home can be awfully strong, but we somehow escaped its pull with our happy little circus of misfits.

We were driving along toward Bishop, CA, and right around dusk a deer appeared in our path.  I pressed hard on the brakes of our overladen van, and it slowed sharply.  The deer just kind of stared at us and finally moved seconds before we would have crossed paths.  I thought that would be the big story of our ride in.  Ha.  If only.  About 100 miles outside on Bishop, while crawling up a steep grade shortly after sunset, our van made a funny noise and lost power.  I pulled over and my eyes darted to the temperature gauge.  I watched as the needle slowly moved toward the red, and listened as the coolant in the engine boiled.  The thermostat needle got about three-quarters up and held tight.  It was really cold, dark, and windy outside.  I got out of the van and did an inspection.  About 1/2 a cup of coolant had boiled over.  I crawled under the van and found that part of the fiberglass heat shielding was smoldering.  Since my spray bottle was buried deep in the nether reaches of our stuff, I decided to fill my mouth with water and act as a human fire extinguisher.  Brilliant.  Surprisingly, this worked.  We were all in a bit of shock and decided let the van cool down, sit for a bit, and watch some of a movie that Loretta had on her tablet.  After about 15 minutes, I figured we should probably come up with a plan.  And then a Sheriff car pulled up.  Freezing and under the beam of his spotlight, I was alerted to the fact that my registration was expired and that our van could be impounded.  After he checked all my info, he told me that we were almost to the top of the steep hill we had been climbing and gave me the number of a local tow company.  The Sheriff left us and said that if we were still there when he came back through that he would give us a hand.  We decided to press on and see if we could limp our way into Bishop.

The shock of our compromized van faded with each mile we drove.  We were able to drive.  The engine temperature stayed well within reasonable levels, and besides for not being able to drive very fast, we managed to make it over a couple of steep grades without issue.  We arrived in Bishop, and were welcomed by our friends.  They had food waiting for us, a cozy bed, and a warm house.  We were glad we had pressed on.  The next day we rented a truck, transferred our gear, and enjoyed the day and the good company.  Our journey had only been delayed a bit, and once we got under way, the drive into Saline Valley was uneventful.  A detour to the salt flats made for a fun first stop in the valley, and it was very nice arriving and setting up camp with plenty of daylight.  We spent the next week and change eating, drinking, soaking, reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, and generally enjoy ourselves.  Ellis would wake me up in the morning and say, “hey, dad, wanna go soak,” and then “I’m hungry, can I have some cereal.”  We managed one hike.  Ellis somehow walked 9 miles on his own.  What a trooper.  We weathered one wind storm.  We shared Thanksgiving supper with about 200 people and headed home the day after.  Two tows got us over the passes and I drove the van the final bit while our good friend, Alex, took Loretta and the kids home in his car.  Another great adventure.

I have known Michael Mellon for a good number of years now.  We met at a dog park, our dogs loved each other, and as chance would have it he needed a wedding photographer.  His dog, Monk, is one of my favorite dogs – sensitive, silky, and full of energy.  While I was photographing Michael’s wedding in Chico, my house in West Oakland was burning.  That was a while ago.

I have bumped into Michael here and there over the years.  He is a woodworker (cabinets and furniture), and I keep meaning to go over to his shop and take some pictures.  Finally, last week, I got over there for a last minute drop in.  This is part one of what I hope will be a project that shows local craftspeople, their work spaces, and their creative process.  I plan to return to his shop and do some portraits and shots of his finished work.  You can check out some of his work through his FB Page.

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If you know anyone getting married in the desert in Arizona, please let me know.  I was recently outside of Phoenix for the What If Conference, and was blown away by the beauty of the landscape.  I want to make pictures there.

The What If Conference really deserves its own post, but since I am a shoot from the hip sort of guy and feeling short on time, I am going to do a combo post here.  I do not consider myself a conference or workshop type (whatever that means).  I typically like to do things my own way, have an aversion to being told what to do, and feel somewhat apprehensive about doing things just because other people are doing them.  But boy am I glad that I did not let my inner voice talk me out of going to this meeting of great people.  I really didn’t know what it was about before going.  And, even after it was all said and done, I had a difficult time saying what it was about.  I can best describe it as a gathering of creative people who encouraged one another to realize their dreams and aspirations and to help one another create actionable steps to achieving that which they hoped to achieve.  If you are a creative type with unfulfilled ideas and need a little kick in the butt to bring your idea into the real world, you may want to consider checking out What If 2015.  The people I met there were genuine, talented, and inspiring.

One of the first people I met when I arrived at the airport in Phoenix for the What If Conference was Ross Tanner.  We teamed up to do a treasure hunt in the airport and had a grand old time taking pictures with strangers and searching out random objects.  I told Ross that I had recently been enamored with the illustrations on Sean Flanigan‘s (bad ass photographer) Instagram feed and website.  Ross very casually let me know that he worked closely with the illustrator and that he had designed Sean’s site.  It is amazing how small and interconnected the world is and how being open to new things can lead to unexpected positive experiences.  I met so many great people over the several days I spent at the conference.  At What If, we ate, drank, sang, helped a local community (Yarnell, AZ), talked, inspired, created, and learned with one another.

While I was making new friends, enjoying the beauty of Arizona, and having adventures at the What If Conference, my partner Loretta was at home with our two kiddos.  After a week of general snottiness and sickness, Loretta and our kids came down with a horrible stomach bug shortly after I left for Arizona.  I find it really difficult leaving my family, and it was certainly not made easier knowing that they were at home suffering with this nasty sickness.  Kuddos to Loretta for being an amazingly supportive partner and a hero of a parent.  I am constantly learning from her.  It was with some sheepishness that I informed her that upon my return home that I wanted to meet up with my new friend Ross and his buddy Fer Juaristi for a rainy day photo adventure.  With only slight hesitation, Loretta encouraged me to go.

Ross, his wife Lesya, and Fer picked me up on Mission Street in the drizzling rain.  I hopped in the back of the car with Fer and immediately felt like I was talking with a good friend.  His passion for his craft, radiant smile, and enthusiasm for life was inspiring.  Ross, who besides for doing excellent design work, is also a talented photographer.  Ross was meeting up with Fer not only to see a friend and make pictures, but also to keep up on his practice of pushing boundaries and experiencing the other side of the camera.  Ross wrote a little piece about this practice of role reversal – check it out here.

It was a whirlwind week of great people and new experiences.  I took very few pictures (too busy talking I suppose).

What If:

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San Francisco adventure with Ross, Lesya, and Fer:

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Fer Juaristi