Well, this past weekend I experienced Murphy’s Law on a level I never want to experience again! This post is longer than usual but I think you will understand once you get started (be sure you read until the end). Grab a cuppa and see how many times I run into Murphy!
I have been planning on this trip to Grandfather Mountain (GFM) since last June. I had so much fun at the GFM Photography Week-end last year that I couldn’t wait until this year. This is a week-end dedicated to photographers from all over the country to have full access to the mountain from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. Usually the park doesn’t allow campers and the gates close at 10 p.m. So to be able to photograph sunsets and sunrises at 5200’ is a photographers dream not to mention all the wildlife and fauna there is to enjoy. This photographers week-end includes speakers (awardwinning photographers and teachers) and it culminates on Sunday when everyone who has entered the photo contest gets to see the photos that won in the various categories. I will post a link to the winners when they post it for you to see.
This year I decided since I had my new Jeep that I would camp with some of our CPMG group members and really experience the beauty of GFM by staying on the grounds and camping, and experience it I did! I bought a tent that actually fits around the rear end of my jeep so there is access to the jeep from inside the tent. Clever idea I thought. I got an air mattress, a lantern…well you get the idea. I had everything I needed to makes this a great week-end with some good friends.
The weather was supposed to be cool 50’s at night and low 70’s during the day…perfect! I arrived at 2:30 and the temperature was in the low 60’s with a very dark cloud cover. I talked to one of the rangers while I was waiting to get into the park and he said they were expecting some heavy rain.
I got into the park, picked a spot to pitch my tent, and save enough room for fellow CPMG group members, Wes & Wyatt Stewart, Chris Ballance, Greg Holtfreter and Jim Harris. I started putting my tent up, feeling pretty proud that it was going well. Then I felt a few drops of rain. I almost finished but had to ask a couple of guys to help me get the last part of the tent up, and get the rain cover over it. Before we could finish it it is really starting to rain, so we threw the rain cover over the tent, and I jumped in the jeep. It’s coming down pretty good and getting colder. When the rain lets up Greg arrives and he and Jim realize I have the rain cover on backwards so we all go about getting that straight and finally it’s up, but now the wind is picking up and it is cold. Let me mention here that this tent is huge! It has two rooms and is tall enough for a 6’+ guy to stand up in it. That’s my tent in the background with Wes & Wyatt in the front. Chris & Jim setting up his tent.
Everyone arrives and we finish getting everyone set up just in time to grab a bite to eat and get ready for the first speaker. Around 9:30 when the speaker has finished, weleave the building where the restaurant and auditorium is and head back to the camp area. The weather has gotten colder( 40 degrees) and the wind is now blowing around 40 mph with gust on the swinging bridge at around 60 mph. The last thing wewere told before leaving the building is to be very careful if we decide to drive up to the swinging bridge especially on opening car doors because they will knock you down. Ummmm ok! There is even a possibility that the swinging bridge will be closed because of the wind.
Back at the camp NO ONE is prepared for this weather. Fortunately I did bring some extra layers and some fleece but oh my this was brutal. I get ready for bed and pile on every blanket and throw on me and hunker in for the night.
Have you ever (in June) slept in a tent at 40 degrees with the wind blowing at 40 mph at 5200’, with the threat of bears trying to raid your food? To an unseasoned camper, let me tell you sleeping was NOT an option. I stayed pretty warm, thanks to all the stuff I brought (thinking I would never use it) but the sound of the wind roaring down the mountain all night long was something else.
At 5:00 I heard people getting up and heading out for sunrise and I’m thinking, what sunrise? I decided to just snuggle back in and wait until the daylight to get up. Wes, Wyatt and I stumbled out of our tents around 7ish and it was cold, 38 degrees and the wind is still ripping! We are too cold to go out shooting because our hands are freezing. Finally around 9:00 the sun starts to peek out and I remembered another fleece I had so I layered it under my rain jacket and finally started to get warm.
I walked uphill in the woods and found some great mushrooms I wanted to shoot, but I needed to lay down to get the shots I wanted. This meant a trip back down the incline to my Jeep and get this ground cover I had made so I wouldn’t get wet. On the way down my foot got hung up in some vines. My struggles ended with me falling hands first, and sliding down the incline. Fortunately, no harm was done and I climb back up with my ground cloth and spend my time taking pictures of the mushrooms!
I hear Wes and Wyatt coming back so I climb back down and Chris shows up. Chris and I decide to go to the main building and let him download his photos to my mac so he can get them ready to put on the cd for the contest.
We get something hot to drink and sit down to transfer the images. My MacBook decides to misbehave and it takes 2 1/2 hours for Chris to get his batch of photos uploaded and edited to CD. Entries to the contest have to be in by 3:00. It is now 1:45 and I only have the 43 photos of the mushrooms I have taken this morning.
43 photos…that’s all I have to work with. I take 43 photos just goofing around. I should have a couple of hundred by now. Chris ejects his cd, I stick in my SD card and the computer goes black. I wait 30 minutes and finally get the computer up and running. I quickly edit the three photos I selected (I am so unhappy that I have so few to select from) and get them on the CD. Time is now 2:30.
Here I am on this beautiful mountain and I have spent less than an hour shooting and now the day is almost gone but the wind is not conducive to macro work. I decide to walk down to the animal habitats and see if the otters are out.
Theotters are zipping in and out of the water so I decide to snap a fews shots. There are lots of families with little kids and of course they are excited tosee the otters. I take several shots but it’s getting crowded so I decide to put my camera back on my tripod and head out. I slide the camera on screw it down and put the camera on my shoulder and here comes Mr. Murphy again…. the sounds no photographer wants to hear. I look back and there is my camera and my 105 macro laying on the concrete. Roughly $2000 laying on the ground in pieces. I feel like I have just stepped into another dimension where everything is running in slow motion.
I walk back up to the museum and spot Greg and Jim walking down the sidewalk. They want to know if I want to ride into Boone with them to grab a bite. I just look at them and hold up my camera, the horror reflected on their faces says they understand my feelings.
I started to pack up and go home but everyone said no just stay, so I decided to enjoy what was left and I’m glad I did. At the campsite I did however decide to put the air mattress in my Jeep and sleep in it on that night. I had a much better night of sleep and didn’t hear the wind like I did the night before. The last three speakers were awesome and I did learn some techniques and tips. After everything was over on Sunday afternoon, I barely got my tent taken down, with the help of Chris and Wes, when it started drizzling again. What a week-end!
After leaving GFM I drove to the gallery where I have my work and showed Bryon the gallery owner my new work (the abandoned car series) He likes the series and wants me to get some of those ready and also get him a copy of the book that I had made with those photos for to him to put in the gallery. He sold the photos of the piano keys and foot pedals (go to website, click on abandoned places to see) to a couple and they wanted to know if I had any others because they want a third photo. That was a bright spot after all I had been through over the weekend and I am happy the people who bought the abandoned piano series want another photo to complete their collection.
This is one photography outing I will never forget and it taught me some valuable lessons. I survived but it was a tough one.
Lesson #1 when camping bring every warm thing you have including gloves no matter what the weather when you get over 4000′.
Lesson #2 check, double check and triple check your gear so you don’t end up like me with a knot in your stomach and $850 worth of broken plastic in your hand. Yes, thank God the lens survived!
I want to thank all the photographers who were so sympathetic about my camera. To Wes, Wyatt, Chris, Greg and Jim for rides up and down the mountain and for making me laugh, thanks. We’ll do it again next year…well the trip at least, without all my drama! These photos are not for the faint of heart (if you’re a photographer). Oh… what is that sound? Did you just gasp? Well imagine being me!