It seems no matter where I am, I end up focusing more on writing about exotic, abroad travels than about where I am locally. In retrospect, while this year has been a busy travel year, I was able to romp around in my own backyard pretty often. We had a brilliant summer in general, and stable weather on weekends meant a good amount of mileage into the higher surrounds of Kempten.
Travel in 2017 ended not with wistful excursions to Nice and Riffelsee but rather with the standard home trip to the US. After a month without much snowfall, I left the Allgäu in the middle of a snowstorm and left myself plenty of time to get to Zurich Airport. It turns out I planned in too much time, as I arrived before the parking garage opened. I decided to circle the arrivals area, but I forgot I was in Switzerland; of course they would charge drivers to pick up arriving passengers. I drove to the garage after 5 CHF paid for my fifteen minutes of shame, turned on my blinkers, and stubbornly blocked one entrance to the parking garage until I could enter, thinking I had left the snow behind until I got back to the Allgäu in January. Boy, was I wrong.
2017 has been a varied year for travel. Although I ventured as far away as New Zealand, I didn’t wander far often, and I certainly didn’t feel like I was all that active at home, either. But there is a huge expanse behind where I live, and though I can’t see it from my windows or when the weather turns moodily misty, there is plenty to be photographed in my increasingly-native Allgäu, too.
Impeccable timing! I had just written a post boasting about the serenity of dawn, and a week later (photography time, not real time) I end up actually leaving work “early” to catch the sunset and the blue moon. There are two definitions of a blue moon, but in this case, the full moon was the third in a season (rather than the second in a month). It’s been a long time since I’ve explicitly gone somewhere to watch the moonrise (the last time was in 2007 on Tolmie Peak — after work on a Monday!), but whether from a mountain or a dock, it’s always impressive how quickly the moon rises over the horizon and shrinks into a tiny dot.
There are widely publicized notions of what photographers are like at various stages during their careers. Some liken the transition to how they look at light; others, at how they think of their equipment. I’d argue that another analogy is that some of the most interesting photographers are always able to find subjects — whether they’re on vacation, on location, or just wandering about, they’re able to find things to shoot. By this definition, I’m on the very beginning end of this continuum. When it comes to finding shots, I can do it if I know what and where it is that I’m shooting. Planning the sunrise shots around Grand Teton National Park, for instance, is natural to me, as is thinking about what to shoot when doing a flyover of Champaign-Urbana. And don’t get me started on Mt. Rainier; that’s natural, too.
When it comes to a new location, however, I don’t always find the urge to discover completely new locations. Michigan actually has really beautiful spots, but some of the ones I really want to see are in the Upper Peninsula (I’m by Detroit, currently). There are, without doubt, things to photograph here, but I simply haven’t been on the lookout for them — and, importantly, nor have I made the effort to really seek them out. Maybe this is an indication of something larger than photography, but regardless, I haven’t made an emotional connection to subjects around here for the most part.
This one day, though, I was watching TV and decided randomly to walk outside because it had been nice all day. What greeted me astounded me — the sky was simply incredible. I didn’t have the time to go find a vista with a grand overview of the sunset, unfortunately, but still, the colors were unreal and the texture in the clouds even more otherworldly. I tried a few weeks later to make it to the coast to grab shots of lighthouses, but I ran out of time and headed home instead. Soon, though, I’ll start venturing out more often — the foliage is already starting to pique my interest — but suffice to say, I have a long way to go before I get anything of merit here in Michigan!