Trip Report: 10/19/19 Fire Hydrants

This past Saturday I decided to take a day trip to photograph some fire hydrants. It had been a long time since my last trip, and I figured I better get a trip in while the weather was still nice and I had a quiet weekend. I decided to go up to northwestern Oklahoma. The route I took is in the picture below.

Friday night and Saturday morning I had scouted out some possible pictures along this route using Google maps and street view. I had done that for trips before, but not to the extent that I did it for this trip. By the time I left, I had a pretty good list of pictures to try and get.

I believe I left around 9:00 Saturday morning. I wanted to let the sun get up a little ways before I headed out. My first stop was Calumet. I quickly discovered that Google street view isn’t necessarily a reliable source for what things currently look like. One of the buildings I wanted to get in the background of a picture had been torn down and a new building was in its place. I got a couple pictures I was wanting to get, along with one I hadn’t planned for.

That was the general trend of the day. There were a couple other instances where either the fire hydrant I wanted, or the building in the background, were no longer there, which was always disappointing. One of the most disappointing ones was the fire hydrant in the Google street view image below from Okeene, OK. I was really wanting to get a picture of that hydrant with the church in the background, but the fire hydrant is no longer there. I was pretty bummed out about that.

Another really disappointing one was the fire hydrant in the street view image below from Clinton, OK. I really wanted to get the old fire station in the background of this fire hydrant. But when I showed up, there was a stop sign behind the fire hydrant that ruined the picture. I thought maybe I just missed the stop sign when I was looking at street view, but in the street view, the intersection has a stoplight, not a stop sign. So I got a good lesson to not necessarily get my hopes up based on Google street view. Haha.

But even though there were a few that didn’t work out, there were a few that were surprises. In Calumet I was able to get a fire hydrant with several drilling rigs in the background, which is the first panoramic fire hydrant image I have done, and is quite fitting for the area. I also got the image below as I was leaving Okeene. I kept driving about a 1/4 mile after seeing this before I convinced myself to turn around and get the picture. I’m glad I turned around and got it.

I grabbed some food at Jiggs Smokehouse in Clinton before hitting the road back to OKC. Jiggs is in a really random spot. I would have never known it was there if not for Google maps. It was on the pricey side. Over $12 for the food below and a small (think kid size) drink. The food was great though. So for taste, I recommend, but if you’re on a budget, probably not the best place.

So there you have it. Disappointments, surprises, and some good food. Generally how each trip goes. Haha. All my pictures have been posted on my website. You can check them out here. Leave a comment about which one is your favorite!

Show Report: Summit Art Fest 2019

This past weekend I participated in the Summit Art Fest in Lee’s Summit, MO. It had its ups, and it had its downs. Keep reading for the details!

Friday

I had driven to my brother’s place in SE Kansas Thursday evening, so I left from his place around 7:20 Friday morning to head up to Lee’s Summit. That got me there around 9:20. I got checked in, pulled the truck up to my spot, and got everything unloaded. After parking the truck in the artist parking lot, I started getting stuff set up. It was in the low 40s and windy while I was setting up, but thankfully my spot was fairly sheltered from the wind, so it wasn’t too bad setting up. Set up went much better than the Joplin show last month. Having it fresh on my mind and the learnings from the Joplin show helped a lot. I tried a little bit of a different layout than Joplin, and I really liked it. I’ll probably stick with that going forward. My custom print rack worked pretty well. It’s a little bit higher than I would like, but I’m not sure how I’m going to fix that. 

I did get pretty lucky with set up though. The tents are set up on the sides of the streets, and since the streets are fairly narrow, I couldn’t have my stuff sitting in front of my booth since it would block traffic. Thus, I had to set most of my stuff behind my tent. Thankfully I was able to get my tent set up and get everything moved around the front and into my tent before I had people set up on both sides of me. Had people been setting up on both sides of me while I was setting up, it could have been a really frustrating set up. 

I finished set up shortly after 1:00, and left to go grab lunch and try to check into the hotel. I got to the hotel around 2:00. Check in started at 3:00, but thankfully they let me check in early. I got stuff moved in, changed clothes, put some food together, and then headed back to the show.

The show started at 4:00. It was a fairly slow evening. I’m sure the weather didn’t help. By the end of the show at 8:00, I had on two jackets, gloves, and a beanie, and I was still a little bit cold. As I mentioned before, though, I was pretty well sheltered from the wind, which I was very thankful for. Some art show volunteers came by during the evening giving out a free slice of pizza to each artist. That was nice. Since it was fairly slow, I was able to chat with a few of the artists around me. It was great getting to know them a little bit. The show ended without making any sales. That was a bummer, but I had heard several artists say Saturday was their best day last year, so I was hopeful that Saturday would be better. Overall the weather was much better than I was expecting. I was expecting it to be a pretty miserable day, but it wasn’t too bad, other than getting a little cold at the end of the show. 

Saturday

Saturday morning got off to a rough start. As I was walking out to my truck to head to the show, I thought to myself I was glad none of my windows were broken out on the truck. However, after I opened the door, I realized that someone had been in my truck and stolen several items (tool boxes, sunglasses, rain suit, etc.). So I had to wait for the police to show up to make a report. The show started at 10:00, and it was 10:45 before I made it to the show. That put me in a sour mood the rest of the day. I tried to put on a happy face, but inside I was in a pretty bad mood. 

There was a fairly steady stream of traffic most of the afternoon. It wasn’t super busy by any means, but steady. I used my food truck coupon for lunch, and ate my normal PB&J, fruit cup, and pudding cup for dinner. We got another free slice of pizza for dinner as well. I finally made my first sale around 6:00. The evening was pretty slow, which allowed a lot of time to visit with the artists around me again. The weather was much warmer than Friday. Still a little bit chilly by the end of the show, but better than Friday evening. The show ended at 8:00, at which point I closed down and headed back to the hotel. 

Sunday

Sunday morning I woke up at 6:45, and it sounded like there was an elephant walking around in the room above me. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep, so I got up a little while later. The show didn’t start until 11, so I spent some time looking up the value of the items that were stolen out of my truck so I could provide a final list with values to the officer that took the report. It came out to about $500 worth of items. It could have been a lot worse though. I got everything packed up and loaded into the truck. Before I left the motel, I looked through the security footage to see if I could see when/how it happened. I was able to find it, and took a video of the video with my phone. A huge thanks to the clerk for helping me out and letting me do this. After that I stopped by Dicks Sporting Goods to see if I could find some sunglasses, but didn’t find any I liked. After that I headed to the show and got set up. I got the email sent off to the officer with a link to the video. 

The Chiefs game was pretty much during the entire show, so I wasn’t expecting many people at the show. It wasn’t near as busy as Saturday, but there were more people than I expected, which was nice. We got to see the flyover for the Chiefs game, which was pretty cool. The weather was absolutely beautiful on Sunday. Perfect art show weather.

The show ended at 4:00, without making any sales. I got stuff torn down and packed up, and hit the road shortly after 6. I was on track to get home around 11:30, but something had traffic really backed up between Tulsa and OKC, so I didn’t get home until 12:15, and didn’t get to bed until 12:50.

Final Thoughts

The show itself seemed like a pretty good show. I’m new at this, so I don’t have much to compare it to. The hospitality tent was nice. It was in a neat setting in the downtown area. There were booth sitters if needed. The free pizza and food truck coupon was a plus. I was really happy with the spot my tent was in. And for once it didn’t rain. Also, there were a lot of dogs. Sometimes I was wondering if I was at a dog show instead of an art show. Haha. They were all really well behaved dogs, though, so it wasn’t a problem. 

I left the show not quite knowing what to think though. On one hand, I was really frustrated that I only made one sale and didn’t come anywhere close to breaking even. This is despite person after person coming through my booth commenting how beautiful my work is. All three of my shows have gone that way. I wonder how long I’ll keep trying this before I decide my money is better spent elsewhere (aka backpacking trips, new vehicle, etc.). And having the stuff stolen this time definitely didn’t help. One of the artists at the show encouraged me not to let it get me down, but it’s hard not to. On the other hand, it’s great hearing all the compliments. I’m not much of a social person outside of the shows, so it’s great to get to interact with the people who come through the booth, and to get to know the artists who are around me and see their work.

So for now, it’s on to the Houston area in about a month for my next show. I’m sure I’ll keep trying shows through at least the middle of next year as long as I can handle it financially, especially since I’ll hopefully get to do some local shows the first half of next year. And, as I keep telling myself, maybe I’ll be surprised one day from by something that came as a result of doing one of these shows.

Finally, want to give a shout out to Aaron Henry, Susan Kiefer, and Crystal Nederman for being great neighbors. I really enjoyed getting to know them over the weekend. I wish them the best of luck, and I hope I can cross paths with them again in the future.  

Show Report: 2019 Joplin Arts Fest

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This past Friday and Saturday I participated in the Joplin Arts Fest in Joplin, MO. Although I participated in “An Affair of the Heart” back in July, the Joplin Arts Fest was my first “fine art show” to participate in, so I was excited to see how it went. 

Friday

I left OKC around 6:30 A.M. Friday morning. I had to stop at my parents’ place on the way to Joplin to grab a couple things. I was planning on hanging out there for an hour or so, but rain was on the way so I grabbed what I needed and headed up to Joplin hoping to get my tent set up before the rain arrived. I got to Mercy Park around 10:15. I got checked in, unloaded my tent, and then parked my truck outside the festival area while I got my tent set up. I didn’t want to unload everything and leave my art sitting out in case it started to rain before I had the tent set up. 

It took way longer than I had expected to get the tent set up. I could definitely tell it had been a while since I had set up the exterior of the tent. Before I raised the top up to put the legs on, I strapped the sides of the top cover down to keep it on, and figured I would do the rest of the straps after it was up. After I raised the front up, the wind caught it and blew the front of the top cover back up over the top. Then later something didn’t seem quite right after I put the first couple walls up, so I took them back down and rearranged how I put the walls up. Just a couple examples of the rust that needed shaken off.

I eventually got the tent put up, and pulled my truck up again to unload the rest of the stuff. Just as I was starting to get stuff unloaded a light rain started to fall. It didn’t rain a whole lot, and thankfully I was able to get everything unloaded into the tent without anything getting wet. I left to grab lunch when I got to a good stopping point, and then came back and worked on getting the tent put together some more. It was fairly breezy during the afternoon, and after getting some stuff set up, I decided to change the layout due to the way the wind was blowing. That was a pretty big pain, and another thing that added time to getting everything ready to go. Thankfully I was able to get everything set up prior to the show starting. I cut it way closer than I thought I would, so it’s a good thing I didn’t hang out at my parents’ place for long.

The Artist/Patrons reception was from 5-6, and then the show was open to the public from 6-10. The weather was great for the show that evening. It was quite busy from 6-8, and then slowed down the rest of the evening. I spent some time while it was slow visiting with Randall Kronblad and his wife, who were in the tent next to me. At 10 I closed up the tent and headed back to the hotel. I thought having the show after dark was pretty neat. The lighting adds another creative element to the tent setup for each artist. I don’t expect there to be many shows where the show happens after dark.

Saturday

The next morning the show started at 9. It started out slow, but the crowd picked up later in the morning. It was fairly breezy in the morning. Not near as bad as Vinita was for me earlier this year, but still breezy enough to shake the tent around a little bit. Some rain came through around noon, but thankfully the wind died down while it was raining. The worst part of the storm went to our north. After the rain cleared out it was pretty nice right up until the end of the show. Right at the end a few more showers came through. Nothing significant, but enough to get the tent wet right before having to pack it up. I had a fairly steady flow of people through my booth most of the day. It wasn’t crowded by any means, but I at least had people coming through. I was able to visit with Randall and his wife quite a bit throughout the day as well.

At 4 I started getting everything packed up. I had my brother, his fiancé, and my mom there to help out where they could, which was nice. The weather ended up bring great for the tear down, which I was quite thankful for. I think it was about 6:30 by the time  we had everything packed up. We went and got some ice cream from Braums before hitting the road.

Final Thoughts

In regards to sales, it was very disappointing. I didn’t make a single sale the entire show. I think some other artists did fairly well, but I wasn’t one of them. I had lots and lots of oohs and aahs and compliments, but no sales. That was a big bummer. But with that being said, it was a good experience. It was a good show for my first show. The crowd was much better than “An Affair of the Heart”. I had much more traffic through my booth, and had much more conversation with visitors. It was also great to get to visit with Randall and his wife quite a bit. Hopefully I can run into them on occasion in the future. I was able to briefly meet an artist that will be at my next show, so I’ll have to try and find him there. There were volunteers roaming around offering drinks and breaks if needed, which was nice. The musical performers were great. I didn’t find them distracting or overwhelming, but a great compliment to the show. And it was nice to be able to try a different layout and some tweaks I had made since my last outdoor show. Each show brings learnings and things to try at the next show.

This show made 3 out of 3 outdoor shows that I have been rained on. I’m really hoping I can break that streak soon. Thankfully there weren’t thunderstorms like the previous two, and overall the weather was much better than I was expecting.

For the one night I stayed in Joplin, I stayed at the Best Western. The room definitely wasn’t anything fancy. Not bad by any means, but nothing fancy. The service was great though. I got a snack bag when I checked in. The front desk clerk called shortly after I got to my room to check if the room was ok. Saturday morning there was an employee offering to make waffles for anybody who wanted one. So I wanted to give this place some kudos for the service.

Finally, I want to give a big thank you to Steve Doerr for the mentoring/feedback he provided during the application process. This was the first art show I applied to, and after submitting my application, Steve got back to me with some feedback to help me improve my application, and allowed me to resubmit my application. That was great feedback to receive as I was just starting to apply to shows, and I am very appreciative of it.

Thanks to everybody who stopped by my booth as well!

Sawtooths: Getting My Gear There (and back)

Last year after my trip to the Uinta Mountains in Utah, I posted a blog about getting my gear and myself to the trailhead and back. After looking back on the Utah trip, I decided to make a couple changes for the trip to the Sawtooths this year. I figured I would go ahead and share those changes and a couple thoughts/recommendations.

Why?

Before I get into the details of the changes, I figured I would provide a quick explanation of why I ship my gear instead of flying with it.

  1. There are a couple items I can ship that I can’t take on an airplane (even in checked luggage): bear spray and stove fuel. While I could buy these items in the city I fly into, I hate buying it, only using a small portion of it (or none of it at all), and then having to get rid of it.
  2. I have more confidence in shipping with USPS than with checked luggage on an airline. On my two trips so far, my layovers have generally been pretty short, and it makes me nervous that my bags may not make it from one plane to another if there is a time crunch. I would really hate to get to my final airport and not have my gear show up. With shipping it, I can send it early, and that way if something goes wrong during shipping, there is still some wiggle room.

The one major drawback of this is cost. I have flown Southwest both trips, and with Southwest I wouldn’t have to pay for a checked bag, whereas shipping cost me around $200 round trip for both Utah and Idaho. So there is definitely a trade off. For me, it’s worth paying the $200 and having a lower chance (in my opinion) of the gear not making it. If you fly with another airline that charges for bags, the shipping cost may not be as big of a deal.

So with that said, here were the changes I made this year.

Shipping 1 Package

Last year I shipped two packages. This year I only shipped one (same size). How did I manage that? Mainly by putting my sleeping bag in my carry on instead of shipping it. Last year, I knew it would be several days between when I shipped the packages and when I would pick them up, so I didn’t want to leave my sleeping bag compressed for several days to save room (not good for a down sleeping bag). But once I got to thinking about it after last year’s trip, I realized I could put the sleeping bag in my carry on and compress it, since it would only be like that for several hours (similar to a normal day of hiking). And with taking the sleeping bag out of one of the packages, I figured I could probably fit everything into a single package. Thankfully I was able to make it work. The pictures below show how I packed the shipped package if you are curious.

Larger Carry On

To fit the sleeping bag in my carry on along with everything else, I had to get a different carry on. Last year I used a laptop style backpack. This year I bought a true carry on suitcase that would hold more stuff than the backpack. In addition to the sleeping bag, I had some clothes for after the trip, a couple books, iPad, toiletry items, a pair of shoes, and other miscellaneous items.

Verdict?

The cost to ship my single package this year was nearly identical to what I paid to ship the two packages last year, and one package is definitely easier to carry around than two. So I will stay with the single package going forward. The single package ended up being around 40 lbs., so keep that in mind. I assume if you’re going backpacking, you can lift up and carry a 40 lb. package, but figured I would point it out anyway. A couple things to keep in mind when shipping the package though:

  1. Don’t ship too early. Based on my experience and what I have read online, the post office will only hold your package for 10 days (if you are doing general delivery). You can calculate shipping time on the USPS website, and thus figure out roughly which day you can send it to avoid sending it too early. If you are able to contact the post office, they may be willing to hold the package longer if needed. However, I tried calling the Boise post office that accepts general delivery many, many times (I would say at least 20) over the course of a couple weeks prior to shipping my package, and never got anybody to pick up. If you would like to send it a little earlier, I would suggest contacting the post office before you actually ship it.
  2. Matches: each of the four times I have shipped my package(s), the matches have caused some questioning/hesitation with the postal service employee(s). When I shipped my stuff back to OKC from Boise this year, one of the postal workers in Boise actually had me pull out the matches to make sure they were the proper kind. They have to be strike on box only matches, not strike anywhere matches. So be ready to get questioned on this, and it’s probably a good idea to have them somewhere easily accessible in case you do get asked to pull them out to verify they are the proper type. 

Do you have any tips for shipping your gear or an alternative method you use? If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments. If you have any questions about something I didn’t cover in here or my post from last year, reach out and I’ll see if I can provide an answer or share some knowledge I have gained from doing this a couple times now.

Trip Report: Sawtooth Mountains 2019

Sawtooth Map Export
Planned route. Read below to find out what actually happened. 

This past Saturday I left for a 5 day backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho. The plan was to start at Stanley Lake and do the loop down to Grandjean, up North Fork Baron Creek to Sawtooth Lake, and then back to Stanley Lake (see map above). But if you know me very well, you know that my backpacking trips rarely go according to plan. This was no exception. Keep reading for the details. 

Day 1

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Picture near Bridal Veil Falls (looking opposite direction of falls).

Day 1 got off to a very early start with a 6:30 A.M. flight to Denver, followed by a short layover and then a flight to Boise. That all went very smooth, even getting to Boise 15 minutes early. I got my rental car, and then headed to the post office to pick up my gear. It was still a little before 11 when I got my gear, so I packed as much as I could in the post office parking lot, and then stopped by a Subway to grab lunch before hitting the road to the trailhead. The drive to the trailhead took about 2.5 hours. 

It was in the lower 80s according to the car thermostat. I converted my pants into shorts before starting, which was the first time I had ever hiked with them as shorts. I finished getting my backpack packed and then hit the trail at roughly 2:45. There is a pretty amazing view of McGown Peak from the trailhead. I’m not used to having the great view right off the bat. Most of the hikes I have done require some hiking before the great views start. I stopped a short ways down the trail to fill up with water. On the first mile or so of the trail, there was very little shade, which got me wondering if I had packed enough sunscreen. Thankfully the forest got more dense, and the shade was definitely appreciated. 

I was a little worried about how late I would get to my planned camp spot having got a late start, but I made really good time and got there around 5. That was even with stopping several times for pictures. I camped at the junction with the Elk Creek Trail, which apparently isn’t a trail anymore. There is a tree “blocking” the trail from the main trail (picture above right). When I stopped to camp, I didn’t even see the sign for the trail (picture above left), but figured if it wasn’t the trail, it was close enough. (The next day as I was leaving, I actually noticed the sign for the trail.) I set up camp, and then taped up a couple of my toes that were already starting to get a sore spot.

A note regarding this tape. I used Leukotape, which definitely worked as advertised. However, I had watched a video prior to the trip where someone had put the tape on strips of wax paper so she didn’t have to take the whole role. I tried this at home, and it seemed to work. However, when I tried to remove the tape at my camp spot, it was very difficult to get the tape off without ripping the wax paper and leaving some on the tape. I’m assuming it was partly due to the tape being on the wax paper for a while in combination with the wax paper becoming “brittle” due to getting creased once it was packed. Next year I will likely wrap the tape around something (pencil, pen, etc.).

I ate dinner, and then did some reading before calling it a day. 

Day 2 

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Picture from Observation Peak looking southeast.

I got up at 7 on Sunday and got breakfast ready. Once breakfast was finished I got camp packed up and hit the trail towards Observation Peak. Not too long after leaving camp the trail entered forest that had burned. At this point, I really started to question whether I had brought enough sunscreen, as I was pretty sure most of the rest of the hike didn’t have much shade.

It was a fairly short hike to get to the intersection with the Observation Peak trail. I got up to the peak around 10. There were great views all the way up to the peak. It was difficult to see the trail in a couple spots, but I was able to find it again quickly. There was very little shade on the peak, but luckily there were a few trees that provided a shady spot. The views from the peak were spectacular, and definitely exceeded what I was expecting. I spent about 40 minutes at the peak resting, eating a snack, and getting pictures. It took me about 40 minutes to get back down to the trail junction, where a couple other hikers were just starting to head up. 

I started to head towards Trail Creek Lakes and ran into a few other hikers headed towards Observation Peak. I stopped at a creek a short hike down the trail to fill up with water. I was getting pretty low on water at that point, so it was a relief to get some more. I rested for a bit more, ate some trail mix, and put on some more sunscreen. I was going to convert my pants to shorts once again, but I figured I better not so I could save sunscreen. I kept going towards Trail Creek Lakes and arrived about 12:30. Right off the bat I could see at least a couple camps set up, and ran into a guy from one of the camps. We chatted for a little bit, and then I continued on to find a camp spot. 

I found a camp spot pretty quickly, but I wasn’t a huge fan of it. It was pretty darn close to another camp, and closer to the water and trail than regulations allow (although it was hard to find a camp spot that was far enough from the trail and water). It was also really fine dirt/dust, which I knew would get on everything. I went ahead and set up my tent anyway since I figured it would be hard to find another camp spot and so nobody else took the spot. I figured I would look for another spot while going to the second lake. 

From reading a guide book, I knew there was a way to get up to the second lake via a gulch on the north side of the lower lake. I hiked around the north side of the lower lake and didn’t see this gulch, so I decided to hike up the hill near the creek between the two lakes. It was steep and had a lot of loose rock. I knew it wasn’t the best idea, but it looked doable and I didn’t feel like trying to find the other way. Two-thirds of the way up my foot slipped and I hit the ground hard. I knew right away I had hurt my left hand. I fully expected one of my fingers to be crooked when I looked at the hand, but thankfully none of them were. I was pretty sure I had broke at least one of them though, possibly two. I laid there for a couple minutes gathering myself and taking stock of my situation. 

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Looking down at the first Trail Creek Lake from the second Trail Creek Lake.

With as far up as I had made it, I knew going back down wasn’t an option, so I got back up and continued up the hill to the second lake. I made it up to the second lake, got a few pictures, and then worked on finding a different way down. I found the gulch referenced in the guidebook, and took that way down to the first lake. I found a possible camp spot on the way down, but I wasn’t 100% sure that my tent would fit, and at that point I didn’t feel like hauling my tent up there to find out. 

The rest of the day was pretty rough due to very little shade, warm temperatures, gusty winds, and the dusty conditions. The hand injury just made it that much worse. A while after I got back down to the lower lake, I also discovered I must have landed on my hip when I hit the ground, as I had a pretty good scrape and bruise there as well. I didn’t do a whole lot the rest of the day other than hang out at camp and read. 

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As I was making dinner that evening, I noticed the saying on the bottom of the packaging (picture above). I just had to laugh as I probably got what I deserved picking a camping spot that went against regulations. I put on my rain cover (which was nearly impossible with my injured hand) shortly before calling it a day. I read in my tent for a while before finally deciding to try and get to sleep. Unfortunately, my sleeping pad is pretty noisy when I move, so I was paranoid the whole night that I was bugging the neighbors every time I moved. That didn’t help anything either. 

Day 3

On Monday, I got up a little before 7. I got breakfast ready and then got camp packed up. I decided to hike back out instead of continuing on with the hike as planned. If my fingers were broke, I didn’t want to do any more damage to them than had already been done. Once camp was packed up I hit the trail back towards Stanley Lake, at about 8:15. I was back at the trailhead around 11:40. I rinsed off some at Stanley Lake and changed into a new pair of clothes. I drove into Stanley to get a drink at the convenience store before heading back to Boise. I got back to Boise a little after 3 and stopped at a travel center to figure out what my options were. I decided I had three options: stay in Boise until Saturday, fly home early, or drive home. All three options were roughly the same cost, so I decided to go ahead and leave early to save a couple days of PTO. I got a hotel room and pretty much spent the rest of the day getting my backpacking gear cleaned up and getting stuff situated to pack and ship the next day. 

Day 4

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Picture of injured hand after getting to the hotel.

On Tuesday I got up at 6:30, and left from the hotel around 7:45. I dropped my gear off at the post office and then headed to an urgent care clinic to get my fingers checked. According to the X-rays, there were no fractures. Ironically that was more frustrating. Had I known that I probably would have finished the hike. But I was definitely relieved I wasn’t going to have to wear a splint. That would have made work really frustrating since I do a lot of typing. 

I wandered around downtown for a little bit and got a couple fire hydrant pictures, then ate lunch at Westside Drive In. If you are looking for something to eat in Boise, I highly recommend their meatloaf sandwich. It was delicious. At that diner I got the “fortune” above. Once again I just had to laugh, as my injured hand and hip would beg to differ otherwise. After lunch I headed to the airport.

Conclusion

The little bit of the hike I got to do far exceeded my expectations. For relatively low elevation mountains, I was pretty impressed. It was definitely warmer than I would prefer during the afternoon, and the lack of shade on the second day didn’t help much. If I try the trip again, I’ll avoid Labor Day weekend, likely do it later in the year, and bring more sunscreen. I was really bummed I didn’t get to finish the loop as I didn’t even make it to the part I really wanted to make it to. The trails were very easy to follow, with the exception of a couple brief spots going up to Observation Peak. I didn’t see any significant wildlife. I saw quit a bit of hoof tracks on the trail though. And next time I’ll be more careful about picking my camp spot, as karma apparently has my number. 

Trash

The only trash I found during the hike was a plastic bottle cap at the lower Trail Creek Lake, at my camp spot. For as many people as I saw during this hike, especially at Trail Creek Lakes, I was quite impressed that was the only trash I saw. Kudos to all the visitors for keeping it clean.

Katadyn Hiker vs. Sawyer Mini

Filter vs

The Backstory

Before I get into the pros and cons of each filter, I’m going to start out with the backstory about why I ended up carrying the sawyer mini with me backpacking in the first place.

When we first started backpacking, my brother and I carried the Katadyn Hiker water filter, pictured above left. It got us through four trips without any issues, and I had never thought about carrying a different filter. My backup plan if this were to ever fail was to boil water with my Jetboil. Last summer (2018), my brother and I did our annual backpacking trip in July, which was trip #5 with the Katadyn Hiker. We went to the Highland Park area of the Big Horn Mountains. On day 3 of the trip, while we were camped in Highland Park, the wind came up pretty bad, and while the wind was blowing we went to fill up our bladders in a small pond. The wind had caused the pond to become pretty rough, and thus the water had quite a bit of sediment in it. We went ahead and filtered some water into our bladders, and during the process it got pretty hard to pump the water. Fast forward to the next day. As we were preparing to fill up our bladders at a different spot, my brother noticed some stuff floating around in his water. At that point, we figured the filter was likely bad, and ended up hiking out a day early. Thankfully neither of us got sick from drinking the water.

After this experience, I realized that boiling water probably wasn’t the best backup plan. I wouldn’t be able to do much water at once, it would take a while to cool off, and it would use up a lot of fuel. So before my first solo trip a couple months later in Utah, I looked into alternatives for backup water supply, and I decided to start carrying a Sawyer Mini with me in addition to the Katadyn Hiker. I also bought a new filter for the Katadyn Hiker for my Utah trip. Just a short ways into my Utah trip, it again became hard to pump the Katadyn Hiker filter. I didn’t want to chance bad water again, so I got to give the Sawyer Mini an unplanned test run for the rest of that Utah trip.

For our trip this year, my brother and I decided to carry two Sawer Mini filters each instead of bringing the Katadyn Hiker and a Sawyer Mini each. Based on my experience of using each, I figured I would provide some of my pros and cons of using each.

Pros & Cons

Had we not had problems with the Katadyn Hiker filter, we would have likely continued using that filter this year. I have no idea why we are having the issue of it becoming hard to pump, but for the 4 trips where it worked, we really liked it.

One advantage that the Katadyn Hiker has over the Sawyer Mini is that the water I am carrying around is good water. The water goes from the source, through the filter, and into the bladder, and then can be used for anything at that point. When I’m using water out of the bladder for cooking, brushing teeth, etc., I don’t have to worry about using unfiltered water. With the Sawyer Mini, the water I am carrying around is unfiltered, so I have to be careful about using water out of the bladder. At night, I will typically remove the Sawyer Mini filter from my bladder, put the original mouthpiece on the bladder, and the keep the Sawyer Mini in my sleeping bag to keep it from freezing. However, I have to be careful not to take a drink out of the bladder without the filter, or use the water for cooking, brushing teeth, etc. I just feel like using the Sawer Mini adds a little more of a chance that myself or someone else could accidentally use non-filtered water for something that it shouldn’t be used for.

One other big advantage the Katadyn Hiker has: the bladder is easier to drink out of with the original mouthpiece vs with the Sawyer Mini. With the Sawer Mini attached to the bladder hose, I almost have to work a little bit to take a drink of water. It’s not bad, but it is definitely harder to take a drink with the Sawyer Mini. I also felt a lot of times that I had to hold the Sawyer Mini to my mouth when I was taking a drink, particularly if the trail was rough. However, with the original mouthpiece, I feel like I’m typically able to stick it in my mouth and then take my hand away while I’m taking a drink.

One last advantage the Katadyn Hiker has over the Sawyer Mini: meal time. When we were using the Katadyn Hiker, we would typically fill our camelback bladders up when we got to camp, and then we would have enough water for drinking, dinner, and brushing teeth. However, with the Sawyer Mini, I have to fill the squeeze bag up with water, squeeze the water out into my Jetboil to boil, and then fill the squeeze bag again to clean up after dinner. Also, when I take the Sawyer Mini filter off my bladder to use on the squeeze bag, I have to either put the original mouthpiece back on, or be careful to set the bladder in a way that the water doesn’t flow out and not set anything on the bladder. Not a huge additional hassle, but it is definitely nice having a full camelback that I can use and not have to fill up a smaller pouch a couple times. Along this same note, though, my arms can end up getting pretty tired by the time I’m finished filtering water with the Katadyn Hiker, particularly if I’m filling up a couple large bladders.

The big advantage with the Sawyer Mini? It makes filling up the bladders very quick when you’re hiking. I just get my bladder out of my pack, scoop up some water in a water source, and then put the bladder back in the pack. I don’t have to assemble the pump filter, make sure I’m not getting the “clean hose” in the non-filtered water, keep track of the caps that go on the inlet and outlet nipples, and then disassemble the pump filter. To me that’s a huge plus.

One other big advantage of the Sawyer Mini is that the filter itself is a lot smaller. I can store the filter and my cell phone in my sleeping bag pocket at night without them bothering me. I doubt I could even fit the Katadyn Hiker filter and main body in my sleeping bag pocket. So if I’m worried about my filter freezing, I would much rather have the Sawyer Mini. I do have to be careful, though, that I put the original mouthpiece back on the hose when I take the Sawyer Mini off the hose.

One other final thing to note: when my brother put the Sawyer Mini onto his bladder hose, he put it on as far as it would go. The problem with this? It made it nearly impossible to get the filter back off. After the trip, he ended up having to cut the bladder hose to get the filter off. Just something to keep in mind if you are going to use a Sawyer Mini filter.

My Choice?

My plan going forward is to carry the two Sawyer Mini filters on each trip. Despite a little more hassle at camp, it’s not enough to outweigh the benefits of a smaller filter and easier bladder filling along the trail.

So there you have it. Everybody is different, though, and the choice is yours. Plus, there are many more options out there besides these two filters. These are just the two I have experience with. Feel free to comment on this post with any feedback you have about these filters, or why you use a different filter!

Newsletter Change

Want to make you aware of a change I will be making with my August newsletter (which will likely be sent out this weekend). Up until this point, I have posted my monthly newsletters on this blog. Starting with the August newsletter, I will be using Square to send it out. If you have signed up to follow my blog with your email address, I will sign you up to receive my newsletter. If you would rather not receive it, you can unsubscribe in the email. If you have not signed up to follow my blog with your email address, you can sign up for my newsletter here. I will still post other content on this blog, just not my newsletters.

Trip Report: Aero Lakes

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Last week my brother and I completed a four day backpacking trip to the Aero Lakes area of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness in southern Montana. We had wanted to do a trip in the Beartooths the past couple years, but had decided not to each year due to reports of lots of snow remaining. We finally decided to just give it a try this year. This is a blog post to share our experience and provide some details that hopefully will be useful to other people who make the trip in the future. 

Day 1

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Map with markers to details I point out below.

We started off from Cody, WY at around 7:30 A.M. and drove to the upper Lady of the Lake trailhead (marked with the green circle on the map). We arrived a little after 9 A.M. One of our maps showed the trailhead here, and it appears to be marked as the official trailhead. However, the map above shows the trail beginning at the blue circle. There appeared to be a parking area in the vicinity of the blue circle based on what we could see walking by, but I’m not sure about the feasibility of getting to that spot unless you have a high clearance vehicle since, based on the map, you have to cross the creek with your vehicle. In addition, it still appeared you had to cross some sort of creek/wet area without a bridge from the blue parking area. The green trailhead has a footbridge across the creek. However, the green trailhead adds about 1/4 to 1/2 mile to the hike. The dirt road to the trailhead (green circle) is a little rough, but it can be reached with a sedan as long as you take it easy and are careful. 

The hike in was pretty straightforward until we reached the area where Star Creek and Zimmer Creek meet (yellow star on map above). As you approach this spot you will see a trail take off to the left (see picture below).

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Trail junction shortly before Broadwater River.

We went straight, following the better looking trail (red arrow in picture). Shortly thereafter we crossed the creek and continued on our hike. However, I quickly realized that we were following a creek going with the flow of water, which I knew wasn’t correct, so we subsequently backtracked, crossed the creek again, went back to the Y, and took the trail that goes off to the left (green arrow in picture), which ended up being the correct trail. The trail that we took initially (red arrow) follows Broadwater River briefly, and then Sky Top Creek until eventually dead ending (according to a guidebook I read), but it wasn’t marked on either of the maps I had. So if you do this hike, make sure you take the trail that goes to the left. If you have to cross a large creek at this point, you are taking the wrong trail. The correct trail crosses a creek, but a much smaller one. On the correct trail, you will be to the left of a creek, going against the flow of water. 

The hike up Zimmer Creek was pretty straightforward. There is a cairn on the opposite side of the creek to indicate where to cross to head up to the Aero Lakes. I believe the map above shows the trail crossing Zimmer Creek earlier than we did (we crossed at the cairn). I have shown where I believe we crossed (pink dotted line). We were able to cross on boulders. The hike from this point up to Aero Lakes was brutal. It was a long, steep climb with loose rocks, boulders, and snow once we got near the top. The guidebook I read says it is referred to as Cardiac Hill, and climbs about 900 ft in roughly a mile. 

Notice on the map above I show us not following the trail up to Lower Aero Lakes (our route shown in pink dotted line). We realized after coming back down that the route we took up was different, and I’m guessing we went up a ravine/canyon to the north of where the actual trail runs. We ended up at the same cairn by Zimmer Creek coming down, but the route we took was definitely different. We were obviously able to do it the different way going up, but it would have been easier to follow the actual trail. Still very difficult, but easier. So if you’re not following a trail, you’re probably going up the wrong ravine/canyon. We apparently just missed the trail, which starts a little ways away from the creek behind the cairn. 

I believe it took us a little under 6 hours to reach Lower Aero Lake from the trailhead. After reaching Lower Aero, we found a camp spot on the point on the southern part of the lake, just to the southeast of where you reach Lower Aero. A few notes on this spot: 

  • It provides great shelter from the wind from every direction other than the north (which came in very handy one evening).
  • You have a great view to the north, including Glacier Peak, Mount Villard, and The Spires. 
  • If you plan on hiking up to Upper Aero Lake, you will have to hike around the western/northwestern side of Lower Aero, which takes roughly an hour. 
  • Our two person tent was a very tight fit in this spot.

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Our camp spot at Lower Aero Lake (green arrow).

In my opinion, this is one of the best camp spots on the lake. However, had we camped at the NW part of the lake (yellow arrow), it would have knocked about 2 hours off each of our day hikes we did. So if you want to reduce hiking time towards Upper Aero, I would probably recommend camping somewhere along the western/northwestern side of the lake (which several people did while we were up there). Finally, if you camp up on the northwest side of Lower Aero (yellow arrow area), it may be a little noisy at night due to a couple waterfalls, so keep this in mind if you like it quiet when you sleep. 

We spent the rest of the day hanging out at Lower Aero. 

Day 2

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Map with approximate route for day 2 (pink line).

The goal for day 2 was to take a day hike to Upper Aero Lake and then over to Rough Lake and back. When we looked out the tent after getting up, we were surprised to see about 2/3 of the lake had a thin layer of ice over it. That was pretty cool to see. From our campsite, we weren’t quite sure how to get to Upper Aero, as it appeared there was a cliff that would prevent us from going the shortest/easiest way, but we saw a couple other backpackers camped near the cliff, so we figured we would see if they knew how to get there. 

We hiked around the lake and eventually got to their camp. They said they hadn’t been able to figure out how to get to Upper Aero. As we were talking with them, a mountain goat wandered down into their camp, probably about 50 yards from us. The dog with the other backpackers saw the mountain goat, and subsequently took off after it chasing it off. Even though it was brief, it was cool to get to see the mountain goat. Shortly thereafter, a group of 4 other backpackers showed up, and they were able to figure out a way down the cliff (see picture below). Thankfully so, as our alternative routes would have been much harder and I’m not sure they would have even worked, so kudos to them.

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Route down cliff on north side of Lower Aero Lake (pink line).

We headed towards Upper Aero, and took some time to get pictures of the two waterfalls between Upper Aero and Lower Aero. We crossed the creek between the two lakes, and made our way to the east side of Upper Aero. Our plan was to hike along the east side of Upper Aero, and then go over a pass to Rough Lake (pink route in map above). However, we only made it to the black “X”. It looked possible to keep going, but it appeared it would be slow going due to snow and boulder hopping. I believe it was around noon when me made it to this point, and it was already starting to look a little stormy, so we decided to call it off getting to Rough Lake and just spend some time at Upper Aero so my brother could get in some fishing at Upper Aero. We hung out at Upper Aero for a little while then headed back to camp, stopping on the NW part of Lower Aero so my brother could fish some in a different spot. 

Later that evening we had a storm come through that kicked the wind up pretty good and had a little rain with it. I would say gusts around 30 mph. I was definitely thankful for our sheltered camp spot. It stayed windy for a while, but gradually calmed down, and was pretty calm by dark.

Day 3

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Map with approximate route for day 3 (pink line).

We had thought about heading towards the Goose Lake area on this day, but since we didn’t make it to Rough Lake on day 2, we decided to give it another shot on day 3 with an earlier start and a different route. We left shortly after 7:00 A.M. (vs. about 9:00 A.M. on day 2) and headed up towards Upper Aero again. We decided to go up and over a different pass this time. You can see the approximate route we took on the map above. 

The climb up to the pass wasn’t too bad. Lots of boulder hopping and walking across snow. A portion of the climb down the other side was really steep, but not too long. I have no idea if we went the easiest way or not, but it got us where we were wanting to go. We made it down to Shelter Lake, then to Lone Elk Lake, and then to Rough Lake. It took us about 3 hours to get to Rough Lake from our camp spot, with about an hour of that just hiking around Lower Aero. The hike from Shelter Lake to Rough Lake wasn’t bad at all. We spent some time at Rough Lake, then spent some time at Lone Elk Lake on the way back out, and then headed back to camp. 

Once again that evening we had a storm come through. This one looked a lot worse than the evening before as it approached. During the storm there was plenty of lightning approximately 1/2 to 1 mile away, but we only got moderate rain for a little while, and the wind really didn’t come up much with this storm. It wasn’t near as bad as I thought it would be, thankfully. It cleared out a little before sunset, and we got treated to a pretty cool sunset with the storm clouds. 

Day 4

Day 4 was our day to hike back out. We took our time getting camp put up in the morning, and my brother got in some more fishing. We left around 9:30 A.M. As I mentioned earlier, we took a different route going down than we took coming up, and there was a trail pretty much the whole way down, which helped a lot. We somehow managed to overlook the boulder crossing we used for Zimmer Creek on the way in, and ended up crossing through the water little further downstream. The hike out was pretty uneventful. It took us about 4.5 hours to make it back to the trailhead. 

Final Thoughts

Despite the difficult hike in, it was well worth it. It is a beautiful area, and it was really cool to see the huge mountain lakes. There was lots of boulder hopping and walking on snow once up to Lower Aero lake. There is a spotty trail around the west/northwest side of Lower Aero and up to the creek between Upper and Lower Aero, but other than that it is pretty much figure out which route you think is best. Along the entire route, there were plenty of muddy and marshy areas, likely due to both snow runoff and rainfall. 

The mosquitos were definitely a nuisance up to and including Lower Aero. They weren’t nearly as bad at Upper Aero for some reason. Mosquitos were pretty bad at Lone Elk Lake as well. 

There were plenty of wildflowers bloomed on our trip, although it would probably be better if you waited another week or two. 

We saw a few smaller animals (rock chucks, pikas, etc.), but the mountain goat was the only large animal we saw during the trip. We saw plenty of hoof prints throughout the trip, but no bear tracks.

If you want to get away from people, this probably isn’t the hike for you. I believe there were roughly 15 other people we saw come through Lower Aero Lake while we were there, which I’m pretty sure is more than we have seen on our 3 Big Horn Mountain backpacking trips combined. However, it was by no means crowded. We met in person with only about half of those people. 

All in all, it was a great trip with great scenery, and was definitely one of the smoother trips my brother and I have had. 

Finally, just want to do a shout out to Dmitria and Kate. We ran into them several times during the course of our trip. It was pretty crazy how similar our trips were, and it was fun getting to share plans and what we each had done since last seeing each other. Hopefully my brother and I didn’t bug you two too bad. 

Stay tuned to my Facebook page as I will post on there when I have pictures from the trip posted to my website, which will likely be late this week.

If you have any questions about this hike, don’t hesitate to send me a message using the contact page, or send an email to info@brentuphoto.com.

Fishing

My brother did a lot of fishing while we were up there, so I figured I would provide a quick note on fishing during our trip.

  • Lower Aero Lake: caught a lot of Brooke Trout out of this lake, with a few around 12 inches in length. My brother says he had one about 16 inches come off right at shore. 
  • Upper Aero Lake: probably spent about an hour fishing this lake, but never got any bites.
  • Rough Lake: probably spent about an hour fishing this lake, but never got any bites.
  • Lone Elk Lake: probably spent about 45 minutes fishing this lake, and caught a few very small Brooke Trout. 

Trash

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The picture above is the trash other people left behind that we packed out. With as popular as this area seemed to be, I’m actually surprised (and pleased) we didn’t see more. Regardless, please pick up after yourself if you are out hiking/backpacking, and if you see any trash left behind, please pick it up and pack it out. 

 

Show Recap: An Affair of the Heart Tulsa

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Over this last weekend I took part in An Affair of the Heart (AAOTH) in Tulsa. While technically not my first show, I would consider this to be my first “real” show. The Vinita Route 66 Festival didn’t end up being much of a show due to the weather.

I knew at some point I would want to give AAOTH a try. It’s not the ideal venue for selling my art, but just the sheer number of people that attend made me want to give it a try. I wasn’t expecting to give it a try so quickly, but when I got to the point where it was either do nothing until September, apply for a show in Colorado in August, or apply for AAOTH, I decided to go ahead and give AAOTH a try. I applied last minute, and didn’t have high expectations for getting in, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got confirmation that I had a booth.

Thursday was set up day. Thankfully Tulsa is a pretty short drive from OKC, so I left shortly after lunch and was able to take my time setting up that afternoon into early evening. It was nice being able to think through the set up and not have to rush to get things set up (completely opposite of what Vinita was like). Between this being my first show and being such a large audience, I definitely had some anxiety, and didn’t sleep well at all Thursday night. Haha. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were all show days. Then Sunday evening it was packing up, driving home, and unpacking. Some lessons learned, positives/highlights, and negatives are outlines below.

Positives/Highlights

  • I met a guy with a fire hydrant picture on his phone. I don’t think that will be a common occurrence.
  • A joke was made about my fire hydrant pictures and the service dogs walking around.
  • I got to talk to a young photographer who stopped by my booth. This was one of the bigger highlights. It was neat to get to interact with someone who is where I was not that long ago and hopefully provide a positive interaction and a little encouragement.
  • Someone called the fire hydrants a fire plug. I had heard that before, but it still threw me for a loop for a second. Haha.
  • Making people aware that we do indeed have a lighthouse in Oklahoma.
  • Figured out a different way to pack my truck, totally by accident.
  • Figured out a booth layout I really like.

Surprises/Interesting Notes

  • My first “stranger sale” (sale to someone other than a friend or family member) was a photo in my “other” category. I found it kind of ironic that my focus is mountain and fire hydrant photographs, and my first “stranger sale” was an “other” photograph.
  • The “why fire hydrants” question didn’t come up until midway through the second day. I figured that would come up much quicker than that.

Negatives

  • I only made two sales the entire three days. I wasn’t expecting to sell any of my framed work (which I didn’t), but I expected I would sell more of my non-framed work. That was pretty frustrating, and made for three pretty long days.

Lessons Learned

  • If I’m going to take stuff to make PB&J sandwiches to have for lunch during a show, remember to take ziplocks to put the sandwiches in.
  • Have paper towels at my booth (just in case, for example, I drop a piece of said PB&J sandwich).
  • Be careful with automatic app updates. This almost bit me big time. In the days leading up to the show, my iPad was low on battery so it wasn’t automatically updating apps. I charged it the night before the show, and the next day when I connected it to my hotspot (wi-fi), it updated apps since it was charged and on wi-fi, and in the process used over half my data for the month in that one day (literally two days after my data reset). Thankfully I didn’t need much data the rest of the show (and won’t need it for the remainder of the month), so it didn’t turn out to be a big deal.

Conclusion

So in conclusion, while it was a pretty big failure on the sales side, it wasn’t a complete loss. It was great for the experience, for learning some lessons, and getting more kinks worked out. There were some great interactions with people visiting my booth, and I got a lot of great feedback on my work. And maybe someday down the road I’ll look back and realize an opportunity presented itself due to participating in this show. But for now it’s hurry up and wait until the Joplin Arts Fest in mid-September, which should be a much better venue to sell my work.

Finally, if you stopped by my booth during the show and have any feedback (positive or negative), I would love to hear your it. Shoot an email to info@brentuphoto.com, send me a message on Facebook, or use the contact page on my website.

Big Magic: Lessons Learned

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The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. (Pg. 8)


Fair warning: this is a long post. Probably one of the longer posts I’ll ever do. Haha. But I hope you take the time to read through it.

Before I even get into all the amazing things that I got out of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, let me go back to how I even came across this book in the first place.

Back in February, I made a trip to Santa Fe for a photo printing workshop. The workshop took place on a Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn’t leave to come home until Friday, so I had Thursday to hang out and explore the Santa Fe area. John Charbonneau was gracious enough to meet me in the morning to discuss selling at art shows. I really wanted to talk to someone who had experience with this while I was in Santa Fe, so I was super excited to get to visit with him for a bit, and I’m super thankful he took the time to meet with me.

After that, my plan was to take a road trip and try to grab some fire hydrant pictures in the small towns around Santa Fe. However, after the conversation with John, I decided to go check out a few of the art galleries around Santa Fe instead. One of the first (if not the first) gallery I stopped at was the Photo Eye gallery. As I was looking at the art there, one of the assistants started a conversation with me, and I mentioned that I was getting ready to get into selling my work at art shows. During the course of our conversation, she suggested I read Big Magic. I had never heard of the book before that, so I made a note to look into it later.

I’m not much of a reader, so I didn’t rush off and buy it right away. Plus, I was busy with getting my business up and running. But a couple months later, on my way out of town for a camping trip, I stopped and purchased the book since I figured I would have some time to read during the camping trip.

Funny side note regarding purchasing the book: When I purchased the book, the cashier mentioned something about how awesome it would be to have Julia Roberts play you in a movie. I had no idea what the cashier was talking about. Surely a movie wasn’t made about the book I was buying. It wasn’t until nearly two months later, when my friend mentioned it, that I finally realized that a movie was created from the “Eat Pray Love” book that Gilbert had written. Haha.

Anyway, I got a lot read during the camping trip, but it took me around a month and a half to actually finish the book. I would read a big chunk, then set it down for a week or two, and then read another big chunk.

Now, as I mentioned already, I’m not much of a reader. Generally I read something because I have to, not because I want to, and I don’t think I have ever read a complete book twice. However, this book was different. By the time I finished reading this book the first time, I had already made up my mind I was going to read it again so I could write down some of my favorite passages from the book. Thankfully I haven’t been as busy lately, so the second time it only took me a couple weeks to get through it.

So why this story? The more I think about this whole thing, the more I see what Gilbert calls Big Magic behind it all. I was supposed to go on a fire hydrant trip, but instead went to an art gallery where I got a recommendation for a book, and even though I’m not a reader, something made follow through on reading it. Maybe it was because someone at an art gallery recommended it. Maybe it was because the gallery assistant was cute. Or just maybe Big Magic was behind getting me to read Big Magic.

Anyway, that’s the backstory. Now on to all the great lessons I pulled from the book.

It’s Not About Pleasing Other People

One of the first steps I took towards starting to sell my art at art shows was talking to a fellow coworker about his experience selling his art. He is a painter, not a photographer. Why does this matter? During the course of our conversation, he brought up the point that some other artists don’t think photographers should be part of fine art shows.

Prior to this conversation, I had always viewed painters as superior to photographers. It seems like it takes so much more time and effort and talent to make really good paintings vs really good photographs. But it wasn’t to the point that I thought photographers should be excluded from fine art shows. Maybe that was because I had always seen photographers in shows. Regardless, my coworker bringing this up didn’t help things. It definitely made me pause and rethink if I wanted to take part in shows if I wasn’t welcomed by some of the artists. I obviously decided to press onward, even before reading this book, but it was encouraging to read the passages below, and know that I don’t have to be worried about pleasing other artists, potential customers, or anybody else.

I also liked the passage about perfection. I’m really OCD, and I try to get everything just right. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes not so good. I decided fairly early on in creating my art that trying to make it perfect wasn’t going to be a good thing. It would take way too much time, and probably result in a lot of frustration. That’s not to say that I don’t take it seriously and don’t put effort and care into it. But I just have to be careful not to go overboard. As the passage states, chances are someone will find something wrong with it no matter how particular I am. Haters gonna hate. But I just have to remember to keep pressing onward and doing my thing.


Whether you think you’re brilliant or you think you’re a loser, just make whatever you need to make and toss it out there. Let other people pigeonhole you however they need to…It doesn’t matter in the least. Let people have their opinions. More than that – let people be in lovewith their opinions, just as you and I are in love with ours. But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgements about you are none of your business…Just keep doing your thing. (Pg. 120-121)


Recognizing this reality – that the reaction doesn’t belong to you – is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?

Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art.

Then stubbornly continue making yours. (Pg. 125)


We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it…At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is – if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart.

Which is the entire point.

Or should be. (Pg. 169)

Not about success/making money

Making money off my art wasn’t the main reason I decided to start selling my art. I decided to do it more so because I felt like I was wasting my talent by taking pictures and then putting them on my computer to never be seen by the outside world again. However, as part of this selling my art decision, I decided to start a business, and I didn’t start the business with the intention of being unsuccessful. I knew there was the potential that things wouldn’t go well, but I obviously wanted to be successful. So this talk about it not being about success/making money is a little counter intuitive. It’s a great thing to keep in the back of my mind though. I don’t want to keep making art to the point where I have run myself bankrupt. But at the same time, I can’t get so focused on success that it becomes the only thing that matters.

My first two “shows” have been a great opportunity to put this to practice. I put shows in quotes because my first two shows have really been anything but shows. I did a grand opening for friends and family at my house where it rained nearly the whole time and nobody showed up. And then my first official show ended up being a disaster due to the weather. These were obviously disappointing. I could have taken the stance that it isn’t meant to be and that mother nature is against me and I should just quit before things get even worse. But instead, like the quote from the book below, I have been able to look at these and find lessons learned and things I can improve upon for the next show. I’m also just happy to have the opportunity to get my art out into the world at this point. Even though I didn’t sell anything, it wasn’t a complete loss, and I can hopefully be better at the next show. So while success matters, it also matters to enjoy the creative process.


As for having reached the top, with only one way to go from there, Lee had a point, no? I mean, if you cannot repeat a once-in-a-lifetime miracle – if you can never again reach the top – then why bother creating at all?…

But such thinking assumes there is a “top” – and that reaching the top (and staying there) is the only motive one has to create. Such thinking assumes that the mysteries of inspiration operate on the same scale that we do – on a limited human scale of success and failure, of winning and losing, of comparison and competition, of commerce and reputation, of units sold and influence wielded. Such thinking assumes that you must be constantly victorious – not only against your peers, but also against an earlier version of your own poor self. Most dangerously of all, such thinking assumes that if you cannot win, then you must not continue to play. (Pg. 69-70)


No way was I going to give up on my work simply because it wasn’t “working”. That wasn’t the point of it. The rewards could not come from the external results – I knew that. The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it. If someday I got lucky enough to be paid for my work, that would be great, but in the meantime, money could always come from other places. There are so many ways in this world to make a good enough living, and I tried lots of them, and I always got by well enough.

I was happy. I was a total nobody, and I was happy.  (Pg. 113)


I told the universe (and anyone who would listen) that I was committed to living a creative life not in order to save the world, not as an act of protest, not to become famous, not to gain entrance to the canon, not to challenge the system, not to show the bastards, not to prove to my family that I was worthy, not as a form of deep therapeutic emotional catharsis…but simply because I liked it. (Pg. 118)


I kept working.
I kept writing.
I kept not getting published, but that was okay, because I was getting educated. (Pg. 146)


I have a friend, an aspiring musician, whose sister said to her one day, quite reasonably, “What happens if you never get anything out of this? What happens if you pursue your passion forever, but success never comes? How will you feel then, having wasted your entire life for nothing?”

My friend, with equal reason, replied, “If you can’t see what I’m already getting out of this, then I’ll never be able to explain it to you.”

When it’s for love, you will always do it anyhow. (Pg. 184)

Think Twice About Making Art My Career

Ever since getting into photography, I’ve thought it would be really cool to be able to do fine art photography as a career. I have always admired the photographers with their own studios in artsy towns who get paid to take amazing trips to capture photographs. At the same time, I have always been a little weary about making that jump as I was worried making photography my career might take the fun and enjoyment out of it. It was nice to hear the encouragement in the passages below that I don’t necessarily need to make it my career. In fact, it may be a good thing not to make it my career.

Having a day job right now that is able to provide income for me to do my photo business is a huge stress relief right now. If I didn’t have that income from my day job, I would likely be much more stressed out right now and in a much darker place, which probably wouldn’t be good for creating my art. Now, is there some point at which I’ll decide to make that jump? Quite possibly, and hopefully one day I can make that jump. There will definitely be pros to having more time devoted to my art. But it’s good to have reassurance that there is no rush to drop everything and make art my career.


I held on to those other sources of income for so long because I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all. (Pg. 152–153)


It’s for these reasons (the difficulty, the unpredictability) that I have always discouraged people from approaching creativity as a career move, and I always will – because with rare exceptions, creative fields make for crap careers…

But creative living can be an amazing vocation, if you have the love and courage and persistence to see it that way. I suggest that this may be the only sanity-preserving way to approach creativity. Because nobody ever told us it would be easy, and uncertainty is what we sign up for when we say that we want to live creative lives. (Pg. 185-186)

Less Pressure, More Enjoyment

The previous lessons each contribute a little bit to this lesson, but there is another part I wanted to touch on with this. Gilbert discusses an interesting paradox in the book: art matters, but at the same time it doesn’t. I’m not going to get into all the details on this, but if you can wrap your head around the fact that art doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, then it can take a lot of pressure off you in creating the art. It’s more of a thing for fun rather than a necessity. With that in mind, you can relax and enjoy the process.


Pure creativity is magnificent expressly becauseit is the opposite of everything else in life that’s essential or inescapable (food, shelter, medicine, rule of law, social order, community and familial responsibility, sickness, loss, death, taxes, etc.). Pure creativity is something better than a necessity; it’s a gift. It’s the frosting. Our creativity is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe…It doesn’t discourage me in the least, in other words, to know that my life’s work is arguably useless. All it does is make me want to play. (Pg. 128)


As a creator, you can design any sort of jewelry that you like for the inside of other people’s minds (or simply for the inside of your own mind). You can make work that’s provocative, aggressive, sacred, edgy, traditional, earnest, devastating, entertaining, brutal, fanciful…but when all is said and done, it’s still just intracranial jewelry-making. It’s still just decoration. And that’s glorious. But it’s seriously not something that anybody needs to hurt themselves over, okay?

So relax a bit, is what I’m saying.

Please try to relax.

Otherwise, what’s the point of having all these wonderful senses in the first place? (Pg. 134)


Go be whomever you want to be, then.

Do whatever you want to do.

Pursue whatever fascinates you and brings you to life.

Create whatever you want to create – and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice.

And that’s awesome. (Pg. 175)

Don’t Quit Too Soon

A little while after I got my business set up, my dad asked me how long I would go if things weren’t going well. I didn’t give a specific reply, but essentially said I’m going to give it a try for a while. I wouldn’t quit after one bad show. I have no idea at which point I would call it quits. If it gets to the point where I’m going into debt and risking bankruptcy, then yeah, I’ll probably call it quits. But one bad show? Two bad shows? Five bad shows? What constitutes a bad show? I’m just going to go along for the ride and see what happens. But the passages below are a great reminder not to give up too soon, and some great tactics on how to move forward after failure. I’m sure there are going to be plenty of days in my future when I question why I’m doing this, and if my first two shows are any indication, there will be a lot of failure. But hopefully I can remember this lesson and keep pressing onward.


And maybe it’s like that with every important aspect of your life. Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon. As my friend Pastor Rob Bell warns: “Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.:

Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.

Because that moment?

That’s the moment when interestingbegins. (Pg. 247)


So how do you shake off failure and shame in order to keep living a creative life?

First of all, forgive yourself. If you made something and it didn’t work out, let it go. Remember that you’re nothing but a beginner – even if you’ve been working on your craft for fifty years. We are all just beginners here, and we shall all die beginners. So let it go. Forget about the last project, and go searching with an open heart for the next one…

Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means. Remember: The gods of creativity are not obliged to explain anything to us. Own your disappointment, acknowledge it for what it is, and move on. Chop up that failure and use it for bait to try to catch another project. Someday it might all make sense to you – why you needed to go through this botched-up mess in order to land in a better place. Or maybe it will never make sense.

So be it.

Move on, anyhow.

Whatever else happens, stay busy…Find something to do – anything, even a different sort of creative work altogether – just to take your mind off your anxiety and pressure…

Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative action, and – most off all – trustthat if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again. (Pgs. 251-254)


And so it came to pass that one of the most important writers of his generation spent several weeks sitting in his driveway, painting thousands and thousands of tiny stars on the bicycles of every child in the area. As he did so, he came to a slow discovery. He realized that “failure has a function. It asks you whether you really want to go on making things.” To his surprise, James realized that the answer was yes. He really did want to go on making things. For the moment, all he wanted to make were beautiful stars on children’s bicycles. But as he did so, something was healing within him. Something was coming back to life. Because when the last bike had been decorated, and every star in his personal cosmos had been diligently painted back into place, Clive James at last had this thought: I will write about this one day.

And in that moment, he was free.

The failure had departed; the creator had returned.

By doing something else – and by doing it with all his heart – he had tricked his way out of the hell of inertia and straight back into the Big Magic. (Pgs. 256-257)

Final Passage

A couple things before I close this out with one final passage from the book. First off, I doubt Juliane ever reads this, but if she does, a huge thank you for recommending this book. The trip to Sante Fe was worth it just as much for getting this book recommendation as it was for learning how to use a photo printer. Second, if you are contemplating, or have even already started, some sort of creative endeavor, I highly encourage you to read this book. I have provided plenty of great snippits from the book in this blog, but these are just a small portion of a great book. There are plenty of other great passages I recorded in a document but didn’t include in this blog. You may not agree with everything in the book, but I’m sure there will be enough gems of knowledge that you will be glad you read it.  So with that, one last passage from the book:


The final – and sometimes most difficult – act of creative trust is to put your work out there into the world once you have completed it.

The trust that I’m talking about here is the fiercest trust of all. This is not a trust that says “I am certain I will be a success” – because that is not fierce trust; that is innocent trust, and I am asking you to put aside your innocence for a moment and to step into something far more bracing and far more powerful. As I have said, and as we all know deep in our hearts, there is no guarantee of success in creative realms. Not for you, not for me, not for anyone. Not now, not ever.

Will you put forth your work anyhow?…

Fierce trust demands that you put forth the work anyhow, because fierce trust knows that the outcome does not matter.

The outcome cannot matter.

Fierce trust asks you to stand strong within this truth: “You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.”

There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every self-help book ever written: What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

What do you love even more than you love your own ego?

How fierce is your trust in that love?

You might challenge this idea of fierce trust. You might buck against it. You might want to punch and kick at it. You might demand of it, “Why should I go through all the trouble to make something if the outcome might be nothing?”

The answer will usually come with a wicked trickster grin: “Because it’s fun, isn’t it?”

Anyhow, what else are you going to do with your time here on earth – not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and your curiosity?

There is always that alternative, after all. You have free will. If creative living becomes too difficult or too unrewarding for you, you can stop whenever you want.

But seriously: Really?

Because, think about it: Then what? (Pgs. 257-260)