Thursday, December 23, 2010

The End of Kodachrome, Pt. II: Getting Lunar

Another spectacular day in Bryce. We awoke to snow flurries, and as a bonus, we actually woke up in time for the complimentary breakfast. Yesterday we arrived late and got the dregs. Today, after loading up on eggs, French toast and oatmeal, we hit the road for a walk on The Navajo loop trail, which takes you to the Canyon floor for a walk through the hoodoos. Once again, there was majesty around every bend. The snow turned to rain, the walkways to red mud. Every step resulted in mounds of red mud sticking to your shoes. A light drizzle throughout, but no complaints. Too much beauty in all directions. Actually saw a handful of people on the trail. All wet, but all happy.

After leaving Bryce, we had planned on taking a quick trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park. Kodachrome is the guiding light of this trip, and wouldn’t you know it, just 30 minutes south of Bryce is a state park which honors the beloved film stock in its name. But the rains were coming down hard and we needed to haul butt to Monument Valley. Sad to say, we bailed on Kodachrome Basin.

Arrived at Monument Valley sometime after 8 pm. Our hotel was in the park. No street address, just GPS coordinates. Our room overlooked The Mittens and Merrick Butte. Unbelievable. An excited Mr. Granato was heard to exclaim, “Nature Boner!” We rolled into the hotel a mere two hours before the start of the lunar eclipse, which we could take in from our balcony. At the start of the evening, the buttes of Monument Valley glowed in the muted blue moonlight. By the end of the eclipse, total blackout. Quite a way to experience the heart of the West.

Jim G. is a time-lapse fanatic.We had two super 8s and one hd documenting the proceedings. I’ve attached the hd video, which I shot of the eclipse. The eclipse footage, as well as the footage of the valley floor that features The Mittens and Merrick Butte, were all taken from the balcony. That’s how unsane our view was.

Jim set the alarm for sunrise, which we could also view from our balcony, or in my case, from my bed. Granato manned the sunrise cameras in long johns and socks, taking the occasional nap for good measure. Talk about the life of leisure for a wildlife/nature photographer. Sheesh.

Next up was the 17 mile drive through the buttes. We made it as far as John Ford Point. Fitting for a bunch of film geeks. We probably only covered half the drive. What I’ve found interesting about this trip is that once you decide to spend a tremendous amount of time documenting the most beautiful vantages and uncovering hidden vistas, the distance you travel drops considerably. On every hike or drive we’ve taken, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on the trail, yet we’ve traded the amount of ground covered for a deeper look at the landscape. Sometimes that’s a trade worth taking.

Below is the attached view of the eclipse.Enjoy.

Lunar Eclipse, Monument Valley, Dec 20/21, 2010 from danny plotnick on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The End of Kodachrome, Pt. I: A Meandering Travelogue

Absolutely spectacular day at Bryce Canyon. Rainy, windy, and slushy, but majestic overlooks none-the-less. Spent three hours in the canyon shooting film and video. Didn’t see one tourist. They were up top at the overlooks, but no one braved the trek down. Only my buddy Jim and I were so foolhardy. Every turn of the trail offered yet another breathtaking, one-of-a-kind view. The light drizzle had me worrying about my camera a little. I must have packed it up 10 times, promising myself no more shooting. Yet at every subsequent turn, I pulled it out again to get some more footage.

This is a funny trip. Only last week did Mr. Granato plant the seed to head to the Southwest to burn through some rolls of Kodachrome, which will no longer be processed as of two weeks from now. My desire to shoot Kodachrome, or super 8, is strangely nil. I guess I’ve shot enough of it over the years. Not really feeling the need for one last hurrah. But what a gloriously brilliant excuse for a trip. I’m excited about playing around with an hd camera. So Jim is shooting super 8, I’m rocking the hd, and we’re having a blast. Not sure what the end result will be. One film? Two films? Zero films? Doesn’t matter. We’re out here shooting stuff, documenting nature, experiencing the winter majesty.

Flew into Vegas. Stopped at the Neon Museum, the bone yard for discarded neon signage. Beautiful. They don’t let you shoot any film or video. Jim tried to sneak in the super 8. The unmistakable rattle of the super 8 motor alerted the hip young vixens that run the joint that mischief was afoot. I don’t think Jim shot more than 5 feet of film before being busted by the man...who was a woman.

Almost didn’t come on this trip. Money and winter were discouraging factors. I would never think of coming to a place like this in the winter. Alison and I once went to the Grand Canyon in November. All I remember is cold, cold, cold. Now that we’re here, I’m ecstatic we pulled the trigger. The snow is beautiful. It’s a whole other look to this area that I’ve never experienced and would likely never have experienced. I can't wait to come back with my son, whose mind will be blown.

The rest of the trip could be cold and miserable, but today’s hike makes the whole trip worth it regardless of what happens from here on out…unless of course we drive over a cliff edge. That would not be cool, nor is it out of the question.

On the way from Vegas to Bryce, we drove over route 14 through The Dixie National Forest. 10,000 feet, near whiteout conditions. Not from snow, but from fog or clouds. Much snow build-up on the road. A little slipping and sliding during the night time drive. But the rental Hyundai handled it sans chains. I have to imagine those were the worst of the conditions we’ll face…other than Jim’s snoring…which hasn’t been as bad as advertised.

Right now, I’m hanging in the lobby of our Best Western. Hundreds of rooms. Ten cars in the parking lot. It has some Shining potential.

Tomorrow, off to Kodachrome Basin State Park and Monument Valley. Lunar Eclipse on Tuesday night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Magic of Radio II: With The Radio On

I never much listen to the radio anymore, but there is something inherently exciting about driving around in your car with the radio on. You may be alone, but if you’re listening to the radio, you’re having a shared experience. It’s exciting to think that while you’re singing along with the Temptations, at the top of your lungs, somebody else is doing the same. You’ll never meet them, you’ll never know them, but at that moment, you’re sharing the same mental space. I was reminded of that recently when I got a text from my wife to put on 103.7. Classic rock radio. Ah yeah. Burning For You by B.O.C. Awesome. She was listening, I was listening. We were both rocking. I was reminded of that again this past Saturday night when listening to my fave radio show, JJ On The Radio. KPOO. Saturday Night. Vintage soul sounds off of the original 45 rpm records. Scratches and all. JJ has been doing it for years. It’s always good. One of my favorite things about SF. Outta site.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but that feeling of the radio connecting us all lies at the heart of American Graffiti. Maybe it’s time to watch that again. I always did love Cindy Williams.