LookOut!

There was vomit in the car and a photo in the camera. Success!

Once again, it is that time of year where I continue the (accidentally started) tradition of the telling of a tale that involves vomit at Thanksgiving time. Well, here it is…

So, I’m pretty sure I have mentioned—or at least hinted at—this story at least once, somewhere. But, I cannot seem to find it. I guess that means that maybe I have just kept it floating in my head for so long that I just think that I hinted at it in other stories. I don’t know. At any rate, here it is, the story of… Wait. Nope. Let me set the scene:

While I was in undergraduate school (many, many years ago) I was taking all sorts of art and design classes. As a would-be graphic designer, I wanted to know something about almost anything related to the field. I figured that if I could have at least a rudimentary understanding, then maybe it would help me get a job. You know, that whole idea of, “Why yes, I have done (insert skill here).” and not have it be a lie. Also, I just wanted to learn things.

One of those classes was a photography class. The professor at the time was an adjunct that now is a full-time professor at a university in New York. Great teacher and a good guy. Well, each week we had a themed assignment photoshoot that the students of the class would have to take pictures of how they interpreted said theme. For example, the theme/topic of ‘flight’. Students would then take their pictures and upload them to flickr (an online photography site), and other class members would comment. Honestly, up until I wrote To Be Fair… I had forgotten all about the flickr account that I had created in college. Anyway, I worked hard at trying to get a good photo, and I didn’t do too bad—consistently. Sometimes, I would take a great picture. Sometimes, I would get a so-so photo. Still, I was learning and having a good time doing it.

Now, about the same time every year, a thick fog rolls into the canyon that sits on the East side of town. It arrives in the early morning and dissipates completely in a few hours. Well, this particular year, my oldest was not feeling well and was staying home from school. That meant I also had to stay home from school—to look after her (gladly). Shortly after my wife left for work I noticed the canyon and the fog rolling in. The whole top of the mountain was covered in low-hanging clouds. It was that time of year, again. The problem was that I couldn’t just grab my camera and leave. I had three little ones to look after and one of them was sick.

Idea!

Plan!

The idea was simple: Load up the children. Grab my camera. Drive up the canyon. Take a picture. Come home.

Simple.

Plan: Do the idea!

Simple.

And it was. I got my camera ready and had the older two bundle up (it was a little chilly). Then, I nestled my littlest one into his car seat. All the while, the car had been turned on so that it would be warm for my kiddos. Once everyone was loaded up, off we went!

The kids were happy to get out of the house (well, my oldest would have been fine just sitting on the sofa all day and watching television, but she still was amiable to going for a drive) and I was happy they were happy. I might get the photo I had been waiting years to get. Remember, this event was regular. Every year it happened. However, I was always unable to get into the canyon to snap the shot—for one reason or another. But, this year… This year it was going to happen!

Once high enough in elevation, the fog began to wrap around our car. My children were in complete awe of the phenomenon. Good. Inside, I was smiling ear to ear. My children were fascinated by what they could see and what they could not. This wonder and awe extended from not only just the fog itself, but, to the distance of said objects from us. Some things were far away and completely visible. Some were nearby and completely visible. Other things (that the children knew should be there) were not visible at all. They were enthralled. My mind, however, was desperately trying to find a location where I could pull over and take a picture without fear of getting hit by another car—the fog was thick. With the passing of too much time, the fog began to lift. My window of opportunity started to close.

Finally, I found the perfect spot. There was the right amount of light. The fog was still pretty thick. The view (under regular circumstances) was pretty good, and for some reason was still pretty good on this day—even though it was layered in low-level cloud formations. There was, however, one small problem: It was on a bend in the road.

See, as I was scouting for the perfect spot, I was basically going partway up the canyon, turning around, driving back toward town (for a bit), turning around, and then just repeating the process. Once I realized that that one spot was ‘the spot’, I just had to wait until there was no traffic. Problem was, there was traffic.

The turnaround spots, both above and below, my photo location were about evenly distanced from said spot. In other words: ‘The spot’ was halfway between where I had to keep turning around. Each time I turned around to drive up or down the canyon, I would watch the incoming traffic and see if the distance between cars was far enough that I might be able to stop and take the picture.

I went up and down and up and down for about a half an hour before I realized that my camera wasn’t even ready. So, at the upper turnaround location, I got it ready. This was a film camera. That meant I would either get it, or I wouldn’t. That’s it. One shot. One chance. No pressure.

Now, on another decent, when I approached the intended target area, I held up my camera and gently pressed the button that would execute the photo. This would give me an approximate idea of the incoming light. Once again, at the upper turnaround point, I set my camera and prepared for the picture.

Up and down the road I went for a few more attempts, my camera on the set next to me. My children beginning to lose their patience, behind me. Finally, I had a gap in traffic long enough that I could attempt the photo. A large truck went past with no visible cars behind it. Perfect.

I pulled out onto the road and drove carefully, observing for ‘the spot’ and the signs that would lead up to it. It was approaching. Almost there. I slowed. Stopped the car. Put it into park. Opened the door. Stood up (our car had the seat belt attached to the door so if you opened the door you could just roll right out—not that I tried it, I just used this design to my advantage more than once). Quickly framed the image. Then, just as I took one shot and was about to take a second (just to be safe) I heard the whoop of a police siren behind me, warning me to not stop on the road. I—of course—speedily sat back into my car and drove down the canyon with the officer right behind me.

I figured that if I pulled over and turned around—to try another photo—the officer might follow and maybe give me a ticket, so I just went home. Besides, the fog had been lifting even more and was almost completely gone from the area that would have provided the best photo opportunity.

Once back in town, I asked my children how they were doing and they all assured me that they were well and fine. Then my oldest asked if we were going home now. I asked why, and she then let me know that she had thrown up, due to all the up and down and turning around, and would need to do so again, soon.

“Where?!?” Was my only response.

“In the bowl, of course,” came the matter-of-fact reply.

See, knowing that my daughter was not well, I planned ahead and brought along a large bowl for her to toss her cookies into—should the need arise. Much like her breakfast, it had arisen. But, now, the smell was starting to get to her. After all, the bowl was right in front of her, in her lap. Fair enough.

The photo came out. It was perfect. I’ve used it over and over again. It’s been on display in a couple of museums. I’ve used it for book covers and other personal projects. It has been a useful element for my graphic design education and so much more. It now hangs in a prominent location in my hallway, surrounded by other photos and paintings created by myself and all of my children and grandchild. As I pass by it multiple times a day, there are times where I can’t help but chuckle at myself for all the effort that went into capturing that one photograph, and the vomit that came with it.

This is the photo.
Cover design using that same photo.

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