July 22nd-27th, 2017

One of my goals for this trip was to be challenged into letting go of my need for control. Since we decided to travel by bus, camp, and rely on the kindness of strangers on this trip, I knew that everything wouldn't go perfect. Our first day in Arizona was one of the most challenging of this trip, this is what happened.

July 22nd we left White Sands New Mexico and rode with a couple others photographers back to Arizona. On our way to Arizona, we had no idea where we were going to stay. Our plan was to stay in Phoenix, and head to Sedona the next day. We spent hours in the car calling hotels, messaging Airbnb hosts, trying to contact hostels, all leading to no ends. Since we're both under 21, so no hotels would let us book, all the hostels were full, and the Airbnbs were too expensive or booked. A harsh reality began to set in that we had nowhere to stay in Phoenix.

I started having an anxiety attack in the car, the realization hit me that we were nowhere near home, and would possibly be sleeping on the street that night on top of our luggage. This was a big moment of letting go of my control, Jeremiah started working frantically for a plan. He found us an Airbnb in Sedona for that night, which meant we had to bus late into the night to get there. I dreaded this, because in the past 48 hours we had already traveled 4 states. The little sleep I did get was on the floor of a bus station while Jeremiah kept watch of our stuff, we were both exhausted mentally and physically.

But we did it, we took an Uber to the airport where we took a shuttle to Sedona. Upon arriving in Sedona, we had a 1 mile walk to our Airbnb in the complete dark, with all our stuff. During our walk Jeremiah's backpack straps fell apart (it had previously been duct taped together, we're a mess). We stopped briefly to fix it, and that's when I heard a noise behind us. I shone my flashlight towards the noise, and that's when I saw a massive boar staring at us. Being in the middle of Arizona, sounded by night, with a boar staring at you, was an intimidating moment to say the least. We quietly gathered our stuff, and backed away trying not to seem threatening to it.

That night I slept better than I had in a long time. The airbnb was SO comfy, the following morning was overcast and the rain quietly fell on the roof  which allowed me to sleep in. When we woke up, we went outside and our first sight of Sedona. It was so beautiful, since we had come in at night we had no idea that we were living in a valley surrounded by mountainous red rock. Dark clouds impending in one direction, and sunlight in the other, we decided to start walking towards a mountain and see where it took us.

Soon enough the storm caught up with us, Jeremiah insisted we get somewhere safe but I was stubborn and refused to leave. I thrive in these moments, I danced in the streets, and the storm was just so gorgeous matched with the red rock mountains I had to stay and get the perfect photo. Soon enough the rain started pouring, and we were running through a rainstorm in a rich Sedona neighborhood towards safety.

That evening when we returned back to our Airbnb, we were joined by Julia Yoder all the way from Ohio! I had met Julia one time previously at an Instameet, but we hadn't really interacted. So she flew all the way to Arizona to hangout with us and take photos for a few days, and this began one of my absolute favorite parts of the trip.

Going into this situation I had no idea how much Julia would click with us. We were laughing and telling stories on the first day, making life long memories. Our first full day together we decided to walk around Sedona and find some new off the beaten path spots. That's where we took the first photos of her in this gallery, on top of a hill that overlooked the Sedona neighborhoods and impending storm over the red rock mountains.

Later that day we took an Uber to Devils Bridge park, and walked for what felt like forever to find Devils Bridge. On our way we met Fallon and Reed, we were ecstatic when we saw them because we knew we had to ask them to model for us. Fallon was a natural, her hair was long and luscious and she was willing to let our creativity take lead in the photos. The results are stunning!

I cherish everyone moment and memory we had in Arizona, and I'm so unbelievably thankful that Julia took the risk and decided to join us because her presence added so much. I'm grateful for so many things from this Arizona experience, but the friendship we made with Julia is the most valuable.

Days 1 & 2

Sedona storms & devils bridge

 
 
 
 

DAY 3

THE GRAND CANYON

Of course a MUST when going to Arizona is to see the Grand Canyon! I knew I had to see it, but I was dreading going through all the tourists and fighting for the good spots to take photos. I knew it would be crowded, but I prayed that it would be worth our time and and experience like no other. God answered this prayer in the most unexpected way, by an Uber driver named Bevin!

We left our Airbnb in Sedona and went to Flagstaff, which is roughly halfway between Sedona and the Grand Canyon. With miraculous luck, our Uber driver who picked us up from Sedona offered to drive us the whole day and give us a off trail hiking experience in the Grand Canyon! She happened to be a guide for the Grand Canyon, and has been a guide her entire life. She told us stories about the company her and her husband used to own in Utah, they would guide people through the Utah wilderness and pack all their things on LLAMAS! Yes, LLAMAS! She told us all about her lovely Llamas, the time she lost one, her archaeological experiences, and much more.

When we arrived in the Grand Canyon, we parked in a small lot next to an overlook and started hiking off trail. This, was an experience like no other. There was no signs of human life, we found a deer antler, a carcass, and my personal favorite part, we found remains of a small one family home left by the Anasazi people 1,000 years ago! I found two pieces of broken pottery, an arrowhead, and a small piece of chert used to skin animals. It meant the world to me that we found these pieces, and they are currently sitting with me at my desk where I can see them everyday.

Surprisingly, Arizona wasn't as dry and hot as we imagined. In fact, it rained almost every day we were there! Julia and I started to use #WhatTheHeckArizona, because we were so confused as to why it would be raining like Ohio everyday!  It ended up being very useful that we had sweaters to keep us dry and warm.

And this is where we begin Day 3 in my Arizona gallery, the 4 of us soggy and cold off trailing in the Grand Canyon.

 
 

DAY 4

Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend

Gotta save the best for last! These two places are any photographers DREAM! These places were the entire reason we decided to go to Arizona. Antelope Canyon has rich red walls, and the shadows cast from the sun overhead creates purple hues. I had seen so many photos of this place, and always wondered if it was just as magical in person. Well, it was. I was completely taken aback, every single image looked like a screensaver that would come with a Macbook. While it was beautiful, it was also extremely stressful. These Canyons are overrun by tourists, it takes about an hour to get in and the walk itself took less than an hour to go through and was extremely rushed. It was hard getting shots with no people in it, as we only had about a 30 second window of no people in a certain area because while one group would move ahead a new group was right behind. Still, absolutely stunning and I'm so glad we went.

Horseshoe Bend is also a place that I've seen so many photos of. But photos can be misleading, it was also extremely difficult to find a spot away from anyone else. We saw parents posing their small children on the edge while they cried reaching back for safety, all so that the parent could take a photo. It got very overwhelming for me, and after a while I just had to sit down and look at it, take it all in. At Horseshoe bend we meant a group of fun people from Oregon, we asked them to model for us and they said yes! We had a blast getting to know these people and creating photos with them in this unique place.

This was our last day in Arizona. The next morning Julia would take her flight back to Ohio, and we would get on a bus to Seqouia National Park in California. The drive from Page to Flagstaff was surreal, it was our last night in Arizona, and we were blessed with the most magnificent sunset I've ever seen in my life. I had a secret wish in my mind, I wanted to see a raintails at susnet. This comes inspired from my good friend Eastlyn, a couple years ago she took a photo of this magnificent orange sunset that shone through raintails and made the rain look purple and orange. I was so inspired by it and never forgot, I hoped I would see a similar sight in Arizona. When we saw the storm brewing, and the sunsetting, we snapped photos all along the way until we quite literally saw the perfect storm. We made Bevin pull over on the side of a highway, and we ran with our cameras towards the storm. 

Now that you've read our story, and know the context behind our final day in Arizona, enjoy the rest of the gallery and see what I can never put into words. I'm so incredibly blessed to have my camera, my gift, and have experienced all these incredible things and places with so many wonderful people. And I know, that there is so many more amazing experiences to come in my future.