Tennessee Vacation

Smoky Mountains.

One Sunday in August, I browsed through Instagram and saw that my friend had loaded his car up for his vacation. I knew he had this trip planned, but I didn’t realize he was going solo, just to take photos of mountains and night skies. I didn’t have any shoots or obligations for the week, so I took advantage of this opportunity, with his permission. That night, I packed my bags and left at seven in the morning to meet up with him in Madison, Indiana to travel with him to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

How refreshing it was to go somewhere I have not been, on this trip that was already planned out, just to go photograph mountains, skies and whatever adventure we decided to seek out. It honestly could not have panned out any better for us. We drove through Kentucky and Tennessee and I was sight-seeing the whole way down and back, taking in the landscape. We stayed in Pigeon Forge but hardly spent any time there; we hiked in the mountains for the majority of our time but explored Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge tourist attractions at night. We went to a couple of shops just to browse, and the only official souvenir we bought were pressed pennies that you crank and press by yourself. Our other souvenirs were more random but personal findings from along the trip, as well as a bunch of photos. We were fortunate enough to photograph a black bear and three cubs, lightning from a nearby thunderstorm, butterflies, trails, horizons, shooting stars at night and the “smoke” of the mountains –the dense fog.

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I was pretty much “unplugged” for the trip and tried keeping it that way. However, I decided I wanted to capture my travels and share my “selfies” with my friends on Instagram and Facebook but instead of using myself, I chose to use a finger puppet I won at the fair the week before the trip. The puppet is a tiger named Albert, named after Albert Einstein, and he’s framed in my iPhone to appear as if he is the one taking self-portraits in front of tourist attractions, in a sense to mark his territory or showcase where he has been. I ended up enjoying this small project enough that I have used him on other trips after the Tennessee vacation. I know it sounds weird, but let’s be real, you would rather see spontaneous tiger selfies instead of my face plastered at tourist traps. #TravelingAlbert doesn’t have a purpose, it’s just a photo thing I decided to do. (You can follow him on Instagram #TravelingAlbert.)

When it’s all said and done, even though I do photography/videography for a living, it doesn’t feel like “work” even when I’m on vacation. I still love capturing memories with beautiful imagery and feel lucky that this is what I do anyways as my job. I could go on some more about my vacation but will keep this simple, and filled with photos. If you have any questions or comments about my trip and want to know more, feel free to ask!

A few more of my photos (not Albert’s) can also be found on my Flickr account.

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Gail Hale’s Art Studio

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Gail Hale’s Art Studio, a set on Flickr.

For Homes & Lifestyles magazine, I interviewed Bloomington visual artist Gail Hale and explored her studio for a story on re-purposing clothing and trash items for the Center for Sustainable Living’s Trashion Refashion Show. The issue’s out now!

Homes & Lifestyles