After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was fortunate to return to Austin to cover the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix for my friends at Texas Highways magazine. With a number of health and safety restrictions in place, it was somewhat of a different beast covering the race this year versus the prior five F1 races I've covered in Austin but it provided for some forced creativity throughout the proceedings.
I've addressed this before—this being why someone who often photographs families and weddings would photograph motorsports—and some of it is practicing a genre of photography that is outside my norm, which in the simplest terms helps me fight any burnout I might experience. Variety is the spice of life after all. Secondly, there is value in photographing an event where I have absolutely no control over how things proceed, can't stage anything, and can't get a do-over. And finally, it helps hone my culling and editing, as I need to go through thousands of images more or less as I am taking them, edit my selects, write captions, and turn them over to an editor within 72 hours.
As you may have heard, the world is currently in the middle of a pandemic due to the coronavirus. The thing about novel viruses that nobody seems to fully understand and can be transmitted even by asymptomatic people is that large gatherings are generally a big no-no. Cities, states, and even whole countries have implemented various levels of "lockdowns" and "shelter-in-place" directives in hopes of avoiding overwhelming our healthcare system.
Prior to all of this, my mother-in-law had long been planning a move to Northwest Montana from her long-time home in central Texas. My family, and my wife's sisters and their respective families all now live in this general vicinity, and by extension so do her grandkids. And as any grandparent can likely attest, the pull of being close to your grandchildren is a mighty one. So this spring was always earmarked as the time that made the most sense to put that move into motion for several reasons. Once the coronavirus became a big deal, it changed the math a little on how exactly we would all make this happen. But fortunately when the main things I do to earn a living—namely weddings and motorsport photography, but also family photography to a lesser extent—become banned for all intents and purposes, when your wife comes to you and asks if we can rent an RV to act as a self-contained quarantine mobile, drive four-thousand miles roundtrip, and help her mom pack, I've got nothing but time!
Under any other circumstances, it actually would be a ton of fun I think. Taking our time, stopping at roadside or near-roadside attractions to see things we might otherwise never get a chance to see, and putting together some of my somewhat unique knowledge of small towns in the Texas panhandle to good use (due to my spending almost five years working for the official travel magazine of Texas, Texas Highways.)
But of course, under these circumstances, it was in many ways what I have decided to dub 'a stress pancake.' Between my wife attempting to get work done to salvage what income we do still have during this crazy time, attempting to make progress with my daughter on her take-home work with schools being closed for the year, attempting to drive an RV during a record-breaking late winter storm and 45+ mph crosswinds for 70% of the trip, and packing up the house where my mother-in-law has lived for the past 20 years, and leaving the RV only to pump gas and hook up to power and water at our nightly KOA stops... it was a lot.
While I am not doing my normal work photographing people or events, I am always striving to work on my craft. Whether that is new techniques or forced limitations on my approach. With this trip I wanted to document, it will no doubt provide story fodder for many years to come, and perhaps one day my daughter will have the opportunity to regale her children and/or grandchildren with the story of the time she rode across a country in lockdown in a rented RV with her parents, her cat recently diagnosed with lymphoma, and her two guinea pigs to help her grandmother move. I limited myself to only using my iPhone for capturing and editing everything, and while I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked, and there are large chunks of the trip missed simply because I was driving, I think I did an okay job of capturing a sense of how it all went down.
But out wasn't all exhaustion, driving, stress and "my gosh why is central Texas so hot and humid in mid-April?!" There were moments of magic. Davis' Trading Post (the top image) and the wide open spaces of South Eastern Idaho, the bluebonnets covering the rural roadside's at golden hour in North Texas, talking about what serious art classes were like in college with my daughter and how critiques work. Hopefully those are the things she remembers, and takes away from this crazy endeavor.