Last month I made a wonderful trip west to photograph a part of the country I've been wanting to shoot for some time. I covered areas of Utah, Arizona and Colorado.
I ran into many photo groups and workshops. I think there is a lot of value to being part of such a group... in particular safety. There are no shortage of travel buddies to have your back. But I really prefer to go it alone (with at least one buddy) and map out my own course. There's something amazingly freeing about traveling down a highway in the middle of the desert with a map, a compass and "Life is a Highway" blaring on the radio.
I ran into a lot of lone photographers at 4 in the morning and late at night, so being on location is safe enough...meaning there'd be 20 photographers together who came there individually. I had no misgivings in being at a location by 0400, it seems like the precautions need to be taken on the traveling to and fro and at lodgings.
The fact that my buddy, Lorena, was with me for 4 days allowed us to do things I probably wouldn't alone... like travel Utah's Scenic Highway at night in complete darkness... so dark that you can easily see the Milky Way with the naked eye.... or hike up to the Delicate Arch at sunset and stay for some astrophotography, meaning we had to hike down the mile long descent with headlamps (definitely a safety issue... one stumble and you're in deep!).
But I also went it alone for 5 days. I traveled during the day for the most part and knew where I was going and why, but there was one scary incident that had me wishing I'd had some backup.
On my last night of the trip I was in Denver at a La Quinta suite which had hotel doors accessible directly from the parking lot. Around 11 pm some cigarette smoking young woman pounded on my door for several minutes before giving up. Although she did walk away and then come back. I looked through the peep hole and was not about to say anything and give a clue that I was a woman alone. I grabbed my mace and then the phone in my room..... which was dead! Talk about scary.
It could have been simple mistaken identity, or a drug deal (the hotel was NOT as nice in person as it was on the website.... I clearly needed to do more research), or maybe she was a prostitute at the wrong room or something more sinister, but probably, despite my fears, it was just a spunky young chick who for whatever reason did not want to give up on her quest to awaken whoever she thought was in my room.
I admit it scared the hell out of me and I slept with my mace, but I am glad I made this journey. In the future, however, I will have a travel buddy for all the adventure. And that was really quite an adventure.