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This winter, I'm exploring the space between Berkeley and the Blue Ridge, photographing landscapes and writing a book about what I see.
Winter 02014: I explored the space between Berkeley and the Blue Ridge, photographing landscapes and writing a book about what I saw and thought.  And now it's done. :)
Winter 02014: I explored the space between Berkeley and the Blue Ridge, photographing landscapes and writing a book about what I saw and thought.  And now it's done. :)
49 backers pledged $6,496 to help bring this project to life.

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Winter South 2014

$6,496

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Ben exploring the terrain in the Alabama Hills of the Eastern Sierra.
Ben exploring the terrain in the Alabama Hills of the Eastern Sierra.

What am I going to do?

I’m driving across the country in the dead of winter, exploring the southern portion of the United States of America.  I’m stopping in national and state parks in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina as I make my journey to the foothills of the Appalachian mountains from the San Francisco Bay.  I will be passing through the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, the Ozarks, and the Blue Ridge Mountains along the way.  I will be taking pictures and writing a “sense of place” journal as I go, making notes of my observations within and beyond the camera.  When it’s all over, I’ll have a published book and a collection of photos ready to be shown in galleries.

As I travel, I will be tweeting interesting moments of the journey using the hashtag #wintersouth.  I hope this will generate a social media conversation that allows many others to share my experiences and contribute their own perspectives -- joining me virtually as I journey eastward.

I will also be providing backer-only updates here on the project page: behind-the-scenes insights from the road and after I'm back in North Carolina as I work on the photos and manuscript.

Why am I doing it?

A snow flea traverses the winter forest floor.
A snow flea traverses the winter forest floor.

One of my primary objectives when looking through the lens of my camera is to explore the landscapes existing around us at various scales.  What is the landscape of a snow flea?  Combined with the expected winter dormancy that will be in effect in many of the places that I explore, I am excited to see what kinds of life I can find -- and what sorts of visual connections I can make -- across these landscape scales.

I’m exploring a particular space -- the land under my feet and wheels, surrounding my senses and camera -- at a particular time across multiple scales.  My photographs will be tied to particular places and experiences, and any shows for this collection will be arranged accordingly.  I’ll be arranging my observations of these spaces in chronological fashion for the book, based on the order of events as they occur on the journey.

I’m exploring connections between art and science, beauty and complexity.  I’m exploring connections between my own internal perspective of the places I explore -- what I observe with my senses and what I capture with my camera -- and the external perspectives (outside of myself, across time and space) available through further research.  Thus, I’ll be asking lots of questions along the way, and polishing deeper understandings and explanations once I’m home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  My intention is to write the book as a reflection of my journey, with a focus on connections between us and the ecologies that we create and disturb.  It’s not a conservation work, but I hope that I can portray my own experiences in a way that, coupled with the evidence I present as a result of my research into external perspectives across these places, allows readers to draw their own conclusions, ask their own questions, and start conversations.

In short, my exploration will allow me to share the particular space and time of my experience on this journey across two interwoven channels.  The photographs and the book can both be seen as different avenues to access that time and space.  Each will complement the other, and each will stand alone.

What will I make?

Giant foot steps?
Giant foot steps?

I will write and publish a book documenting my observations and experiences within the spaces through which I pass.  This book, titled Winter South, will be self-published through Lulu.com and contain approximately 150 pages of text.  The book will be a 6” x 9” trade paperback with a few black and white photographs curated from the collection.  It will be distributed through globalREACH, which means it will be available on Amazon and other online retailers and can be ordered and sold in local bookstores.

From the photographs I take during my journey, I will curate a collection of images to be shown in galleries and juried competitions.  From this collection, I will hand pick a few images that best represent particularly interesting moments from the journey.  These will be Giclée printed on Museo Silver Rag paper, signed and numbered by me as limited editions.  Eventually, the entire collection will be made available for sale on my website.

How much will it cost?

Hot springs near Mammoth Lakes
Hot springs near Mammoth Lakes

Total book publishing and distribution costs: $4500

I’ve published academically, so I know how much work goes into making an engaging, readable book.  As such, I’ve decided to self-publish with the help of the pros at Lulu.com.  I’m getting the Debut Publishing Package ($1999) which includes a lot of things necessary to increase the marketability and searchability of my book -- and it includes the creation of an eBook version to sell in all the usual eBook places.  I’m also planning to use their  Elite Cover Design service ($599), which will greatly improve the shelf appeal (paper and digital) of my book.  Copy editing, of course, is an absolute requirement -- and this will be a large chunk of cash for a 150-page manuscript: $1345.  Finally, to increase awareness of my book once it is available for distribution, I’m going to use their Press Release Essential Edition ($499).  Add this all up and it comes to $4442.  For ease of mathematics, let's make that an even $4500.

Total photo printing costs: $1500

Based on statistical analyses I’ve conducted to consider the probability of fulfilling rewards at each level, plus what it will take to print a collection for a gallery show, I’m estimating my initial minimal photo printing costs to be $1500.  This may seem a little steep, but I can assure you that Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper is worth every penny.  The light actually dances inside the paper when you gaze into the photograph.  It’s pure magic. :)

So, if we add up the book and photography costs, $4500 + $1500 = $6000.  I’m confident I can make this project happen on such a small budget.  I’ve wanted to write a book like this for quite some time.

Which places am I planning to visit?

3500+ miles from Berkeley to the Blue Ridge Mountains
3500+ miles from Berkeley to the Blue Ridge Mountains

This may seem like a laundry list, but I wanted to quickly give a sense of specific spots where I plan to stop along the way.  If you’ve got favorites in the list (or elsewhere along the way), let me know and I’ll make every effort to emphasize them in my shooting and writing!

Here are the parks, monuments, cities, and towns where I’m planning to stop.

  • Death Valley National Park

  • Valley of Fire State Park

  • Petrified Forest National Park

  • El Malpais National Monument

  • Santa Fe, New Mexico

  • Amarillo, Texas

  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park

  • Caprock Canyons State Park

  • Dallas, Texas

  • Queen Wilhelmina State Park

  • Ouachita National Forest

  • Hot Springs National Park

  • Holly Springs National Forest

  • Memphis, Tennessee

  • William B. Bankhead National Forest

  • Talladega National Forest

  • Chattahoochee National Forest

  • Black Rock Mountain State Park

  • Gorges State Park

  • Asheville, North Carolina

  • Mount Mitchell State Park

  • Elkin, North Carolina
Mind if I join you?
Mind if I join you?

How long will it take?

Signs of life in times of death and decay
Signs of life in times of death and decay

I am leaving Berkeley in the first week of January, and I’ll be home to North Carolina by February.  Once I’m settled in, I’ll work like a madman to process my photographs, do the necessary follow-up research for my field observations, and write the book manuscript.

For the book, I should have the 150-page manuscript draft done by the end of June.  With the editing turnaround time for Lulu set at 6-8 weeks, the book should be available for distribution by September.  This means I’ll be able to print and ship signed copies to backers by September 2014.  With the delay in globalREACH at 6 weeks, the book will be available at ALL commercial vendors by mid-November 2014.

I should have all my photographs processed and curated by March.  My prints will be done by the end of March and shipped out to backers by the end of April 2014.  The same timeline applies for the photo books.

Cracked ice on Hidden Lake
Cracked ice on Hidden Lake

Risks and challenges

The primary risk of this project is equipment malfunction while I’m on the road. If my tent leaks, I get wet. Solution: I’ll sleep in my car. If my camera stops working, I’ll rent a replacement. If my stove breaks, I might just have to go without coffee for a few days. I think hardships such as these, should they happen, will actually increase the interest of the story and the adventure itself.

Once I’m home, writing and processing my photos, the biggest risks are writer's block and production delays. As far as production delays are concerned, it’s just a matter of time and patience, and since that’s a big part of what this book will be about, maybe -- if such delays happen beyond my control -- they should be chalked up as part of the process. As for writer’s block? Well, I’ll have the good ol’ Blue Ridge mountains to help me through any stumbling in that department.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A set of three 4" x 6" color or black and white prints from the trip collection handpicked by Ben, and a personal note from Ben highlighting a particular experience from the journey.

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    An early-access PDF copy of a chapter from the edited manuscript, and a personal note from Ben highlighting a particular experience from the journey.

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    One limited edition 5” x 7” color or black and white Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper curated from trip collection, signed and numbered by Ben.

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    One 5.5” x 5.5” 12-page softcover photo book curated from the trip collection, signed and numbered by Ben.

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    One copy of published book Winter South signed by Ben with a personal message of thanks.
    Your name listed in the acknowledgements section of the book.

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    One limited edition 8” x 12” or 8” x 10” color or black and white Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper curated from trip collection, signed and numbered by Ben.
    Your name listed in the acknowledgements section of the book.

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    One 5” x 5” 20-page hardcover photo book curated from the trip collection, signed and numbered by Ben.

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    One copy of published book Winter South signed by Ben with a personal message of thanks.
    One limited edition 8” x 12” or 8” x 10” color or black and white Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper curated from trip collection, signed and numbered by Ben.
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    One limited edition 16” x 24” or 16” x 20” color or black and white Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper curated from trip collection, signed and numbered by Ben.
    Your name listed in the acknowledgements section of the book.

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    One limited edition 24” x 36” or 24” x 30” color or black and white Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper from trip collection signed and numbered by Ben.
    Your name listed in the acknowledgements section of the book.

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    One copy of published book Winter South signed by Ben with a personal message of thanks.
    One limited edition 16” x 24” or 16” x 20” color or black and white Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper curated from trip collection, signed and numbered by Ben.
    Your name listed in the acknowledgements section of the book.
    Print available by April, book available by September.

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    One copy of published book Winter South signed by Ben with a personal message of thanks.
    One limited edition 24” x 36” or 24” x 30” color or black and white Giclée print on Museo Silver Rag paper from trip collection signed and numbered by Ben.
    Your name listed in the acknowledgements section of the book.
    Print available by April, book available by September.

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Funding period

- (44 days)