Last Month
Every month or two since I took off in the motorhome and headed off into the sunset, I have sent out a big email to a mailing list of friends and family talking about my travels. I am going to post that email here in my this month gallery for all my flickr friends to read. This is my latest email.

Chapter Two Begins

Well... Once again. Greetings everyone. Friends, family, anyone who has had the misfortune of ending up on my mailing list. It's time for my next big email. The one complaint I always get is that my emails are way too long. GOOD NEWS! This one is a bit shorter. Just a few of weeks ago, I was thinking, 'It's about time for my next email, and NOTHING interesting has happened.' I have been stuck in New Jersey for a couple of months now. Every time I come back to NJ, I plan to stay 2 weeks, and I end up staying 2 months! I really can't believe I ended up spending the whole summer here, but I've had quite a few jobs. Every time I'm about to leave, I get hired for another photo shoot. So... Anyway... A couple weeks ago I had nothing to write. I figured it would be a while before my next big email. Then all the sudden... I had 3 interesting days in a row.

Day one. (I've been bouncing around NJ from place to place) I had the motorhome parked behind a friends office building. One morning I woke up to see about 25 Police cars parked all around me. My first thought was 'OH NO! They found me!' But, when I saw the fire trucks out there, I knew I wasn't on fire, so I was relieved that they must be here for somebody else. Right next door is an Italian restaurant. Apparently a disgruntled employee broke in sometime overnight and spraypainted the walls. He smashed some water pipes, so the whole inside was flooded. But... Here's my favorite part... He opened all the valves on the gas stoves, broke off the handles so they couldn't shut the gas off, and left the ignitors on. By some miracle, the place didn't blow up. Now this kind of freaks me out, because I'm parked about 100 feet away. The place is made of brick. So, I could easily have had hundreds of bricks flying through the side of my motorhome. The firemen told me that in another couple of hours, everything within 500 feet would have been leveled. It was a Monday morning. The restaurant doesn't even open on Monday. If the owner hadn't decided to stop by, I'd probably be dead!

Day two. A friend that I do some photography for wanted me to go up parasailing and do a photo shoot. It was a shoot for a newspaper I do some freelance work for. I was supposed to take some aerial photos of the coastline around Asbury Park. Parasailing is quite a leasurely way to float up over the ocean and take in the scenery. It doesn't normally involve getting wet at all. They fasten you to a parachute and launch you right up off the back of the boat, and then pull you right back onto the back of the boat. But, at the last minute, I felt uncomfortable bringing my $4000 camera up there, so I borrowed an older camera from the newspaper. Still a very nice camera. A Canon 20D. He put me up there with one of his boats crew. He said it was more stable with the weight of two people. So... There we were ... All the way up. About 300 feet off the water. Then there was suddenly a loud THUNK! And the broken rope came flinging up at us like a slingshot and we started plummeting 300 feet down to the ocean! As we plummeted toward the water, I pulled the camera strap off my neck. I held the camera as high as I could over my head and hoped for the best. I couldn't tell from my point of view, when we hit, it felt like I was underwater forever, but according to everyone on the boat who was speeding back to get us. They said that my entire body and arm was submerged, and the camera stayed about an inch above the water until the life jacket popped me back up like a cork. It was a little wet. I rinsed it off with fresh water as soon as I got on the boat. Looks like it's ok, it's been a few weeks now, and it's still working, which was more than I could say for the cell phone in my pocket. Luckily the Parasailing company bought me a new phone. I had just gotten that phone too. It was only about 4 months old.

Day Three. After two strangely eventful days, I suddenly got a phone call that would change my life. (For the better, I hope) (I actually should have gotten the phone call the day of the parasailing thing... But my phone wasn't working then) I got a call from a friend up in Maine. Andy... He owns a company called Maine Scene. They print most of the calendars and postcards in Maine. I have sold him several of my Maine photos, we met last summer, he even let me park the motorhome at his place for a couple weeks. He has friends in the calendar/postcard business all over the country. So anyway... One of the biggest ones in the country is Smith-Southwestern, in Arizona. They print over 70 different calendars a year, as well as hundreds of postcards, picture books, and numerous other souveneirs. He had just visited them the week before. The company owner was telling him that he is tired of seeing all the same photos, of the same places year after year from all his freelance photographers. He said he would like to hire a staff photographer who can drift around from state to state and shoot photos specifically for them. My friend said... "Really... I know a homeless photographer who would be perfect."

I have been a self employed, freelance photographer for nearly 7 years now. I shoot scenery and interiors as I travel around the country. Since I moved into the motorhome almost two years ago, I have been struggling to make enough money to fill the 85 gallon gas tank in this thing. When I sold the house, and became a homeless drifter, I accepted the fact that I was giving up any kind of stability, and steady income in trade for my insane love of travel. It has been the best year and a half of my life... But... Financially it has been a struggle.

So, less than 2 weeks after my first phone call, I'm on a plane to Phoenix Arizona for an official meeting/job interview. It turns out that Phoenix is hot in August. I stepped out of the airport and the 112 degree heat kicked me in the face! And... Now it's official. I am Smith-Southwestern's new full time staff photographer. What this means is that I will still be doing... Exactly what I have been doing, only now, I will be making a full time salary for drifting around from state to state in a motorhome, shooting scenery. They will be paying for expenses, and have the connections to help me to get into some places that would have otherwise thrown me out. This is just so perfect, I really can't believe the whole thing is happening. My job will mostly be, hiking around parks with my dogs, and taking photos... For most of my life, that was what I did on my vacation! They were taking about working 5 days a week, and I had to say "Honestly, I will probably be working 7 days a week for you, because, exploring around and taking photos is pretty much what I do anyway." They cover a gigantic area from St Louis, to California. My first official assignment will be the huge balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in early October. I will be there the whole week. They're even trying to book reservations to get me up in a couple of balloons to do some aerial shots of the event. My main issue was that I didn't want to lose all rights to MY work, as I did in all my years at the newspaper. We came up with a contract that allows me to retain rights to sell my work to any market that doesn't compete with them. So, I can not sell my stuff to any other calendar/postcard companies. That's fine. Most importantly, I can still put everything up on flickr for all to enjoy.

I can't wait to get out west! I can't wait to see how much my photography improves. For the past couple of years, it seems like I spend about 75% of my time trying to sell my work, and only about 25% of my time actually doing my work. I am perpetually sending out emails to bed & breakfasts, and art publishers, constantly trying to figure out where my next check will be coming from. Then, suddenly, an opportunity like this drops out of the sky, I'm doing EXACTLY what I love to do! I can finally concentrate 100% effort into just shooting photos.

So... This is it. I am wrapping things up in New Jersey once and for all. The next chapter of my life is about to begin. I should be on the road next week, making a slow trek towards New Mexico. First stop will be Chicago. They actually do a calendar there. Then, St Louis. Yep... They do a calendar there too. Then, Oklahoma City... Yes... They even do a calendar there! Eventually I should make it to New Mexico. After the balloon thing, I will be spending a month or so exploring the rest of the state of New Mexico, because, you guessed it. They do a calendar there! From there, we're not sure yet where I'm heading. I will probably spend the coldest part of the winter right at their office in Phoenix, where it should be around 70 degrees in January. (A bit more pleasant than August) At some point during the winter, I will be heading to the Grand Canyon and Bryce. I would LOVE to catch some snow up in the canyons. I'm trying to convince them that they really need to do some calendars of Hawaii. Still working on that one.

Mike Jones, no longer 'self employed' photographer
54 photos · 3,730 views