Recently, I photographed a wedding in California and decided it would be a perfect time for a little summer vacation with Mark. Most of our traveling lately has involved me going to weddings alone or trips back to Atlanta to visit family. I love doing both of those but I also wanted to make sure we had some time for ourselves somewhere new. Once this wedding got on my schedule, I made sure to make the most of it.
Planning for a trip on my end involves a lot of travel blog research and putting together a list of everything that sounds interesting. After figuring out my top picks, I planned out days in my travel notebook that a friend of mine created called Adventure Assist. We didn't always stick to the schedule but it was great having an itinerary and a list of all the things we could do instead.
My medium format camera came just in time for this trip! Film is magical. If you aren't already, I encourage all of you to go buy a 35mm camera and start shooting film. All the photos in this post are from film cameras - a mixture of 35mm and medium format film. Traveling with film is kind of a pain but can be done. For this trip, I opted to buy film once I arrive in California and ship it out from a tiny Malibu post office before heading back. There's a great camera shop in Cathedral City which is about 10 minutes south of Palm Springs called Camera West - make sure to call ahead of time to see what's in stock.
A few things we did and you should to:
We stayed at the Ace Hotel and ate most of our meals at King's Highway. Their menu is awesome for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and they have date shakes! It's a beautiful spot with hanging lamps that I'm so in love with. Make sure to get at least one date shake, the soft egg and grilled corn cazuela for breakfast, and the seasonal crudite on your last day there when you realize your body is mostly made of date shakes(oops). If you aren't staying at the Ace Hotel, you can buy a pass to use their pool area which is also pretty wonderful.
If you are going to Palm Springs, you MUST take and architecture tour with Palm Springs Mod Squad Architecture + Design Tours. This time we did the "Essentials" tour and next time we'll definitely make time for the "Interiors" tour. Our tour guide was such a wonderful host and so informed about all things Palm Springs.
Robot Sculpture Garden was part of our tour and is located in a super beautiful and super manicured neighborhood. We weren't able to go inside but we were able to see a whole lot from the street. This place is definitely worth a visit if you enjoy weird art and trying to figure out what pieces of past technologies were used in the sculpture.
What I was most excited about seeing again was Joshua Tree. If you're in the area, you must go. There really isn't any other place like it. My favorite spots were Cholla Cactus Garden, Keys View, Skull Rock and the Hall of Horrors. If you're going, make a day of it and bring a few gallons of water, a hat, suncreeen, a full gas tank and all of the snacks. There's nowhere to grab a bite or fill up on gas while you are in the park. Try to go early or late afternoon or night to avoid the heat.
If you're up for a long drive past date farms and the Salton Sea, go to Salvation Mountain. Do not stop by the Salton Sea, unless you're into beaches filled with dead fish, but do read about the Salton Sea as you drive by with the windows closed.
I was super excited to see Doug Aitken's work "Mirage" which was part of Desert X. Mirage is essentially a house covered entirely in mirrors. It's surrounded by desert and mountains. I was not prepared for how incredible and arresting it would be in person. We ended up going on one of the last days it was open for the summer. Currently, it's closed through the end of August but will reopen in the fall. Make it your business to go there.
Tramway: This may be a thing you have to show up for early in the morning. When we tried to go in the afternoon, there was a two hour wait, so we skipped it. You can also go to Keys View at Joshua Tree for some of the same views.
Malibu + LA:
Before heading to Palm Springs, we went to Sqirl and to an amazing korean bbq spot with a friend of ours. On our way back to LA, we had some film left over, so we headed to Malibu. Finding parking in Malibu was tough but it wasn't too long of a walk to a beach entrance. Most of the coast there is blocked from street view by a variety of beachside homes. The beach itself is gorgeous, loud, and a bit wild in certain spots.
Hope my experiences help you plan your trip!
Cameras: Pentax 67 + Nikon F3 HP
Film: Portra 400 + Ektar 100
All film photos developed by the rockstars over at Indie Film Lab :)