Kicking it off
The whole meetup plan started during the summer of 2011 when Ethan and David became friends through Flickr, Facebook and eventually via text. After a bit of back and forth, their idea developed, and they decided that inviting some people and having a camping adventure at Ethan’s parents’ farm in northern Indiana in the summer of 2012 was the way to go.
The farmland consists of 79 acres of forest, rolling fields, swamps, a creek, barns, sheds, and even a cabin buried in the woods. Nearby there are many lakes and some abandoned buildings, including a factory, amongst other interesting locations.
"To bring people in who might be interested", Ethan says, "I uploaded this image to my Flickr stream (ridiculous though it is). We had been talking about the gathering for quite a while on Facebook, where all of our planning took place: we had flight lists, driving schedules, menus, lists of props, etc. Other than that, it was pretty organic! People would message me and ask if they could invite a friend, a sibling, or even a whole group!"
Ethan tells us that the group of photographers started small, at around ten people until it ballooned to 27 people! He admits that his parents, at first, were a little nervous to host that many people, but ultimately they became an essential part of the gathering: "They were fantastic. They helped making food, moving props, and even finding awesome places for us to shoot at!"
"An average day for us at the meetup was to wake up by 5am to catch photo opportunities at sunrise, sleep for a few hours, eat lunch and rest during the heat of the day, swim at the lake, and then photograph all afternoon and through sunset. We usually stayed up late each night and talked around the fire or just hung out together. Everyone functioned on just a few hours of sleep each night as well."
One of the many highlights of the meetup was visiting an old factory that, over the course of its life, has produced ketchup, pickles, bombs for the war, and has also plated metal parts. The group of avid photographers jumped in a few cars and drove to the factory’s downtown location. The building is now in a severe state of disrepair, but trailers and RVs are sometimes parked inside. Luckily, when the group arrived, it was empty, and they were able to explore the whole place!
"We also were within walking distance of an old barn that is falling apart, and, even though it was over 100° (37°), we marched through corn fields to get to it. We found an old abandoned truck left rusting in the forest, a semi trailer, the barn itself, and all kinds of interesting pieces that we used as props for our photos. The barn will most likely be demolished within the year, because the property was just sold by a local farmer to the National Park Service." So this group of Flickr members may have been one of the last documenting the special scenery with their photography.
Another highlights of the trip was the lake that the photographers swam at when it got unbearably hot – the temperature spiked to almost 105° F (40.5° C) during the gathering. Ethan’s family friends own a spot on a nearby natural lake that is beautiful and clean. He tells us that they jumped off the raft, swam, and even photographed in the lake on a few different days.
An experience of a lifetime
"Overall, this was an experience of a lifetime. I know I am not the only one who would say that this group is more than just a bunch of photographers; we are all a family. It may sound sappy, but I grew closer to those 27 people in a few days than I could have ever imagined. We haven’t even been able to stop communicating online about our inside jokes and about all of these wonderful pieces of art that we have created. We are already planning ways to meet up in the upcoming year, including something over New Year’s Eve. I can’t imagine not having these people in my life anymore, and I honestly can’t wait to see where these friendships and connections take each and every one of us."
"Thanks so much to Flickr for bringing out the artist in all of us and bringing a group of goofy misfits together."