Element of surprise

Last week I did a throwback post to Mysteryland and all the fun I had there. When I was done writing, I got in the car with Liz and we headed out to Elements Lakewood.

The address on the parking ticket looked really familiar, but the area wasn't what I would technically consider Lakewood.

Welcome to Elements!

Actually, I don't know what I would consider it... it's close to Rock Lake... and yet just a bit beyond Rileyville. Technically, it's in the area I call Upper Woods. There's a state game land and a great lake to fish in. I have friends who live in the area and have spent a ton of time up and down those dirt roads. I was a bit surprised that those roads could handle all the traffic a music festival could bring in. Especially when a tour bus happens to break down on it.

So, after a little traffic snarl we made our way and parked. Luckily, we were only staying for the day, so we didn't have to grab any camping supplies to load on the school bus to take us to Camp Lavi aka the festival grounds. (I should mention that I found it rather amusing that an EDM festival was being help on an Orthodox Jewish summer camp... but you'll have to talk to me in person to get the rest of the laugh on that.)

Cell service, as I knew, was spotty, and the wifi was "just like home." Neither of which things bothered me. Same ole, same ole, living in the mountains. Or as our guide said on the bus ride in... the middle of nowhere. (Which is another funny story you'll have to ask me about in person!)

His introduction to the festival made the bumpy bus ride a little better than just being jostled around. The other people on the bus were laughing at his jokes and the middle of nowhere reference. We made it to the entrance, and stepped off the bus. Now, this is the one time being media is a godsend. (Besides the normal perks of work that is.) I looked at the line of people queued up to enter and imagined the two hour wait they would be going through, with all their camping equipment. There was no line at the media check-in.

Later in the day, the mostly blank canvas was
filled with doodles and lines.

We signed in and wandered into the festival grounds. Besides the cool vendors, and music playing in the background, it looked like any other summer camp in the beginning. Except the crowd was much older. As we walked down the hill, we looked around and saw a familiar face. Jenna Motichka was outside cabin with a large canvas. It wasn't blank, but it wasn't exactly filled yet either. The Wayne County Arts Alliance had put the canvas there for people at the festival to paint and paint and paint. Layers upon layers of paint in different sizes, shapes, doodles and colors were added throughout the day to make an ever changing canvas. Each time we wandered by that day I was surprised to see how different it had become.

And we wandered a ton. Up and down the grounds, looking for a photo that would be perfect. We snapped pictures of people dancing, people we guessed were looking to be instagram famous, the signs, the art installations. I took over 800 photos that day. Some of which were spectacular, and some of which I tossed when I loaded them on the computer. I brought along an old manual fisheye lens I got from a friend a few years back and tried it out for a while. I forgot just how hard it was to focus a fisheye at dusk. The good part of a completely manual lens was changing the aperture with a simple wrist rotation. I didn't have to hold a button and spin a dial on my camera. The hard part was the focus. In bright light finding the focus is easy. But in

My favorite fisheye lens photo was of Escaper

the waning hours of the evening, with flashing stage lights, I found it a bit more challenging. The music at that point didn't help either. I was rather entranced by the tenor saxophone playing on the stage. (And the rest of the band... but a good live sax is hard to come by in the concert scene nowadays.) Escaper was fun to photograph and listen to.

I don't usually listen to EDM. I don't have anything against it. I do enjoy dancing to it, but it's not my go-to station on Amazon music when I'm washing dishes. So, when I found sounds I liked, I made sure to try and figure out who the artist was so I could add them to my ever growing collection of eclectic songs. Escaper made the cut.

There were a bunch of other artists I enjoyed as well, but didn't really pay attention to the names (or times) so I could check them out later.

On one of our walks through we found a room that said, "come take a look see." And so, we did. We were met with a dark quiet room. A completely different atmosphere than the thump thump thump of the campground. Not that you couldn't hear it beyond the walls, but the almost total darkness with a projector and LED lights playing off strings on the ceiling was a welcome respite. We chatted up the pair who designed the space and took a break from the outside before moving on.

Further up the hill, we spied a giant teepee and had to take a look. This seemed to be a quiet area too. One look inside and we knew why. Sound bath meditation. Now, if you know me at all, you're probably laughing at the idea of me meditating in a teepee while there's a large metal bowl on my stomach being tapped to make noise. And, you'd be right to laugh... because it's really not my style. I can say though that it was interesting to try.

I had a picture with Liz in it, but I think
she'd be happier that I posted one
without her.

And I could possibly be coerced into doing it again. Possibly. I prefer to sit in silence in the woods and listen to the sounds nature makes. Near the end of the meditation, they placed something on my forehead. Since my eyes were closed, I didn't have any clue what it could possibly be. I sat up at the end and the mysterious object fell into my lap. I looked down to find a beautiful purple amethyst. The woman who was part of the group making the sounds for the

mediation picked out a stone for each person. Something she thought 'fit' their needs. So, I got that and Liz got a lovely piece of quartz. I'm thinking the woman picked mine out because it matched my hair. Maybe it had a deeper meaning though.

After feeling a bit more relaxed between the dark room and the sound mediation we grabbed some food and make our way through the trails to see some more of the art installations. Between the people growing in (or out of?) trees, old painted boats, and hanging tapestries, I was pretty mesmerized. All this stuff, just out in the woods. Of course, it was put there by artists, and placed to create that feeling. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they nailed it. It truly was an immersive experience walking through there.

What the heck was his name?

We made our way to the Fire Stage as the sun set and split up for a little bit. I was determined to get a great photo of the giant fire-breathing dragon and Liz wanted to wander back towards the Earth Stage. The dragon spewed fire to the beat... but not on a consistent (or constant) basis. It was a matter of either focusing on that and ignoring the partying going on around me, or photographing that and hoping to catch the dragon as I went.

It was a tough choice, but I decided that while there was still enough light to get great people photos, I was going to let the dragon spew fire and wait. I talked to people, I photographed them. I got a ton of names and smiles. The smiles I'll remember... the names, probably not. Between hula hoops, and poi balls I had to be careful where I stood or walked. These people danced with an intensity I've only ever seen at an EDM festival. I've seen people in mosh pits and dancing hard before a concert in the parking lot, but none of those people hold a candle to what goes on at a festival.

It was a bit warm for those standing
in the front of the crowd

As it grew darker, the crowd got thicker. Apparently the artist on stage was a popular one among the masses gathered here. Sam Blacky was encouraging them do dance even more with her tracks and the fire took on a new intensity. Not only did it come from the dragon, but now the stage as well. The heat radiating from the flames was almost as intense as the cheers and dancing. At this point, the crowd was almost to thick to get through - especially with my camera bag on my back. So, I wandered to the very back and climbed the side of a metal art installation. Another photographer walked by and gave me a high five and laughed. "That's one way to get the shot," he quipped and disappeared into the mass of bodies.

I climbed as far as I could and watched from above as the crowd kept at it. Out of the way of everyone, I focused on getting that dragon photo. If you look at the featured image for this blog post, the dragon was well worth the wait. I didn't notice how great the photo was until I looked on the computer on Monday in the office. I may be completely wrong, but I swear the fire coming from the dragon looks like a T-Rex skull. Sure, it's like looking at clouds... everyone sees something different. But the flames in that photo screams giant reptile.

The Fire Stage was lit. (Sorry for the pun.)

Liz returned just after I had gotten off the tower and we agreed to have one last push through the crowd before we headed out for the night. That one last push was when I got one of the best photos I think I've ever taken in my life. Ever. I had photographed her earlier in the day on stilts. The silver of her costume was radiant then. At this point she was on her feet, sans stilts and her costume lit up with purple LED lights. I moved closer and snapped around a dozen photos of her. I knew they were good, but I didn't realize just how happy I would be with them later. So, purple raincloud woman (whoever you are) thank you for being an amazing subject to photograph. If anyone knows her, let her know how great she looks.

Half asleep on my feet, Liz and I agreed it was time to call it a night. We headed back and got on the school bus to reach the car. I scrolled through my photos as the bus bumped along the road and smiled. All these happy people would be going strong all weekend long. I however, was headed home to bed. For more photos, check my instagram accounts.





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