The Munsonmobile’s maiden voyage

A Pretty Picture of the Munsonmobile

This is the RV’s first interstate journey. This trip acted as the ‘dry run’ for a number of ideas. The RV was pushed to it’s limits and and lessons were learned.

We traveled south down I-81 to the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina with stops in Virginia. The V10 engine took the ridges of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smokies like a champ. The brakes did not fare as well and took quite the beating, even locking up on the highway. Round trip was over 1400 miles and twice nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing.

I’ll let you enjoy some images and then tell you the big plans I have for the Munsonmobile.

Crabtree Falls (Virginia)

Goldmine Loop (North Carolina)

The Great Smokey Mountains (North Carolina)

Douthat State Park (Virginia)

The true value of this trip has been understanding my weak points when traveling in the Munsonmobile. I tweaked and worked out some details, like where to place the go pro and how much gas mileage I’m really getting. There is so much more learning to do though! Because this new tool is both my transportation and my home I am certain there will be an endless “to-do” list. Happy to report that all the main systems are operational, even if some could use a bit of TLC.

What’s the big idea?

The Munsonmobile is a jumping off point. My personal goal is to simply travel and enjoy all that comes with experiencing new people and places. I have many many ideas for the future of the RV, some of which I’ve been working on for years.

It starts with images and still photography but soon videos will help blur the lines and fill in the gaps. Eventually I hope to capture full spaces and environments in VR for a variety of applications.

To accomplish all of these things the Munsonmobile will become the “What-is-it-wagon”. This name is taken from Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, who is responsible with capturing many of the famous Civil War images we are familiar with. With permission from Abraham Lincoln and self-financing he documented the first battle of bull run and many others. He photographed battlefields, military units, political figures, and even Edgar Allen Poe.

How did Brady’s “what-is-it wagons” get their names. These wagons carried all the cameras and supplies for the photographers. They also served as the darkroom. At the war’s start there was no particular name for them. Soldiers were always asking Brady and the other photographers “What is It?” So after so many times they became known as “what-is-it-wagons”.

These specially equipped vehicles were a necessity for the photographers in the field. There was so much equipment needed. The cameras were large and they used rectangular glass plates that were coated with a wet, sticky mixture of cotton and chemicals.

In order to take a photo, “photographer had to first place a still-wet plate in a plate holder. Then he attached it to the back of the camera. He removed the cover, aimed the lens and exposed the plate to light for several seconds”. In developing the images he needed to handle the plates in complete darkness. Thus they coined term for these chambers as the “darkroom”.

Brady constructed special darkrooms in both his New York City studio and his Washington D.C, studio. Thus he knew he had to devise a workable mobile darkroom for taking photos on location. Horse drawn wagons were the most effective way to carry photo supplies. “To make them dark, Brady wrapped heavy sheets of canvas around the wagon’s wooden walls”. In solving this problem, there became problem of the wagon was so airtight it became so hot and the chemicals made it hard to breath and made the photographers light headed. So they had to take breaks and go outside to breath fresh air. If there was a battle going on, it was not easy to find fresh air, as the outside was as bad as in the wagon.

This just one of the technical obstacles Brady solved in order to document the war. Brady wanted to give the public a view of the war more than the written word and thus devised ways to do this. He wanted a visual record of the conflict for the public and posterity.

From “Civil War Witness”, by Don Nardo, Compass Point Books, pages 4-8.

I’m looking to bring the “what-is-it-wagon” into modernity. Eventually, the RV will be a rolling darkroom enabling me to develop and print analog film as well as a digital command center capable of ingesting terabytes worth of data to create a mobile VR dreamatorium.

I want to be able to bring these images and more to you in a way that gives you an experience beyond a 1-2 inch photo on a backlit Instagram display. Eventually, I will travel with my work and do rolling galleries. These galleries can happen just outside the RV and enable me to make prints and project images that are super-duper big. The What-is-it-wagon will have a modular “home theater” enabling indoor and outdoor setup for screening videos and films. The point of all this is to share, to get my images into the world where they might inspire others.

More than just the images is a desire to make an impact. I hope to bring you the quintessential pretty pictures of our country’s landscape while also documenting the historical times we the people find ourselves in. I hope to use my skills and mobility to document the difficulties that people across the country face today. I’ve been lucky to be trained by some great journalistic experts and continue to learn so that I can do my part in holding the powers at be accountable.

All these big ideas will take some funding. Traveling costs add up quickly, RV maintenance can be daunting, and all these big ideas require very specific costly gizmos and gadgets. If you would like to help make these ideas a reality you can purchase images from The Shop. If any image you see on this site or another social media site speaks to you let me know and I will find a way to get that image into your hands. Any purchase you make helps fund the RV and my next trip!

Bonus Content

Most of this trip I was focused on the road and taking care of the RV. Despite that, I was able to take some time lapse videos. I threw together some things into a video to get a feel for what I might want to shoot in the future. I’m very much interested in getting feedback on what you would like to see in videos like these. I would love to use these as a way to share information about the various places I go with everyone. What types of things would you like to learn? What sorts of things would be interesting to see in the video?

The awesome driving beat and tunage in the video above is brought to you by Dweller!

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