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Photographer Ryan Struck set off to explore California in a minivan – with his camera in tow.
Taking to California’s open roads with no set plan, photographer Ryan Struck spent a month discovering “all things unnoticed” in nature. “I slept in the van, crashed on friends couches and saw the beauty of the Golden State,” Ryan tells Culture Trip. Relive it below.
“California has the coolest cars. Everyone says that about Cuba, and I do imagine it must look like a time capsule there, but California will always have my heart. The setting, the light and these beautiful period pieces are peppered nonchalantly throughout the Golden State.”
“Above Ojai, I drove up [State Route] 33 into the mountains for sunset. It’s a beautifully wound upward pass – the type car commercials are made for. My jaw dropped when this weekend’s Super Snow Moon revealed itself behind one of the peaks.”
“On my return trip down the 33, I slipped the minivan into neutral and coasted downhill for a few ticks above the 10mi [16km] mark. The roads were empty, save for beautiful views. I let gravity guide me down the mountain.”
“My fascination with rural roadsides is fed when the sunlight feels right. Even a row of mailboxes warranted a stop, look and take-a-picture session.”
“The cold river refreshed us friends; we felt the sun rays and bathed in company.”
“The night sky, a pin cushion.”
“In Big Sur, I didn’t know if I should look at the big sky, the big mountains or the big ocean. It was my most favorite problem to date.”
“Nothing more arresting than the movement of birds overhead.”
“As I drove ever-north, the ocean grew bigger and people fewer. The cold sea butt up against cliffside bulk, both so big and seemly matched.”
“I brought a macro lens with me on the road trip. It lent my imagination the idea of seeing details closer – as if I was shrunken and exploring a new world. The massive logs washed ashore in Northern California, a perfect wonder.”
“The Lost Coast. There are a couple of ways in, via hoof or tread. There’s a dirt road that a 4×4 could access, and 5mi [8km] in, a campground to enjoy for free. It was not a place for minivans, yet I forged on and was rewarded with a beautiful green ocean.”
“Tropically cold with a myriad of palette-blending currents.”
“I just couldn’t avoid these roadside treasures – there for seeing, experiencing and leaving behind. I’d have forgotten this moment had I not recorded it.”
“I don’t want perfect weather, even when I travel. I want to see all of nature’s moods.”
“Nature is always perfect. There’s always a place for it, and things are always how they should be in the natural world. I never look at a mountain and think, ‘That ridgeline should have a different angle’ or ‘That river should flow the other direction.’ When you sit and observe, you see how everything is interconnected – how everything plays off of one another. That rockfall belongs there because the cliffs above are cracking. Without even trying, nature is perfect.”
“The Salton Sea. I heard many coyotes as I camped this night, though this track most likely belonged to a pet dog. I liked thinking that maybe somewhere out there, there was a coyote big enough to fill this shoe.”
“I made a left-hand turn to ditch the tailgater on my ass. I was driving slow, yes, but I wasn’t in a rush. I craned my neck down each side road I passed – the sun had almost risen. I clunked over some train tracks and drove by a big eerie electrical plant. I figured I might as well keep on going. The road curved to the left, and soon I realized where I was: Salvation Mountain. I had landed here by accident at sunrise.”
Thinking of going on your own trip to Cali? Check out our favourite hotels to stay at in the state.