T - Minus Six days and counting...

It's coming, in just a few days, the launch of Dance Across the USA.  Such an epic journey turned into an epic book, which was an epic process!  Wow, I had no idea all the facets that would be involved in such an undertaking.  Like everything else I have tried in my life, I've jumped in with both feet, and figured it out as I went.

This time, I'm doing pretty good, all things considered!  I received an email from Jon Jarvis, former head of the National Park Service.  He loves our book!  He was very kind to give us an endorsement for the book, and I am floored by it.  

Jonathan Givens’ photography depicts graceful dancers within extraordinary landscapes in Dance Across The USA.  His artistic eye reminded me of how important the arts have been to our parks and public lands.  Without the early paintings of Thomas Moran and Arthur Bierstadt, the concept of national parks may have never been embraced. Long exposures by Ansel Adams brought us new perspective of Yosemite, and orchestral composer Chip David re-imagined national parks with his Grand Canyon Suite.  Dance Across the USA significantly contributes to this body of work, using “America’s Best Idea” to inspire, create and rejuvenate.  As each dancer is caught in an exhilarating leap over a backdrop of stunning vista, they remind us to celebrate our nation’s heritage.
— The Honorable Jonathan B. Jarvis – Former Director of the National Park Service (2009-2017)

Can you believe it?!?  So amazing!  I am very humbled and honored to have someone of his stature say such nice things.  Very soon this will be in stock at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere you buy books.  Of course, if you want to support us directly, buying directly through our website is the best way.  However you choose, I hope you love this book as much as I have loved bringing it to life.  Stay tuned for lots of new content, limited edition prints, behind the scenes stories from the dancers, and much more.  Plus, very soon we will be announcing our follow-up projects.  Thanks for all the support!

Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main...

Well, it's on the way... 10,000 books coming over the ocean headed towards our distributor then bookstores and online retailers all over the country!  I actually have in my hand (well, not RIGHT now, I am typing, after all...) an advance copy I received via FedEx, and OMG, I cried.  Seriously.  We have been working on this for so long, to see it in reality is overwhelming!  And were it not for all the combined efforts of the village we have created, this would never have been possible. 


A life lesson I swear by is that if you surround yourself with incredible people, THAT is how you grow.  All my friends are way cooler and more talented than I am.  And I like it that way - I get to hang out with the cool kids!  They push me to be better, and teach me things I didn't know I didn't know.  That's called Unconscious incompetence.  


There are tons of cool things being planned once the book launch occurs.  Book signings, special photo sessions, contests, and much more!  We will put up a list of our book signing appearances, and hopefully you will be able to come out and meet some of the dancers, and get a signed copy of the book for your very own!


Make sure you follow us on Instagram @eps_photo or Facebook www.facebook.com/EPSpecialists  


Thank you for all the support, and we hope you enjoy Dance Across the USA!!!

Dance Across the USA is being printed as we speak!

What that means is, it is almost time to be able to purchase your copy of the book for your very own!  this has been an epic journey, for sure!  We finished the layout and text for the book, one year TO THE DAY of the trip completing.  Today, we sent it in to the printer, to have them begin that process.  Once we have received the proofs back, we will open up the store for pre-sales.  SO exciting!

So, as we are living proof, I can tell you that if you just hang on to your dreams, you can make them come true.  It's hard, for sure.  But only you can make that happen.  =)

And we keep trucking on!

We had a very busy dance school season, but now that it's over, we again turn our attention to #datusa!  We have made an agreement with a printer to produce the book - a beautiful 10x10, 250-ish page tome, and we go to print the end of August!  That should have Dance Across the USA on shelves by October or so.  SO EXCITING!!!!!  There is much still to do, but it is all a labor of love.  Again, this book is meant to raise money for the National Endowment for the Arts and America's Parks, so when it goes on sale we will be donating $1 from every book sold to each of these causes!

I'm looking forward to sharing updates on the process as we continue to move forward.  In the six weeks remaining until press time, there is still quite a lot of layout work to do.  And since I'm new at this, it takes me a while!  =)  Stay tunes for more updates, and as always, KEEP DANCING!

Best - 


Edits, edits, and more edits!

Having made my first few rounds of selections for what will end up being book images, I am now down to a pool of about 600 images.  First cut brought it down to 2100 or so, now I'm here.  The next stage is to go through and do basic edits on these 600, and print them all out, so I can start laying things out to see how images work with each other in a cohesive piece.  It's getting really real!  

Outside of going a little blind from all the computer time, things are going well.  I'm really excited about what's coming up for us!  Make sure you check back in here from time to time to see how things are progressing, I'll keep you updated!  

Oh, btw, have you been to the Press page on the site?  It's incredible to me at how much coverage we have gotten from this project, and the book isn't even out yet!  Check it out to see some tv, radio, or written pieces about little ol' DATUSA.  Have a great day!



DATUSA Dabs!!!

When we began this project, one of the dancers said it would be "totally awesome" if I have all the dancers do a DAB.  So, when I actually remembered to have them do that, we did.  SO here it is, DATUSA Dabs!

Now that the travel is over, the hard part begins...

This trip was epic, to be sure.  The endless driving, the impossible hikes, lack of sleep, keeping my gear in good clean working order - it was difficult, to say the least.  But now that I am back in Florida, the really hard work begins!  Creating a book out of the 27,000 or so images is no small feat.  And there are lots of things that go along with that.

Press coverage continues - with articles appearing in newspapers and magazines across the country.  And developing our own promotions is also key, like this one here -

Some of our teaser images, done with a Parellax effect!  Pretty cool, eh?  So neat stuff still happening, all the while I am chained to my computer all day, every day, until I have my selections selected.  So thank you for following along, and stay tuned for the next big announcement, coming soon!

Believe it or not, we're done! At least with the traveling part...

So here we are, back in South Florida, sitting at my desk with my puppies at my feet.  I am kind of stunned that we actually pulled this off!  By the numbers, here is how our project turned out - 


The route for Dance Across the USA


Photos taken - 26,529

Miles Driven - 22,264

Miles Flown - 8,436

Gallons of gasoline used - 1,590

Dancers photographed - 166

Days traveled - 90

Miles Hiked for our locations - 87

Locations used - 56

Times we were actually asked to show our permits - 17

Times stopped by police wondering what is up with the dancing girls on the van - 7

Pieces of gear destroyed during the project - 3 (All on the 53rd location!  So close!)

Injuries sustained by photographer - 2

Times The Mighty Buford needed to be rescued - 0.  He is mighty, after all!


This was a herculean effort by all involved to make this project actually happen!  We had so much kindness shown to us along the way, by rangers, tourists, truckers, police officers, and random people along the way.  I cannot tell you how important simple kindnesses can be!  

I want to be sure to thank the employees of the National Park Service for all of their assistance in completing this project, as well representatives of the Bureau of Land Management, the City of Colorado Springs, the City of Houston, the City of New Orleans, Grand Central Terminal, the State of West Virginia, the City of Boston, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the State of Kentucky and Cumberland Falls State Park and Lodge, Gillette Castle, and Weston Nissan.

I also want to thank each and every dancer, their families, and the friends and companies that supported them in this project.  They have been recognized by the press, their local communities, their state legislatures, and even their governors, for their efforts in making this project a reality.

Most importantly I want to thank my wife and partner, Leigh-Ann Givens, for being an ever-present source of strength and support.  I very honestly could not have done this without her support and encouragement, and it is her calm disposition and level-headedness that keeps me in check.  She is, without a doubt, the single greatest person I have ever met in my life, and has shown me the true meaning of family and acceptance.  Thank you, Leigh-Ann, for everything you do.  

So, now we move on to the part of the project where we get to create the final product - the book whose sales will allow us to donate to America's parks and the National Endowment for the Arts.  The clock is ticking, and there is much to be done.  So stay tuned for updates on that process, and for then the final launch date is announced.  But in the meanwhile, keep on dancing!



It's our last location...

So now here we are on the cusp on completing our journey.  It seems so surreal to be here, the night before our last location.  The final place is Cumberland Island National Park in Georgia.  It's so close to Florida, which is home for me.  There is such a mix of emotions right now - I'm exhausted, of course.  Everything hurts.  I have a laundry list of things I will need to bring up to my doctor to get checked out, each one with a story.  But even stronger is an amazing sense of accomplishment.  No one, as far as I can find, has ever attempted such a trip as Dance Across the USA.  We have definitely created something incredible, and the creation continues after I return home.  The completion of the book is the thing, and to have it done in time by the desired December 1st deadline... well, it's gonna be a doozy!  But like the project itself, I'm jumping in with both feet, and we'll see how this plays out.  

So, one more night of charging batteries, cleaning gear, packing equipment, and getting ready to see what kind of stuff I can come up with.  So, off to make some dinner, snuggle up in Buford for one last sleep, and then off to go camping on an island with no electricity.  Sounds strangely familiar...  hmmmmm...


The hardest trip of our journey begins with a single step

WELL, THIS IS ONE FOR THE BOOKS. Hands down, the most "adventurous" part of the trip so far, and hopefully nothing else will compare for the remainder. Yesterday we had a session in the afternoon in Tennessee. Three dancers arrived, and we hiked out to the Twin Arches area of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Beautiful hike, .7 miles each way. Once we got back to Buford and their cars, we decided to go to the other area called out on our permit, Honey Creek.

We arrived at Honey Creek at about 6:30 pm, with sunset due to happen by 8:10pm, I figured we had about two hours left of hiking time. So we found the map, got some photos of it for reference, and headed down the trail. The map said it was about a mile down to the falls, and less on the way back. Little did we know, the sign lied.

First, the sign lied when it said "You are Here". The sign saying this was nowhere near the actual head of this trail. So while we though we were headed out onto the trail to Honey Creek and its waterfall / Overlook, what we actually got onto was the John Muir Trail. Here is the description of the trail we ACTUALLY went on -

For those wishing to escape from mankind and lose (or find) themselves in the wild forests of the Cumberland Plateau, the John Muir Trail—named after one of this country's most famed outdoorsmen—is a great place to "keep close to Nature's heart and break clear away," as he would say.

Hikers should be warned, though, this is not a well-maintained trail like you might find in the Smokies. While some developments have been made to the park in recent years, hikers should still be prepared to ford rivers, camp in imperfect sites, and generally improvise along their way north. We’d also suggest buying a good, topographical map of the area and a guidebook like Hiking the Big South Fork by Deaver, Smith, and Duncan. Permits are required and can be found here.

Marked by the blue, bearded silhouette of its namesake, the John Muir Trail meanders for 44 miles through Big South Fork and requires about 5 days for most hikers to complete. Sign in at the Brandy Creek Visitors Center before setting out on this long expedition. Starting at the south end, hikers are advised to to park in the relatively well-lit Leatherwood Ford parking lot to avoid theft while on the trail. From Leatherwood Ford, you’ll head north to the Angel Falls overlook and continue along the west side of the Cumberland River before following the trail northwest away from the river, across Chestnut Ridge to the John Muir Overlook. Cross the Big South Fork boundary into Pickett State Park and finish at the trailhead for Hidden Passage Trail, where your second car should be parked.

We had no clue what we were in for. As we hiked down to the falls (or so we thought), the "trail" went from a trail to some serious bouldering and rather obscure paths. However, we did follow the trail markers, so we knew (HA!) we were still on the trail. In about 40 minutes, we got down to a waterfall, which we thought was the falls at Honey Creek. While the area was rugged and gorgeous, it was not much in the way of a waterfall. But we got our images in about 20 minutes, and then headed back out. Instead of retracing out steps, we did what I thought was the straight line return trail in the middle of the maps. This is where the adventure really began.

I did not mention that three dancers all brought someone with them. Hailey brought her mom Rana, Chloe brought her mom Amber, and Darbey brought her boyfriend Chaz, as well as their dog Capone. When I say dog, I mean Mac Truck. This 9 month old American Pitfall Terrier weight 120 lbs, AND IS STILL GROWING! Such a sweetheart, though, and very well behaved.

We began our hike back, and after the the first couple minutes, we got to what I thought was the "steep ladder" part on the map. It was a rope, that you needed to pull yourself up with along a rock face. We all made it up (the puppy was a rockstar!) and we were off and running.

But the trail kept going, and going, and going. And it got rougher. We were sliding through caves, crossing streams, oh, and the bugs! Particularly the spiders. I was leading, and the trail had not been hiked in quite a while, so it was both overgrown and COVERED WITH SPIDER WEBS!!! Which I removed for everyone by using my face. =(

It was now dark, and we should have made it back to the cars, but we pressed on. We were still following the trail markers, so we THOUGHT we were still in the right place, and looking at google on our phones (no service, but the GPS was tracking still) we were almost at the road. However, the "road" Google showed us was no longer a road, it was now a horse trail. We found a sign, calling out mileages, but nothing was anywhere close to us. I suddenly had on bar of service, and decided to call the cavalry.

"911 - what is your emergency?"

"Hi, we're hiking, and seem to be lost, although we are still following the trail markers, we have gone much further than we should have needed to. Can you help?"

After about 30 minutes of chatting with the dispatcher, we finally got a Park Ranger connected to us. He told us that to get out, we would still have to hike 1.7 miles out to the O&W Bridge. It's a new trail, not on any map. And, considering the terrain and darkness, it would take us about 90 minutes to complete. And this is nowhere near our cars, so they would meet us there and drive us back around to where we parked.

Now, we did have flashlights. I brought three with me - two epic bright ones, and my headlamp. Thank goodness for that! Darby and Chaz had a couple as well, and everyone had cell phones. So, at 10:15pm, we began our hike out.

Did I mention we were soaked from sweat, tired, and pretty much everything hurt at this point? So with packs full of tutus, dance clothes, and camera gear, we headed out.

Along the way, we ran into snakes, MANY more spiders, but this trail was much nicer. Downhill, and actually a trail, as opposed to what we had been on. At least, until the last half mile or so. We lost the trail.

As we hiked, the markers vanished, and the terrain got really rough again. Very steep downhills, slippery rocks, streams, and my guess as to what the trail was supposed to be. But, as it turns out, we guessed right. We had some great teamwork, with Chaz and Darbey taking the lead down with one of my big lights, and I took up the rear, making sure to keep everyone together with no mishaps. We finally saw headlights.

When we got up to the road, there were 10 vehicles from the Scott County Rescue Squad, the park ranger, and the Sheriff as well. We had now hiked a total of 11.52 miles that day. 1.5 miles of that was from our first location. But from 6:30 pm to 12:15 am, we hiked 10 miles of some of the most difficult, brutal, and obscure trails I have even been on in my life. And now had to ride back to Buford. That ride took 26 miles, and almost an hour.

So, in the end, we finally made it back to the vehicles at around 1:15am. Some blisters, sore knees and ankles, but safe, and in good spirits. This was, without a doubt, the hardest photoshoot I will have ever have attempted. I have not even looked at the images from yesterday yet, but there is some gold in there. There better be, after all of that, right?!?

Thank you to the Scott County Rescue Squad, Scott County 911 dispatch, Ranger Gary (never got his last name) and the Scott County Sheriff's Department for helping us out. Thank you T-Mobile for actually working when I needed you most. And thank you to my intrepid team, the DATUSA dancers for Big South Fork. You are THE most extreme people, and you made it through a very difficult situation with grace and composure.

Now, it's off to Ohio to prepare for the sessions tomorrow. Sunrise at Blue Hen Falls, with another hike. But this one is only .5 miles, and is well marked. Or so it says... duh, Duh, DUHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Jonathan, out.


Our dancers, the puppy, and Scott County Rescue.

Our dancers, the puppy, and Scott County Rescue.

Internet is hard to find on the road!

So today, we have finished Bryce Canyon, and are headed onto Navaho land, to photograph Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ.  It's been a whirlwind trip, from Colorado to Wyoming, then Idaho, Nevada and Utah.  We've covered over 6200 miles so far, and things are going along really well!

A big part of our trip is making sure that we are good stewards of the land we visit.  While it is tempting for photographers, or any visitors really, to run around and get into hard to reach places, it is key that you make sure you are not damaging the fragile ecosystem you are enjoying. Some places are very delicate, and can be forever harmed by a simple touch.  Take Florida's reefs, for instance.  The oils on your skin can kill the reef, and imagine is everyone touched it!  Some places it is simply dangerous to you to go off trail and wander.  Take Bryce Canyon, for example.  While the hoodoos look strong and stable, some of them are undercut rock formations, that only look solid from above, and are hollow below.  Anytime we are out shooting in our parks, we make sure to ask where we can and cannot go.  Usually, there is a ranger accompanying us, so we have someone making sure we don't do anything stupid.  And in all of our photos, while they may look precarious, we have made sure that we are not putting anyone (myself included) at risk, nor will our activities damage anything.

Another very important part of visiting our parks is making sure you are actually prepared for the visit.  Wear shoes appropriate to the terrain.  Spike heels are NOT meant for hiking.  And make sure you bring whatever supplies you need.  Our ranger at Bryce was telling us that there are a couple of rescues that happen every week, because people are not prepared for the hike they embark on.  Lots of times, it's that they wore bad shoes.  Flip flops are also not suitable hiking attire at Bryce, or any other serious trail.  While they are great for beach hikes, they do not afford you any protection in rocky terrain or support for all the climbing you will do.

Visiting out parks and seeing all the amazing things our nation has to offer is a wonderful thing.  But please, listen to your rangers.  They are there to help make sure you stay safe, and that the beauty you are enjoying is around for future generations to enjoy as well.  They are not boring killjoys, but rather guardians to be respected.  So when you see a ranger, thank them for their service, and don't give them any crap.  =)

Locations 5-9. We've been busy!

When we last wrote, I was headed up to Mississippi to visit the Cypress Swamp along the Natchez Trace Parkway.  The Parkway is a really beautiful drive, passing through several states, and is the 8th most visited park in the entire USA.  (Number 1 is the Blue Ridge Parkway).  The drive up from New Orleans was lovely, as I was practically the only car on the road.  Meeting folks at sunrise will tend to do that!  =) 

Once I arrived, I pulled out my flooding lounge chair, and enjoyed the sounds of the swamp.  There is so much life in places like this, and it is amazing to sit in the stillness and take it all in.  Once the Dancer's arrived, we got down to business.  You can see the images from Cypress Swamp at this link HERE.

From here, I drove to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.  My plan was to camp at the park, and then do a bit of scouting the next morning to prepare for the session.  This plan actually worked!  Better than my first wack at using the 12v crock pot I have for #themightybuford.  Buford has all the toys.  =). Basically, the crock pot has two setting - OFF and Volcano.  So I overcooked the ribs by quite a bit.   Now knowing that, I'm ready to try my second meal - a pork roast with Veg.  I'll let you know how that goes.   

The session at Hot Springs went off swimmingly (see those images HERE) and another night camping there was really nice.  If you have not camped in a National Park, I highl;y recommend it.  It is very peaceful, people are (mostly) nice and on good behavior, and the views are without compare.  The next morning, it was off to Oklahoma.  

This is where I started to get excited.  Watching the scenery change from thick forests to Midwestern plains was amazing, and I felt like I had made a big step.  I used to live in Oklahoma and Colorado, and was born in Texas.  I really do love this part of the country.

When I arrived at Chickasaw, we were amazing blessed to have two members of the Chickasaw Tribe come out to show me their stomp dance, an important part of their culture and history.  They taught us about the meanings of the dance, how it builds up the tribe, and what it means to them individually.  You can see the Chickasaw images at this link - CHICKASAW NRA

This is where things got rough.  After having gotten up early to scout around for locations, and shooting until 9PM, I now had to drive overnight to make it to the Alamo in time for our 5AM session.  It was a seven hour drive, and I had a little less than eight hours to make it in.  THERE WAS SO MUCH COFFEE.  Which does create its own problems.

I made it on time, and the Alamo went off without a hitch.  Wanna see?  The photos are HERE!  Still running on no sleep, I headed out of town, found a truck stop, showered, and went to sleep for a couple hours until it got to over 100 degrees in Buford, and I thought I should get up and start driving.  Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, (I love Marty Robbins) I stopped for the night, to get some computer work done.

This is proving to be the most challenging part of the trip, getting things online when I need to.  T-Mobile is terrible for coverage in the USA (amazing overseas though), so I got a Verizon Jetpack to help me stay in touch, but that gets expensive.  I have yet to do the Starbucks wifi thing, but I'm sure that day will come.

After a good nights sleep (man, I needed that!) I headed up to White Sands.  On the way I found out the dancers for that location had all backed out, and my staff was furiously trying to get replacements in less than 24 hours.  They came through with flying colors, finding 10 dancers.  It was the shotgun approach, and it worked in spades.  Some amazing dancers, those folks.  You can see the fruits of their labor on the New Mexico page HERE.  

Then it was a gorgeous drive up to Colorado Springs, where I went to high school.  (GO SPARTANS!!!)  It made me wax nostalgic about my high school days, and the impact my teachers had on my life.  Hayes Alexander, Karen Reynolds, Trent Ellis, Linda Case, these folks had a profound influence on my life, and very directly help me become the man I am today.  I owe them a ginormous debt of gratitude.  And perhaps an apology or two... I was a bit of a rambunctious teenager.  =)

Now, I am off to shoot in the Garden of the Gods, one of my favorites places on the planet.  If you haven't been, and you find yourself in Colorado Springs, make the time.  It's a small park that will leave a big mark on you.  Have a great day, folks!

Dance Across the USA in the Big Easy (New Orleans, LA) - Location 4

Driving into New Orleans is something I have done many times over.  After years of being on the road with theatrical productions, I have had the privilege on several occasions of working the Historic Saenger Theater.  (A fantastic theater, on the National Register of Historic Places).  It has been a while though, and making this drive was like visiting an old friend.  Anyone who has driven into N'Awlins knows the wonderful bouncebouncebounce of the highway in and out of town.  

I met up with the dancers at the gates to Jackson Square on Decatur Street.  We filed for our permit to shoot here, so anywhere in the Quarter we were good to go for.  Now you might be saying, "Hold on a minute there, skippy.  I thought this project was all about national parks.  The French Quarter is NOT a national park.  Whatup with that?"

Well, while not a national park, the entire Quarter is designated as a national historic landmark, and therefore stays within the spirit of what we are doing.  So there!  PPPBBBBLLLLTTTTTT!!!

My wife says I'm four years old at heart.  I'd say that's accurate.  

Anyhow, we wandered the streets of the Quarter, doing our photos in between the artists, musicians, tarot card readers, and those who may or may not have had one to many drinks.  And of course, we ended up on Bourbon Street.  But as we had minors with us, we made sure to stay in an area clear of any of the more mature subject matter.  As per usual, I ended laying in the street, trying really hard not to think about what has happened there before, and to not inhale too deeply, either.  Some smells you just can't wash away, you know what I'm saying?

How many other folks would actually lay down in the middle of Bourbon Street?  I really needed a shower when we were done with THIS session!

How many other folks would actually lay down in the middle of Bourbon Street?  I really needed a shower when we were done with THIS session!

The Louisiana dancers unfortunately did not get the opportunity to meet The Mighty Buford, as I had to have him parked in a garage.  Street parking is not really possible in the Quarter, especially not in the afternoon.  But it was a great afternoon, and after a good night's sleep I'll be driving up to Mississippi to prepare for our sunrise session in the Cypress Swamp on the Natchez Trace Parkway.  See the New Orleans photos in the gallery HERE.  Thanks for following along!



Little River Canyon - Alabama (Location 3)

After leaving Key West, I drove back home for one last snuggle with the puppies and a few last minute odds and ends before I left for "total reals" (a quote from an actress friend of mine Gina Milo).  It ended up being about a 13 hour drive from Ft. Lauderdale to the Little River Canyon, and I arrived with only about an hour to spare  before I met with the dancers for that location.  A quick check-in with the rangers and we were off!  (Again, permits are REQUIRED for photoshoots in any and all national parks, and we have one for every location)  The first step was finding our way down to the falls where I had planned on shooting, and then figuring out how to look as close to the edge as possible while still being safe.  It's easy to be dumb, but a bit of planing and creative thinking can get you an amazing shot and still not injure anyone.

I really get into my work!  

I really get into my work!  


After a morning of galavanting around Little River Falls, a nap was in order (recall I had driven all night the day before) and a quick scout of the location for the afternoon.     I chose Martha's Falls for the afternoon, and after meeting up with Ranger Miranda Brown, we headed down to the falls.  

This place is awesome!  A swimming hole, you can jump / dive off of the falls here into the cool water, which makes for a very refreshing way to do a photoshoot!  I had the dancers jumping in as I took their photos, and then we scrambled around on the rocks getting more shots in as the sun set.  

Once we finished, we made the hike back up to the cars, where I loaded everything back into the Mighty Buford and started my drive to Louisiana.  One of the little life hacks I learned years ago is that many truck stops have places for folks to take a shower, which was much needed after a day of sun, river, and bug spray (Ahhh, life on the road!)  I found myself a rest area to take a nap, and closed the book on Alabama.  Location 3, done.  Make sure to visit the gallery of teaser images HERE.  And now... off to the Big Easy!

Dry Tortugas - Location 2

Dry Tortugas, the second in our 54 locations for Dance Across the USA.  This island is located about 70 miles West of Key West, out in the middle of the ocean.  Like Biscayne national park, this one is mostly underwater, with one 1% of this park being actual land.

To get to the Dry Tortugas, you must take a boat or a sea plane.  We  booked our passage on the one official company that has an agreement with the park system, the Yankee Freedom.  This is a three hour boat ride from Key West, where we saw schools of flying fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and tarpon on the ride over.  Once we arrived, we found our campsite and got everything ready.

The Yankee Freedom III.  Great little boat!

The Yankee Freedom III.  Great little boat!

Campsite?  Oh, didn’t mention that part of it before.  The ferry is only at Dry Tortugas from 10:30am until 2:45 pm, so right in the middle of the day where good lighting for photos is pretty non-existent (at least for outdoor photos).  To be able to get here, we had to agree to a two night stay.  In fact, it was only the kindness of the Dry Tortugas administration and the Yankee Freedom that allowed us to come at all – when we called to make a reservation two months in advance, everything was booked, and no slots were available.  I explained the project and our goals, and they allowed us seven spots over capacity, when they could have easily said no.  So big props to them both!

Camping here is what you call “primitive”.  There is no electricity, no water (save for the ocean), a composting toilet that uses roaches as a big part of the composting process, and not a lot of shade, either.  There is about a 100’ wide section of land between the moat from the fort and the ocean, with two trees.  My tent was under one of them, and the table for our site was under the other.

Let me give a big shout out to the dancers who we selected to join us – Sara Franco, Anthony Velazquez, and Shannon Wichmann.  While Shannon had camped previously, she had never roughed it quite this much.  Sara and Anthony had never camped before, ever!  They made it through with flying colors.  While there WAS a bit of an adjustment to not having cell phone service (oh yeah, that doesn’t work here, either) they all got into our island life pretty quickly.

When we arrived, we made a beeline for the water, as we were not doing any photos until the afternoon.  The snorkeling was amazing!  The water was super clear, and there was a ton of sea life coming up to say hi.  While we swam, we saw giant stingray, sea turtles, a salt water crocodile, parrot fish, gi-freaking-normous groupers, zebra fish, a nurse shark, and we found Dory!  (The Palette Tang, the name of the fish used in Finding Nemo)  Lots of other things, but you get the idea.  The water was cool, which was a very welcome reprieve from the heat!  While only 97 degrees, the sun and exposure made it feel more like 110º, so getting in the water was really more of a necessity.  

While we were waiting for the sun to go down a bit, I had to check in with the Park Rangers to go over my photo permit.  I met Dave and Andy, who were very interested in our project.  Dave Simons, whose daughter is a dancer from Westside Dance in Pembroke Pines, offered to help in any way that he could.  He went even farther and offered to take us in their “Safe Boat” over to to Loggerhead Key, an island in the park with an active lighthouse and marine research facilities.  We absolutely took them up on their generous offer, and an hour before sunset we met to get our ride over.  We piled into Safe Boat 25, along with some supplies for the researchers living on Loggerhead, and took off.  This boat is what the Rangers use for rescues, citations, and anything else needing a rapid response.  We shot on the beach until sunset, then came back to camp for dinner and some rest.

The next day was a full day of shooting - we shot at sunrise by the moat, inside the fort during the blistering heat of the day (where we also took an amazing nap), and at sunset on the roof of the fort overlooking the sea.  Our last night brought s’mores, pulled chicken sandwiches, and an amazing night sky!  I had to go out and get a couple shots of the Milky Way over the fort as well.  

I promise, this is a totally real shot!

I promise, this is a totally real shot!


The next morning we got up, broke camp, and got loaded on the boat to go home.  Once we landed, hugs were exchanged, and the Mighty Buford and I headed to Ft. Lauderdale for a night’s sleep, one last goodbye for my puppies, and then headed off to Alabama.  So I leave you here, about to get on the road for the real away from home start of the trip.  Check out the galley of teaser images from Dry Tortugas HERE. Stay tuned and follow along, as we dance Across the USA!   


Messing around with Ranger Curtis.

Messing around with Ranger Curtis.

Day One

Hi! So we just had our first day of Dance Across the USA and we are beyond excited about how well it went!  We sailed out of Miami, we got into the water, we avoided lots of sea urchins and other things and wanted to eat us, but got some amazing amazing images along the way. I'm so excited to be able to have this journey actually be underway and I cannot wait to be able to share all of the wonderful images with all of you! Keep an eye out for the book as it will hopefully be released by the beginning of December. The images from yesterdays shoot, and the adventures we had, were all uploaded to the Florida Ocean gallery, found under the Locations tab. (Click on this link HERE to go directly to the page). Along with videos from our journey beginning to end. It was a remarkable sunset, and a wonderful start to our project.

We are even more excited to further our journey to The Dry Tortugas!! We will be in the middle of ocean, on an island, in a fort, and many other things ready to eat us! Ahh! Only two more days until then, and we are still getting ready. We are working on getting the Mighty Buford packed and ready to go! He was rewired, with a Refrigerator, and all sorts of cool things now! He is currently getting a makeover in the shop, and we will be picking him up tomorrow morning. We will post his new look, so you know exactly what to search for when we drive in! In two days, Buford will be in Key West, Mile marker One. About a month later, we will be at the farthest point possible to go, the Trailhead to Shi Shi beach in Washington. 

22,000 Miles, 90 Days! Any normal human being would not do this.. Jonathan is out of his mind! As we pack things up, we are filled with joy. Day One was a complete success, and we are ready for the next 89 Days to be just as great! :-)

So keep a look out for our nonstop adventures, in the newly remodeled Mighty Buford in all of his glory! As he comes to each state, we are ready to conquer all of the untold beauty of the National Parks. We are excited for all of our dancers, and the joy it will bring to have this all come together!

So the sun sets on Day One, Our next location is right around the corner -  as we Dance Across the USA!


We were about to announce that we start in two weeks...

But we've made a change.  We start our project in 12 DAYS!!!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?  We have added in an additional location in Florida, Biscayne National Park.  We will be shooting here on June 28th, and then moving on as planned.  It's so soon!!!

There is much to be done, of course.  We are still working on permits, having already submitted everything for the next month.  We've decided on specific times and locations for our first month of parks, and are moving on on the second month.  It's really three months on the whole thing, so we're planned into the second trimester, you might say.

I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS TRIP TO START!!! I have loved travel for my entire life, and to be able to combine travel with such a great cause is an incredible opportunity.  The national parks need our help and support.  If we do not care for them now, they will disappear to the destructive hand of industry, and we cannot let that happen.  John Muir, an early champion of our national parks, said "The battle we have fought, and are still fighting for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, and we cannot expect to see the end of it. ... So we must count on watching and striving for these trees, and should always be glad to find anything so surely good and noble to strive for."

Who talks like that?  No one, anymore.  But it is true; there will always be a battle to preserve and defend our national parks, as there will always be those who see more value in their destruction than their preservation.  The same can be said of our youth, that it is far easier to let them become lost in their digital media than challenge them to get out and be physical.  Dance is such a great opportunity for people to be up and active, doing something that feels good, is healthy, and is beautiful to watch.  It's really a win-win here, help the parks and promote dance and the arts as a way to help develop our future generations.

We still need a ton of help, in supplies, funds, and even people giving their time.  If you can do anything to assist us in our herculean effort to bring this project to life, we would great appreciate it.  I would greatly appreciate it.  As will every visitor to our parks, and everyone whose life is lifted up by art - whether it be music, dance, painting, photography, drawing, or any of the hundreds of disciplines that exist.  Our efforts today help support them all.  Please visit this link to donate to us today, so that we can keep on Dancing Across the USA!



We have selected our finalists!!!

Hi there! Today we sent our our finalist notifications for our Dance Across the USA project. Almost 300 people were sent an email today, and in a week we will cut that down to around 150. For all of those who have made it this far, congratulations!

If you were not selected to be a finalist, don't feel bad! We had over 2700 people submit for the project, and while we would love to include everyone, it's just not possible for us. There were lots of reasons why people did not make the cut. But wherever you are, keep on dancing - that's the bond that ties us all together. Have a great day!

You Don't Wanna Miss This

We're about to pick our finalists for the project. Its a tough pick. So many submissions. So many wonderful people I can't wait to meet, and to share this experience with.

But we're still asking for more!

I know, crazy talk.

But some people haven't submitted yet! We're eager to have you here. To join us on to be part of something incredible. Something BIG. Something that will make a difference. We need you to submit, to join us on our mission, our adventure our journey.

By MIDNIGHT TONIGHT Eastern Time we're closing our submissions! Tomorrow we'll be making the calls. How exciting! Just a few..more...hours.

We can't wait to see all these beautiful parks. To experience all they have to offer and to benefit from their beauty, and the beauty of dance.

There is so much to see and so much to do! So little time.. 

Only 48 Days left until we take off.. Only a couple of hours until the submissions are set!

We're ready to Dance our way across the USA.

Are You?...

The Schedule is RELEASED!!

As the clock starts ticking, the schedule becomes more and more relevant. We must continue forth with a plan!! The people need to know! When are we making each destination? What day are we going to be in YOUR town? When will you see #TheMightyBuford drive through YOUR streets? 

And finally, after hard work, dedication, precision, and a team of people we have figured it out. Step by step.. We're on our way!

So yes, with much excitement and plenty of driving ahead of me I am proud to announce to all those eager to see dancers all across the molten lava in Hawaii, to the Hot Springs of Arkansas;


Yes, yes its out!! Alert the media! Inform the press! Within due time we will take off in #TheMightyBuford, Set forth with a plan. A direction! A purpose! 

So check it out, See where we'll be! There is much exploring ahead! You don't want to miss it. Just follow up on the page "The Schedule" at top and it'll tell you where we'll be and when!

Not to long now, we're on our way! The plans in motion, the dates are set!

We'll be in your state soon enough!!