Commentary by Barbara Bullock-Wilson

Whenever I look through a monograph of my father's photographs, it is like turning the pages of a family album. So many of his well-known images were taken on weekend outings and vacation trips.

Florence, Trees and Sand Dunes, 1959, is one such image. I was 14 that year, my sister Lynne was 6, and Mom and Dad had purchased a truck camper so our family could take extended - and affordable - road trips.

Our first major outing in the new camper was to Yosemite over a long holiday weekend in February. On the way, Dad was forced to learn very quickly how to put chains on big, hulking truck tires. Once on the Valley floor, we discovered we were the only campers in sight. We also realized the camper had no source of heat other than the small gas cook stove. To top it all off, Dad had to clear a narrow path through dauntingly high snow drifts to the toilets. In spite of the challenges and our woeful lack of experience, we had a wonderful time. Yosemite was breathtakingly beautiful, we didn't succumb to the cold, and Dad even managed to take a few photographs.

Our second camping trip in 1959 was to Death Valley during Easter vacation. We all had a great time driving along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada range as well as exploring the desert landscape, and Dad found ample opportunities to photograph. Out of that trip came Route 395, Mountains and Snow, 1959, and Lynne, Death Valley, 1959.

The third big excursion of the year was a road trip into northern California and Oregon. By this time, we felt like pros. Mom had developed an efficient system for packing and loading the camper. On-the-road routines for grocery shopping, meal preparation, and clean-up had fallen happily into place. Food matters were shared by all, and menu planning was much more spontaneous than it ever was at home, allowing us to savor local specialties and assuage spur of the moment hungers. Traveling seemed to inspire Dad in particular, and he loved to add all sorts of treats to the shopping cart. He even occasionally encouraged the rest of us to do the same.

The hours of riding in the camper provided an ideal time for learning about family history, engaging in philosophical discussions (something Dad and I particularly relished), daydreaming, and sharing information from our AAA and Woodalls travel guides. The latter activity helped us plan our stopovers with their not-to-be-missed attractions, although we also stayed open to unanticipated discoveries and adventures. Evenings were occupied with after-dinner walks, card playing; games such as Yahtzee, Parcheesi, and Scrabble; movies, often of the drive-in type; and reading.

One of the longest stopovers on our 1959 summer trip was around the Oregon town of Florence. Our stay in the area was marked by a number of firsts. With the help of a neighboring camper, we learned how to dig for razor clams along the beach flats. The camper's wife gave Mom instructions on how to prepare the clams for chowder and I have vivid memories of Mom shrieking as she learned how to shuck the bivalves. The chowder eventually got made and it was delicious. Mom, however, vowed she would never use anything but canned clams again.

Another first was our family fishing excursion. Although Dad had some experience with rod and reel, the rest of us were neophytes. Excited to induct us into the pleasures of catching and eating a fresh fish dinner, he rigged up some twine with hooks and sinkers, bought some worms at a marina store, and found a likely place for us to settle in. Lynne quickly decided that fishing was not for her, but Mom and I persisted with Dad until we managed to catch enough for a small appetizer course that night. It was the last time we fished together as a family.

Even though it failed to make the Bullock women keen on fishing, the outing that day proved to be very fortuitous for Dad. After safely storing our small catch in the ice chest, we took time to explore our surroundings. Always prepared for image opportunities as well as whatever else was the focus of the day, Dad happened across a boy fishing off a nearby pier. He was intrigued by the juxtaposition of temporal and spatial elements represented by the boy, mud flats, water, barnacled pilings, and pier. He made a few exposures, one of which became the iconic image Boy Fishing, 1959.

Our featured image is the second notable photograph Dad made during our stay in Florence. The Oregon Dunes is a 40-mile stretch of shifting sands, lakes, and forests that extends southward between the towns of Florence and Coos Bay. It is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America with some of the dunes rising almost 500 feet above sea level. Exploring this unusual, often surprising, and sometimes haunting environment was a highlight of our vacation, and Florence, Trees and Sand Dunes evokes all of those qualities for me. Like so many of Dad's photographs, it also carries memories of family, along with the love and good times we shared.

~ Barbara Bullock-Wilson