How to Drive in Birmingham

Stockton Street San Francisco Street Photography

Let me start off by saying, I'm not the best driver. I've had my driver's license for almost two years and been actually only driving for a year, so I'm definitely not a seasoned driver. I am, however, fairly knowledgeable of the California DMV driver's handbook. I read that book front-to-back several times in preparation for my written test and to familiarize myself with the rules of the road. I know the driving laws for California. 

I've only driven in California once, but I can tell you Alabama drivers and driving is nothing like California. You'd image that since the Bay Area is a much larger area with a larger population that the traffic would be crazier than Birmingham, but it's not. I can say, hands down, that Alabama drivers are the complete worse drivers I have ever witnessed, and I've been to places like China, India, Boston, New York, LA...etc--places with notoriously aggressive and chaotic traffic. Well, they've got nothing on Birmingham and here's why:

If you want to drive in Alabama you just need to do the following to fit in:

Ignore all emergency vehicles when their lights are flashing.  Do not stop or pull over. This is probably the worse thing drivers do around here. I live in about a 10 minute driving radius to at least four major hospitals, so there are constantly ambulances with their emergency lights on on the road. You'll often see ambulances with their sirens on getting stuck behind cars who just won't pull over.  Because it happens more often than not, I honestly wonder if they know they're supposed to let the ambulances through. Lance once pulled over to the side of the road for an ambulance and the car behind him honked him!

Drive at least 10-15 miles over the speed limit in the slow lane and about 20-30 miles over the speed limit if you're not in the slow lane. I'm not sure why but everyone here seems like they're in a rush to get somewhere. Why? I don't know. It takes about 5-15 minutes to get everywhere in Birmingham, but yet a lot of drivers speed. In my neighborhood, I'll sometimes find that people drive 35-40 mph where it's a 25 mph speed limit. And that leads me to my next "tip".

Tail the car in front of you like you're glued to their bumper. If you're driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I completely understand driving that close to the car in front of you, but drivers in Alabama will tail cars regardless of whether traffic is going 20 mph or 90 mph. I have no idea why people do this. It's so unsafe. I prefer to drive with at least a car's length distance in front of me. When we're in California, everyone maybe be speeding or driving fast or whatever, but everyone has a reasonable distance between them and the car in front of them (i.e. the faster the speed, the larger the distance between cars.) 

Tail and pass everyone in front of you. Make sure to also weave through traffic, too. If you don't don't drive at least 10-15 mph faster than the speed limit, you'll most likely anger the car behind you. They'll come up really close behind you, pass you, then purposely cut you off. And this is in 40 mph roads and 70 mph roads; it doesn't matter to them. Seriously, the drivers are pretty reckless. They need to slow their roll.

Speed up when there's a yellow light, no matter how far you are from the intersection. Bonus points for running the red light. I know this is pretty common everywhere, but it seems especially commonplace here. I feel like at most intersections this happens. This is particularly crazy to me because it's pretty obvious that yellow means slow and red means stop. Didn't we all play "red light green light" as a child? 

At a four-way stop go when it's not your turn. I've been at countless four-way stops and people often disregard the laws where the first one who arrives at the stop gets to go first or if you arrive at the same time, the car to the right has priority. Here drivers go after the car the in front of them. It boggles my mind. 

Park wherever you want. I don't really see this anywhere else in the country, but drivers will park literally anywhere. It doesn't matter if it's a grass island in a parking lot or the fire lane or loading zone, people just park wherever they want. One time I was parked in a parking spot and another car parked behind me boxing me and the car next to me in. 

Do not let drivers in. I see this happen both on the freeway and the streets. If there's a stoplight or stopped traffic, drivers will block intersections or entrances to parking lots, preventing other drivers from pulling onto the street. On the freeways we have spots where the freeways converge with other freeways and you need to quickly change lanes to get where you need to go. There are also some, what I think, wacky on-ramps that end quickly. In both these scenarios I see cars speed up so those merging cars can't come into their lanes.  It's crazy. 

Finally, do not use your blinker, ever. This is one of the scarier things for me. I never really quite know where someone is going or if they'll stop suddenly to make a turn. People will not turn on their blinker to exit, change lanes, turn, indicate a turn at intersection...etc. So I never really know where people are going. It puts me on edge.

I should note while these things are pretty common here, obviously not everyone drives crazy. Birmingham is a great place, and I absolutely love it here. I am just always shocked at how unsafe and not-so-nice some of the driving is here, more so than any other place I've visited. While talking about this with friends, someone once mentioned it could be because people are coming into Birmingham from the country where there's less enforcement of rules. So maybe that's it. Either way, Birmingham has really great, amazing people, but just, you know, generally awful drivers. :D 


Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA. April 15, 2015 | Canon Rebel XSN. Kodak Gold 400 film processed by Richard Photo Lab

It's all at your finger tips.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
- Jack Canfield

I’d say I’m both fearless and fearful. 

Everyone is, right?  We all battle between fearlessness and fearfulness and figuring out which situations each is most appropriate.  Walking down a dark, shady alley in the middle of the night in the worst part of town? Fearfulness is probably the wise choice. It prevents you from doing something that could potentially harming you.  Talking to strangers at a conference? Fearlessness is the trait to have so you can meet and connect with people. 

A lot of times I’m fearless. Sometimes I chalk it up to youngest child syndrome, growing up with my parents and five older siblings always taking care of me, leaving me with very few worries.  OrI think back to losing my job and the perspective I gained from realizing God’s plans for my life were far better than anything I could dream up myself. Whatever it is that made me fearless, I’m grateful whenever I choose it.

It was fearlessness that propelled me to go to Alt Summit without knowing anyone, then eventually pitching a class idea to them and teaching the following year.  It was fearlessness that compelled me to build up my blog and reach out to brands for collaboration.  I chose fearlessness and so far it hasn’t let me down.  But it’s really not that easy. I can recall just as many instances when I missed opportunities because I let fear get in the way. The time I didn’t talk to the photographer I admired because I was too scared he’d think I was crazy.  Or the time I didn’t submit a wedding to a publication because I was scared it’d be rejected. Fear can be a real enemy to our happiness. 

That’s why I love that quote by Jack Canfield so much, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” We can’t let fear keep us from our dreams. I see a lot of colleagues and friends who are crippled by their fear of the future.  I sit there and watch as they stay stagnant, my own imagination dreaming of all the amazing things they can do.  But then I see something in them, a glimmer of hope and I see them slowly gripping the strength of fearlessness. I see as they choose fearlessness, then they choose it again, and again, and again.  And I see their lives change before my eyes.

See, when you choose fearlessness, you choose to open yourself up. You open yourself up to God’s plans for your life.  You open yourself up to your dreams.  Ultimately you open yourself up to your own happiness.  You must let fearlessness win!

Choose to live a life of fearlessness! Grab hold of your dreams. Charge forward. It’s all at your fingertips. 


Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. June 18, 2015 | Canon Rebel XSN + Fuji s-400 processed by Richard Photo Lab

Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Film

One of my first cameras was a Canon AE-1 film camera I borrowed from my uncle when I was a kid.  Since then I’ve not shot film except instant film with my Polaroid Land Camera and Fuji Instax mini.  After reading this post by Elise, I thought, “Why not give it a go and see what comes out of it.” I bought the same camera she used, the Canon Rebel XSN, for about $19 and used some film I had lying around.  Thankful, since it was a canon camera, I could use the lenses I already owned.  

Over the first half of 2015 I shot five and half rolls of film and left them sitting on my desk, forgotten until a couple weeks ago when Richard Photo Lab made an announcement that they’d be processing and scanning film for anyone at Field Trip, a photography conference/retreat/adventure/experience I attended last week.  I dropped off five rolls with them, not expecting anything.  After all I had no real experience with film and didn’t know anything about how to shoot film except for the Jose Villa book’s, Fine Art Wedding Photography (which is an amazing read, btw).  

But let me tell you, when I picked up my film and went through the proofs I was amazed. Seriously amazed.  I couldn’t tell you how the images turned out so well.  Was it the film type? Was is Richard Photo Lab’s magic? I couldn’t say.  But whatever happened, I was so happy with the pictures! Here’s a few of them!


Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, AL. April 2, 2015 | Canon Rebel XSN. Kodak Gold 400. Richard Photo Lab

RPTE 33: Film

Raddest Photo Trip Ever


Aside from a few minor inconveniences, I actually really enjoy shooting with film. I still get excited when I develop my film, wondering how each picture will turn out. I shot my europe trip with a fisheye Lomography camera and that was loads of fun, but the camera was rather bulky. For this trip I decide to use my ultra-wide and slim camera. In hindsight I should have tried to shoot more close up shots (most of these pictures were landscape photos). Anyways... here's some of the pictures I got developed. (the pictures shot on 800 film turned out better than those on the 400 film) 

*Click on the images below for a larger view

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Enjoying a refreshing beverage on the beach of Phi Phi Island near Phuket, Thailand

On the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

Taking tuk tuks to our hotel in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The view of my elephant as I straddled his neck.

On another tuk-tuk

In a car on another adventure

At Angkor enjoying the sunset at the ruins

One of my first glimpses of the ruins of Angkor. Amazing.....

At the Tomb Raider and Raiders of the Lost Ark ruins... Bayon Temple, I think?

On a hike to some "underwater" ruins and a waterfall.  This is favorite shot from my film.  Dane and Josh climbed a rock to snap a great picture of the surrounding scenery.

To see other pictures from other photographers on this trip check these out..... Bobby Earle // Richelle Dante // Erika Lindroth Amy Martin // Katie Lewis