My life and photography are all about living in the Sonoran desert among the saguaro and javelina, the coyote and quail.
The desert has a unique kind of beauty: vast, sparse, ancient, and enduring.
I love the spectacular sunsets and the spicy smell of the creosote shrub after a long-needed rain. I admire the resilience and hardiness of desert which still somehow manages to reveal a fragile delicate side now and then when the wildflowers lay down
and blanket their color in a fleeting season.
Photographing the desert for me this last year has been a huge challenge. It's an area I'd like to work on more, strive this next year to improve compositionally.
The desert can be moody and dramatic, hot and cold, dry or deluged,
barren or bursting in wildflowers and life. Splashed with an amazing palette of colors at any given season, I've yet to ever witness the desert landscape to be barren or unbeholding.
It's rich with life, alive with the sounds and songs that play in the early morning hours and before the desert sleeps.
It's a fascinating journey of life cycles and season changes.
The 10 mile hike starts with a dramatic drop into a sandstone rift in which a series of switchbacks start and after just 1 mile, it has descended 2000 feet to the dry wash in the bottom of Hualapai Canyon. I found the trail itself to be extremely beautiful. In the first 3 miles you are exposed to the sun with no landscape respite. For the next 6 miles, the trail follows the gently sloping wash as the canyon drops down through the red layers of Supai sandstone. Soon you come to the end of Hualapai Canyon at its junction with Havasu Canyon. The landscape changes here at the bottom of the canyon as a gushing river emerges from the ground at Havasu Springs. Willow, tamarisk and cottonwood trees now offer some welcome shade and a sign alerts you to the Havasupai village of Supai.
Exhausted, hot and dehydrated as I walked into the village, it felt like I was walking back in time, leaving the modern world behind. Quietly and reverently I walked through the village homes and farms, petted the horses and noted something unique, the melodic constant background song of the canyon wren.
There really isn't anything that can prepare you for the first sight of Havasu falls. It's simply nature in harmony with perfection. A 100 foot waterfall that crashes into a gem-like turquoise pool amphitheater surrounded by lush greens. Dozens of smaller spill outs and blue-green mini falls cascade over small natural travertine dams on the periphery.
My first morning I got up at 5 AM and headed out to Havasu Falls to shoot and had the place
to myself. Soon the sun became high and I laid back and rested against my camera backpack and just watched the falls. The mist was constant and soft against my face. I wanted to feel and hear the falls and nothing else. There is magic here and in the background, the song of the canyon wren.
Down the trail is Mooney Falls. Almost twice as high as Havasu Falls, the real adventure here begins as you descend down to the falls itself.It's not for the faint hearted.It's a perplexing maze of narrow caves, wet rocks, askew ladders, iron handholds, and rusted chains, all carved into and out of the 200-foot high sandstone cliffs. It calls out to my inner Lara Croft, and as scary death-defying obstacle courses go, it's unmatched.
A minor mishap on the hike in (2 broken toes) left me unable to hike and photograph some of the areas I had planned on. Navajo falls being one of those areas. After some heavy first-aid tape applications I did manage a few good hikes, photography and even some night photography.
(Decent into Mooney Falls photo by Harry Ford)
Having had more down time than I expected when it became impossible for me to get my hiking shoes on anymore. I spent some rather enjoyable time at the camp watching the squirrels pilfer the unattended tents.
While others discouraged this behavior and scared the varmints away. I secretly rooted for them. I read, relaxed and chatted with the other hikers. I cleaned my camera gear and reviewed my shots. I relaxed in the quiet of the mid-afternoon sun, in a tent that rustled when the wind came up, trying not to feel sorry for the loss of the hiking and photography time.
The constant song of the canyon wren played in the background and it made me think and it made me focus. This place remains the same, we bring to it our own expectations. I decided not to make the trip about what I didn't do, but to see the adventure as the beautiful introduction, the preface, the prologue of the return to Havasupai and the song of the canyon wren.
I had an idea of where I was going but then again, I didn't. I knew what I wanted to see but never found it. I had traveled early and far and when I got out to shoot, it was very very cold and windy. I felt a bit lost, geographically and emotionally. My GPS kept wanting to send me down unmarked dirt roads and I felt myself fighting it.
The proverbial angel and devil perched on my shoulders and we three constantly converse on these isolated trips. Go home? Blame the wind? Rationalize that my creative self had long left the conversation. This same thought or quote of something I once heard always ends this dilemma.