Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Colors Of The Spirit

Ending one of the most spectacular Southwest winters I'd ever witnessed or photographed, I headed out to roam as the season transitions into spring.  Temperatures in Phoenix had warmed already into the 80's and I traded my down jacket and traction device laden hiking boots for lighter attire. 

Leaving in the pre-dawn hours wearing shorts, flip-flops and with coffee in hand, I was off into the lands of Navajo and San Juan County. It seems worlds away from the months I'd just spent trekking among the desert winter whites.  My mood is lifted by the sheer comfort of not having several layers of thermal wear on.  

Miles and miles of desert plains are now golden in the early Spring. The sky hints at a spring storm moving in and this delights my photographic sensibilities.  The Navajo horses and cattle graze in wide open spaces under heavy brooding skies.  Windows down, temps in the 70's and the warm sun in my hair,  I'm on the open road that I love. 

Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, The San Juan Goosenecks and Muley Point are on the agenda but I'm game for revisions. I spent 3 days wandering around Monument Valley and the areas East of Kayenta. I camped out of my SUV and as I slept in my 4x4x "tent on wheels", I could see the buttes in the barely lit mornings. 

Almost too good to be true, more than I could have wished for, the photographer in me screamed,  "OH COME ON"!  

Right on cue, a spring storm rolled in. The massively beautiful dark drama kept me on my own "cloud nine".  The sandstone buttes took on a golden ochre glow and as the sun warmed one area the clouds draped the lands with sheets of deep purples and grays. All of this moved and rolled and kept it intense for hours and hours. In the late afternoons the winds would chime in.  The skies, the light, the colors and the wind whips it all into a Southwest symphony beautifully rendered by mother nature.  
The spectacular palette of the Southwest landscapes mixed occasionally with a bit of rain here and there would saturate the already intense desert colors of crimson, vermilion, orange, salmon, peach, pink, gold and yellow.

"Nature always wears the colors of the spirit" 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, it does.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Eat, Play, Dance

Fossil Springs, Arizona

Some of my favorite time spent in photography is the downtime in between the light from sunrise to sunset.  I've discovered  many ways to occupy my time. I'll explore, read, sleep, organize my camera bag, clean lenses, skinny dip (when applicable) but most often I find some way to have fun. Finding ways to amuse myself often results in some of the best hiking stories and often the most painful ones.

In Fossil Springs during the monsoon season I had photographed in the early morning but the sun became harsh and hot by mid-afternoon.  I wanted to wait till the late afternoon to see if the monsoon clouds would roll in, which left me with several hours to kill so I decided to climb a tree. Climbing the tree wasn't enough so I hung upside down by my legs like I used to do in elementary school on the monkey bars. All fine until I realized the whole tree branch was covered in ants, the biting kind, the kind that bite legs. After I plopped to the ground, the numerous ant bites on my legs became rather troublesome. I decided to take a dip, sans clothing.  I hadn't seen a soul in hours and I knew I was in a remote part of the creek.  I ditched the clothes and swam with the dog for quite awhile soothing my gnawed upon legs. I was completely relaxed and at peace. I crawled back on my rock I had been sitting on, got dressed and started combing my wet hair only to be horrified by the sight of half a dozen  middle-aged male kayakers making their way down toward my little pool.  They paddled past me, one by one saying hello. The last guy asked, "Did we just miss something?", with a huge grin.

Another memorable time, I was hiking in an area that was somewhat swampy.  I thought I had heard the sounds of baby birds crying. I started looking for a nest. I then realized that I only heard the noise when my feet touched the ground.  It was an odd sound, almost like a beeping, meeping cartoon-like sound and it sounded like dozens of them. It was starting to sound less like birds though.  As my foot tapped on the ground, they "beeped".  I tested it over and over.  I became fascinated with the synchronicity of it . I became the conductor of an odd little mysterious choir. 

It reminded me of the scene from the Tom Hanks movie "Big" where he's playing the BIG piano in FAO Schwarz. Fred Astaire of the swamp I became.   It was louder as I neared the marshy area by the lake.  I then realized that hundreds of little eyes were watching me from the water.  All I could see were their little heads. It wasn't baby birds I had heard,  it was hundreds of little baby frogs.  When I stomped they let out a little bleating sound then ducked underwater but would pop back up immediately to watch me. We amused each other for some time and then I packed up my gear and we parted ways. 

My photography has brought me to some of the most beautiful areas to witness and document. It also has shaped my character and helped me to learn things about myself I never knew.  When you shoot solitary as often as I do and have only the company of yourself, you learn to be your own best friend. It's lovely to have time to myself to contemplate the complexities of the modern world but most often when given extra time and a little bit of water, I'm gonna play. 

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” 
Oliver Wendell Holmes


"She promises herself adventure, new places, different views, a chance to get lost. 
She infuses her day with newness and wonder.

She brings a camera everywhere, notices the little things,
 gets a cup of coffee at a different cafe, takes the long way home.

She discovers so much unexpected joy.
 She begins to love the journey."

 by M.H. Clark
The Book  "I Am Her"