In the last week I have photographed in two very different agricultural areas of Washington State. Some may remember my earlier post on the Palouse last fall. That was such an interesting location that I decided to go back and shoot more. The old abandoned farmhouse has such a dramatically bleak appearance, especially in the severe gray tones of winter.
I followed up that outing with a drive north to the Skagit Valley, where snow geese and trumpeter swans overwinter in the farmers’ stubbly fields. We’ve experienced a glorious stretch of weather, which has been icy cold and dry with bright blue skies. During this type of weather there is always an inversion and it makes for tremendous sunsets.
I just returned from another eventful and gut-wrenching Antarctica sailing. I was one of the few not affected by seasickness in the brutal crossing of the Drake Passage.
This was a very lucky trip. We managed to dodge two major storms, one of which disabled the boat I sailed on last year. When we returned to South America, there were tours and boats backed up waiting for a break in the weather.
While waiting to embark the Ushuaia in Ushuaia, I photographed psychedelic macros of peeling paint on metal buildings and the next day we were at sea heading to Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands, and then on to the Lemaire Channel and other ice-bound islets. On one of our exploratorations off the boat I saw young Gentoo penguins play-acting nesting behavior. They were trying to “hatch” rocks and build nests.
For years I resisted going to India. When I was shooting for my book The Living Wild, I realized that tigers were a critical animal I needed to photograph. In March 1999 I went to Ranthambhore National Park and since then I have been back to India more times than I can count. It has become one of my favorite countries to photograph in—the colors, festivals, wildlife, and ancient traditions are astounding and enchanting.
To track tigers you venture out on elephant-back with a mahout. Photographing from an elephant is difficult at best but a necessary challenge. The forest is alive with birdsong and then suddenly you hear it: the spirited, scolding call of the hanuman langur, meaning a tiger or even a leopard is near. These ever-alert primates are the eyes and ears of guides and researchers alike.
Following the commercial shoot in Napa, Jay Goodrich & I headed to the ghost town of Bodie, a State Historic Park north of Yosemite National Park. An old gold-mining town that was abandoned by its last residents over 50 years ago, it offers terrific photographic opportunities of “arrested decay.”
The open road of the Eastern Sierra beckoned after a quick stop in Yosemite, and we caught Owens Lake at sunset. Most of the water from the Owens River has long since been diverted to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, but some flow has now been restored to the lake. At dusk when the shallow, alkaline waters are still, the reflections of landforms and the endless high plains sky are superlative.
Back in the Bay Area we rented a small plane and flew over the San Francisco Bay. Over 90% of the Bay’s marshlands have been lost, but now some areas are slowly being restored for wildlife habitat. From the sky, the marshes offer amazing array of abstract geometric patterns and colors.
Art was just in Patzcuaro, Mexico, photographing the Day of the Dead festival. During this holiday families gather for prayer and remembrance of departed family members. They clean and decorate cemeteries and churches, and celebrate life. Here is what Art had to say about the experience-
“Most Americans don’t deal with death in a straight forward manner. As a culture we tend to make it a subject of much avoidance. When I was asked to shoot the Dia de los Muertos in southwestern Mexico earlier this month, I approached it with great interest and naivete. As I photographed in the days leading up to the holiday, I began to understand just how important it is, even more so than Christmas. I was deeply moved by the way the community prepared for the Day of the Dead, vigorously cleaning churchyards and decorating cemeteries in colorful blankets of flowers, glowing candles, and overflowing baskets of food. The holiday is not sad, but rather a celebration of life and love and family. What I initially thought would be somber was, in fact, hugely uplifting and illuminating, both spiritually and photographically.”
Recently, I went with a couple friends out to Washington’s Palouse region. It is an expansive landscape, full of sagelands, empty roads, and wheatfields—industrial agriculture at its most beautiful.
We decided to explore an old abandoned homestead, and were rewarded with a spectacular display of light and shadow in the attic. I try to look at the world with open eyes because you never know what you may find that has the potential to create an interesting photograph.