Some images from the Maze, with a focus on portraiture.
Rachel- Exceptional cook and host rode alongside us each day as we mountain biked into the heart of Canyonlands and Max, who navigated the difficult and often treacherous four wheel drive track to get our gear to site each day. And last but not least Gene our stalwart pilot in the desert!
Extreme winds are not uncommon in the American Southwest this time of year, fierce storms that blow the very desert east into neighboring states. Camping becomes unbearable, driving becomes unsafe, and camera gear can sustain irreversible damage in a single gust of wind. Just such wind ripped the hat right off my head as I was guarding my own camera equipment last week in the deep canyons of the Maze. The the very wind that formed those canyons and rocks still moves the sand around and pushes all living things to their threshold in this often quite, often extreme environment.
In short, the camera survived, the images turned out great and four hours later I found myself back at camp enjoying an ice cold Modelo under windless skies!
The best tactic for bringing camera equipment into extreme conditions of any kind is a hard case, a case that pads your lenses and keeps everything sealed off from the elements. Use this case as a “base camp” for packing your small water resistant camera bag which you take with you- this way you only take what you need out into the storm at any given time. The hard case can be left in at camp without a second thought to the weather conditions as you go exploring. Also try to reorganize your gear in between the extreme bursts of weather, this will keep you from contaminating your hard case, and the rest of your high dollar digital equipment during the proverbial shit storm- be it wet or dry!
Extreme weather almost always produces great images- So take your most expensive piece of glass, some fortitude and get out there to capture the moment!
The above image was taken just moments before the lashing wind swept my fedora into the air. The “Harvest Scene” spans almost 20 feet in length and stands taller then a man- accessible only by permit, this Native American pictograph graces one of the most remote canyons in the United States.
A five day trip into the heart of Canyonlands landed me in the seat of a small plane. The strong winds and adverse weather made for incredible photographic opportunities and the flight a bit of an adventure itself.
I have a strong stomach and no real fear of flying, it is my fear of heights that caused me to grab for the “oh shit” handle more than once. The vast open spaces sprawled out below me, visible through the mist and snow that was making our light plane less than stable in these turbulent skies. Gene, our pilot, was cool as a cucumber and the other three passengers seemed equally calm, I found this reassuring. With a deep breath I returned to my lens.
Canyons and valleys opened up below us, these great gorges defined by the very rivers that created them. Snow clad mountains and stormy skies met us on every horizon and the precipitation outside our window would evaporate from sight as quickly as it had blocked our visibility. The immensity of Canyonlands was hidden below us beneath a thin veil.
The Maze district, where I had just spent the week on foot and bike, now seemed foreign and elusive by air. A cool breeze blew in through the loose fitting door and hit my face, I welcomed the fresh air.