My co-workers and I go on a lot of photography field trips together. I feel like it’s better than any class I could take, but then again I’ve never taken a photography class. Some of my co-workers are AMAZING photographers. They have great equipment too, but I think some of them could take great pics no matter what they photograph with. Often these trips involve driving all night and arriving at our destination just as the sun is coming up. It’s exhausting, but it’s also worth it to see things like the sun peaking over the mountains in the morning at Mono Lake, where all the seagulls in California seem to come from. I learn a lot, too, from trying to get artistic photographs of a location and feeling like I have checked out every angle, only to observe later on that there was a whole other way to look at that same exact scene.
One of my co-workers, Hue Ma, went on a photography field trip with her friend over New Year’s to Death Valley. I loved the pics she brought back, and especially these ones of an artist’s plaster sculpures that are just sitting out there in the desert, and have been there since 1980. These photos made me get the chills. I think my heart stopped for a second, too.
Apparently they are still just as white as any new plaster mold, and don’t appear aged at all. That was something that struck me about Death Valley, how sterile everything looked. I only went there for the first time about 2 years ago. Since I grew up in Joshua Tree, I felt like I knew what the place was going to look like. Even when we were getting out of the car and looking at all the awe-inspiring views, I still felt like Death Valley was going to look very familiar, up close. The geology there, however, is amazing, and totally different than the Mojave Desert that I’m used to. You can tell right away that they have some insanely hot summers, and yet what it really looks like is that someone came and washed everything and put it back. I even found myself stooping to the ground and running my hands through the sand and holding handfuls of earth to look at them. I don’t know exactly what I was looking for. Maybe little bones, or dirt, or imperfections. I found nothing but ground that looked like it was prepared for putting into an aquarium or a display of some kind.
Desert, I thought I knew ya.