Basin and Range


At night, during the intermissions in the camper, imagined mountains and wildflowers filled my closed-eyed visions like some form of a hallucination. An echo from the viewfinder. Amalgamations of rock and petal and color swept across, from somewhere else. Like dreams of mountains, impressions. The Platonic idea, the very symbol of mountains and desert wildflower themselves, beating some low drum in my mind.

Driving back through Panamint & Owens Valley on Palm Sunday, alone again after three days, I stopped without reservation to photograph all of the geology I’d admired from the driver’s seat on the way in. These became the images of how I had to imagine the basin and range: baren, dry, magnificent. Exquisitely lit by the overcast stratosphere, no need for color. This reversing, like an explanation before its cause. This was the entry (and subsequent exit) through the valley, but here I was leaving it with every perspective reversed, everything I had driven through and left behind in search of hundred year wildflowers now fields of air and rock, an intraterrestrial landscape where the horizon is limited only in the scope of one’s footstep, open as when the ocean meets the shore.

Critiquing my photos a week later, “I haven’t seen a sky like that once,” my mentor Richard said, “not in the dozen times I’ve been there. I’m jealous.”

His jealousy of that sky, imparting a minor slight against something of what I was hoping was talent, only slightly diminished the impression that I had felt walking up along the sand dunes — and been hinting at for some long period before — that by the end of that trip, I had become a photographer.


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