Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To explore strange new worlds...

To boldly go where no man has gone before! Well, maybe not NO man.

The second part of my trip back from Los Angeles was the Salton Sea. I had never been there before, but had seen many hauntingly beautiful photographs of the Sea and its surrounds. The history of the Salton Sea is a very interesting read. For those who have not heard of its history, here are a few good places to start. Salton Sea Restoration and Salton Sea Historical Chronology.

Upon starting down the East side of the lake I was greeted by an F-16 (I think) doing some pretty tricky hi-speed, low-altitude maneuvers over some Prime Time Pepper fields. Then you come upon the marina... North Beach Marina to be exact. There's an abandoned club/restaurant that is now a White Pelican refuge. I have never seen so many pelicans before... and have never seen a white pelican either. The air is very pungent with the smell of salt and decay. It was also very humid. The Sea is currently 227 feet below sea level, putting it on par with Death Valley. I also saw the largest flies I have ever seen... easily an inch and a quarter long.

Anyway... I made a few photographs with the 8x10 and 4x5 but didn't focus as precisely as I should have... the excitement of this alien world completely discombobulated me.

Next, I went across the street to the Motel. This reminds me of a cheap sci-fi movie, and who knows... it may have been in one. Made one image with the 8x10 in black & white, and then, as I was taking the 8x10 down and getting ready to leave I noticed this painting on a piece of plywood covering one of the doors or windows. I was drawn to it mysteriously, as if it was telling me to come and photograph it. Kind of reminds me of a Star Trek alien. But this alien is crying and has a broken heart... maybe he was left here by his shipmates and they never came back for him. Maybe his girlfriend dumped him... who knows. The sun was directly hitting the face of the Motel, but the second floor walkways were keeping the top of the first floor in beautiful shade. I ran back to the car and got the 4x5 and color film. Thanks again to Rod Klukas' color zone system, the chrome came out perfect. This image reminds me of my friend Juan Garcia's images of the mining murals found throughout Arizona mining towns.

As I was running out of time – and had no more 8x10 film left – I pointed the GPS home and it took me through Box Canyon. Another place I have to go back to. An hour or so later I was back on Interstate 10 heading East. There is an abandoned gas station in Desert Center, CA on the north side of I-10 along a parallel road that I had seen before and been wanting to photograph. Desert Center is another one of those places that time has forgotten. If you have ever driven west and seen a bunch of chopped off palm trees... that's Desert Center. There's a General George Patton Museum there and not much else. I went on the underpass to the road on the other side of the highway and set up my 4x5. I made the image in black & white and in color. Tough to say which one I prefer yet. I made the black & white image with a yellow filter to darken the sky, lighten the shadows and separate the tones in the background mountains. As I was setting up this car comes speeding down the street and parks right where the gas pumps used to be. I had already taken the color image and was changing up for the black & white. Slowly she pulled forward out of my field of view, thankfully. But, she then got out of her car on the cell phone and was looking at me. Then she pulled this 35mm with a long lens on it and started taking photos of me. I don't know what she was thinking, but all I wanted to do was photograph the building, and I was on the other side of the street, I-10 property. Anyway, I finished up and didn't look back. The only thing I can think of is that the building is now for sale... I'm sure it will be sold VERY QUICKLY out there in the middle of nowhere! Which reminds me... I had wanted to photograph it looking northeast, but the for sale sign was on the left side of the bay so that was out. So I had to photograph it facing northwest. At that time of year and that time of day, a better image anyway.

Back onto I-10 East to Phoenix... 3 or 4 hours more and I was home.

Next post... images from Jerome, AZ and Superior, AZ... both field trips from Rod Klukas' large format class.

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