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Feb 21, 2019
I never envisioned myself photographing the desert landscape, until I went to Las Vegas on business and had the opportunity to spend time there. I would be working photo trade shows, and we would often have a free day to go out and explore, or we would use the time at night to photograph under the stars. It was here that I found how magical the desert could be. The rich colors- reds, greens, blue skies- were so vivid, so vibrant. The art nature produced on its own, the sandstone arches sculpted by eons of wind and rain, are captivating.
My favorite thing about going to Las Vegas isn't the strip, the neon, or the nightlife. It's getting out into the peace of the desert and enjoying the quiet. An hour north of Vegas is Valley of Fire State Park. There in the Mojave desert, you can view slot canyons, rock formations, and a variety of sandstone arches, carved out of the rock by time. One of my favorite images from there is of Arch Rock. Many times in my trips out there, we would go to Arch Rock, where either other photographers would later join us by chance, or we would join photographers already working this iconic arch. One evening, we were there before sunset and no one else was around. We got into position by the arch, and without any planning at all, the sun set behind the arch, exactly in the center of the window of the arch. I wish I could say it was planned, but it was pure luck that things aligned just right. As Ansel Adams would say, "A good photograph is knowing where to stand." Sometimes it's being in the right place without knowing it.
On another night, my friend Amanda Stevens and I headed north to the International Car Forest for some night shooting. It was here that I made my image, "The Magic Bus". This image is a composite of 150 30-second captures, stacked to show the movement of stars in the sky as time passes. It was a cold, windy night, so Amanda and I set up our cameras for the shot, started them making images every 30 seconds, and then went and sat in the car for over an hour while the cameras did their work. We each worked on several compositions over the course of three or four hours, before we headed back to Vegas, stopping at a Denny's on the way back for a late night meal. Upon our return, I combined the images and edited the result for color and contrast and the finished image is what you see here.
I only got to the International Car Forest once, but I returned to the Valley of Fire many times. One of my favorite views was this road, following the hills through the desert as the sun sets behind them. The soft warm afterglow of dusk lit up the foreground as the sky glowed with the remains of the day. As myself and some friends were driving through the valley, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw this view. We quickly pulled over and I positioned myself to capture this image.
I doubt I would have gone to the desert of my own accord. I was always more interested in coastal scenes or mountainous landscapes. But once I visited Valley of Fire for the first time, as well as other desert locales, I fell in love with the desert just as much as coastal scenes and majestic mountains. It's been a while since I've been to a desert spot, but I think it's getting to be time to go back.
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