Friday, July 9, 2010

My favorite memory of Arches National Park. Watching this slow sunrise I finally realized where the feeling I get when looking at a desert landscape comes from, it’s the shadows. Shadows in the desert are unlike those anywhere else in the world. Clouds rarely gather above this landscape and there are no tall trees to filter and scatter the light. There’s just the sandstone, linked directly to the sun. The stone is tied to the sun to such a degree that they change shape depending on the sun’s position in the sky. Taking this scene as an example, I arrived when the sun was still just a faint glow on the horizon and sat for three hours watching the scene move. First, the wavy stone in the background slithered into the light, followed by the wall on the right looking like a door opened to a lighted room. Then the great fin at the center started to surface in a lake of darkness. As the sun rose higher I could start to see a face in the distant wall, as time passed the brow appeared to swell and the chin receded while the loop of shadow cast by delicate arch swung down the adjacent incline. All of these pieces were moving like parts of a giant clock. It was cold and I was losing feeling in the skin where I was sitting but I was riveted to the spot waiting to see what would happen next.

I met a photographer who was complaining that everything he took a picture of was too bright or too dark or some combination of the two. To me, a picture with inky shadows and burning highlights is a realistic depiction of the desert, it’s the way that it looks when you pupils are constricted from the bright sunlight and you’re looking around for a shady spot to rest.

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