Landscape Photography by A. Jackson Frishman
Last Saturday was branding day at Deep Springs. The calves seemed a bit feistier than last year, which resulted in lots of noise, copious clouds of dust, and some great cowboy action shots. The ropers were three friends who ranch near Lone Pine, CA, while the Deep Springs students and staff provided the calf wrestling, vaccinating, ear tagging, branding and other unmentionable services.
Evening light on the volcanic ramparts of Cleopatra Wash, Jimbilnan Wilderness, southern Nevada near Lake Mead. The volcanics here represent one half of the Cleopatra-Hamblin Paleovolcano, a Miocene stratovolcano that was pulled into two halves by the tectonic stretching of the basin-and-range country. It’s other half is still to be found about ten miles to the west in Hamblin Mountain, separated from its formerly conjoined twin by a maze of sandstone ridges and valleys.
Living in a relatively small valley like Deep Springs, one gets pretty familiar with all the surrounding landforms and their personalities. The southeast wall of the valley comprises much of the Piper Mountain Wilderness, a spur of the Inyo Mountains full of granite outcrops, folded paleozoic strata, small alluvial fans, fault scarps, pinyon-clad summits, vertical gullies, and steep canyons. The valley walls are often shy about revealing their shapes and textures in bright light, and fleeting glimpses late in the day usually just tantalize a photographer’s creative impulses. But in snow and storm is where they really shine!
Sadly, this is about as much snow as we ever saw this winter, and about as low as the snowline ever got. The entire American West is hurting for snowpack, but California’s drought this year is truly frightening, with only three of the state’s many watersheds even breaking double digit percentages of average snowpack. Living here in the desert is some consolation, at least, as everything here is more accustomed to the dryness and better able to ride out the tough times. But even the desert needs a little rain and winter, and winter simply never came this year. These few dustings of snow felt like nothing more than an apparition from the ghost of a dead season.
Another Death Valley flower snapshot, this one from last Sunday at Ubehebe Crater: still some nice flowers, but fading. The best blooms we saw, though regrettably did not explore and photograph, were west of Emigrant Campground between 3,000-4,000. Above 4,500 or so, not much was happening yet besides a few paintbrushes. But places like the top of Towne Pass and up in the Panamints were looking very green, so they’d be well worth checking out as the blooms move uphill.
Born in New Mexico, raised in Wyoming and Montana, the mountain west has always been my home. I come from mountaineering families on both sides: my maternal grandfather was a pioneering climber in the Sierra Nevada, while my father guided in the Tetons and climbed in China and Nepal. Both my parents guided for Outward Bound. I ran my first river at nine months old, and have been hiking and backpacking longer than I can remember. My other major influence has been my step-father, Stephen Bodio, a nature writer, falconer and traveler, and as fine a family member as I could hope to have.
I studied black and white photography in high school, under an excellent teacher, but failed to apply myself. After high school, I began guiding for ARTA River Trips, and my interest in photography gradually rekindled as I endeavored to share with friends and family my work in the finest landscapes of the American West. Meanwhile, I studied classical literature, philosophy and history of mathematics at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 2005. I am currently living with my wife and son in Deep Springs Valley on the Nevada-California border.
Photographically, I travel light and prefer to shoot off pavement and explore unknown locations. My favorite landscapes include the unknown expanses and little-visited mountains of rural New Mexico, the canyons of Dinosaur National Monument, and the vast wilderness of Central Idaho. I have also been fortunate enough to travel in Turkey and Mongolia, and can’t wait to do more.