Survived the Summer

After a terrible, long summer of heat and fire, I feel like these northern Idaho larches, glowing with the benediction of autumn cool and moisture. These trees escaped the Trestle Creek Complex by a whisker, and are surely glad to be wreathed in mist rather than smoke. As am I.

2022 Calendar Available for Purchase

October past in New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains meets October present in my yard in eastern Washington.

Crest, Cliff & Canyon 2022 Scenic Calendar – 8.5×11″ or 11×14″

Now that we’re well into October, you’re no doubt thinking, “How on earth am I going to stay aware of the passage of time next year?” Friends, fans and well-wishers, I’ve got you covered! I’ve made calendars before for myself and family, but this year I’m offering them publicly. Please show a little love to an independent artist and consider putting one (or several!) of my Crest, Cliff & Canyon 2022 Scenic Calendars on your wall.

Besides going towards such worthy essentials as firewood, books and cat food for my household, proceeds from these calendars will help fund my ambition to produce more and better fine art prints at home.

My hidden theme for this calendar was Old Favorites, images from earlier in my photography that continue to please me and hold up to repeated viewing. It’s a geographically widespread collection, with New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho all represented. All twelve images were shot at less-known non-iconic locations – the Peloncillo and Manzano Mountains, the Frank Church and Aldo Leopold Wildernesses, the Illinois and Selway Rivers and others – you will not see these scenes on mainstream landscape calendars.

You can purchase securely here and calendars will ship directly to you. A compact 8.5×11″ version is available for $27.50 including shipping or a much more generous 11×14″ for $33.50, again with shipping included. I am very pleased with the print quality via this option and their terms are generous to me as a creator. Please do consider consider this as an easy option for getting my work on your wall or as a gift, and know that I will be very grateful for the support!

Review: Lessons form the Landscape

A confession: I take Yellowstone for granted. Almost every American probably does: it is iconic on a level that no other park can quite match, a key piece of national legend baked into the consciousness of nearly every citizen. Checklist, bucket list, cherished memory, roadside attraction or tourist trap or beloved retreat, we assume it’s there for us, but we also feel like we’ve already seen it. In my case, it was right up the road for most of my childhood and therefore was simply where we went, the default setting for nature in my formative years.  

Likewise, I suspect most of us find that photographs of Yellowstone are also easily taken for granted. Images of the Park’s most striking features have been famous since the 1870s, and even excellent modern wildlife and scenic photos face an uphill battle to stand out. We are inundated with National Park imagery, and it’s tempting to wonder whether we really need any more or if photography in the best-known parks still has insights to offer.

©Sarah Marino, used by permission

Photographer Sarah Marino takes on these challenges with a different approach in her new e-book Lessons from the Landscape: Yellowstone National Park. She almost entirely avoids both famous views and wildlife, nor does she chase after remote trophy vistas in the backcountry. Instead, she points her lens straight at the very elements of Yellowstone we take most for granted: its woods, plants, stones and quiet waters.

©Sarah Marino, used by permission

The result is a calm, often dreamlike set of photographs showcasing the many small scenes and textures which comprise the warp and weft of the Yellowstone experience but which we seldom consider consciously. Anyone seeking quick thrills will be disappointed – these images should be perused at leisure, with patience and time for them to resonate. Lodgepole pines, grass and shrubs, stones, fire scars, algae, water hot and cold – these details, often very close up, form the majority of the 166 images in this collection. 

©Sarah Marino, used by permission
©Sarah Marino, used by permission
©Sarah Marino, used by permission

There are a few wider views: Lower Yellowstone Falls, the Mammoth terraces and a lone bison put in cameo appearances as reminders of just where we are. A generous array of winter photos also adds depth to the collection. But Marino always brings our attention back to linger on the unsung, underappreciated elements that make up the vast majority of the Park’s ecosystem. In her own words:

The dominant culture in landscape photography elevates and encourages the tendency to appreciate only remarkable and rare conditions… After experiencing “perfect” conditions, it can be hard to reach that high over and over again if that is the only way we define beauty and awe. If we can instead look to find beauty in the everyday – in simple rippled water, for example – we can see many more opportunities for photography and find joy in any landscape.

©Sarah Marino, used by permission

In addition to imagery, Marino also gives us eleven short essays and six photographic case studies. The essays discuss various aspects of her history and experience of Yellowstone and reflections on her creative approach. Meditations on the subtle beauty of autumn huckleberry bushes and on the scientific value of thermophilic microorganisms in the Park’s hot springs offer some helpful context for the book’s visuals. Several of the essays feel as though they were written with fellow photographers in mind, and the case studies serve that audience explicitly, but general readers should also find Marino’s thoughts a welcome accompaniment to her photographs. It’s a pity this book is not in printed physical form, which would be better suited to give it the attention it deserves, but such are the times we live in.

©Sarah Marino, used by permission

It takes real discipline and confident creative devotion to put so much effort towards depicting small, even trivial details amidst the grandeur of Wyoming and Montana. Many of the images Marino offers could likely have been captured in numerous locations throughout the Rockies, the American West or even the world. But the universality of this collection is one of its great strengths. We hold up Yellowstone as an exemplar of American nature and conservation, but we struggle to observe the place attentively. Marino’s delight in details, compositional skill and thoughtful vision are welcome guides for considering what nature is and what we have left of it, both within the Park and beyond its borders. These photographs will enrich my next visit to Yellowstone or any wild place and remind me to see with less jaded eyes. 

Lessons from the Landscape: Yellowstone National Park is available to purchase directly from Sarah Marino’s website. Five percent of e-book sales revenue will be donated to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition to support their stewardship initiatives.

©Sarah Marino, used by permission

Resting Spring and Nopah

I’ve got a number of projects in the works right now that are taking up my photography-related time – hopefully they will see the light of day later in the year. In the meantime, here’s an old one-off image from California’s Amargosa Valley of the beautiful Resting Spring Range with taller peaks of the Nopah Range looming behind. The stripes of the Cambrian rocks in the Mojave never cease to amaze me.

Fancy Dancers

Something outside my usual subject matter: Last weekend we attended the Chief Lookingglass Powwow in Kamiah, Idaho on the Nez Perce reservation. I’ve been to a few powwows before, they’re always interesting, and this one was delightfully intimate with a great sense of people’s love and devotion to their tribes, families and traditions.

I knew I wasn’t going to get sharp images under the circumstances, and sharp images would not have captured the energy and rhythm of the dancers in any case. So I opted for an approach I’d seen elsewhere and admired: longer, hand-held exposures to embrace the colors and movement. The Men’s Fancy competition yielded the best results with vivid regalia and amazingly powerful movement (these dancers are real athletes!), though I did get one image of the slower Women’s Shawl Dance that I like.

I have been fascinated with the Nez Perce for many years, and I now live on traditional Nez Perce/Palouse lands (my home is within the boundaries of the 1855 reservation, but was taken, along with 5 million acres, in the Thief Treaty of 1863). It’s a privilege to live here and have some direct experience of a people that I formerly knew only through history books. Many thanks to the powwow organizers and participants for their hospitality and for sharing their history and traditions with us newcomers! Qe’ci’yew’yew’!

Out of Season

This summer brought a strange first for me: photographing fall color in July. The ninebark shrubs on the Middle Fork of the Salmon were turning amazingly early. The commonly go on the earlier side, and I’ve often see good understory color by mid to late August, but never before in mid-July. Some slopes were downright brilliant with red and orange. I expect this is related to drought stress from the Inland Northwest’s extremely dry spring and early heatwaves this year.

This is probably mallow ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus). It does well in fire scars, which naturally offers it many opportunities in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and throughout central Idaho.

Sheepeater Art

A wonderful rock art panel from last week in Idaho, made by the Tukudeka (Sheepeater Shoshone) people. The Tukudeka were renowned as hunters, and it certainly shows on this panel. They made bows by curing sheep horns in hot springs until pliable, and were famous for using two animals’ brains to tan one animal’s hide.

The Tukudeka were a fascinating group who inhabited a fascinating and amazingly rugged place. I highly recommend the short film River of Return about reconnecting Shoshone-Bannock children with their ancestral lands on the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

An Unexpected Sunset

It had been a long time since I’d seen a really good alpine sunset and I wasn’t expecting much. We’d spent a beautiful day on the high ridges before being chased into the basin by a thunderstorm. The skies were still gloomy and looked like they’d stay that way. I shot a couple images of alpine flowers, but I wasn’t feeling it. In retrospect, I should have had higher hopes for the little low gap over the peaks to the west.

But just as we were crossing the pass back toward our camp, the light broke through…

…and the world turned golden.

And more golden still.

And as if that weren’t enough…

This sunset kept going and going, filling the entire valley to the east with light and color.

There were more rainbows in there, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch them. But the sky took its sweet time turning from orange to pink.

It had been a near-perfect day in the mountains, but I had been thinking I’d go home with only a few daytime images. How wrong I was and how glad that we lingered up high!

Dappled Alpine

Dappled light on dappled woods and meadows lying on dappled geology under dappled snowfields – could anything be finer? I could have rambled through these basins in the Wallowa Mountains forever.

One Fine Day

The Palouse is always a beautiful place, but some times are exceptional. A stormy day of much needed rain when the wheat is green and the canola is gold is such a time.

It was kid-in-a-candy-store conditions earlier this week. The canola fields were certainly attention hogs, but the green slopes and clouds playing the higher hills were pretty amazing as well.

I walked some muddy roads and ran into one local who invited me onto his piece of land, which had some great views of Kamiak Butte and east into Idaho. People here in Whitman County are very friendly as a rule, but some farmers have become very justly frustrated over the years with photographers trespassing, walking on crops and blocking farm traffic. Everyone who comes here to shoot really needs to be on best behavior and make every effort to behave as a guest ought.

We’ve had a really dry spring by local standards (though as a southwesterner, I have to laugh at what Washingtonians consider dry, even on the east side of the state), and it’s going to be a lousy year for the farmers. But the Palouse still puts on an amazing show. Being here can feel quite surreal at times, like living in a computer graphic world or a giant art installation. I’ll be heading for higher country soon, but it’s been an amazing week to live here!