Geology of Dinosaur – In Print!

At last I can explain part of the reason for my apparent photographic inactivity lately: I’ve spent a fair portion of my creative energy the last few months adapting parts of my piece on the geology of Dinosaur National Monument for inclusion in the new edition of Belknap’s Waterproof Dinosaur River Guide, which covers Lodore Canyon on the Green and the Yampa River. The Belknap map books have long been the standard resources for boaters in the Colorado/Green drainage, and I’m very happy to see my work in a context I’ve known on river trips since I was a kid. The folks at Westwater Books were a real pleasure to work with: Buzz Belknap and Loie Evans welcomed me into their virtual midst and were always happy to consider any idea that might improve the final book. They used quite a few of my photos not only in the geology material, but liberally throughout the other sections as well. It was also my pleasure to assist them in the general editing process, and I hope my pedantic eyes and nit-picking of details have benefited the final product.

I may be biased, but I’d say the new edition is the best general guide to the area, and there’s lots in it that might appeal to non-boaters as well. Besides river-specific info, it also introduces the area’s ecology, paleontology, archaeology, and history, and it covers Flaming Gorge and Brown’s Park (beautiful areas I’d love to know better) in addition to the Monument proper.

A few things I’ve learned:

  • Somewhere in the world, there just might be people interested in photos of obscure areas. Dinosaur is hardly off the map, but for a unit of the National Park System, it’s pretty under-appreciated and far from over-photographed. Having a pretty extensive and unique portfolio of the area definitely paid off for me, a gratifying reward for all those evenings crawling around on the cliffs with a tripod when I could have been drinking beer on the beach. I don’t expect this to become a regular occurrence for my work; Dinosaur occupies a very sweet nexus of relative obscurity, National Monument status and renown among rafters. But it does give me a little encouragement that there might be interest hiding somewhere for images of, say, southwestern New Mexico or the central Idaho back-country.
  • If you throw good work out there, it just might stick. I originally wrote my Dinosaur geology item with only my fellow river guides in mind. Putting it online was pretty much an afterthought. But in the year or so since it went up, it and related bits have consistently represented the lion’s share of traffic to my site. There are definitely people out there curious about the topic (search engine visitors, feel free to leave a comment and tell me about your connection to Dinosaur!). And for the folks at Westwater Books, it turned out to be exactly what they were looking for.
  • I’m glad this isn’t my day job! This one basically fell into my lap, and I was happy to take it. But you couldn’t base a career on that kind of luck. To make it a regular occurrence would involve a lot of research and marketing effort for a seriously doubtful payoff. I deeply respect landscape photographers who make a real go of turning professional, and I respect them enough to know that I’m happier as an amateur. I definitely have ideas for other projects I might like to pursue, but I’m very glad I won’t be counting on them for my room and board!
  • It’s definitely worth taking shots of interesting subjects in straightforward light. We photographers all chase after God rays, storm clouds and rainbows, but some subjects are best illustrated under more boring conditions. Colorful geology works well in direct sunlight, for instance, while botany does well under light clouds. (Tourist brochures especially tend to like sun and blue sky.) If you’re interested in editorial uses for your photos, as opposed to pure fine art, bear this in mind and don’t be afraid to pull out the camera at midday.
  • Similarly, it’s worth shooting a lot and keeping a lot. The shot below (larger version) was one I never thought I’d do anything with. It has pretty flowers and the light’s okay, but I had never thought of it as a keeper. But I’m very glad I didn’t delete it, since it turned out to be just what was needed to illustrate this page. I’m glad it’s found a good home! Likewise, there are shots that should be but aren’t in the book because I never took them, mostly because I succumbed to feeling jaded about some of Dinosaur’s amazing scenery. They wouldn’t have been fine art, but they could have been excellent illustrations in context.

So, plan a trip to Dinosaur and buy the book! It’s in production as we speak, and ought to hit shelves soon. I will still commend interested people to my original article, which has material which, though it didn’t make it into print, I expect geology buffs will find helpful. Dinosaur really is a gem, I think its geology is as beautiful and fascinating as anywhere in the country, and it’s a joy to try and help folks appreciate the strata and faults that shape the cliffs and canyons.

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9 thoughts on “Geology of Dinosaur – In Print!

  1. Congratulations, Jackson. Despite your modesty, I suspect this is a B.F.D. for any hard-working semi-professional nature photographer.

  2. This is awesome Jackson–congratulations! I second Proclus’ sentiment.

    As for river trips, how young would you bring a little one? I know this might be a silly question, but I was thinking of planning a family summer vacation when our son is about 5 or 6 so he can be old enough to appreciate it. I originally thought about the Green, but the Yampa looks like a ton of fun. I’d be able to see Dinosaur finally, AND I’d have an awesome geology field guide to bring along…

    -Greg

    • Thanks Greg, I definitely hope you get to put the map to its proper use in person. As for ages, my short answer is 6; I’ll e-mail you my long answer.

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