Landscape Photography by A. Jackson Frishman
Wandering around Death Valley pointing a camera at interesting rocks is always a good time! Death Valley’s extremely long and convoluted geologic history makes almost anywhere else look geologically simple and sedate by comparison. The strata here have been desposited, metamorphosed, shuffled, broken, bent, folded, faulted, overturned relocated and eroded in almost every conceivable way over the last billion years. This petrified chaos is evident on a large scale in the Gothic outlines of the mountains and canyons, but it shows up plenty in the smaller details as well. One has the feeling that this is what rocks get up to when left unsupervised.
“You have seen photographs of the sun taken during a total eclipse…. The lenses of telescopes and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array than language can cover the breadth and simultaneity of internal experience. Lenses enlarge the sight, omit its context, and make of it a pretty and sensible picture, like something on a Christmas card…. More fearsome things can come in envelopes. More moving photographs than those of the sun’s corona can appear in magazines. But I pray you will never see anything more awful in the sky.”
— Annie Dillard, Total Eclipse
Partial eclipses, of which I have seen several, are curious, fascinating and peculiar. A total eclipse is utterly astonishing We saw the bewildering light as the sun dimmed, pale, soft and almost shadowless on the ground as the great shadow approached. We saw sunset light all around the horizons, the Tetons silhouetted ghostly to the east, Venus appearing, felt a late autumn chill descending on the warm August hills. The sun shrunk to a wickedly sharp crescent. But for all that, I was still taken aback at the instantaneous change as the dark of totality struck like a sheet of inverted lightning. The dark seemed to hit with a snap, and the orange crescent above was suddenly replaced with an inky circle rimmed with streaming colorless radiance. The black circle loomed surprisingly large, while the corona appeared vast, its tendrils so arresting that they seemed to cover half the sky. Two minutes of totality seemed to pass in a breath, until a dot of blinding white burst from the top right of the black moon, spotlighted the earth for a moment, then waxed and warmed as the light gradually returned.
To me, these photos stand out from the many others only because they happen to be mine. I’ve already seen lots of better ones, though none which even begin to capture the experience. Honestly, even though I made no serious efforts to photograph this eclipse, I wish I had done even less. Next time, I do not want to give even the smallest instant of thought to my camera during totality, I just want to gaze and be awed.
I was left with a feeling of sadness for the rest of the day, wishing those minutes of totality were twice, five, ten times as long. If you ever have a chance to see a total eclipse, make the effort – all the trouble was easily worth it! I will certainly consider seriously every chance I have to see that sight again in my life.
When we moved to Deep Springs four years ago, one of the first photographic elements that caught my eye was the shadow formed by the shallow canyon on the face of Chocolate mountain, a couple miles east of my house. As the seasons changed, I learned that this shadow is purely a summer phenomenon, happening only when the sun sets far enough north to shine down the big gorge where Wyman Canyon splits the White Mountains.
Somehow, the photographs closest to home can be the hardest to get after. I watched this shadow come and go over the course of four summers, always thinking I’d photograph it another day. Yesterday evening was finally the night to seize the moment and make the epic 300 yard trek down the ranch road to take some photos (with a popsicle in hand as an added bonus). It’s just a shadow, only one of many interesting shadows that the revolving earth and setting sun project on our mountains, but it will always bring home to my mind, presiding above our little house in a big desert.
As we westerners grit our teeth and endure the summer of the endless heatwave, I long for the white outlines of January. These three studies were taken in the Inyo Range just east of my high desert home, looking into the Piper Mountain Wilderness.
Just a note, the July 10th deadline to comment on the administration’s National Monuments “review” is almost upon us. I’m typing away with my comments and adding them to my original post on the subject. Please consider sending in a comment as soon as possible! As always, feel free to borrow any of my language you find useful.
Images: A long view to Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in southern New Mexico; my toddler son at Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah (if he can appreciate it, so can you!); and Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico.
Many thanks to all who attended last weekend’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of Deep Springs College, and thanks also for the many kind words I received about my photography. It has been my privilege to live at the College for 4% of its history, and I feel that the surrounding landscape has really helped my photography come into its own. It is always a joy to be here!
I had the five images above hanging in the main building. I made one sale (thank you!), and had several inquiries about prints. Prints of these or my many other Deep Springs images may now be ordered directly via my website, or I am always glad to discuss options and help you out via email: email@example.com. I also have quite a few images of the Valley and ranch that are not online, so if you don’t see what you’re looking for, please inquire!
Additionally, we sold out of the sets of Deep Springs greeting cards I had available (see images below). If you missed out but would like a set (or several), just let me know! These are printed locally, by me, right here in the Valley, so please contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re priced at $16.00 per set of four (envelopes included), which includes domestic shipping via USPS.
Finally, if you’re one of the many new acquaintances I made at the reunion, please follow my work, either by this blog’s RSS feed or on Facebook. I hope to have plenty more to share from Deep Springs as we enter the College’s second century!
Update: The deadline for all comments is fast approaching! Bears’ Ears comments are reopened, so if you missed out before, please send one in now. Meanwhile, read on for my two cents regarding some of the other monuments in question.
Grand Staircase-Escalante – if a one-year-old could enjoy it, so can you:
Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah:
Please keep the current designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument unchanged. I have been visiting the monuemnt for well over half my life, both as a backcountry hiker and more recently with a toddler in tow. The scenery and recreational value of the area’s canyon landscapes is easily equal to the best of our National Parks. The less-visited Kaiparowits Plateau section of the monument is equally important thanks to its abundance of dinosaur fossils, a scientific resource of global importance. Over 300 different dinosaur species have been unearthed within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, 20 of them newly-discovered species. The monument’s substantial size is necessary and appropriate to protect its recreational potential and its scientific and historic sites, particularly those that have not yet been discovered.
With 20 years of data in hand since the monument’s designation, it’s economic benefits to the region are clear. From 2001 to 2015 in Kane and Garfield Counties, population has grown by 13%, jobs have grown by 24% and per capita income has grown by 17%, while non-service jobs have held nearly steady. These are not the statistics of an area that has been severely damaged by the monument. Many local businesspeople and residents have spoken in favor of the monument, and the state of Utah itself actively promotes tourism to the area. The rationale for the original designation remains solid today, and 20 years of protection have demonstrated the wisdom of that choice. Please allow the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to stand as is!
Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona:
Please keep the boundaries of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument as currently designated. I have been visiting the Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch for over 25 years, since before the monument was designated. Generations of recreationists have voted with their feet for the value of these landscapes, as evidenced by the fact that these hikes, as well as the Wave, White Pocket and Coyote Buttes, are among the most coveted destinations in the Four Corners states, staples of guidebooks and promotional brochures, locations that many people visit in favor of more famous nearby parks such as Zion and the Grand Canyon. These are indisputably world-class scenic and recreational areas. The area’s 12,000 years of human historical sites from Paleoindians to Mormon pioneers, rich biology and California condor habitat also amply justify the monument designation.
The monument’s generous acreage is absolutely appropriate for preservation of resources of such abundance and quality. The ongoing use of monument lands for grazing, hunting and off-road driving indicate that the land is not in any way “locked up” to responsible use. Since the monument’s designation 17 years ago, the economies, populations an per capita income in Coconino and neighboring Kane Counties have grown substantially. In light of such data and the excellence of the resources at stake, it is clear that Vermilion Cliffs National Monument was a wise designation and should stand as is.
Basin and Range, Nevada:
Please maintain the boundaries of Nevada’s Basin and Range National Monument as currently designated. Tourism and outdoor recreation are increasingly important in southern Nevada as the region diversifies its economy and serves a growing population. The high density of rock art and archaeological sites makes Basin and Range a landscape suitable for protection under the Antiquities Act, as does its biological diversity. Previously unknown archaeological sites are found in virtually every new survey in this region, and the recent discovery of a new amphibian species elsewhere in Nevada reminds us that much still remains to be discovered in this part of the world.
Wide open spaces are very dear to Nevadans and are a valuable resource to remind all Americans of our nation’s history and character. As populations grow and development spreads in these areas, particularly renewable energy development, unimpacted valleys like those in Lincoln and Nye Counties become themselves objects of significant scientific interest, and protection of large acreage is fitting and necessary. Nevadans support public lands protections by wide margins, and with existing rights and recreation protected by the monument proclamation, this is no land grab. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and a number of major employers including MGM Resorts International, the largest employer in Nevada, supported the establishment of Basin and Range as a National Monument. Please allow Basin and Range National Monument to stand as originally designated.
Gold Butte, Nevada:
Please maintain the boundaries of Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada as currently designated. Though Las Vegas is a major tourism hub and outdoor recreation is increasingly important to southern Nevada’s economy, Nevada remains under-served in officially protected lands compared to surrounding southwestern states. The geologic interest in the intersection of Colorado Plateau geology with Basin and Range tectonic forces is of major scientific significance, and when combined with the monument’s paleontologic, archaeologic, biologic, scenic and recreational values, the monument designation is well justified. Only a large acreage will suffice to protect Gold Butte’s undiscovered resources, as well as the open space and sense of exploration that draw visitors to the area. The monument’s current large acreage is fully appropriate.
Though Gold Butte has seen high-profile controversy, it has major local support among Clark County residents and Nevadans generally. Polls conducted in 2012, 2016, and 2017, reported that 63 percent, 71 percent and 63 percent of Nevadans, respectively, across party lines, supported a National Conservation Area or National Monument designation. The Mesquite City Council passed two resolutions in 2009 and 2010 supporting preservation of the natural and cultural resources in Gold Butte. The Clark County Commission, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and Moapa Band of Paiutes also approved resolutions of support in 2010. Public meetings were held and well attended. A 2015 analysis of the potential economic benefits found that if only 10 percent of new visitors attracted to Gold Butte stay in Mesquite, the total economic gain for the city would be $2.7 million per year. Gold Butte National Monument is an excellent opportunity both to protect a highly worthy landscape and to strengthen Nevada’s position in the tourism and outdoor recreation markets, and its designation should be allowed to stand as proclaimed.
Giant Sequoia, California:
Please maintain the boundaries of California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument as currently designated. Sequoias are the world’s largest organisms and some of the longest-lived, and as such their scientific and historic value is self-evident. Over half of the world’s remaining sequoia groves are located within the current monument boundaries. 353,000 acres, while it may sound large, is by no means excessive to protect such a large number of sequoia groves, and the monument’s boundaries are already quite gerrymandered and do not encompass more land than is necessary to preserve the groves in their natural setting. Furthermore, the protected lands surrounding the groves contain many hiking trails, campgrounds, waterfalls and rock climbing areas, all of which deserve protection in their own right and contribute to the region’s outdoor recreation economy. Travel and tourism contributed over 55,000 jobs to the Giant Sequoia region in 2015. Outdoor recreation and landscape preservation are both highly popular in California, and the southern Sierra mountains in Kern County in particular are lacking in protected landscapes compared to the more famous National Parks and wilderness areas further north. Giant Sequoia National Monument makes excellent scientific and economic sense, and it’s status should remain as currently designated.
Rio Grande del Norte, New Mexico:
Please maintain the boundaries of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico as originally designated. I am a native-born New Mexican with family still in the state, and the resources which the monument protects are highly valued in northern New Mexico. Hunting, fishing, pine nut and firewood harvesting, and grazing are important to the area’s Hispanic and Native American residents, and are explicitly protected by the monument proclamation, while hiking, natural history, hot springs and whitewater rafting are valuable contributors to economies of Taos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe Counties. Travel and tourism accounts for 39% of Taos County employment. During the monument’s first year, the Bureau of Land Management registered a 40% increase in tourism, while nearby Taos received a 21% increase in lodging tax revenue. New Mexico’s landscapes remain under-protected compared to the other Four Corners states, and the Rio Grande Gorge in the monument is one of the state’s premier attractions. The monument’s archeological and rock art sites, in addition to their scientific value, are important connections to all New Mexicans to our state’s deep and diverse human history.
The monument’s acreage is appropriate both to protect its scientific resources and to preserve the sweeping views and open space which attract recreationists to the area. During the process leading to monument designation, local support in northern New Mexico was widespread, and local concerns, particularly of the Hispanic and Native American communities, played a major role in shaping the monument proclamation. Post-designation, the region’s tourism economy has thrived and Taos County’s per capita income grew by 27% from 2001 to 2015. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument serves as both an important economic benefit and as a vital connection to New Mexico’s diverse history, and it should be allowed to stand as designated.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico:
Please uphold the boundaries of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument as currently designated. I am a native-born New Mexican with family in southern New Mexico, and the value of these desert lands to my recreational opportunities and my sense of new Mexican heritage is immense. Open spaces, hunting and undeveloped recreation are very important to New Mexicans both personally and economically, and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument protects these resources close to the state’s second-largest urban area. Travel and tourism support over 9,500 jobs in Dona Ana County, about 19% of total private wage and salary employment. Despite the importance of tourism and outdoor recreation to New Mexico’s economy, to the tune of $6 billion, it has substantially fewer protected areas than neighboring Four Corners states, and the southern half of the state similarly lags behind the north in designated attractions. The monument’s large acreage is entirely appropriate for preserving the large number of archeological, biological, historic and recreation resources within its boundaries.
There has been plenty of history of public support for protection of these lands, including from former Republican Senator Pete Domenici, as well as from my conservative family, hunters and sportsmen. Many Dona Ana County residents and businesses spoke in favor of the monument during the designation process, and data indicates that the monument has brought economic benefits to the region post designation. Please allow Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to stand as is!
This long view from the Black Range to the Organs is all I’ve got photographically, but if you need more inspiration, Wayne Suggs is your man.
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.