That is the truth that I believe in; one where the status quo has no control over your personal sovereignty and you begin to go back to the roots of our non-reality. The desert is one such place of mystery, full of the Unknown. I’ve learned this over the last decade and a half while roaming canyon labyrinths and mountain ranges. What I have witnessed adds a lot of meaning to this short life of mine. We rural desert dwellers see and hear a lot more than those who get entrapped and surrounded by dense civilization. Out there on the outskirts of the fringe you begin to see what’s truly shrouded while being accompanied by structures and ruins from the distant past that slowly wrought and crumble to the harsh desert elements.
Talking Tree’s Photos
Landscapes of Terlingua in Far West Texas
During my travels along the US/Mexican Border between Calexico, California, and Brownsville, Texas, my favorite borderland landscapes were found in Far West Texas around Marfa, Terlingua and Alpine, Texas. This is a good location to escape winter somewhat!
These photographs were taken in April of 2015 but I can only imagine what Christmas would be like in this Big Bend Country? As a desert rat, I would guess that the nights still get cold in winter, but the day time hours are fairly pleasant. According to the latest weather check for Terlingua, it’s 42 degrees Fahrenheit with an average of 70 degrees this week. Not bad for December!
The mountains off in the distance are Big Bend National Park. I highly recommend photographers avoid this national park because I was harassed by park rangers there and they don’t take too kindly to any photographers using cameras in the national park. Locals warned me that I would run into trouble and I have enough fodder for a good story. On top of that, I would recommend visiting Texas’s own Big Bend State Park which is much more inclusive towards visitors and in my opinion, more beautiful than the national park!
An Alien Landscape – Grand Staircase National Monument
I captured these landscapes a few years ago out by Big Water, Utah on the way to Lake Powell, just after sundown.
In the early 1990s, Bill Clinton, President of the United States declared this national monument a rare treasure and designated over 1.7 million acres of land in Southern Utah off-limits. It stirred a noteworthy controversy with local ranchers who have worked on the land for generations. On the other side of the token, there are countless historical Indigenous cultural and archeological sites inside the monument as well as an unknown treasure trove of undiscovered dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.
I do empathize with the ranchers and people whose livelihoods were affected by the monument’s creation, including my own family, but it was worth preserving these irreplaceable and priceless resources. These sacred places do not belong to us; they belong to the future generations who have yet to be born and these histories cannot be rewritten and can easily be lost in time, forever, with any sort of carelessness.
As a photographer, the landscapes of the Grand Staircase remind me of another planet – a strange alien world in another galaxy and that is an amazing feeling to tap into. Places like Big-Water can heal the soul with its sheer beauty and you can feel the ancient ones (historic tribal peoples) whom once used this land. Traces of their long existence are found all over the monument.
I’ll be returning to Grand Staircase pretty soon with a Sony A7R and capture much more details photos of these alien landscapes.
The Latest-Greatest Cameras Will Not Make You a Better Photographer
I love hearing about photo junkies spending thousands of dollars on the greatest and latest cameras knowing for a fact that having the latest-greatest fancy-pants camera will STILL NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER. Remember this and save thousands of dollars! That being said, if you are going to invest thousands of dollars spend it on glass (camera lenses) because good glass is still key to higher quality, and not necessarily the newest cameras along with their marketing hype. Cameras depreciate faster than lenses and the latter hold their value longer. I’ve been with Micro Four Thirds for 8 years now. That’s a pretty good track record. Why do I recommend this format? Because it’s dirt cheap, affordable, excellent image quality, and the fact that it works well, being mirror-less technology. In the end, It’s going to be the practice and passion that you put into composing images that will help you grow to become a better photographer. Remember that and avoid the marketing hype. I purchase old discontinued camera bodies at steeply discounted rates and invest the money in glass instead. It’s been a while since I’ve purchased gear and I’m happy with my choices. Practice makes better photos!
This Beautiful Pristine Wilderness
I post this because the wilderness is not pristine. Such a concept is foreign to humans and is a false-construct because we are a natural part of the landscape. When used in reference to the new world, it almost makes it sound like nobody was here before Columbus. Yes, I do believe in protecting and defending beauty as long as we come at it from a different angle. In the end, I think we all want clean air and water but humans are natural part of this earth.
This shot was captured on the outskirts of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert near sunset using a Sigma Foveon sensor. I was a real strong supporter of this technology but it doesn’t seem so practical these days, anymore…
The Story of my Stolen Camera Gear and the Cedar City Police in Utah
This month of September marks a little over One Year and a month since I located my stolen Nikon V3 with an 18.5mm Nikkor lens in a pawn shop in Cedar City, Utah. It was turned over to the city police in August of 2014. Since then, It’s been in police evidence for longer than it remained stolen from me which is pretty aggravating. I’ve called the police multiple times and even met up with a few officers in their physical offices but the bureaucracy failed miserably to return my stolen photo gear.
Since then, I have given up ever hoping to get my gear back. Even when your valuables are stolen it doesn’t do any good if the police secure them because there’s a good chance you’ll never see them again. By the time that you do, your gear will be so outdated it will be a waste-of-time anyway. I just wanted to go on the record about this for the journal.
The image above was one of the last photos I captured with the Nikon v3 which I hadn’t even owned for longer than two weeks before it was ripped off in a vehicle burglary. The robber broke into my Jeep while I was watching the Hobbit movie at the theater. I learned a lot that day.
Waiting on the Alien Greys
This image is of Alisa Meshkova – from one of my earliest model shoots. I titled it because of the light coming into the basement of this abandoned house through a window. The wind was blowing pretty hard and is what lifted her hair. I’ve always been inspired by the UFO Phenomenon and so I titled the image accordingly. Alisa attends Southern Utah University and is very intuitive as a model. She knew how to pose so I could focus on taking images.
Jesus I’m a Sinner…
Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation – along with Smugmug embedding of my Images from here on out!
So I’m very resistant and reluctant when it comes to change, but once I shift it’s usually because of a major convenience and benefit. Usually I’m very hard to please especially when trying to trust someone like a company. I’ve been with Smugmug for an easy five-years now, and I’m about to invest in their company by relying on them as my primary backup storage for images both on my blog and elsewhere and they are also going to become my primary business solution. They have proven themselves with the test of time and have been stable for the most part. Not only am I going to host my images primarily with them for my photoblog, but also with my printing needs as a professional photographer. I also LOVE how their resized images display on my WordPress blog but I love their tools to protect my images.
Also any links to Smugmug on this site and through this post will net an automatic 20% to anyone who joins me on there, that is, if you are a photographer looking for awesome solution. I searched high and low for a company that could beat Smugmug but that hunt turned out to be futile because the dozens of companies trying to beat Smugmug just cannot match up to what they are offering me as an Intagrammer, and a Photoblogger. As much as I am a photographer, the web has made me who I am and whether I care to admit it or not. Smugmug has played a very helpful and useful role in that evolution…
A Poltergeist in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico
This picture was captured within moments of a coffee cup sliding off a counter by itself in the kitchen of the same house. It was an electrifying moment when something seemed to be looking back at me from the television set. The act of taking a photo had triggered this paranormal moment. My intuition had picked up the same energy out on the highway as I was leaving Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, and it drew me to this abandoned house on the roadside where everything seemed to still be in its place, and untouched. Strangely enough, vandals had left it alone. The entire house was surrounded by an old custom-made rock wall of large chunks of petrified wood; it was beautiful. As I carefully explored the abandoned home which I entered from the back side, I noticed that all the furniture was still there. Dishes and canned foods in kitchen cupboards. Clothing was folded nicely in drawers in one bedroom, and beds were perfectly made. It was like the family that had lived here 40 years before had just left without saying a word and never bothering to take anything with them.
The energy had enticed me to stop and encouraged me to enter the home. The whole time I was there, I could feel the strong tingle of this electrifying presence in the home and it seemed like it was more than just a ghost or a friendly spirit. It was when I returned to the television set, that the electrical sensation grew to feeling like static on the surface of my skin. As I was pulling the camera up to my eye to compose the photo of the TV, it felt like this entity was staring back at me from the television and I could see it in my mind’s eye. I could look back at myself through the eyes of the phantom and both of us were in-sync with each other.
I still think of the red coffee cup sliding off the counter and how that experience would unnerve most visitors but I don’t seem to fear the Unknown. In fact, I think it has been largely misrepresented by the movie and film industry with the horror genre. None of this really spooks me. In fact, it is this reality that turned me into photographer. Photography helped me to become far more sensitive to my surroundings and environment and I see more than just the light!
The sliding of the red coffee mug happened when I went to press the shutter on my camera and it was during the firing of the shutter that the cup slid off the counter and broke onto the floor, all by itself. You only have my eyewitness account to go on and I did not photograph the red cup because I don’t care if people believe me or not. I know what I experienced and that is all that counts because it was real.
As I walked into the kitchen, I saw the red mug broken on the floor in the late afternoon light of the February sun and I will never forget that day or that mysterious house. It’s these experiences that enhance my photos and it’s a peculiar intuition that leads me down these definitive paths as a documentarian. I adhere to the quiet whispers and voices that tell me about what happened long ago. Whatever was in that home did not feel human but it wasn’t dark or evil. It is just unknown to science…
A Lensbaby Landscape of Southern Utah
Lensbaby Landscape of Cedar City, Utah
Another Lensbaby Landscape: Three Peaks
Another Lensbaby Landscape of the Cedar City, Utah region known as # Three Peaks BLM Recreation Area. Most landscape photographers follow a rule that everything near & far has to be in focus with a very wide depth of field; rules were made to be broken in my book where anything can go in the name of art.
Lensbaby Composer Pro With Sweet 35 Optic for Micro Four Thirds
Lensbaby Composer Pro With Sweet 35 Optic for Micro Four Thirds! – Superior Auto Service in #CedarCity, Utah.
So today, I created photographs using the Lensbaby Composer Pro for Micro Four Thirds with the Sweet 35 Optic; my primary tool and my new muse upon receiving it a few days ago. Lensbaby, out of Oregon is sending this one to me on loan to test and try and I LOVE IT! Lensbaby is a great company and these optics are specialty lenses that require a lot of creative vision and advanced experience from photographers. They are not for the faint-of-heart but the Sweet 35 optic seemed to work well with the Micro Four Thirds format and more than I was expecting. I’m looking forward to writing more about my experiences. Stay tuned.
Along the Mexican & US Border
The U.S. and Mexican border is about 1/5 of a mile away from where this photo was shot. These cottonwoods were amazing. The beauty along the border is stark. It’s a complex issue; this borderline. I have mixed feelings about it. The truth is, this border cuts communities in half. Indigenous homelands and territories were sliced in half. I can’t help but see this as a colonial boundary that is foreign to Turtle Island. Yet, I understand and have affinity with citizens who are tired of the crime and lawlessness that is becoming more sophisticated every day by coyotes, drug traffickers, etc. I don’t think the border is an easy issue to tackle but I also don’t think building a great big Iron Curtain or militarizing the border is a solution either. Not an easy issue to tackle… And when people speak of corruption in Mexico’s government I think we just need to recognize the banking cartel in the US and the military-industrial complex. Doesn’t Operation Fast and Furious come to mind!?
Stay tuned! I’ll be traveling 2000 miles along the border starting in the next few weeks!