Desert Night Slips Away

"I believed even worse would happen to us if we abandoned this wilderness, and I stared out across the night desert imagining what worse could be. We would become nothing without deep and pressing country, places we can never name or possess. Our insides would weaken if we did not have such things. Our minds would become bitter and self-absorbed. I had many times tried to invent a valid argument for the preservation of wilderness and could never find it within the bounds of my language. But I knew that without these far places we were risking ourselves as a species. We need these anchors in the land. We might someday cut ourselves loose and find that there are no longer veins feeding us blood, no longer a throat to take in air. We might find that we are weak-limbed creatures unable to stand on our own."
                                                     -- Craig Childs, "Soul of Nowhere"

This is one photo that almost slipped away from me. In the darkness long before sunrise, I carefully composed the desert scene: stars, distant mountains, and an ocotillo plant in the foreground. Then I opened the shutter and went back to sleep, planning to wake up an hour later before the light of dawn overexposed the film. But I had miscalculated; when I woke up I was alarmed to see that the sky was already growing visibly light. I rushed to the tripod and closed the shutter, hoping for the best. As it turned out, I was pleased with the results -- star trails fading into the brightly-lit horizon, with mountains and ocotillo starkly silhouetted. Behind the ocotillo is the constellation Gemini; the bright pair of stars Pollux and Castor are just entering the top of the frame. In the right half of the photo is the constellation Auriga, with its brightest star Capella at far right.

Date: December 30, 2006
Time: 4:54 to 5:53 a.m. PST
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
Camera: Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR on fixed tripod
Film: Fuji Provia 100F slide
Focal length: 40 mm
Aperture: f/2.8-4
Exposure time: 59 minutes
Scanner: Nikon Coolscan LS-2000

Revised: January 21, 2007
Copyright © 2007 Joe Orman (except Childs quote)
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