I am pleased to announce my second article (Photography is Easy. Art is Hard) and nine photographs in the July 2020 edition of Medium Format Magazine, the #1 magazine dedicated to Medium and Large Format photography enthusiasts. This monthly magazine is well-written, elegantly produced, and contains many great photographs from all genres in more than 100+ pages in every issue. Thank you for looking.
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” Ernst Haas
I have walked this beautiful Death Valley canyon perhaps more than one hundred times. It is a spectacularly colorful serpentine canyon with deep, polished narrows and many potential photographs along the way. I made all the obvious photographs over my first tens of visits. All of my walks since have produced exciting discoveries that can really only result from intimacy. I’ve not once been bored by this familiar walk (refer to the Haas quote) and I’ve never run out of opportunity or ideas. I walk with no photographic preconceptions as they act as barriers in my ability to *see* and experience.
These four geologic panels are millions of years old and found over a two mile span of the canyon. I made these photographs not because they are colorful and could compose well, but rather because I am fascinated by the geology of this canyon and the Death Valley region and have studied it extensively over the years. I now know these walls and every twist and turn of the canyon as if it were my own home.
My heart grows only fonder, the experiences and photographs get only better.
Take advantage of greatly reduced prices on a handful of my Limited Edition Exhibition prints! These prints were framed and hung during previous exhibitions; they were either not for sale or failed to sell. The overmat and prints are flawless; the back of the mount may show signs of handling, wear, labels, framing points, etc. Only ONE copy is available at this special price – ACT NOW!
Please let me know if you have any questions regarding these offers. Thank you for looking!
You are visiting the blog of landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
I am pleased to have an article and eight photographs in the May 2020 edition of Medium Format Magazine, the #1 magazine dedicated to Medium and Large Format photography enthusiasts. This monthly magazine is very well-written, elegantly presented, and contains many great photographs from all genres in more than 100+ pages in every issue. Furthermore, Medium Format has graciously provided me with my own column – The Inner Landscape – where I will share thoughts and personal process from the creative and artistic side of the medium. I look forward to seeing you there!
The Sacred Datura plant (Datura wrightii) is known in Mexico as toloache, from the Nahuatl words for “bow the head” and “reverential” (how can you not love this?). Beverages made from this poisonous deliriant induce hallucinogenic visions; when used improperly, even death. It is used for sacred rites of passage by Native American tribes, has been used to hex and to break hexes, to produce sleep and induce dreams, and for protection from evil. It has also been used for divination, to find one’s totem animal, to allow one to see ghosts, for communing with birds, for long hunts and strength, for sharper vision, for sorcery and to increase supernatural powers. Sacred Datura (also known as Jimson Weed or Devil’s Weed [Yerba del Diablo]) is one of the subjects of Carlos Castaneda’s critically acclaimed The Teachings of don Juan. I have personally used it only for photographic power.
Accordingly, a sacred plant commands sacred photographic treatment. I experienced many rejects and failures before I finally landed a successful photograph. Sacred Datura grows in the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mojave deserts and blooms from April through October, rainy season dependent. In clear weather, flowers may open in the morning or evening but close during the heat of the day. In cloudy weather, they may open earlier and last longer. Individual flowers do not last long, timing is everything. In windy conditions – common on the desert during it’s blooming period – flowers can be quickly damaged by wind (folded and bruised flower petals don’t photograph well). Further, wind is often disastrous for large format film photography where long exposures are common and camera bellows become wind sails. My exposures are timed carefully to fall between gusts of wind. Unlike digital photography, there is no instant feedback in film photography – results are not visible until I later develop the film. A second negative is often made to counteract wind movement; one is routinely a throw-away (due to blurring).
Design and Architecture firm Workshop/APD has acquired a large Tranquil Waters print for a New York design project. It’s an honor to have my Pacific Ocean photographs make an appearance on the Atlantic side. These liquid abstractions are often the confluence of three movements: water, watercraft, and camera. All three are typically moving simultaneously in these photographs and the results are often surprisingly exciting or a complete failure. I may be better known for my monochromatic impressions of California deserts yet I’ve lived in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean my entire life. In my experience, the vast infinite and solitude of open water is not at all unlike standing on a desert summit with the vast and infinite stretched before my feet.
Consider enriching your personal and photographic experience by trying something like this: Take a long walking tour, following magical light as it evolves and caresses the sands. If direct/frontal light seems too “harsh”, examine other possibilities for sidelight and backlight; these are more dramatic and are my favorite. Deep wells, holes, bowls, and hollows in dune fields can take on sensuous and dramatic shadows during what many photographers might term “bad light”. Keep walking, keep searching, keep changing your direction of view, and don’t forget to think and see in monochrome (when saturated colors have little relevance) for stunning black and white desert photography. Golden Hour? Make it three.
My article “Death Valley Sand Dunes Photography: A How-to Guide” has been published by The Image Flow Photography Center. It’s filled with professional advice on how to make your photographic adventure on the dunes more rewarding. Thank you for reading – enjoy!
It was more than ten long years since my old website first rolled out. In 2018, 58% of total website visits came via mobile devices and it was time for my site to join the 21st century. The old website featured considerably smaller images and was not mobile device compliant, while the new one features an all-new graphical interface as well as responsive and much larger images (reponsive = images that scale properly to any device for maximum resolution and viewing enjoyment). Hundreds of photographs have been reworked for the new site. More work remains to be done and new bodies of work are forthcoming but I am thrilled with the new look and would love to hear what you think about it. Thank you for viewing!
Photographer notes: consider WideRange Galleries if you need a custom website. I’ve been working with Jack Brauer and WideRange for more than a decade and cannot recommend their services enough.
I will be presenting Death Valley National Park: Magnitude and Mystery to the Lancaster Photography Association (Lancaster, California) on Tuesday, August 20th, 2019. The presentation includes nearly 200 photographs and a wealth of information about the Park’s natural and human history. The meeting is from 6-8pm and is FREE and OPEN to the public. Come on out!
My forthcoming Death Valley autumn/winter workshop season is filling up quickly. Seats remain open in the two following workshops:
(with Guy Tal; a cerebral and non-technical workshop). We’ve moved this annual workshop earlier in the season to take better advantage of late winter storms and light.
I hope to see you soon in Lancaster or Death Valley!
Ansel Adams stated (The Negative) that
“visualization is a conscious process of projecting the final photographic image in the mind before taking the first steps in actually photographing the subject. Not only do we relate to the subject itself, but we become aware of its potential as an expressive image.”
The photograph presented here (Sodium Altocumulus) looks nothing like what I actually saw on these salt-encrusted desert mud flats. The light was flat, the mud and salt were nearly color-less, yet I instantly saw the altocumulus clouds and recognized the expressive possibilities for this “bland” setting.
This is neither high art nor a masterpiece but it was enjoyable to visualize and make. I enjoy studying it the same way I enjoy studying big sky. This is a location which I return to frequently to indulge my creative needs and practice my form of abstract landscape photography. The location can change dramatically from day to day, even hour to hour. It’s arid year round and the evaporation rate exceeds the rainfall. Regular shallow flooding through winter and spring alters the surface of the flats and begins anew the salt crystallization process. I never know what I will find and I love this.
By foregoing the preconceived singular image (forget the dang shot), I can spend an entire morning out here in a flow state, engaged in nature’s fascinating details, and make numerous stimulating images.
Just go with the flow, man.