On Exhibit: Beverly Hills Art Show – Oct. 15-16, 2016

bhasoct2016I will be exhibiting my work again at the beautiful Beverly Hills Art Show on October 15-16, 2016. This wonderful outdoor show features more than 240 artists from around the West working in all media and takes place along Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills between Rodeo Drive and Rexford Drive. I will be present both days from 10am to 5pm – Space 410 (between Crescent and Rexford) – and I would love to meet and share my work with you. This show is FREE! More information can be found here. See you in Beverly Hills!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Bearing Witness

This essay features numerous links to important illustrations and articles referenced – please click them.


Michael worships a Giant. Sequoiadendron giganteum, Sierra National Forest

For many years in the West we’ve been hearing and learning about drought-stressed trees (USDA Drought Monitor), bark beetles, and climate change. My anger is justified when the 2016 GOP Presidential nominee comes to California for money and support and declares that our drought is political, not real.

During my adult life, “permanent” snowfields in the High Sierra have disappeared; its glaciers are dying; and alpine ice climbs I once made can no longer be repeated (not until the next ice age, anyway). I’ve also experienced the disappearing glaciers of Glacier National Park (expected to be gone by 2030) and near and dear to me, Joshua Tree National Park could lose its namesake trees by the end of this century. Overt signs of climate change are available everywhere in the West – if one is paying attention and not politically motivated to deny them.


Giant Sequoia, Sequoia National Park

Following the opening reception of my latest exhibition in Sacramento, California, I decided to take the longer and slower route back to Southern California through the western side of the mighty Sierra Nevada mountain range. As a lifelong hiker, climber, and lover of the Sierra, I have always enjoyed its tremendous diversity. The east side of the range rises abruptly more than ten thousand vertical feet over the Owens Valley – from high desert to the alpine zone and the granitic massif of Mt. Whitney in just a few short horizontal miles. By comparison, the west side of the Sierra makes a long and gradual rise from the San Joaquin Valley towards its mighty crest – nearing sixty miles at its widest – containing chaparral and oak covered foothills, shadowed and fern-filled forests containing massive conifers (including the world-famous Giant Sequoia/Sequoiadendron giganteum), and life-giving rivers (the Kern, Kaweah, Kings, Merced, Owens, and many others) that make habitation and agriculture possible in otherwise arid California. While the East side is the dry side of the range, the west side is typically forested, wet, and green – lush and verdant by California standards (Pacific Northwesterners are laughing). My recent tour of the range, however, has forever altered my view. The Sierra Nevada will never again in my lifetime look the way I once knew it.


Transformation – Sierra National Forest

On August 11th – the day before I began my drive to Sacramento – I received from a friend a link to a disturbing article: “Forests of fatalities: after 70 million tree deaths, worst “still to come – which highlights tremendous tree mortality throughout the state. A Washington Post article of December 2015 similarly suggests “fairly consistent predictions of widespread loss of piñon pine and juniper in the southwest, sometime around 2050.”As I headed north on Interstate 5 through the San Joaquin Valley- the Valley that feeds much of America’s humans (not its livestock) – I was shocked to see so many dead crops, dying trees, and fallow fields. Some of these “Central Valley” communities have gone dry in recent years and have had to truck in water just for human consumption.

Outside of Yosemite Valley, my busy schedule over the last couple years had kept me away from most of the western Sierra. My return was met with much shock and sadness. The U.S. Forest Service has declared that Sierra tree mortality jumped eight-fold from 2014 to 2015 – from 3.3 million dead trees to 29 million dead trees. In 2014, I might have suggested that there were no dead trees in the Western Sierra. No matter where one looks now, a sea of dead trees encompasses the view.


Thousands of dead conifers through a haze of wildfire smoke. Chiquito Ridge, south of Yosemite National Park

As I made my way from Sonora to northern Yosemite National Park, I traversed some new ground and received yet another horrifying glimpse of Rim Fire aftermath. I was in Yosemite NP while the Rim Fire burned and distinctly recall near zero visibility at times. That fire had begun and consumed approximately 400 square miles of Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite NP just three years prior. The view from a prominent overlook revealed not a verdant green forest filled with undergrowth, deer, and birds; rather a brushy and barren landscape that will likely never return to its former verdant glory (not in our lives).


Can’t see the forest for the dead trees. 2015 Willow Fire aftermath – a long view to Mounts Ritter and Banner in the Eastern Sierra

Making my way further south only revealed more horror. For the first time I got a glimpse of the 2015 Rough Fire aftermath which ravaged Sierra and Sequoia National Forests and parts of Kings Canyon NP. A prominent overlook of Kings Canyon revealed a nearly desertified landscape, looking more akin to dry southern California ranges than the Sierra I once knew. I found myself becoming more depressed about the bleak devastation before me and believed that climbing a mountain might deliver good tidings – I headed further south to Mineral King Valley (Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP).


Beautiful Mineral King Valley filtered through the smoke of the Sequoia NF Cedar Fire (still active at time of this writing)


Sawtooth Peak (the prominent fin on right), Needham Mountain (behind), and Columbine Lake. Mt. Whitney is visible far to the east.

I aimed for Sawtooth Peak, six miles and 4500′ elevation gain from my camp in Mineral King Valley. I started walking early to beat the heat and meet my wild neighbors who keep different schedules. Along the way I met at close range numerous marmots, grouse, squirrels and velvet-antlered mule deer. Walking alone and quietly always brings rewards. As I neared Sawtooth Pass, I began to see smoke moving my way from the south.

Hiding out under the trees of the Sierra for several days prior, I was unaware that yet another fire had erupted while I journeyed south. Daily sky views to that point had never been promising. Always orange or gray – never blue – the central California sky had been altered for weeks by the Soberanes Fire on the coast (erupted on July 22, still active at time of this writing).


Mineral King Sierra with a plume from the Cedar Fire blowing up to the south

As I neared the summit I saw a huge plume to the south. My heart sunk; not another one!? At first I believed that it might be the Blue Cut Fire on the San Bernardino National Forest far to the south – it had only begun a few days prior. Little did I know that the Lake Isabella region was getting hit by yet another new and quickly-growing fire (which had suffered the devastating Erskine Fire only weeks prior).

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. John Muir


I look distressed. Self-portrait on the summit, with the rugged Kaweah Peaks behind me

Quiet walks in the wild and climbing mountains has always been my antidote. It uplifts, it nurtures, it restores, it heals. But good tidings diminish quickly when even the view from a summit leaves one with a feeling of anguish. I stayed as long as I could. The air was getting thicker with smoke, my breathing was altered (especially at more than 12,000 feet above sea level) – I decided to depart before the smoke or my disposition worsened.



My last look south from the summit

California’s natural landscape is very dynamic and has always been shaped by wildfire – this is not likely news to anyone. But it all changes when one factors unstoppable population growth, historic drought, community building in hazardous zones, and ultimately – repeated human-caused fires (not wild: power tools, downed power lines, bullets, sparks). We are helping to quickly transform and destroy the landscape we love.

Among the books in my collection is Charles Little’s The Dying of the Trees. Written in 1995, Little offers insights to dying forests around our globe. Much of it human caused, but not much mention of climate change. It was at that point beyond our knowledge and not part of our everyday lexicon. Only twenty-one years later, climate change has become very real very fast, and very threatening to our own ways of life. Every western U.S. state is suffering deeply from its effects; models predict it will only worsen.

The Sierra Nevada I once knew is no longer. Attributing blame is unimportant; acknowledging it and acting on it is paramount. Should any reader of this essay be among those who deny the overwhelming science and evidence of climate change , I invite you to California for a very personal and sobering tour.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For information and photographs, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.


The 2017 Moab Photography Symposium

MPSIt is an honor to be invited to present at the 2017 Moab Photography Symposium! A first in its history, the 2017 MPS will feature an ALL-BLACK-AND-WHITE theme with presentations and workshops intended to refine your vision and process and/or to help guide you down the achromatic artistic path. I am excited to share the stage and field time with photographic luminaries Bruce Barnbaum, Huntington Witherill, Jeff Foott, Guy Tal, Chuck Kimmerle, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, Judith Zimmerman, and leader/MPS organizer Bruce Hucko.  And we’re in Moab!  The surrounding world-renowned redrock landscape provides a host of diverse opportunities to learn and practice new skills, techniques, and to engage in photography with other great people like you. All presenters are open and accessible sources of information who truly enjoy sharing their passion for photography. I hope you will consider joining us for the 2017 Moab Photography Symposium!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For information and photographs, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

The National Park Service—100 Years: California Dreaming

CaptureI am very pleased to announce my next big exhibition: The National Park Service—100 Years: California Dreaming at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento, California. This exhibition opens on August 10, 2016 and runs through September 3, 2016. I will be exhibiting 15-20 photographic prints from Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park in celebration of the Centennial of our National Park Service.

I hope that you will join me for the Opening Reception at the Viewpoint on Saturday, Aug. 13 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Please visit the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center website for more information.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For information and photographs, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

The Joshua Tree Fine Art Folio

The Joshua Tree collector's folio - Michael E. GordonI am very pleased to announce the official release of my new The Joshua Tree collector’s folio. This beautiful folio features twelve of my photographs from The Joshua Tree collection and measures 11×14” – conveniently sized for easy framing – with each image measuring approximately 8×10”. These beautiful prints are a delight to hold in the hand and they’re made using the same archival materials and techniques as all of my gallery prints, featuring rich warm/sepia tone carbon pigment inks on delicately textured fine art German Etching paper (a perfect match to the texture of the Joshua tree). Each open-edition folio is sequentially numbered with a title page, artist statement, and all twelve photographs arriving in a handsome embossed die-cut art paper enclosure.

My good friend and fellow photographer Guy Tal had some flattering things to say about this new folio on a recent blog post“I can say without hesitation that this collection is among the most beautiful things I own…If you are one who appreciates the power of an exquisitely conceived and printed photograph, you will cherish this portfolio.” Thank you, Guy!

The Joshua Tree and  Desert fine art folios make wonderful holiday gifts for those who appreciate fine photography and the well-crafted print. Order yours today in time for the holidays!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook, Google+, and  Twitter.

Visionary Death Valley Photography Workshop Epilogue

Visionary Death Valley Photography Workshop, February 2012

Guy Tal and I concluded our February 2012 Visionary Death Valley (VDV) photography workshop last Wednesday on Death Valley NP’s Eureka Dunes, and to summarize our workshop with just one word: INCREDIBLE. We had a most wonderful group of participants who were engaged and inspired. We feel incredibly fortunate to be able to share our passion for creative photography and Death Valley National Park with a select group of individuals who are eager to move forward on their creative journeys.

Our workshop explored and photographed some of Death Valley’s most well known features – the vast Dante’s View; the surreal Badwater; the cosmic Racetrack; the sensual Mesquite Sand Dunes – as well as lesser known but no less extraordinary locations that are exclusive to Visionary Death Valley. VDV blends the perfect mixture of field photography, field classes, and a post-production classroom session (with laptops and projection) along with inspirational and philosophical discussions designed to challenge photographers to rethink the way they work and photograph. There are many photography workshops and instruction manuals that teach craft and technique; we’ve designed Visionary Death Valley to lead photographers towards the heart of their art.

A few workshop highlights: A brief but intense sunrise at Dante’s View; a downright ridiculous flaming sunset on our last night out with the Eureka Dunes extension group (see image at left); investigating incredible marine fossils and petroglyphs; the largest engulfing dust storm I’ve ever experienced in Death Valley (this occurred during preparations a few days before we first met our group); and F18 fighter jets screaming over Eureka Dunes at low elevations (it’s a violation of the wilderness experience, yet hard not to be awed by).

Guy and I would like to sincerely thank Anil, Annette, Bob, Don, Jon, Michael, Paige, Ron, Stephanie, and Tina for being part of the first of our Visionary workshop series and for being wonderful students and humans. We truly enjoyed your company and learning about each of you over those tiring but exciting days. We wish you well on your creative photographic journeys!

Our next Visionary Death Valley workshop is scheduled for November 29 – December 4, 2012 and you are all invited. We are also currently in the planning stages of Visionary Capitol Reef (Utah) in 2013. Please stay tuned for more information.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Art from the Pit

Art from the Pit

Art from the Pit

Nope – this post has nothing to do with juicy tips from the trenches. Although it may end up being the first of many Art from the Pit posts. What the hay am I talking about?

I have a sweet and loving pit bull named Mojave. You can read a little about her story here. Despite her sweetness (no different than any other pit bull well-treated by humans), she has jaws of steel and enjoys crushing containers, cans, basketballs, wood…you name it. Pit bulls enjoy exercising those fat muscles in their heads and relish in the careful disassembly of most objects, and Mojave is no different. So I’ve decided to start photographing her ‘works of art’. It’s an aluminum cat food can today, but it could very well be a glass container tomorrow….

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website