Easter Pastels

Late light flows over the Borrego Badlands. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California. The color palette in this photograph reminds me of the colors of Easter. For those who will celebrate with their families: may it be a joyous occasion.

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

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I Am Alive!

I am alive!

Like many photographers, I giddily anticipate the arrival of spring wildflowers every year. More so than in any other place, wildflowers in the arid desert is a truly magical sight to behold. Extraordinarily beautiful, terrifically ephemeral, and entirely without any guarantees that the next spring will deliver the same (or even close). In my case, “the chase” is critically more important than the actual photographs I make. The chase affirms my sanity and confirms my minuscule role in this amazing web we call life. Desert wildflowers have taken thousands of years to develop their punctual annual program, and I am in as much awe of this evolutionary process as I am the results.

The biology and geology of the places I explore are truly amazing, and truth is, the still photograph is usually an entirely insufficient device to sharing these special moments and experiences. The technicals of making good photographs is boringly easy when compared to conveying my deeply personal and passionate feelings for these places. To be sure, the hardest part of my art is not access, organization, or sales; it’s creating images that emote those distinct and unique feelings. How do you transmit through photographs your tears of joy over the stunning moment and place before you? It’s never easy, and I often submit, put away the camera, and enjoy that special moment without any distractions.

The attached photograph is from a few mornings ago; sunrise over Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Borrego Badlands. That’s my good friend Johnny enjoying a sweet little backlit patch of Arizona Lupine (Lupinus arizonicus) on a steep and exposed ridge. The large format photographs I had planned for this morning didn’t quite work out, yet this photograph more than makes up for any lost opportunities during my travels. This image does not remind me of the noxious spread of Sahara Mustard across Anza-Borrego; it does not remind me of the blowing wind that prevented a few photographs; nor does it remind me of the uncomfortable-at-times heat: it only reminds me of how sweet it is to be alive, to have all my senses, and to watch a new day dawn over an ephemeral wildflower desert landscape. No photograph can ever rival the beauty of life and these kinds of intimate experiences.

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

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2010 California Desert Wildflower Prognostications

Ocotillo and Arizon Lupine. Colorado Desert, California

Despite the copious amounts of rain and snow that have fallen on California’s deserts since late November 2009, the 2010 desert wildflower season (if there is to be one) is off to a rather poor start. The attached photograph was made on March 9, 2008. If I were to take you to this location today, we would find nothing like the sweep of Arizona Lupine we see surrounding these Ocotillo. In fact, as of a few days ago, flower-less was this location and many others that are typically in flower at this time. Many high desert residents have delayed their spring gardening, as winter has hung around for as much as one month longer than in most years. The continued precipitation, cold, and wind has done little to encourage growth. Regardless, close inspection of the ground, plants, and buds reveals what may be an underwhelming bloom, despite all this rain!

I initially had scheduled a Desert Wildflower Photography Tour for March 6. I would have typically counted on this date, but on March 6 of 2010, there was virtually nothing in flower. So I postponed the Tour until March 20. I have spent recent days in the locations I had planned to take the tour, but because most of these locations are tremendously late and possibly altogether flower-less this spring, I have canceled any plans for a Desert Wildflower Tour.

I concluded a private workshop last Sunday in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As Ron Niebrugge and Phil Colla have already reported, Sahara Mustard (Brassica tournefortii) has radically altered the Borrego Valley landscape, stretching from Borrego Springs all the way to Salton Sea. I even found it in remote canyons and washes during my stay. Unfortunately, the spread of this plant is out of control, with millions of acres of Colorado and Sonoran Desert having already been transformed, and with many more acres at risk from this noxious and invasive species. I’ll, too, join the choir in declaring that the vast fields of wildflowers that made Borrego Valley famous may now be a thing of the past. The only real solution at this time is hand-pulling, which is not terribly effective when thousands of acres have been inundated with this devil weed. You can help! If you spot Sahara Mustard while in the field, KILL IT! The entire plant – roots and all – must be pulled, placed in a tied-off plastic bag, and properly disposed of. Simply pulling the plant and tossing it aside is not enough, as the seeds can and will still disperse from a pulled plant.

There is a possibility that things could flip quickly, as we are finally experiencing spring-like conditions throughout most of the California desert for the next week or so. Should I find a remarkable transformation out there, I may offer a short-notice one day tour. Barring this, I am currently at work on putting together a late March/early April 2010 trip to southern Death Valley’s stunning Owlshead Mountains. Only there can I guarantee spreads of wildflowers, towering sand dunes, and vast and stunning landscapes. Click here for more information about this tour.

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

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Arnold Schwarzenegger: Go Back to Hollywood

No More Arnold SchwarzeneggerThanks for your service, Arnold, but we Californians have had enough of you.

Please do me a favor, Governor Schwarzenegger, and place in your hand a 2005 California State quarter. You’ll notice that this coin prominently features Yosemite Valley’s world famous Half Dome, our imperiled California Condor, our famous conifers, and the Grandfather of Conservation, John Muir (you could learn a lot from his leadership and values, Mr. Schwarzenegger). Please note that nowhere on this coin will you find the Hollywood sign, cityscapes, toll roads and freeways, or power lines. Why? Because we Californians value most our natural places, open spaces, and the tremendous scenery and beauty of our great state. Why then, do you insist on representing the interests of big business and developers instead of protecting our natural resources?

You have the nerve to propose closing 48 of our California State Parks due to your administration’s financial failures; you booted Bobby Shriver and Clint Eastwood from the State Park and Recreation Commission because they were opposed to a toll road that you supported – one that would needlessly slice through a State Park; and now this: your pressing of State regulators to allow massive power lines to cut through Anza-Borrego – California’s largest state park.

With all due respect, Arnold, what in the hell are you thinking? We Californians DO NOT support your proposed State Park closures; we DO NOT approve of your toll roads cutting through our open spaces; and we DO NOT approve of power lines cutting through our state parks. Where are the discussions of conservation? This is the foremost fundamental item any sound leader would and should discuss. However, instead of encouraging more drivers to carpool to lessen freeway congestion, you take the easy path and promote a damaging tollroad; instead of encouraging San Diegan’s to conserve and use less energy, you promote an unnecessary power line through our great Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

It’s time to look at reality, Arnold: California (especially Southern) cannot continue with this breakneck pace of growth and resource consumption. Like your administration, our state is headed for long-term failure if it continues down this path.

To my California readers: I encourage you to voice your concerns with the Governor’s office. Email Arnold or send snail mail to:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

You can also express your disgust by phone or fax:
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-558-3160

Thank you. As always, I solicit your comments on this topic.

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