Fireworks and Smoke

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It’s warming up ©2019 Michael E. Gordon

A challenging reality on the desert is heat. If each year it did not occur like clockwork, it would be rather difficult to pry me from this habitat. I’m the shrubfly on the lone stool in the distant stand of creosote; they have to kick me out when its time to close up for the season.

May 2019 was unseasonable on the California desert. Temperatures remained low and precipitation remained high enough to keep things cooler and greener than would be normal for this time of year. Early June temperatures were not quite yet deadly, so I decided to make one last chase: Smoke Trees (Psorothamnus spinosus). The beautiful Smoke tree can be found in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico deserts in dry, low elevation (<1500′) sandy washes. For much of the year they are nondescript and scrappy looking compact trees. In late spring – following a bountiful winter – they can explode with brilliant blue fireworks. After the heat has fried the flowers, they revert to their common appearance: like whisps of smoke rising delicately from a desert wash.

While the photographs may be enjoyable to view, they omit a few important sensory details: the baking heat (if it wasn’t cathartic we wouldn’t spa nor sauna); dry desert winds moving through the wash; and the cacophony of millions of bees (video) and other happy winged insects who gather this bounty (see the attached close-up). This is a living desert.

 


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Workshop Announcement: Introduction to Large Format Photography: April 14-15, 2012

Large Format Photographer in the Alabama Hills

This workshop will take place in California’s renowned Alabama Hills (featured in scores of movies and television commercials), just outside Lone Pine, California, in the rainshadow of Mt. Whitney and the High Sierra). Limited to 5 photographers only.

NO PREVIOUS LARGE FORMAT EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED! The large format camera offers the ultimate in control over the entire creative image-making process and large format negatives and transparencies that offer extraordinary resolution. The market is flooded with plenty of used and value-priced large format gear, and new high quality yet inexpensive field cameras have made this an excellent time to move up to the format with only a moderate amount of expense. This course is designed for experienced photographers who are ready to take their photography to the next level, and for those who have previously worked with large format but have struggled with it. At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to efficiently and confidently compose, focus, meter, and expose your own large format photographs. Please click here for more information and to register.

I hope you can join us!

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

You’re invited! Stargazing in the Mojave National Preserve – Sept. 24, 2011

click to download flyer

You are welcomed to join the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers, myself, and others September 24 in the amazing Mojave National Preserve for food, frolic, and most importantly to enjoy the Preserve’s deep night sky. Camping is FREE all weekend at the group campsite. We will meet at the Black Canyon Group Campground located across the road from the Hole-in-the-Wall visitor center. The program will begin at 6pm. Please bring food, layered clothing, and camping gear.

Late September is a great time to explore the Preserve: Warm days and cool nights. Wildlife activity increases in fall as our date should coincide with fall bird migration. Late-season blooms, including the beautiful yellow hues of Rabbitbrush come into season.

This year the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy (MNPC), Old Town Astronomers, and NPCA will provide beverages and snacks. NPCA will discuss the value of our ever diminishing night sky and natural quiet, and what is threatening those resources. The Old Town Astronomers will provide telescopes and world-class interpretation of the cosmos.

Bring friends, bring dogs on leashes, and feel free to invite others to join. If you haven’t experienced the Preserve’s pristine night skies, they are not to be missed. NASA’s Jane Houston Jones has reported that fall is a great time to see the Milky Way galaxy. Please RSVP to David Lamfrom of NPCA if you plan to attend. It is not requisite for attendance, but does allow for enough snacks, wine, etc. for everyone.

On Sunday morning, I’ll be leading a hike to a special location within the Preserve. Be sure to find me on Saturday night if you’d like to join me on this outing! See you September 24 under the night skies!

*Please note: Mojave National Preserve does not have services, so be sure to bring food and to gas-up before arriving. Fenner is located one exit east of Essex Road on I-40, and has food and gas, but is expensive.

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

On Exhibit: ‘California Desert’; Long Beach, CA

I will have a solo exhibition showcasing approximately twelve large format black and white photographs of the California desert from September 9, 2010 through October 5, 2010, at the El Dorado Nature Center Art Gallery in Long Beach.

Comprising nearly twenty five percent of the state’s total land mass, the California desert – consisting of the Mojave, the Colorado, and the Great Basin deserts – is largely under-visited and misunderstood. For more than two decades, I have explored and photographed the recesses of California’s vast deserts. My prints are enjoyed by photographers, collectors, and critics alike, and reveal the subtle beauty, light, and intrigue of this enchanting and secret landscape.

An opening reception will be held on Saturday, September 11, from 1 to 3pm, in the Art Gallery at the El Dorado Nature Center.

The El Dorado Nature Center Art Gallery is located at 7550 E. Spring Street, Long Beach, California, 90815. The Art Gallery is open 10am to 4pm Tuesday through Friday, and 8:30am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Parking fees are $5 on weekdays and $7 on weekends. More information is available online or by calling (562) 570-1745.

Please come out and say hello! I look forward to meeting you.

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

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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My last photograph of 2009: The Burning Bush

The Burning Bush, Mecca Hills Wilderness

The Burning Bush

I spent the last day of 2009 and the first few days of 2010 exploring and hiking the desert region around the Salton Sea with my wife, Shauna, and our always present companion ‘Mojave‘. I dedicated this trip to Shauna’s enjoyment (she doesn’t get out nearly enough with me), so I decided that this would be a “tourist” trip for me and one where I would focus on Shauna instead of making photographs (she appreciates these gestures :)). As a result, I did not practice much photography (digital only) but we had a great time exploring and being in awe of our beautiful desert.

The last day of 2009 found us running out of light in the Mecca Hills Wilderness, so we decided to camp for the night in one of the canyons. Like everyone else, we enjoyed the Blue Moon that rose as the decade was ending, and it felt like a joyful and fitting end to 2009 and a wonderful ushering in of 2010.

Sometime around 10:30 pm, as we enjoyed the warmth of our campfire, the glow of full moonlight on the desert landscape and the glow of our campfire on this desert shrub led me to my camera (D-SLR). Compared to working with a view camera (especially in the dark!), a D-SLR is incredibly easy to use and verify/correct exposure, and the image is complete as fast as it is conceived. I’ll be sharing a few more images from this trip over the next few posts.

I hope your 2010 is off to a beautiful start! Happy New Year!

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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Medusolla

Cholla

Cholla

I enjoy inventing new words, and “Medusolla” is my latest (pronounced ‘med-u-soya’). The astute and desert-aware have probably already determined that this is nothing more than a combination of “Medusa” and “Cholla” (pronounced ‘choy-a’), but please allow me my five minutes of worthless word-inventing internet fame 🙂

I photographed this Medusa-looking Cholla about one month ago in the Mojave National Preserve, very shortly after sunrise on a wickedly cold desert morning. Desert adventurers might possibly agree with me that cholla are one of the most troublesome of all desert plants; I have pulled hundreds of spines from my skin, and my dog Mojave has had several terrible encounters with these plants. Ironically, they’re superbly fascinating and photogenic.

This photograph was made with a 4×5″ view camera, Ilford Delta film, and as with many of my newer photographs, a vintage Wollensak Verito lens (early 1900’s).

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