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.

 


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.

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Desert Candles (Caulanthus inflatus)

Of all the arts, I believe that photography – specifically nature photography – is the one that encourages the highest levels of observation, awareness, sensitivity, and curiosity. Non-photographic artists can invent their subject matter and works. Photographers need to find theirs. We have to be intimately attuned with our surroundings and subjects and aware of the many photographic possibilities in order to make great images come to life. Such photographs never happen by accident or luck (although the latter remains a constant point of derision for our medium). Combine the love of photography with a love and awe for desert, botany, light, and life, and you’ll find someone who is willing to wait for hours to spend an entire afternoon photographing an odd patch of desert plants.

The funky-cool and not-so-common Desert Candles (Caulanthus inflatus) flickered for my attention one recent afternoon on the Mojave Desert. This California endemic – found only here – arises only after a good rainy season. And man, did we have one. In the Brassicaceae family, they may look like asparagus but are related to cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli. I arrived at this incredibly unique garden under the hot light of midday but these flaming candles told me to stay until the light ran out.

There were no tulips here but still I tip-toed through the Candles and Fiddlenecks (Amsinckia tessellate). One can easily make such photographs without injuring, killing, or ripping wildflowers from their beds to impress a social media audience. It’s not really hard to do and requires no special skills or talents. You just need to care and recognize that your wants should never outweigh the needs of other living things. I treat my own garden no differently. What sort of person would destroy a wild one?

Wildflowers matter. Perhaps not to you, but they matter to every bee, moth, and butterfly that pollinates and depends upon them for their existence. Wildflowers are living things that bring life and joy to all who utilize and love them. Crushed wildflowers cannot go to seed. Less seed means a smaller seed bank. A smaller seed bank means less potential for future “super blooms”.

Should you visit any wildflower fields this spring, please be a good steward for the flowers and for our shared planet by carefully tip-toeing through them. Leave no trace. Leave it better than you found it. Give a damn. Thank you!

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.

Immense, Silent, and Sacred

I have released a beautiful 46-page 8″x8″ softcover book containing eighteen of my photographs exhibited during The National Park Service:100 Years-California Dreaming exhibition at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento, California. These eighteen images span many years of my work in Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

Books purchased through my website are signed/autographed. Immense, Silent, and Sacred can be fully previewed at MagCloud. Please note than purchases through MagCloud are unsigned/not autographed. Digital downloads are also available.

It has never been easier or less expensive to own my photographs in print form (that’s a little more than $1 per photo). Many thanks in advance for your support and purchases!

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

The Final Flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour

I have been fascinated by space craft and space travel since childhood. So it was a hard kick that I gave myself in 2011 when I first learned that the Space Shuttle program had been terminated. I was born in Los Angeles (and begrudgingly still live here), which is not all that far from Edwards AFB, and the shuttles often landed here when the weather was too poor to land in Florida. 30 years of opportunities that I took for granted and assumed would always be there for me. I had prepared to drive out to Edwards AFB for either Thursday’s landing or Friday’s takeoff, but was relieved to learn that I wouldn’t have to drive anywhere: Endeavour was going to be flying over my town, Long Beach, California!

Instead of getting in a car, burning carbon, and fighting hideous Friday traffic in LA, I pedaled to a local destination in a matter of minutes and joined thousands of other patriots and admirers who came to bid Endeavour adieu. The Queen Mary saw it first and let out a horn blast as the shuttle approached Long Beach from the south. The crowd then grew with excitement, applause, and cheers as Endeavour flew by and headed toward LAX just to the north. It was a riveting, powerful, and sad experience all at once. My images wouldn’t get any better from here, so I simply lowered the camera, welled up inside, and said goodbye.

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+.

Mars Resemblance to the Mojave Desert

©2012 NASA

©Michael E. Gordon

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As soon as the first images from the Mars rover Curiosity were beamed back to earth  on August 6, comparisons to the Mojave Desert immediately began flying:

Curiosity and the Mojave Desert of Mars

Curiosity Surveys a Martian Mojave Desert

Mars Landscape Looks Similar To California’s Mojave Desert

These revelations were no surprise to NASA scientists, the U.S. Military, and others who have observed and used for decades the Mojave Desert’s similarities to other landscapes. Although I have yet to set foot on the moon or Mars, I’ve often found myself in such similarly desolate and austere locales throughout the California desert.

When I first viewed the black and white image from Curiosity – seen here at top left – I swore that I had previously seen and photographed this landscape with my own eyes. That is, not in a broad “looks-like-the-Mojave” kind of way, but right down the to the same terrain and distant land forms. I knew I had “been to Mars” before Curiosity, so I went archive digging and turned up at least one eerie similarity (seen below the NASA photo). The only evident dissimilarity of these landscapes is created by water: Given a little rain, I can visualize Martian valleys full of blooming lupine and creosote.

I’ve included one additional photo at bottom left. Mars? Mojave? How much difference there really is will likely come to be known in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks for reading the 200th post of this blog!

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+.

Recent Publications – The Wilderness Society

In mid-2010, I was contracted by The Wilderness Society (TWS) to photograph for their San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign (discussed in my Aug 2010 blog post). It was a stimulating and challenging assignment which gave me the opportunity to discover ever more intimately the San Gabriel Mountains that have formed the mountainous backdrop of my lifetime here in the metropolis of Los Angeles. My work on this campaign provided the opportunity to have my photographs used as fuel for protecting this important human and biological resource. I recently received copies of the beautiful multi-page San Gabriel Mountains Forever brochure (printed with soy inks on recycled and ancient-forest-friendly paper); it’s a pleasure and honor to see it filled with my photographs (cover images and interior). My photographs from this campaign have since appeared in Los Angeles-area newspapers, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever website, and other TWS publications. I give great thanks to Annette Kondo at TWS for choosing my work to help preserve and protect the beautiful and rugged San Gabriel Mountains. See the rest of my campaign photographs on my Flickr site.

A few months back, The Wilderness Society released their 2010 Annual Report. It’s a great pleasure to have one of my photographs from the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign published full-page in this Annual Report!

Thank you Annette and The Wilderness Society!

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

Images of the Subconscious Mind

Darkman

Darkman

One week ago today I found the photograph at left in Death Valley Junction, California (just east of Death Valley National Park). I instantaneously saw the caped and hatted man in the broken pane of glass, assumed it to be Sherlock Holmes, and photographed it and moved on. I thought it was neat – end of story. Upon arriving home, I shared the image with my good friend, Johnny, who emailed back the word(s) “Darkman”. I recalled that there was a film of this name, so I did what we all now do: I Googled. And I was floored.

I barely watch television (I’d rather kill it) and see only one cinema film or so per year; sorry to say to you Darkman fans, it apparently never made my important list of films to watch. But somehow, somewhere, the image from the film stuck with me for nearly twenty years (Darkman was released in 1990). And despite not having seen Darkman, I found him in Death Valley Junction last Monday. I find the similarity uncanny.

It doesn’t end here. If an unimportant twenty year old image can lay dormant in my subconscious for this long, what about direct photographic inspiration from other photographers? Have the images of others inadvertently come out in your own work?

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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