Mohave Desert 2012. Copyright Joanne Mason 2014.
Continuing in the landscape vein… This image is recently edited and reprocessed to black-and-white from an image in the earlier “Desert Series.” Rather than the bleak and lifeless expanse the desert is often depicted as, I find the high desert to be a scene of uncommon beauty and abundant life. In particular, the desert teems with a spiritual life that speaks of both power and intimacy, depth and meaning. The air – more sharp, crisp, and clear than anywhere else on the planet save the high mountain range – envelopes all in a benevolent life-giving spirit that belies the apparent harshness of the desert environment. This scene in the Mohave Desert is in southeastern California. (Click image for larger.)
Arizona Badlands. Fuji X100. 23mm. ISO 800. 1/900 sec at f/13. Copyright Joanne Mason 2012.
South of the Painted Desert in northeastern Arizona lies the Petrified Forest and the Arizona Badlands. (This first image appears in Landscapes of the American South.) These scenes look a little bit to me like I would imagine the surface of another planet or perhaps the moon. But it is indeed terrestrial, located in Arizona. (Click image for larger.)
Arizona Badlands 2. Nikon D200. 12-24mm Nikkor f/4, at 16mm. ISO 800. 1/8000 sec at f/4. Copyright Joanne Mason 2012.
I was struck, visiting these lands, with the extreme quietness. The wind is a constant; once you get used to the wind, there are no other sounds, only a deep and lifeless silence which in turn renders an intense solitude. Upon a moment’s reflection, it becomes a solitude of oneness with the earth. (A color version of the third image has been posted here before.)
Arizona Badlands 4. Nikon D200. 12-24mm Nikkor f/4, at 14mm. ISO 800. 1/8000 sec at f/4. Copyright Joanne Mason 2012.
According to Wikipedia, “A badlands (also badland) is a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water.” The name is apt. Early Lakota Indians called such lands “Makhóšiča“, literally bad land, while French trappers called it “les mauvaises terres à traverser” – “the bad lands to cross”. The Spanish called it tierra baldía(“waste land”). These images and the idea of badlands also bring to mind T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.”
Painted Desert Panorama. Copyright Joanne Mason 2012.
Images of the Painted Desert in Arizona, including versions of this panoramic image, have been posted here but not this one. This particular image is included in the book, Landscapes of the American Southwest. (Click for larger image.) The area pictured above is also noted for being an especially rich area for dinosaur finds. Millions of years ago this desert was fertile swampland and forest.
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Joshua Tree. Nikon D200. Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8. 24mm (Equiv 36mm). ISO 200. 1/180 sec at f/13. Copyright Joanne Mason 2012.
To take a break from florals, here’s a landscape. This is an image from the fall’s visit to Joshua Tree N.P. in California that I have reprocessed for black-and-white.
Desert Road. Fuji X100. 23mm. ISO 800. 1/950 sec at f/14. Copyright Joanne Mason 2012.
Here is an image from the Southwestern desert series. This was shot in open range country in north central Arizona north of Snowflake. I’m surprised to find I haven’t posted this one yet. Count me as strange, but I find this country, in its somewhat alien loneliness, oddly welcoming and inviting. The challenge of the open road in the west has always been a distinctly American conception (though I doubt that it’s fair to limit it that way), an invitation to adventure into the unknown without limits or boundaries.