Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Adventure #2: Shiprock.

First afternoon in a little bit of a breeze.

My old friend, the Black Giant.

Just down the road in a spectacular area of rock formations.

South dike at dawn early in the week.

I was pretty close to the Dot all week.  Glad to be able to visit.

Mid-day view into the sun toward Table Mesa.

Celebrating Navajo tires.  There are thousands of tires scattered about the desert around Shiprock.

Hunting a vantage point with the land cruiser.

West ledge, my home for the weekend.

The "Horns of Power" moment along the West Dike from up the original 1939 ascent line.

I lusted mightily after this sign.  

South Dike in some VERY soft light on the last morning.  Utah fires were setting the illumination.

Camp Perry and the rifle team trip was an exciting adventure.  I had a week home and then flew to Albuquerque and met a friend of mine who had driven my camera over for five days at Shiprock, New Mexico.  I love the desert around the four corners area.  Very remote and deserted.  Shiprock is a supremely photographic place.  It's as distinctive as Halfdome at Yosemite or The Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.  I slept on a ledge at the climber's cave, in the climber's cave and on top of a big split boulder on the Southwest slope.  Only had one night in Farmington at the Red Lion.  Most mornings and evenings I was on Shiprock for the best light and picked a good spot for the tripod every time.

  My goal was to actually get my big camera on TOP, or at last high enough to see the morning and evening shadows projected out.  I got close but couldn't quite free-climb the final pitches.  I did find most of the way up.  Can definitely shoot the West Morning shadow next trip, god willing.  The one climb I pushed pretty high I just took a water bottle and wore my 1977 vintage climbing shoes.  They still fit and I went up until I couldn't reverse without a rope and rappel.  Pretty lonesome up there.

  The 5X7 worked great.  I love using the old camera and film holders.

On the North nose of the South Dike puzzling out the Black Giant.

Unmarked grave on the West side.  One of two graves at Shiprock that I know about.  I THINK this might be the ashes of a climber, but just speculating.

Simple camping.  You need the water more than anything else.  I drank a gallon a day.

An awful painting we finally found a place for.

Afternoon howling dust storm.  Had a couple of these.

6:58 on a nice still morning from the West ledge campsite.

Great old lenses.  This is an Ektar 12 inch.  Needs a tune-up at Havel Camera in San Antonio, but it still clicks along.

My little home on the West side.  My camera is on a tripod just in front of my camp spot. Top of the highest talus slope on Shiprock and the climber's cave just around the corner.

Up in the Black Bowl.  The original ascent was through here.  Plaque on the right side commemorates a climbing death.  Nobody gets to this spot but the climbers and madmen.  It's sporty with a very athletic opening crux move that keeps most out.  I was picking my way very carefully.

Artwork, installed.  Hwy 550 and Red Rock road.  The wind will tear it to bits this year and the world will be a better place.

Light on the plain.

Jackson getting up to get down with his Hasselblad.

Near Shiprock in a vigorous rock formation area.  I saw this from a long way out and knew it had to be something special.  Very Brancusiian!

Bouldering.  I worked this into a black and white with my Deardorff and a wide angle.  No Toyota peeking through on film.


Some Navajo regard Shiprock as a sacred site, others don't.  Boulders slathered with sign in the main parking areas.  Windmill tanks and deserted buildings marked up.  Broken bottles, fireworks, condoms, trash all over.

A little Captain Morgan at another windmill grafitti site.

Jackson going snake-eyes at the prospect of having more pixels peeled off.

Stuffed Toyota.  My camera sitting on my camera pack.

Kissing bug.  This one got me.  Full of my blood.  He didn't survive the encounter to enjoy it.
Other flora included really big bats, owls, eagles, falcons.  The falcons made a diving noise that sounded like...well, an unusual sound.  Not a single snake.  Packrats after my food almost every night or scrambling around on top of the little sleeping bag cover I slept in.  Lighter poltergiesting than usual especially for spending so much time near the Black Giant on the South side.

Lotta holds going up but a lotta exposure as well.  I quit about here without my rappel rope.  Over 4000 folks have climbed the rock though it's not allowed.  The climber's experience is not at all like that of the visual artists.  I'm not sure they notice the scenery much.  They don't mention it in writing.  It's the experience of the climb for them.

Curves at the San Juan Goosenecks.  We took a mid-day trip up to see the sights and ran into lots of overseas tourists.

Indian dog calculating the sun angle.  Dogs all over.  Two big pups in a culvert at 550 and Red Rock highway.  I started to feed and water them, but they mostly needed to MOVE.  No water there for months and not going to be any.

Standing on Ansel's famous rock at Monument Valley.  The Navajo built a huge hotel here, but thankfully left the rock.  It's a favorite posing place for vacationers now.

Young european shows how its done.  Her boyfriend was iphoning her and I helped out.  Ansel would be proud!

It's better fresh.

One of my favorite old-time camera stores.  Clock is ticking.  I don't think they will be open next year.  Three out of four in Alb and Santa Fe are just closed.

Hoped to get a waterfall but the thunderstorms skirted us.  Got dust instead.  Hoped to get higher but risked more than I should have for a 60-year-old flatlander.  I did get to spend a lot of solitary time, (a real luxury!), looking at the land and trying to puzzle out the shapes, light and viewpoints.  Jackson and I would meet about 10, I'd reload holders and water, make a sandwich and be back out by 4:00.  Alone until the next morning.  The rare luxury of time and solitude.  Wonderful to be there.  The last morning in my little camp I was shocked and delighted to be confronted with two photos I hadn't ever put together before, though I had shot details.  Just hadn't looked big enough.  Same thing on the final drive out.  Jackson and I stopped to look at a series of details along the rock dike and all of a sudden I saw the whole thing, complete with a huge boulder to shoot it from.  I scrambled up and there it was.  Just not looking big enough.  Left Shiprock full of gratitude.  It's always helping unfold the internal processes.       

Can't wait to get to the film.



Bob said...

Beautiful photo essay, Robert. Hope I'm able to get to the Four Corners area before I die (Hillerman fan). Thanks for taking the time to upload all those photos, I know it's a chore.

Robert Langham said...

Gotten easier with iphone. I never took my little old digital out!

Anonymous said...

Awesome pictures and trip description.

Windy Wilson said...

Went through 4 corners in 1969 when I was 13 with family on the way to relatives in Missouri. Gotta get back, beautiful country.
This is the second blog entry today to talk about film. Gotta get the ol' Minolta out, get some new batteries and find someone who still knows what film is.