Friday, December 9, 2011

Navajo Nation - Canyon de Chelly

It was a two hour ride on horseback to the floor of Canyon de Chelly and what shows up in the desert light are the remains of homes, nine centuries old, of stunning red rock canyons with an abundance of sacred beauty and seldom seen archeological sites that drew the cameras of Edward Curtis and Ansel Adams. But it’s much more than that. It's a hike in the footprints of the ancients!

What makes Canyon de Chelly unique is that it sustains a living community of Navajo people. These Navajo are connected to the landscape and it has for them, great historical and spiritual significance. Early every spring, after the winter thaw, a dozen Navajo families still return to their old homesteads at the bottom of the canyons. It is believed that the canyon has sustained human civilization for over four thousand years. Early Anasazi, ancestors of the Hopis, built their first cliff dwellings high in the sandstone alcoves. The Navajo people followed them and have used it as a sacred refuge for centuries.

White House ruins in Canyon de Chelly National Monument. 

Mummy Cave Ruin is one of the largest pueblo villages in the canyon and was occupied until about 1300.

To visit this sacred place you have to hire a guide of tribal ancestry. Our guide, Newton Martinez, pointed out "The land we live on has been passed down from generation to generation. We believe the Holy People (Time of the Beginning) instructed the Dine' where to live. All this canyon land is covered with our foot prints" said Newton. "It's where we had our genesis; It is where we learned the Dine' way of life, and the lessons that guide us." Newton is also an artist and I was delighted to acquire this piece from him.

He told us about his grandfathers, Navajo code talkers during World War II, who provided encoded information for Marine units using Navajo words. I asked whether he preferred to be called Navajo or Diné. “I’m very proud to be Diné,” he said thoughtfully. “That’s what we call ourselves — it means ‘the people.’ ”

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Canyonlands - America's Wild West!

Much of the area known as the Canyonlands is a landscape of oblivion, an arid sink bowing into the Colorado Plateau. In some places, dusty sagebrush steppes extend as far as the eye can see, in others, scabs of desert lie naked under the sun, completely devoid of any vegetation. Canyonlands lies here in a basin more than 500 square miles across, and it was here that I wanted to explore. After flying in to Salt Lake City, I had rented a high clearance, 4 wheel drive for the journey and drove to Moab where I picked up enough food and water for the week and continued on to my destination.

I set up camp in Horse Thief Canyon in the early evening, the smell of juniper and pinon pine evident in the air. After a gourmet dinner of freeze dried Sicilian Lasagna, I got my gear ready for the morning and my first stop; Upheaval Dome.
I was up at first light, had breakfast and coffee, strapped on my pack, and started out. After about six miles I could see the Upheaval dome area. There are no trails here, just courses of geology and aprons of boulders pulled down by gravity and erosion. This is where the Anasazi lived. False Kiva is near here. This is a place to disappear. The ridge sloped upward, at first gradually, then sharply, and there was a sharp slope of loose talus. Being careful, I got on my hands and knees and the larger rocks and boulders seemed scarcely more stable than the talus, but after about an hours climb, I was able to work my way to the top without mishap. I climbed over a final row of boulders onto a ledge, looked around, and only then realized that I had, quite by accident, ascended to the summit of False Kiva.  After spending some time in grateful contemplation I ate lunch and then set up my camera and tripod.

 I reversed my route to get off the mountain and headed toward level ground. My next stop was Green River Overlook and I had hoped to make it before nightfall. Along the way I picked up a mountain lions’ tracks a short distance back and followed them to a shelf of rimrock dropping off to an inner canyon below. Continuing south, I realized I wasn’t going to make the overlook before dark so I stopped instead a little north of Willow Flats to pitch my tent and spend the night. I woke just before dawn. An inkling of light touched the sky outside my tent. The wind was fierce, bolting through a copse of juniper trees and pinon pines. I made a hot breakfast and washed it down with some strong cowboy coffee, broke camp and headed out to the Green River Overlook.

With half my food and water gone, it was time to hike back to my jeep. I hiked about six miles (approx halfway) and spent the night north of Aztec Butte on the canyon road trail.  I've been backpacking for four days now and except for a handful of people that were at Mesa Arch for the sunrise, the hike has been in solitude. For me, this is one of the reasons to come here, what better way to cleanse the mind, body and soul then to be crossing a chasm at once miles from nowhere and at the same time in the middle of the universe.

Back in the jeep, I have two more destinations I need to see before I head back to reality. The first one is Dead Horse Point and it lies just on he eastern perimeter of the Island in the Sky district. Plenty of the river and its corridor of greenery is visible, 1,900 feet below, including one big gooseneck meander close to the viewpoint.

There's been a lot going on in the world (and my world) for many months now and things seem to be moving so fast that I've had a hard time being able to focus on what’s important. The journey aids in peeling away much of the layers of negativity that I’ve allowed to accumulate. The connection to Spirit flows stronger after a journey such as this, and back home now I feel aligned & connected. I've got a few new gigs to shoot, some local and others out of state. I’ll be visiting with family and old friends and doing my best to stay in touch with my Self. I hope to do for many years. 

Dedicated to Michael Branco, a true renaissance man who was an avid outdoorsman, fisherman, gourmet chef, worldwide adventurer, and my close friend. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Of barns, farms and old pickup trucks

Some vacations you revel in. Some vacations you just have to make the best of what you're handed. Karen and I were headed up to Eaglesmere, Pa for the fine arts festival that I was exhibiting at, and from there we wanted to do some hiking and shooting in the beautiful and very rural upstate Pennsylvania. Weather at this mid-August show runs the gamut from humid and hot, to high winds and thunderstorms. As luck would have it, thunderstorms closed the show early on Sunday so we packed up and drove back to the bed and breakfast that we were staying at. Monday morning we had a wonderful country breakfast and were deciding whether to head out or spend the day chillaxing. The weather took care of that decision. It was cloudy, gloomy and damp, rain falling off and on the entire time. Having our room on the creek side didn't help. The dampness wafted up the steep bank and just cut right through to the bone. We caught cabin fever early and, with rain gear at hand, decided to hop in the truck and do some exploring. Here’s what we found!


So the next time you want to get away from it all, try exploring the back roads and smaller byways whenever possible rather than just motoring along on a large freeway. As the late Charles Kuralt once said, "Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything." The best part of traveling with no set destination is you can never get lost!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rickett's Glen State Park

YOU hear falling water before you see it, and the sound arouses an ancient curiosity – and we hike as though we are drawn to it by some ancient instinctive attraction.  Maybe it’s about the promise of a primeval thrill, or maybe just about what obstacle lies next on the trail. Natural wetlands, and a series of wild, free-flowing waterfalls, cascading through rock-strewn clefts are abundant in this ancient forest.

Old growth timber,  including hemlocks that stood on this continent before Columbus, (ring counts on fallen trees reveal some are up to 900 years old) traverses the area. My wife and I hiked this trail with our children throughout their grade school and high school years. Last year my son came with us and brought his fiancé. My middle daughter hiked this trail just last month with a friend. There is something about waterfalls and their continual renewal which reminds me of the passage of time and the circle of life.

Rickett's Glen State Park is registered as a National Natural Landmark and it’s not surprising that the Falls Trail Loop at Ricketts Glen State Park was named best in Pennsylvania, according to an article in the January 2009 issue of Backpacker Magazine. Here’s one way to hike it;
Start from the Falls trailhead off PA 118,  and follow the path as it crisscrosses gurgling Kitchen Creek for 1.3 easy miles through a forest of 500-year-old hemlock, oak, birch, ash, and maple. At 1.8 miles, you’ll reach the confluence of Kitchen Creek’s two branches.

At Waters Meet, the streams of Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh come crashing together in a kind of grand hydrologic theater of the woods, and hikers pause on footbridges to watch the show.

The trail lollipops up one gorge to the Highland Trail, which connects to another for the return. Forty-one-foot Huron Falls (the fifth falls in Glen Leigh) cascades over multiple steps through the narrow gorge to a rocky amphitheater with a natural bench.

Head up Glen Leigh Gorge to approach Adams’s falls from below.

Trail Information
Nearby City: Wilkes-Barre
Length: 7.2 total miles
Elevation Gain: 1,081 feet 

Trail Type: Loop 

Skill Level: Moderate 

Season: Year round 

Trailhead Elevation: 1,220 feet 

Top Elevation: 2,200 feet 

Local Maps: USGS Red Roc

 If you go;
The full loop trail is over seven miles and the terrain is rocky and slippery. This trail has some very steep and difficult sections. Please be sure that you are properly prepared by being in good physical condition and by wearing sturdy hiking footwear.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Passing thru Eternity

At heart, the area around Antelope canyon is a savage, rural place. The arid, desert zones have nurtured legends of people living between reality and fantasy, solidarity and solitude. The essence of this place can be found here where the sun beats down on the hard dry soil, where towns are still linked together by unpaved roads, where farmers tend to their fields on horseback, and where the Navajo call “home”. The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tse' bighanilini, which means "the place where water runs through rocks." Upper Antelope is at about 4,000 feet elevation and the canyon walls rise 120 feet above the streambed. The Navajo name for Lower Antelope Canyon is Hasdestwazi, or "spiral rock arches" and to older Navajos, entering a place like Antelope Canyon was like entering a cathedral. They would probably pause before going in, to be in the right frame of mind and prepare for protection and respect. This would also allow them to leave with an uplifted feeling of what Mother Nature has to offer, and to be in harmony with something greater than themselves. It was, and is, a spiritual experience.
                  To enter, we walk up a rock face and look for a crevice in the rock.
Once we find it we climb in.

Climbing down into the canyon, we linger at the sunbeams which pour down like heavenly messages. Climbing further down still, it is a time to pause for reflection in a spiritual wonderland, we let the quiet and color soak into our bones, and take a bit of the canyon into our heart.

Back home now I close my eyes and let my imagination take over, although scientific explanation assuredly has its place here, these visual delights fit easily into the domain of art.

If you go;

Roads can become impassable in wet weather, and conditions can change quickly. The terrain is rough, water is scarce and the weather is often extreme in most areas. 
In the summer, the trails are hot and dry; in winter, elevations make them subject to severe cold and high winds. Due to the quick changes in the weather, be aware of the dangers of flash floods. The beauty of Antelope Canyon can be deadly. During monsoon season rain water can quickly flood the canyon. It doesn't have to downpour on or near the canyon slots for flash floods to whip through, as rain falling dozens of miles away "upstream" can funnel into the canyon with little prior notice. Eleven hikers were killed in Antelope Canyon by a flash flood. Very little rain fell at the site, but an earlier thunderstorm had dumped a large amount of water into the canyon basin, several miles upstream and a wall of water slammed into the 12 people in the bottom of the canyon and swept them downstream. Only one person survived.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Photography, at least good photography, is science tempered with the blood of art.

Silver halides in a digital world!
For this series that I was hired for I used a large-format camera. The greater detail and a creamier palette makes capturing a special moment more difficult because of the technical and lighting complexity. The method not only reinforces the fundamental tension of photography: the singling out of a frozen moment from the flow of time, but it gives the work a very distinctive look.

Photography: James Evangelista; Fashion Stylist: Marisol Gómez, Stylist Assistant: Guillermo Lugo, Hair & Makeup: Cory Bauer

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ancient City of Chaco Canyon

"Not easily interpreted" is how our guide, G.B. Cornucopia describes Chaco Canyon Culture.

An extraordinary architectural masterwork of the ancient Pueblo Indians (A.D. 850 to 1250), this four-story "great house" has at least 600 rooms spread over four acres. Even for an outsider like me, the canyon can evoke a sense of the mystical. Once, as lightning flashed over a distant mesa, a crow hovered above me, his wings seeming to flap in slow motion, fanning the air with an audible whoosh-whoosh. He was probably trying to steal my food, but it felt like a spiritual visitation.

Walls align north-south and east-west with absolute precision; great houses align with other great houses throughout the canyon; windows turn out to be astronomical observatories of subtle cunning, timing the solstices and equinoxes like a huge stone clock – and webbing it all is a network of laser-straight connecting roads, nearly lost with age.

All in the middle of the most arid, silent, isolated region you can imagine.

“When the sun gets low and the richness of the colors is increased this place looks like it glows from within.” —G.B. Cornucopia.

I left glad to have made the journey, not only for the content, but for the human connection and I look forward to coming back in a not too distant future.

                                                                        Casa Chiquita

                                                                          Chetro Ketl

                                                                              Kin Kletso

                                                                           Pueblo Bonito

                                                                       Pueblo Del Arroyo

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

East Coast Lighthouses

Lighthouses are symbols of national achievement, dependability under duress and hope. Some find personal meaning, with the beacon serving as a metaphor of guidance in their own spiritual quest. These differing perspectives of lighthouses all inspire an affinity for the special places created at the meeting point of water and earth. The timeless relationship and the interactive dynamics between sea, earth and sky, touching and caressing the lighthouse at every moment of the day, inspired me to create the images in this collection.

Bass Harbor Light

You have to visit the Maine coast in the summer in order to experience the smell of fresh air. Near the ocean with each crashing wave, the fresh air is filled with scents that are at full peak in summer. In the woods, the fresh air is filled with pine scent and moss. Each is unique and has a calming influence over the senses, and if you are at rest they will put you right to sleep.

I arrived at Cape Neddick before dawn. The water around the Light is very hypnotic. Normally, the current of the 100-yard waterway between the island and mainland has a strong, back-and-forth rocking motion, but a fast moving storm the night before had the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline harder than it usually does. I set up my camera and tripod in the dark and decided not to wait for first light to portray the relief sailors must have felt when they saw the beacon lighting the dangerous rocks in story waters.

This is a late afternoon shot with the face of Pemaquid Light in full sun and the sloping, layered granite rocks in the foreground. The granite rocks are layered and almost take an a petrified wood appearance. I wanted to show the sheerness and height of the cliffs, and of course, catch the reflection of the light house in the puddle, so I perched myself precariously close to the edge to capture this photograph.

Marshall Point is located on the very tip of St. Georges Peninsula, Maine. This brick and granite lighthouse was built in 1857 and is still an active Coast Guard aid to navigation. Remember the scene in the movie Forrest Gump when Tom Hanks ended his cross-country run at a lighthouse? Thats this lighthouse.

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, built in 1874, was the first building on an uninhabited sandbar. Shipwrecks of whalers and merchant ships around the sandbar compelled Congress to fund a lighthouse. With a white light now signaling safe passage from ocean to inlet, a fishing village was built around the lighthouse. It was first known as Anglesea, home to boat builders and other maritime craftsmen. Over time, the main industry of the sandbar changed from sea to seaside and the lighthouse tower was topped by oceanfront hotels and condos, and dwarfed by rollercoasters and water slides. 

Although several lighthouses have stood along the edge of the Delaware Bay, East Point is the last one remaining on the Jersey side. The lantern room offers a panoramic view of the surrounding land and water and is a favorite subject of artists. In the spring, you can observe the annual migration of thousands of shore birds, especially in late May when the horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay eggs.

 This distinctive lighthouses is on a stretch of the Outer Banks that has witnessed everything from hurricanes to malaria, from pirates to Nazi U-boats. NATIONAL GEOGRAGPHIC staff member Dorothy Nicholson plotted more than 500 Shipwrecks all along the Outer Banks and many happened along the waters of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. As of this writing A massive restoration project is underway for the Bodie Island Lighthouse. The National Park Service discovered significant problems with the support structures under the balcony and The National Park Service is looking for money to help fix the problem.

I hear from people all the time about the lighthouses they love and why. It seems everybody has a lighthouse story.

And, likewise, every lighthouse has a story.