Category Archives: Nevada

This Desert Life

The Southwest of USA had a tendency to take my breath away every day. No I was not crossing the continent in Forrest Gump style. I am not so much a running fool more a walk in the desert fool. Rather, I was short on breath from the incredible landscapes leaving me speechless and awestruck in the presence of ancient dramatic masterpieces by Mother Nature. One such masterpiece named Death Valley is a complete otherworldly experience where the expression "wide open space" falls short and new words are needed.

I have posted a few images from the Valley of Death previously and today I present a vast view of the valley. Well, it is only part of the valley actually as it is some incredible 150 kilometers long. It is a hazy view during a sand storm just before sunset. Tell me if this view makes me feel as I do, that you are visiting something else than Earth as we know it.

vast valley of death - blog 

Whilst I love this view and the memories of Death Valley that it triggers I must admit to not being quite sure what to do with it. Is it an image or more a memorabilia? Is it a fine art image I want in my collection? Is it something anyone would wish to purchase? What do you think? It is awfully wide, more than 5 to 1 in width height ratio making it rather unpractical. This is of course a stitched panorama, around 19-20 vertical images from my 100-400mm Canon L lens set at 300mm. The final file is 27,000 pixels wide, quite detailed although fine details suffer from the dust storm. It will support prints almost as big as the real thing. Actually; with a few cheesy titles this is the intro to some 70s sci-fi show!

Even if it is just a memory, I may print this one at many meters wide and stick it on the wall of whatever future home I settle in. It will be my window to my home planet. Vast Valley of Death for some, home for me and I can escape here. In the words of Guilliaume Nery, into "one pure instant of eternity" where the vastness and emptiness draws and humbles me. This Desert Life and we shall take it Further and Further.

Wide Open Space in the Valley of Death

W i d e   O p e n   S p a c e s

It is surely the most used phrase in my writings. Many words and places come to me in a vain effort to describe these. Endless Entity. Dimensionless Deserts. The gramadulas of Namibia, unbeaten King of all wide open spaces. The outback of Australia. Plains of New Mexico. Into the nothing.

I still search for adequate words to describe what happens to me in these magical places of the world. It goes beyond loving exploring these as photographic locations. I experience a deep emotional over-reaction to any large remote and desolate wide open space. Perhaps it simply reminds me of my home planet. The unrestrained dimensionless spaces takes my breath away. With no dimensions, no borders nor constraints of my vision, it is close to ultimate freedom and escapism. I look to books like Terre des Hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars) from French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for a wonderful description of this particular feeling and state of mind.

Death Valley in USA, hottest place on Earth and one of my favourite American locations. It was my home for 6 days and I have only scratched the surface of this enormous valley, I must return. On my first day I was rewarded with exceptional dusk light and I am currently toying with several of the images, searching for the perfect image, crop and post processing. Here is a work in progress of Badwater salt flats which in this very late dusk light turns into an otherworldly magical place. I am still deciding on the crop and the variations of this image, the use of black space is of course Ansel inspired.

death valley-blog

Creating a good image of a wide open space is a challenge. You are shooting ‘nothing’ but must make ‘nothing’ look beautiful, moving, disturbing and interesting somehow. You must also convey just how wide open the space is. You also as always need some sort of compositional anchor in the image and you are highly dependent on Mother Nature’s clouds and light. I get it right once in a blue moon but learn from every attempt.

Mother Nature has brought me home. Welcome to my world. Perhaps that’s a way to describe what I experience in these places. I shall keep exploring them, creating images and attempting to describe them.

PS. Please do not tell Wide Open Spaces that I am also having a love affair with Ocean.

I’ve gone to look for America

Stealing titles as I often do, this one is of course Simon & Garfunkel aptly describing this post. Like a lot of people, I grew up with American movies and TV shows and I was excited to finally land on American soil back in March. In many ways it was exactly what I expected, in many ways it was nothing like I expected. I drove some 8,000 miles or 12,500 kilometers through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. These are just a few of my observations, boils down to: Mindblowing landscapes, stay clear of most cities, and stop putting cheese on everything!

The landscapes.

It is impossible not to have been subjected to a lot of the American Southwest landscape through TV, movies and countless photographers having already shot what is probably the world’s most photographed landscapes. No matter. The Southwest landscapes still floored me speechless every day for two months and I just scratched the surface of what is available. Here’s a quick developed preview of a panorama from Canyonlands National Park in Utah, such a dramatic place. Driving through the wide open spaces of the Southwest with the ipod in the car stereo grooving and the feeling of freedom my drug of choice, then stopping anywhere I like to shoot images are my fondest memories of this trip. I am so in love with the American landscapes, I must return many times. Look at these clouds by the way, I seemed to attract amazing light on a lot of days in America.

canyonlands - blog

The cities.

las vegas - blogBeing no fan of cities, the only larger cities I visited very briefly were LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas. San Francisco was quite different and felt European, with a great atmosphere, many small streets with shops, cafes and restaurants. Apart from SF I find the American cities I visited were quite depressing, usually just an ugly main street with too many fast food places, motels and malls killing all local charm. To the right is my home for 1 night in Vegas and I regret wasting a night in Vegas. It is as horrible as you think, worse actually and I lost all faith in humanity for a few days. I regained it in Beatty and Death Valley, Nevada…

The towns.

What I loved were the small towns. My rule quickly became: town should be so small there isn’t even a traffic light nor a McDonald’s. I might not wish to live there, but loved staying in places like Magdalena in New Mexico, Mexican Hat in Utah or Beatty in Nevada. Here is the great and dusty main street in Beatty, right next to Death Valley, actually if this town had an ocean and a beach I could live here:

Beatty - blog

The small towns have atmosphere and character. People are friendly, down to earth and talkative and wear cowboy hats, smile and say "howdy" to you with a thick accent. They wave as you walk around the town. The local diner is an actual locally owned true diner, no chain fast food hell. The diner serves great food complete with coffee and cake, portions even larger than the enourmous belt buckles the cowboys proudly display. Tumbleweeds tumble across the roads, rusty doors and gates play in the wind. John Wayne strides down the street. Local newspaper tells of upcoming events complete with arm-wrestling competitions and the chance to win a riffle! And in Beatty there was a large sale of used army ammonition boxes (still trying to figure that one out, what do you use them for?). My kinda place.

"Be careful his bowtie is really a camera" or How to fix America and Other Nonsense. 

To my American friends, I am having a sarcastic and ironic go at you, no harm meant. My suggestions are winners though, try them out 🙂

  • Ban all fast food chains. Kills the great local diners. And public health.
  • Ban all big chain motels. Kills local colourful motels with atmosphere, replacing them with awful "fast food" motels that resemble prison blocks.
  • Better education available for all, for free. Not knowing the name of your neighbour state is just not good enough. Danish is not the same as Dutch, look it up. To the surfer dude in Monterey, Jean Claude van Damme is not Danish!
  • Explain to me again how free health care is the devil’s work? I still don’t understand it.
  • Ban guns. Now I like to win a riffle at the local fair as much as anyone but seriously, get those guns off the streets.
  • Buy smaller cars and RVs. What do you need a pickup truck the size of a tank for unless you actually own a farm? Also it’s really intimidating to see these pick-ups in the rear view mirror, one inch from my car and threatening to simply run me over unless I move just because I obey the speed limit (most of the time hehe, my Nissan spaceship was quite fast).
  • Drastically improve your health, stop putting cheese on everything! "You want cheese on that?". "No it’s a fecking tuna sandwich, I don’t want cheese on anything! And no bloody whipped cream on my milkshake!"
  • Legs? They can be used for walking! Ban drive-ins, boost public health!
  • And why oh why are shower heads installed at roughly half the height of the average human?
  • Lastly, service everywhere is absolutely excellent, much appreciated! Yesterday I bought coffee in a café. It was dearer than gold and service was rude. I knew I was back in Copenhagen.

The road, no the car, is home!

It is a classic Jack Kerouac quote "the road is home/life" and I used to write it constantly along with "no fear", "into the wild" etc. Back when I clung to a clicheed bag of quotes. I am somewhat attempting to break away from that.

I have found that actually my car – is my home presently! I have now travelled over 8,700 kms (5800 miles) here in the Southwest of the US. I thought initially I might get bored with all that driving but it turns out that the one constant home in my present travelling life is my car (it’s a rental so we have to part ways soon though). I actually really enjoy the driving now, music on my ipod fed into the stereo and I take every backroad (I hate the interstates!) possible through the glorious landscapes. Sometimes I get slightly down when I actually get to my destination and park my Nissan spaceship, and can’t wait to fly again. "How you get there is the worthier part" (well, now I’m quoting Firefly but that’s always good!).

It is too cold for me to camp here but for my next US trip I am definitely getting a larger 4WD and buying camping gear so I can skip all the motel beds and camp out! Nothing better than sleeping under the stars but it requires the right conditions. I miss camping very much but it is seriously cold at night here in the desert so it will have to be next time, where I really will make the car my home. Here’s driving on the road, well technically me sitting in the middle of the road, leading to the salt flats of Death Valley:

death valley road - blog

A few minuses: What little ass I have has become the shape of a car seat. My neck, shoulders and back are killing me from all that driving and photography and crappy soft motel beds. My tinnitus kills me ears, something about driving that triggers it. And I feel out of shape, which is a feeling I really hate. I think it will be healthy to de-attach this car from my ass for a while soon!