Thursday, October 30, 2008


Ernst Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas November 1980

Anyone who knows anything about me photographically, knows of my long association with that wonderous chunk of landscape out in the far reaches of West Texas called Big Bend National Park. While I have paid homage to the vastness of this landscape in many of my images, I also like to think that I turned my eye to those smaller dramas that happen underfoot. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken the short walk up Ernst Canyon -- from the parking area, it is a short 1/4-mile to where you actually enter the canyon. The walls, cut and crumbling are sheer, and between them are low ridges of limestone separated by gravel that have to be traversed. The canyon narrows, and the ridges become colorful banded limestone - red and yellow ochres, blues and purples, grays and blacks -- it's really quite striking. Then come a series of narrow potholes leading to the great bowl of water, Ernst Tinaja. Up, over, and around this bowl, the canyon narrows even more, and passage becomes more difficult. Sometimes there are water barriers if you are there during the wet season, sometimes you can go all the way up to where great boulders block passage. Several times, I have traversed the west hillside of the canyon and entered on the back side of the blockage. My point being that I have fully explored this wonderful canyon many times. Once when all the potholes were filled, and the weather cool, overcast, I notice this small creature laid to final rest in a cocoon of bacteria. It seemed a remarkably peaceful ending for this kangaroo mouse, to what must have been preceeded by a violent struggle to escape this bowl of water. I pulled my camera pack from my back, set it beside the tripod and wandered about this pool for a good 15-or-so minutes before I decided it was something I wanted to put on film. It took a little thinking about life in general and where chosen paths lead us. My mentor, Oliver Gagliani, use to say that you can't photograph something until you know something about it.

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