I spent some time in the desert yesterday hiking with Katherine. We went out to "The Slot" and hiked up West Borrego Butte and then down into the wash, finishing at the slot canyon. When we arrived there were 4 other cars and I expressed my disappointment that "so many people!" were here which, by Katherine's count, was probably no more than 8; "It's a big desert, they're probably pretty spread out." Nonetheless, I knew I could hear them all over the place, every footstep, every discussion, every stumble and groan. I could hear them. All, as if suddenly I had super hearing.
It got worse. We hiked the loop counter-clockwise, leaving the canyon for last. I could tell how close we were to the slot by how many little kids we were seeing. Another solid indicator is how many people coming the other way have no water or proper footwear. When you start seeing flip flops then the canyon entrance is just around the corner. Coming through we had to step aside for a dozen or more travelers coming the other way. Most of them kids. I guess if I were a kid I'd love this place; and for different reasons than I love it now. I hope they loved it enough to not add to their names to those carved on the soft sandstone walls. When we climbed out of the canyon to the parking lot I was stunned at the number of cars. I counted 16, not including mine. Sixteen cars! It was like Disneyland.
We went through Borrego Springs on the way home. Katherine wanted to stop at one of the museum/art shops and pick up something for the house. I gravitate to the photo cards, posters and books. Regardless of what park I'm in I'll check out the visitor center and look at the photo postcards in those revolving racks that squeak when you turn them. I have two main motivations for looking at other photographer's work in these places: Could I have made that image? and, What are some new worthwhile places to photograph? A question I tend to ask myself is "Could my work sell in one of these squeaky rotating racks?" I don't know why but what I see in these racks always looks "better" than what I produce. Not always, but usually they look more professional and polished. Maybe it's because they're packaged well, in a store (which subliminally says, "I'm good enough to sell."), and they've established themselves there. I'm still the interloper, the 'not ready for prime-time player.'
I saw one yesterday of an ocotillo arched against a beautiful sunset. The sun was setting within the ocotillo's arch and it was… pretty. Fred and Faye from Missouri would love it, would buy it, would tape it perfectly on the cupboard of their RV. They'll never know who Anza was or what a Borrego is but they'll have a nice picture to remind them of their visit to the desert with the odd sounding name east of San Diego.
I'll ask myself, 'Is that how I want my work displayed?' I never seem to get an answer on this, either from within or from the great omnipresence. Something in me rejects it, something in me is quite okay with it.
But it brings me to the above image. I really like it despite it having a crowded feeling; I mean, there's a lot going on in this picture. For better or worse it's quite busy. You would never find an image like this on a picture postcard in a park's visitor center. It wouldn't stand a chance in the squeaky rotating rack amongst all the beautiful images of ocotillo and cholla glowing in the warm evening sunlight. It's not that kind of photograph. It's just my kind of photograph.