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Well, there I was, minding my own business, thinking about places to go and do some (or shoot) photography. When my friend Rod called me up and asked me if I was up for road trip, without a moment’s hesitation my response was “certainly!”
After working out the dates, I got on a plane and flew to Phoenix.
Remarkably enough except for the tripod and couple other little things I got all the photographic equipment as carry-on. One 24L backpack and one wheeled pelican case which held, one medium format tech system, and two 35FF systems. Was covered from 12mm to 280mm in focal length. Even had a macro, and two fast primes.
Landed in Phoenix, Rod met me at the airport and off we went, directly, our road trip had begun.
We drove through the city (had a good fulfilling breakfast) and hit the highway with the intention of heading towards Durango.
On the way north, still in Arizona, we stopped off in the city called Jerome, where they had restored an old mining town and managed somehow to collect a lot of old cars and trucks. Rod knew this place and the entire four State area (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), having explored and previously taken his photography students (from his previous tenure as a professor), for shooting this profound landscape. This was our first stop.
And so began seven days of driving, shooting, and eating in restaurants.
We had great weather, the altitude was high and cool, with some haze in the distance. The distances here are immense and open, like looking over the ocean, and seeing the horizon line. But instead, all you see is land, ever changing, geological wonders of canyons, mountains, stone formations, and barren spaces. Lots of colors but couldn’t help but remember all the western images I had seen on TV and magazines / books in B&W, I knew that I had try that, I knew I was inspired. challenged, and intimidated.
After Jerome we drove through Gallup, NM to have lunch. Followed by a trip to the Goodwill store to see if they still had any Noctilux Lenes on sale, but unfortunately, they didn’t, sold out. So, we headed up towards Durango.
Durango was interesting, it was an old mining town, a narrow-gauge train goes through to a smaller mining town called Silverton. Durango has preserved a lot of the old buildings, and (tourist) charm. Both Durango and Silverton have refocused on sports tourism, winter sports, and mountain / road biking.
At night we had a nice dinner and the next day we got up and headed to Silverton. We started on the main highway, which was scenic, with the Rocky Mountains.
We pulled over in the morning and had some great shooting. Tried a 210mm lens on the Medium format Tech Camera, which was perfect for the environment we were in. Must say this was very counterintuitive, I always felt that when you’re going out west or going someplace vast, a wide-angle lens is what’s need to include the vista, but generally this feeling is wrong. It’s wrong because with a wide-angle lens, there so much in the frame, and so miniaturized due to the extreme distances, that you lose scale. So, moving up to the longer focal lengths, will compress the distance and enhance the framing, this is the way your eyes/ brain would perceive the vista naturally. Save the wide-angle lens for a closer shot, or the uncommon shot.
While on the equipment.
As noted earlier I had in focal lengths from 12 mm to 280mm. For the 35FF system I had two bodies, one color and black-and-white. For the color as mentioned there were three zoom lenses 16-35mm, 24-90mm and 90-280mm. With the color 35FF the entire trip I never used the 16-35mm. 24-90mm was a great versatile lens, and the 90-280mm came out when I was already using the tripod with the Tech camera to give me the extra range. With the 35FF system for black-and-white, Leica M10, I had brought five lenses which I rationalized because they are really small rangefinder lenses. The 35mm lens stayed on the camera the entire time, I never changed it, felt no need to. I think with today’s large megapixel, cameras and great iso, you can certainly be much more frugal, with equipment, due to ability to crop and not needing a fast lenes due to limited available light. Repeating the same trip, I would take 3 tech lenes, 210mm. 90mm and 40mm. The two zooms mentioned above, and two maybe three rangefinder lenses.
Continuing up to Silverton
We drove up the highway and we took side road 591 aiming toward Silverton and that was an experience. I’ve been on lots of roads and been on lots of dirt roads and gravel roads and roads that went through fields that you followed the bent grass, but I’d never been on the road like this. By the way, a lot of rocks are sharp. Skid Plates and 4WD are not optional.
It looked like it was paved with broken boulders. We did see a couple hiking, and two cars in about five hours. Amazingly, it was driving along side of a mountain with no guard rails and an exceptionally steep drop. Meanwhile, we are just sitting there bouncing up and down with Rod avoiding the sharp pointy rocks. Stopping several times and took some images and even saw some wildlife, which was the only wildlife would we see.
Finally, the road hooked around and took us back on the main highway, and we pulled into Silverton about 6:30. Silverton is very clean and surrounded by these beautiful mountains of the Rocky Mountains and it’s just nice. It appears to be just, one Main St. with a couple of streets running parallel, that is it, less than a mile long. There were no people, and are almost all the shops were closed, some of them had witty sayings like “we are closed until we reopen”, or “maybe open tomorrow.” They did have their T-shirts shops, but we were hard-pressed to get some food as we were hungry. We found a spot, got a couple iced teas, some cheese on bread sort of like a pizza without the sauce but nothing really photogenically pleasing.
We turned around and took the main highway back to Durango. Next day we aimed our sights to Four Corners. This is where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado all touch each other. The scene here and the topography were breathtaking. In the vast expanse, nothing but open spaces of deserts canyons, buttes, and insane rock formations. On to the midway part of our trip, We stayed in Moab, my favorite city on the trip, good restaurants, good accommodations and great location. We went to Arches National Park, Canyon Lands, and the last night was spent at a small town called Hanksville, before going back to Phoenix.
Here are some of the images taken.
Here are some Cottonwoods
All in all, this was a great trip, being in an environment that is borderline sensory overload. Truly one of the great scenic areas in the world. You are seeing things, that your brain does not have the words to describe.
I hope these images can convey a small sense of the experience.
Thank you for looking.