More of a scouting trip than anything (for who knows what, but we’ll be back), our four day trip down the Gila River was filled with fine moments. Here are a few favorite shots:
We heard the rockfall long before we ever saw them. “Bighorns,” Till called it as we left our boats and climbed a small hill to take in a view of the Gila River running gently by below us. He was right.
Twenty minutes later just as we piled back into our boats the sheep appeared on the shoreline downstream. In an inflatable kayak I pushed off and started drifting with the current – I had the camera just in front of me in a drybag and so I pulled it out as my boat approached the sheep.
It was a wide angle lens but I was near enough them to just go for it! The sheep paid me scant attention so I crossed my fingers after taking a few shots, let the camera hang, and paddled a bit closer. Slipping past them in the stream thirty seconds later, I got the best look at these amazing creatures that I’ve ever had.
They spooked when I paddled back upstream towards them, but afterwards when I sat still for a few minutes they all clambered back down to the river, once again passing right in from of me. They must have been thirsty. I took a few stills of them on the riverbank. After a quick drink they were off again, back up into the rocky crags and side canyons from where they quietly observe all that passes by below them.
More about these guys:
For contact of the human variety, see what is possibly the most serendipitous river encounter ever (or at least on the Gila)
Photos: Christine Heidel
Warning: Satire Alert
Ever been lugging around your heavy view camera far out in the wilderness and felt a tinge of frustration at not being sure of where exactly “the right” spot to set up for the perfect composition is? Well fear no more, with this revolutionary technique you can now stride off in into the field cool, confident, and certain that you will quickly and easily find the ideal vantage point(s) for your cherished photographs.
What you need:
- A general location
- Your camera (though most highly recommended for view camera enthusiasts, this can work for any camera) and photography kit
- One full-sized trampoline
Though revolutionary, the idea is simple. Upon arrival at your general location (the more remote the better, given your newfound ability to scout both efficiently and easily) – and before setting up your camera anywhere – quickly erect the trampoline. Being careful to remove your shoes first (imagine tearing it, the horror, the horror) commence bouncing up and down on the trampoline’s bed of taut and strong fabric, using the rebound provided by its many coiled springs to achieve a high point of view over your environment.
While suspended midair, ascertain your surroundings. Thoroughly identify and note the best locations for a photograph. If necessary due to harsh light or driving rain, shield your eyes using one (or in truly extreme conditions, both) of your hands. A minimum of 40 bounces per 45 degrees of field of view is recommended in favorable conditions.
Photo: Jesse Stephen
That’s it! You can now quickly, easily, and comprehensively identify all ideal photography vantage points within a one kilometer radius of any chosen point on the earth’s surface (topography, vegetation, fluidity, and motion sickness could aid or inhibit your efforts).
Now, to ease the learning curve we are pleased to be able to provide a video tutorial. Christine handily obtained this footage of me using the HOPS technique somewhat spontaneously during our recent Exposure: England, The Yorkshire Dales project. Christine was in the middle of a day-long hike documenting the many stone barns particular to Swaledale and Arkengarthdale with her 4 x 5” Linhof Technikardan view camera, and it was critical that she know exactly where to be throughout the remainder of the day. Within just a few minutes of employing the HOPS technique, I had ascertained precisely that.
Needless to say, the shoot was a complete and total success (more to come from Christine’s efforts in images soon, watch this space). In the meantime, happy scouting out there!
…a mob of happy faces crowding up at the pit-door of Drury Lane Theatre, just at the hour of six, gives me ten thousand sincerer pleasures, than I could ever receive from all the flocks of silly sheep that ever whitened the plains of Arcadia or Epsom Downs.
Thus spake Charles Lamb, and though he makes an excellent point, the Yorkshire Dales exercise a far more substantial power over one than could any shallow, lurid romanticism.
Still, when looking at a spectacularly beautiful countryside scarred with the indelible traces of mining, one registers the profound impact of the Industrial Revolution here. Here the swales or low, marshy tracts of land define the spirit of place. As do the moors, those excessive, sometimes marshy areas with patches of heath and peat. The moors conjure the Grimpen Mire, a treacherous bog in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” — one so deep that it can devour a horse. Or Heathcliff and the setting of Wuthering Heights, a Yorkshire manor on the moors.
Often the heather moorland here is burned, cultivated particularly for the game birds like grouse. The shooting season traditionally begins on the 12th of August (the “Glorious Twelfth”) when the shooters begin to stride the moor and flush the birds from the fields.
But the quest of us “Living Exposed” photographers this September (2010) is to capture a pictorial sense of the Yorkshire Dales. The great scenic beauty is a given. We think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous lines in the last stanza of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or perhaps of the Anglican hymn which may have inspired him:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
We also think of the books (or more likely the popular 1975 television series) grounded in the first two novels of Alf Wight, the British veterinary surgeon who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot. The series sticks in one’s mind, and the green valleys, sheep, drywall fences, stone barns, farms, and cattle markets speak more eloquently of the substance of If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet than any number of novels or secondary adaptations.
I’m staying with the photo crew in the village of Arkengarthdale at “The Rigg,” a lovely circa-1650s stone house set in an enclosed garden and situated here four miles northwest of Reeth. “The Rigg” is also, I am told, a stretch of moorland up the hill from here. But the meaning doesn’t stop here. A sheep on its back and unable to turn over is said to be “rigged” or “riggwelted.” The word derives from the Old Norse rygg (shoulder) and velte (overturn). I feel rigged or riggwelted by the Yorkshire Dales and the peculiar spirit of place therein. (I should add that as I type I’m enjoying a pint of beer called Riggwelter made in the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire. Thus far, I’m cautious but still on my feet!)
With so many previous mentions of “dale” in place names, I should probably have mentioned initially that a dale is a valley and that the word stems from the Old English dael (and is related to the Old Norse dair). The Yorkshire Dales were glacially carved during the last Ice Age.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with my fellow photographers. What to say about Jesse Stephen, our fearless leader, who, specializing in archaeology and media, is working with local experts and manning a Panasonic HD video camera to record our peregrinations? Or Victor Arnold, a boon rambling companion and highly skilled photographer? Or Josef Tornick, whose exquisitely inspirational work alone would have lured me here? Or of Christine Heidel, who has a scrupulous eye for fine-art images and has lugged and commanded a 4×5 view camera with all its weighty and mysterious appurtenances? Or of Josef’s niece Katii, who, young as she is, exercises an uncanny ability to catch the Cartier-Bresson “instant”– eye-stopping images that sparkle with hidden meaning? Or Anne Burke, a London photographer and academic who explores the elusive narrative lurking beneath the fabric of things?
I cannot begin to relate the strength of the images captured by these students of visual beauty, whether here or in the Outer Hebrides, Aran Isles, County Galway, or elsewhere. There’s an inviolable law of compensation at work here. This kind of undertaking invites a visual reward precisely in proportion to its collective passion for la belle image. And we have fared well together.
It has been a good journey.
Robert Sterling Gingher
September 17, 2010
Sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. We were up and out early for a trip to the town of Hawes a few dales away with the nice plan of catching the market there as well as a visit the Dales Countryside Museum.
We arrived to a light misting rain, and a subsequent wander through the streets revealed only a few lonely market stalls. Given that we had the whole team on hand, it looked like a case of too many cameras in the kitchen to say the least. There was hardly a minute to fret however, as we were quickly pointed toward the Dawes Auction Mart on the outskirts of town and their impending annual sheep sale!
They weren’t kidding. Yup, sheep, and lots of ’em. Thousands. Just as we hadn’t planned it, we had popped on the morning of the biggest sheep trading day of the year. Folks were turning up from all over, hauling in trailers of wild-eyed woolies behind their Land Rovers with most everyone looking to sell, buy, or both.
By the good graces of the affable Auction Mart Manager, upon asking we were made welcome to shoot the event. Our photographers melted into the ruckus, taking in everything from the live auction to the faces to the sheep flowing along in herds of ten or twelve, expertly routed from station to station on their way from one rancher’s truck or trailer to another.
It was a fantastic atmosphere full of friendly people. While I have the feeling that it was nothing too new for most of the Yorkshire characters about, for us – a handful of Americans dropped in almost as if by parachute – it really was a riot. The logistics alone of moving, organizing, displaying, selling and redistributing so many four legged creatures is a spectacle one really must see to believe. Add in the people who work so hard to make the whole thing happen, and the whole enterprise is really quite extraordinary. One of the most refreshing aspects was how welcoming “everyone” was. It seemed to me – and we all agreed at the end of the day – that our encounters whether for a quick chat or to take a photograph were easy and comfortable. It was a real pleasure to be there as well as to document the event.
The fact that it was all a bit of a spontaneous happening? Made it all even more magical – our fondest regards to Lady Luck!