2015 TRAVELS - YEAR IN REVIEW
I was busy on the art festival circuit the first couple of months and it was not until late March that I could escape and do some photography.
In early March, I was once again humbled and thankful to be invited to exhibit at the prestigious La Quinta Arts Festival, voted three years in a row #1 art festival in America. Here is an iPhone pano of my 600 sq. ft. exhibit. The center and external walls are not visible on this image.
In late March, I took a trip to Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona and the Pinacate/Gran Desert del Altar across the border in Mexico.
There was a dual purpose to this trip. First I wanted to revisit the Puerco Blanco Drive in Organ Pipe, which had recently reopened after a 10-month closure. The highhight would be the side trip to the Senita Basin, which was incredibly pristine after so many years without any visitation. I also drove the Ajo loop in search of wildflowers, but found few. What I found, however, is my friend Derek von Briesen, camped out at the remote campground. I also met Paul Gill, photographer of the excellent book Wild in Arizona.
The second part of the trip was a long-time dream of mine of visiting the El Pinacate y Grand Desert del Altar Biosphere Reserve, a project that had been postponed for years by the volatile border situation. I was finally able to put a overnight trip together with my friend Lance Clark Bell. I found the reserve absolutely pristine, and we camped at a spectacular remote campground tucked within two volcanoes.
In April 2015, I rafted the Colorado River for the second time, in order to keep abreast of the canyon's changes, photograph new side canyons, and test new equipment. Joining me on the raft was my oft-hiking parter Hiro Nakai and a merry group of Brits. Once again, I floated the entire 277 miles from Lee's Ferry to Pierce Ferry so I could get a full perspective of the River. Unlike my previous trip, the weather was a mixed bag, with two days of miserable cold rain, but I was lucky to stop at several new sites to expand my knowledge of the river.
Redwall Cavern in Marble Canyon
Sunrise view from Eminence Break Camp
Sunset view of Deer Creek
Hiro looking for a composition along the Little Colorado River
In May, I flew to the Seychelles wit my assistant Dominique Blanchard. I photographed the islands of Mahé and La Digue. Unfortunately, we were informed shortly before leaving that our flight from Dubai to Mahé would be rerouted (due to the Saoudi airstrikes in Yemen) so we missed our planned visit to Praslin Island. Other external factors affected my photography: choppy seas, the presence of a green algae, and poor timing with the tides. The trip was otherwise a pleasure and the islands are great. Contrary to the rumors, the Seychelles can be visited easily and at very reasonable expense.
Granite blocks of Anse Source d'Argent beach on La Digue Island
I also spent a couple of days in Dubai, but that is far too short to do justice to this extraordinary, futuristic city. I will have to devote a future trip to just the UAE, Qatar, and Oman.
My friend and assistant Dominique Blanchard
In June, I drove to Arizona, revisiting Little Finland, Parashant Nat'l Monument, Cathedral Wash before meeting with friends Philippe and Elisabeth Schuler, Bill and Elaine Belvin and Hiro Nakai to visit Point Hansbrough Overlook, the Little Colorado Confluence Soap Creek, White Pocket, and Waterholes Bend.
Raptor at Little Finland
Whitmore Point in Parashant Nat'l Monument
Point Hansbrough Overlook
Little Colorado Confluence
Sudden rainstorm at the White Pocket
In July, I kayaked the Lower Colorado River through Black Canyon, then went on to explore a number of central Arizona locations, followed by a 4-day Rim-to-Rim backpack of the Grand Canyon, briefly joining Bill & Elaine Belvin and ending the trip with the Sand Flats and a White Pocket overnighter.
Coal Mine Canyon
That day, I had to dodge severe flash floods and I ended up overnighting at the Monument Valley campground. After a night of rain, I woke up to an abnormally green valley.
Ooh Aah Point sunset
Sunset at Plateau Point
Ribbon Falls on the North Kaibab Trail
Back to White Pocket
In August, I returned to Grand Canyon to reshoot a couple of rim locations, then met Tom Till for a return to Canyon de Chelley. We also shot Cove Arch and Hope Arch on that same trip.
Little-known Shoshone Point
Cove Arch & its shadow
The Window in Canyon de Chelly. We couldn't get inside Canyon del Muerto, which was flooded.
As it had rained so much, I decided to detour via Grand Falls and was not disappointed
In September, Tom Till and I flew to Gansu Province in western China, to photograph some interesting landscapes, as well ancient Buddhist caves and monasteries.
First we flew to Dunhang, a small oasis town close to Mongolia Its famous for the ancient Mogao Caves, but no photography is allowed there. Next we went to the Yardang Landform, which Tom and I had seen in the movie Hero. Yardang is a cool 200 kilometers from Dunhuang through the Gobi Desert on an unfinished road. As there are no hotels there, our driver had to drive 8 hours round-trip that day and we came back late at night.
From Dunhuang, we took a train to Zhangye, another oasis town in the Gobi. Marco Polo spent a full year there and it's also famous for being the birthplace of Kublai Khan. Our goal there was to shoot the Zhangye Danxia Landform. Pics are popping up occasionally on the web, so we wanted to see it before it turned out on the bucket list of all world travelers. Turns out it's already too late, the place was mobbed; mostly by Chinese tourists, but we saw a few foreigners. Weather conditions were not great, but we managed.
Outside Zhangye, we photographed a pagoda and crescent lake located in the heart of an immense dunes field
We drove to a great Buddhist site that our guide and driver had never heard of. Tom and I had seen it in on an ad so we looked for it. It's located in the Yugur autonomous region, an ethnic group closely related to Tibetans.
Back in Zhangye we took a night train to Tianshui.
Tom getting a kick from drinking beer in a cup.
Our goal in Tianshui was to photograph Majishan, and extraordinary Buddhist site located on the side of a large mountainous outcrop.
From here we drove to Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province; a huge modern city of over five million people. We drove a couple of hours then hired a fast boat to take us to the Bingling Si grottoes, another great Buddhist site.
From Lanzhou, we flew back to Beijing. Tom caught a flight home, while I spent a night in Shanghai.
In late September, my team and I released Jeff Sullivan's book 'Photographing California Vol. 2 - South'. Thanks to John Stottlemyer for handling most of the launch while I was in China.
Personal matters forced me to cancel a Lake Powell shoot I had organized for my friends in October. To make things worse, my shipping guy Ted Haas fell and broke his hip (not at work) and was out of commission for a whole month. There was no way I could train someone for such a short time so I had no alternative but to handle shipping myself. It actually turned out to be a positive experience for me. Ted is fine now and back at work.
By mid-November, things were back to normal so Patricia and I decided to take a road trip.
I hadn't been to Havasupai since the last flood, so we went down to spend a few days and shoot Navajo Falls, which had been drastically altered by the 2013 flood. I found them just as nice as before. While in the village, which had very few visitors, we bumped into three acquaintances, including fellow Pentaxian Kerrick James. Small world.
We drove to Page next, as I wanted to shoot a different comp of Rainbow Bridge
... then took a little trip toward Tuba City so I could surprise Patricia with this:
Before returning home, we met friends Tom Till and Bill & Elaine Belvin and, with permission of the landowner, caravanned to Eggshell Arch, which is at its best around Thanksgiving.
In mid-December I took the traditional end-of-year road trip with Patricia and dog Skye. We had a terrific time visiting and revisiting locations in southern Arizona.
First, we stopped at Cebola National Wildlife Refuge
Next I photographed the Salt River northeast of Phoenix and resisted Ton To Nat'l Monument.
Drove south to the Chricahuas, and discovered a wonderful riparian canyon on the east side.
Stopped at San Xavier del Bac for the blue hour
... and hit Sabino Canyon for a nice hike with lingering fall colors and few people
We then flew to Seattle to spend the holidays with family. That's it for 2015. We look forward to a great 2016.