The Land of the Ancients – The Photo Journey of my Dreams!
Being born and raised in sunny Miami and spending the first 30 years of my life there, it is hard to say where my fascination and “connectedness” to the Ancient Cultures of the Southwest came from. I have been out west for 21 years now and with each passing year my yearning to get deeper into the Land of the Ancients in the Four Corners region of the Southwest gets stronger and stronger. In 1991 I went back to school to get my certificate in American Indian Studies with my focus being the Ancient Southwest, I was so thirsty for knowledge about this amazing culture and couldn’t wait to get to class each Tuesday and Thursday. I was totally the teachers pet and sat in the very front row, I didn’t want to miss a thing. The other students hated me and my over enthusiastic attitude, I would have hated me back in school too, what a goober! If only something had held my interest like this in grade school my parents would have been much happier with my performance.
I just returned from another amazing photo journey deep into The Land of the Ancients. I was in the Four Corners region of the Southwest which includes SE Utah, NE Arizona, SW Colorado and NW New Mexico, hence the tag “Four Corners” has been given to it. I went to one place that I have been dreaming about shooting photos for many years. Upon my return home with hours on the drive home to think about and process the experience in my head, I have decided to be a bit mysterious about this particular location. Namely due to the fact this one is not on the map nor is it well known and I don’t want to add to any traffic that could harm these archaeological wonders. Of course there are many, mainly photographers, who know where this magical place is and just like I did anyone can do their research and find it. So what I am saying is I am going to make you work to get your own photographs from some of these places, it’s more rewarding when you have to work for it, right?
Armed with a full pack – it felt reminiscent of my mountain climbing days – I carried 2 Tamron lenses, a 10-24mm and 18-270mm, a lightweight tripod, food, water, a down bag, camp chair, sleeping bag as well as lots of warm clothes. We made our way down into the canyon into what was to be an amazing 12 hour shoot that left us both in awe. This location was one that I could not wait to lay my eyes on, to see what the Ancient Ones had seen hundreds of years ago and feel the ancient spirits that were still present. We were prepared to stay the night if need be, it was a treacherous trail in the day light so we figured once we got up into the ruin we were there until the sun rose. I knew temps were going to drop into the high 20’s and me being more of a warm weather desert girl was hoping that having every fleece and down product on that I owned (ok not EVERY one) would keep me warm.
We arrived at the ruin in the late afternoon and my travel partner let me walk in a few minutes ahead of him – I think he knew that I needed to view it for the 1st time in silence and by myself. It took my breath away – it was everything and MORE than I had envisioned in my mind and I thought about this place numerous times. All I could think was “WOW” – it was amazing and I knew that I was here to get the photos that I had seen in my dreams. I silently found a spot to unload my pack and quickly but reverently I set up my tripod and got my camera with the Tamron 10-24mm ready. This ancient alcove screamed for a wide angle lens so this lens was perfect. We set up and watched the magic happen for almost 12 hours – the clouds swirled and moved off to the east, the sun set and then the in the clear cold night the stars came out for a show, it was one of the darkest nights I had ever seen. We worked fast to get some great star shots before the moon came up which we knew would happen around 9:30PM. Then the glow of the moon was slowly making it’s way into the canyon – it was amazing to watch it all happen just like it had been doing for thousands of years. It is amazing for me to think that all of this beauty is always here – year after year – whether anyone sees it or not – it is here – words like strength, power, consistency and resilience came to mind as I looked out over this ancient land and listened to the silence that at times was deafening. I loved it!
At about 2AM I decided that all of my down products were not going to insulate me until the sun came up and I was COLD and all I could think about was the warm bed waiting for me. With the bright moon light we decided to give the hike out a try. It was a bit dicey in places and luckily my travel partner was a master at trail finding in the dark. It took us about an hour to get out with the moon guiding us – it was a beautiful hike back to the car. We knew that we had just witnessed something so amazing and we would not only need to process the experience but we couldn’t wait to process our photos. At 4AM my head hit the pillow in my very warm bed and I drifted off into a magical slumber dreaming about ancient times and what it must have been like.
On my way to and from The Land of the Ancients I made a few stops to shoot some petroglyphs (pecked into the rock) and pictographs (painted on the rock) that I knew about. I used my Tamron 18-270mm to shoot the rock art – I love the up close detail of these ancient messages and this lens made it easy to zoom right in. I also stopped at Wupatki National Monument just north of Flagstaff – I wanted a well rounded and full “Ancient Experience” as far as my photos went and I am happy to say that I felt like I achieved my goal.
In closing, I feel so fortunate to have realized a dream of mine – there are times when I am totally in awe and so amazed at the life that I have created for myself. It’s not an easy life at times, as anyone who makes a living as an artist can tell you. I have had some of the richest experiences of anyone that I know and feel SO lucky that I am able to live in an area of the country that speaks to my soul and do what I love for a living. With the world going seemingly mad these days it is nice to know that I can quickly escape to my magical world and feel transported back to a time when ancient people walked on this quiet Earth and lived simply. What also makes it so special for me is that I get to share my photos and my world with so many people thanks to Facebook, I have legions of loyal “friends” who are there every step of the way with me from around the globe, it is mind boggling at times. I get emails and Facebook messages from people telling me how my work and passion have inspired them to start shooting photos again. It is so humbling and satisfying to hear that, I feel like I have done my job if I can inspire just ONE person to follow their passion and create the life that they have only dreamed of. If I can do it then anyone can do it….now go live the life of your dreams and be sure to take your camera with you! Thank you for letting me share with you!
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t do just a little business here – Join my “Land of the Ancients” Exclusive Photo Workshop in May 2012!