Thursday, February 23, 2012

Helping to Save The Otero Mesa

The Otero Mesa is a vast desert grassland in southern New Mexico.  This blank spot on the map has become one of my favorite photography destinations over the last several years.  It is an area of open range, lonely mountains, and big sky.  It is a place I rarely encounter another person.  I have written about it on this blog several times as the Lost Mesa since so few people have heard of it and even fewer know how to get there.

I was recently approached by the Coalition for Otero Mesa to write an article for them about the Otero Mesa.  The coalition is an umbrella organization for over twenty different civic, environmental, sportsman, and landowner groups working to protect the vast Otero Mesa.  The organization had some success fighting oil and gas drilling on the mesa but it now faces the threat of hard rock mining.  

The goal they are working toward now is to try to secure National Monument status for the Otero Mesa.

I could not agree more with them about the special qualities of this area and the need for a protected status.  I put together a piece and provided them some images that was recently published in the Carlsbad Current-Argus, Ruidoso News, and the Alamogordo Daily News.

See the article here:

Otero Mesa Article

I hope you can read the piece, look at some of the other blog posts I have done on it here and check out the image galleries on my website and begin to agree that this is an area worthy of protection.

Lost Mesa Gallery

The fight to save such a place is daunting.  The mesa is so isolated that even though it is 1.2 million acres (that is one a half times bigger than Big Bend National Park) it is unknown and that anonymity will make it an uphill climb.  I can only hope that bringing back images from this remarkable place can help get the idea of preservation moving forward.

To learn more about the Coalition for Otero Mesa.

Coalition for Otero Mesa

Friday, February 17, 2012

McKittrick Canyon-The Best Fall Color in the West

Hidden in the desert canyons of west Texas is the best fall color in the American west.

West Texas is not usually thought of as travel/photography destination, let alone a fall color destination.  However, for those in the know, can find the most vivid red and orange fall color this side of Vermont.  You see, that hidden in these desert mountain canyons are maple trees!  

Maples are not a tree that you think of in Texas but in a few isolated pockets around the state one can find a few stands-relics from the last ice age.  Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of those locations.

The Guadalupes are the highest point in Texas.  The rise over a mile from the salt flats to the west.  They are a true "sky island" where higher elevation brings cooler temps and also captures rain.  Those two factors allow maples to survive the harsh desert climate of the region.  

McKittrick Canyon is the show piece of the park.  A spectacular deep canyon with year round water.  Actually this is the only year round water in the entire Guadalupe range.  This mountain range is actually the remnants of a coral reef and are limestone.  Limestone being very porous means that all the rain that falls here goes right into the ground and exits at several springs in the lower elevations.  Some of that water goes down into McKittrick canyon where the stream skirts the canyon floor sometimes above ground and sometimes underground.

That water creates a narrow band of life along the floor of the canyon and in a few north facing gullies and drainages that still support the relic maple forest here.

Those trees blaze with color at the end of October every year.  Red.  Orange.  Yellow.  Gold.  It is a true visual feast.

It is one I first experienced 25 years ago and I have returned many times to see this amazing color.

This last fall was no exception.  Many people were convinced the extreme drought in west Texas would mean no fall colors but I went anyway.  I was able to get into McKittrick Canyon on a foggy morning and experienced the the best fall color day I had seen there since 1988.

Here are a few images from that day to let you see the colors.  Notice the fog too.  It is usually blue bird clear when I am here but the weather cooperated better than it had in many visits.

One other thing I point out about this place is how lightly visited it is.  This is the most known spot locally and yet on a weekday I only saw two other people in here and that was on my way out.

Having the entire canyon to yourself makes one appreciate how John Muir must have felt in Yosemite Valley.  That kind of solitude is not found many places anymore but luckily there are even a few national parks like Guadalupe Mountains that are so far off the beaten path that you can still experience them as wilderness.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Large Format Photography Adventures

As a landscape photographer, I have photographed with several different cameras and still use three different cameras.  I moved through 35mm and medium format to large format film cameras.  I added a DSLR and even a nifty point and shoot-what I call my small format camera.

Each has its strengths and I try to make the most of each too.

When I started blogging it was my large format camera that got me going.  I have acquired my own domain and even started a second blog tied to it. 

Well after some thoughts and ideas it is a season of change and renewal for that blog.  I have rechristened it the Large Format Camera Blog.  

If large format photography or even just a cool looking camera is of interest, check it out.

The Large Format Camera Blog

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Most Remote Spot in Texas

Dog Canyon is the most remote spot in Texas.  How remote is it? 

You have to drive through New Mexico for an hour and a half to get there.

However, if you can make it here it is a magical place.  You drive across the northern Guadalupe Mountains in New Mexico.  They are mostly dry, rocky, and empty.  As you get closer to Texas the range gets higher.  Pines appear on the higher ridges.  You drop into Dog Canyon under the huge Guadalupe Escarpment.  As you reach the very back of the canyon you cross the state line back into Texas and enter Guadalupe Mountain National Park.  

You see pinon, pines, and maples.  Yes, maples.  The Guadalupes are home to maples.  Most visitors go and visit the more popular and easier to get to McKittrick Canyon.  In Dog Canyon you are not that far away from McKittrick as the bird flies, but it is a arduous walk or a long drive to get there.

Since I was there in October, it was the peak of the fall colors and hidden in this most remote corner of Texas I got to experience a rare treat that few people see.

Here are just a few images from the upper reaches of Dog Canyon as it winds up into the higher peaks of the Guadalupes.

I hope you can get a glimpse into this seldom visited area and maybe add another spot to your must see list.