March 2010 Archives

Death Valley - By the Side of the Road

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(click to enlarge) On Artist's Drive, where we stopped to photograph Artist's Palette, I saw this desiccated piece of a bush lying on some gravel. Very plain, but to me, attractive lines, textures, and colors.

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(click to enlarge) This raven, also on Artist's Drive, seemed entirely comfortable in the presence of humans. It probably gets a fair proportion of its food from us tourists.

Death Valley - Top and Bottom at Artist's Palette

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The intensely colored layers at Artist's Palette are bewilderingly placed: sometimes above, sometimes below.

Death Valley - Textures at Artist's Palette

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These appeal to the Jackson Pollock side of my artistic sensibilities.

Death Valley - Artist's Palette (2)

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Two more examples of the fantastic intermingling of geology and esthetics at Artist's Palette in Death Valley.

Death Valley - Artist's Palette

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From Wikipedia: "Artist's Drive rises up to the top of an alluvial fan fed by a deep canyon cut into the Black Mountains. Artist's Palette is on the face of the Black Mountains and is noted for having various colors of rock. These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (red, pink and yellow is from iron salts, green is from decomposing tuff-derived mica, and manganese produces the purple)."

Death Valley - Golden Canyon (2)

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"In February 1976, a four-day storm dropped 2.3 inches of rain at Furnace Creek. On the last day of the storm, a violent downpour caused a surge of water, mud, and rock to flow through these narrows.

Such sediment-laden floods work like sandpaper, cutting away and undermining the rocky canyon walls. In narrows such as these, flood waters are constricted and the speed increases. If you look closely at the walls of the canyon. you will see a coating of mud that indicates the height of the water that has moved through these narrows.

Flash floods like these have been shaping the canyons of Death Valley for millions of years."

Death Valley - Golden Canyon

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Golden Canyon is one of those places in Death Valley that is picturesque in its own right but that also profits from a little background knowledge. A site devoted to the geology of the area says "Golden Canyon preserves geologic stories steeped in change. Like pages in a book, its rocks tell tales of ancient times when a lake once covered this land; they also speak of violent flash floods racing down the canyon. Golden Canyon is a fascinating showcase of the effects of water in an arid land."

Death Valley - Me and Ansel Adams at Zabriskie Point

Two final images of Zabriskie Point

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along with two prints from the same negative by Ansel Adams.


The negative was made in 1942. This version was printed in 1950


and this one in the 1970s. As Adams' career advanced, he tended to print his negatives larger and more dramatic.

Death Valley - Clouds and Contrails

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The skies above Death Valley were sometimes amazing at sunrise and sunset.

Death Valley - Manly Beacon

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According to Wikipedia, "Manly Beacon was named in honor of William L. Manly, who along with John Rogers, guided members of the ill-fated Forty-niners out of Death Valley during the gold rush of 1849." The sunrise view of Manly Beacon from the Zabriskie Point lookout is particularly striking.

Death Valley - Morning

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Looking east from Zabriskie Point in the early morning, with the sculpted dark earth in the foreground, one sees rugged mountains in the distance. Recent snow at the higher altitudes frosted their tops.

Death Valley - Zabriskie Point Sunset

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It's said that the best times to see Zabriskie Point are sunrise and sunset. Our workshop was there for both, and they were both wonderful.

Death Valley - Zabriskie Point (2)

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For one who likes to photograph abstract forms and textures, as I do, Zabriskie Point is a dream. I think the first picture I ever saw of Death Valley was one of Zabriskie Point by Edward Weston, perhaps this or this . Black and white works well on this scene.

Death Valley - Zabriskie Point

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"Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located in Death Valley National Park in the United States noted for its erosional landscape. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago -- long before Death Valley came into existence.

The location was named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, vice-president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the early 20th century. The company's famous, iconic twenty-mule teams were used to transport borax from its mining operations in Death Valley." (Wikipedia)

Death Valley - Harmony Borax Works

Our first assignment in the Death Valley workshop was to take some aesthetically interesting photos of the wagons on which borax had been hauled more than a century ago.

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According to a history, "After borax was found near Furnace Creek Ranch (then called Greenland) in 1881, William Tell Coleman built the Harmony plant and began to process ore in late 1883 or early 1884. When in full operation, the Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily. During the summer months, when the weather was so hot that processing water would not cool enough to permit the suspended borax to crystallize, Coleman moved his work force to the Amargosa Borax Plant near present day Tecopa, California.

Getting the finished product to market from the heart of Death Valley was a difficult task, and an efficient method had to be devised. The harmony operation became famous through the use of large mule teams and double wagons that hauled borax the long overland route to Mojave. The romantic image of the "20-mule team" persists to this day and has become the symbol of the borax industry in this country."

Death Valley - Furnace Creek Date Palms

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(click to enlarge) At the end of January 2010 I went to Death Valley for a workshop led by Stephen Johnson. Accommodations were at Furnace Creek Ranch, and as I wandered out before breakfast the first morning, I saw this striking grove of date palms. Aside from their rough texture, they look out of place in Death Valley, and indeed they are. According to LearnNC , "Date Palms are a non-native species, and park rangers work to remove as many of the plants as possible, as they crowd out native flora and fauna."

Cuba - Hasta Luego


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Terminal 2 in the Havana Airport, where we waited for our return flight to Cancun, is gaily decorated with flags of seemingly all the nations of the world - including the United States. Too bad we don't return the favor. By coincidence, this morning's paper has news of Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson and Senator Amy Klobuchar sponsoring legislation to reduce trade and travel barriers between the US and Cuba. That makes all the sense in the world.

This is my last posting of photos from Cuba. Tomorrow I'll start on Death Valley.

Click here to see my Blurb books.

Cuba - Command Performances

The kids at the Trinidad school we visited had been prepped to put on a performance for us. Good jobs by all. Gracias, amigos!


(click to enlarge) Declaiming poetry


(click to enlarge) Singing


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Cuba - Education

Cuba spends a major share of its financial and human resources on education, with results that are by far the best in Latin America. We visited an elementary school in Trinidad. The student:teacher ratio was 10:1, the library was well-stocked, and the students were serious and attentive.


(click to enlarge) Students get two hours per week of computer training.


(click to enlarge) Watching a national broadcast of materials developed by master teachers.

Cuba - Valle de Los Ingenios

According to Yahoo! Travel, the Valle de Los Ingenios, near Trinidad, "is literally a natural history museum for its conservation of the ruins of 12 sugar-mills from the 19th century. The plantation's large belfries, mills, huts, instruments for work and slave torture remain amid the aged trees and winding paths. In the San Luis Valley, renamed the Valley of Sugar-Mills, there are still vestiges of aboriginal culture, colonial architecture and the 19th century War of Independence, which marked the decay of this sugar emporium."


(click to enlarge) The more energetic tourists climb to the top of this seven story tower to survey the valley.


(click to enlarge) Dominoes is one of the Cuban national pastimes ...


(click to enlarge) ... as is smoking cigars.

Cuba - Trinidad Street Scenes

Streets largely without cars, narrow sidewalks, pastel colored walls, grates over the windows - hospitable environments for people.


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Cuba - Trinidad's Museum of Colonial Architecture

Occasionally one encounters an oasis of calm and quiet charm. Such was the case with the Museum of Colonial Architecture in Trinidad, in a couple of adjoining houses on the central square. It displays architectural and interior decorating details from the period, and has a pretty patio garden as well.


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Cuba - Afro-Cuban Dance

The Palenque de los Congos Reales in Trinidad is an open-air patio where dancers and musicians perform Afro-Cuban dances such as salsa and son. This video gives a good flavor of the place as we experienced it.


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The performers enticed some of us in the audience up on stage to dance with them, but we were neither as athletic nor as good-looking.


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Cuba - Golden Oldies

Seen on the streets in Trinidad.


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Cuba - Trinidad Scenes


(click to enlarge) We saw lots of dogs in Cuba. They were neither fat nor starving, just slender and conserving energy -- like their human companions.


(click to enlarge) Santeria is a folk religion widely practiced in Cuba. It's a combination of the traditional Yoruba faith and the worship of Catholic saints. This santeria doll was just sitting in an empty room.


(click to enlarge) Market just off the main square. The tablecloths in this section were finely made, but there weren't many buyers.

Cuba - Misleading Appearances


(click to enlarge) Many of the walls in Trinidad have romantically faded paint, enhancing the historic atmosphere of the town. Judging by the work of these two fellows, it's not an accident.


(click to enlarge) Two men visiting their wives/girlfriends outside a maternity hospital. The bars - common in tropical climates - make it look like a jailhouse visit, which it certainly isn't.

Cuba - Trinidad Historic Center

A couple of photos of the historical center of Trinidad, preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site:


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Cuba - Trinidad Windows

Interesting windows embedded in colorful walls make nice geometric abstractions.


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Cuba - Daily Life in Trinidad


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(click to enlarge) A bodega where people get their monthly rations: very low prices, but not enough food.

Cuba - Trinidad

The city of Trinidad in central Cuba is a major tourist attraction, because of its small but well-preserved center in Spanish Colonial style. However, outside the center, Trinidad shows the real life of poor people.


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(click to enlarge) It looked as if they were concerned that the horse would keel over momentarily.

Cuba - Palacio de Valle in Cienfuegos


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According to Cuba-junky this is "The most original building in Cienfuegos, designed by Cuban and foreign architects rented by sugar baron Acisclo del Valle Blanco, one of the richest men in Cuba. Builded in 1913-1917. It's a 2 story building decorated Gotic Venetian and neo-Morish. The three towers are standing for love, power and relegion." (Typos uncorrected) It is now a hotel and restaurant.

We were supposed to eat lunch here during our return bus ride from Trinidad to Havana, but the group voted to proceed directly to Havana so we would have time to visit the Museum of the Revolution. Probably the right choice, but the Palacio de Valle looks as if it would have been fun to experience. Not all of Cuba is crumbling.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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