In September of 2014, Tropical Storm Norbert rolled across southern Nevada and Utah, unleashing a torrent of heavy rainfall in the desert. Flash floods caused significant damage in the area, washing away portions of Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas, and cutting off access to Salt Lake City, Utah. The flooding stranded vehicles and closed 30 miles of the interstate in both directions. This was the situation as I flew into Las Vegas to begin a landscape photography trip with my pal Bill Ratcliffe. Our itinerary included locations in Zion National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
From where I stand I am but a speck on a broken horizon. Far below, the land seemingly inhospitable, stretches away from me into a twisted maze of arroyos, buttes, and hoodoos. Red, blues, browns, whites, and yellows are stacked in striated bands that coarse through the rock. The landscape is a magnificent abstraction built by the forces of erosion–wind, water, and time–carving and sculpting the soft earth. Silence, complete silence, is broken only by a soft wind or the distant crack of thunder. I am as close to the edge as I can stomach. From my lofty position all scale is lost in the enormity of the canyon. How far across? How deep? Questions that ultimately do not matter. Ha Ho No Geh is one of several canyons carved in the Arizona plateau east of the Grand Canyon. West of this canyon lies another one without a name. It is altogether different in form and color. And beyond that lies Coalmine Canyon. Ha Ho No Geh is on Hopi Lands and it is a spiritual place. How can it not be? For the better part of the day Tony Kuyper and I watched thunderstorms move across the land. Huge anvil shaped clouds formed along the horizon, and driven by wind, cast a fine spray of rain on the parched land. Sunlight broke through on occasion and cast cloud shadows on the canyon floor. At times the clouds pressed in and pelted us with rain, ice, and snow. All of this movement played out against the backdrop of the canyons. To experience nature this way is too conceive that this grand and intricate land must have its own breath. And if you let it, the spirit will give you life.
Image Data: Nikon D3x, Nikkor 17-35mm, f2.8 at 24mm. Image exposed at ISO 50 at f11 for 1 second. (For the best viewing please click on the image to view in Lightbox Mode)