Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Convergance: A photo essay

Convergence - Disparate elements coming together at the same point. The fracturing of sunlight at the hard edge. Fingers connecting to a hard edge of stone.. The super moon falling closer in the sea of sky... A coalescing, a promise in the making. 

It has been a strange couple of weeks for me. Creativity, pain, hope - all colliding in more intense ways than I might ever have imagined. My own satellite finally escaping it's internal corporeal orbit, a stone from my kidney that's final release coincided with this super moon. A star wars style laser finishing it. 

Tuesday I wandered the pier at twilight as the sun rose and the giant moon set. My kidney and bladder and ureter still aflame, my mind a jumble from heavy narcotics. Alone, in the company of sea birds, I released a red stream of bloody urine into the hissing sea, said goodbye to bits of blasted stone, to blinding agony. 

I kept quiet company with the resting birds as the morning drew on and the golden light crescendoed. My camera, this ocular eye of eye, grounding me and setting me free. All voice, vision, breath - caught, held, exhaled. Again. And again.

all images ©Bennett Barthelemy November 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

High Octane: A photo essay

Thomas Jefferson is said to have chosen to leave abolishing slavery to the next generation. He was wrapped tightly in it's coils and not ready to fully engage it mentally or morally - but clearly he believed it was inhumane. The same attitude is still alive in dominant society today - especially here in the US. For generations we have put emphasis on freedom to wander and that has gotten us entangled in fossil fuels because cars are the modus operandi for this. And like Jefferson and his slaves, we are not ready to let our cars go, though we know we should/must as fossil fuels and the continued extraction will seal our collective doom. Infrastructure, economy, romanticism, cultural identity - $$$ to roads, contested gas pipelines, dumping serious $$$ into vehicles with terrible MPG to express and experience this eternal myopic American Dream that is propelling us toward oblivion - it is difficult to think too deeply about it but we must...

We visited the Petersen Automobile Museum in Los Angeles a few days ago. I wasn't quite sure how I would relate to this glorification of seemingly innocuous but monstrous machines, being inherently repulsed by this nationalistic love affair but at the same time living it. Part and parcel to the expressed reality - owning a car and driving ridiculous distances for work and for pleasure. This would express/magnify my contradiction and inspire guilt - this generally creates discomfort.

There is definitely art, beauty and amazing ingenuity expressed in this machinery. The idea of cramming the power of 900 horses into a 12 foot long rectangle of gleaming chrome or graphite is surreal. As is seeing on display a vehicle built in 1914 that was all electric - and hybrids from the same decade. Steam powered, hydrogen, solar... So much eclipsed ingenuity throughout the decades with so much $$$ entangled in the fossil fuels. So much emphasis on high octane at the expense of all else...

all images ©Bennett Barthelemy November 2016

A James Bond Car and the Batmobile

The van from Little Miss Sunshine... I have owned two VW vans, a 72 and 78. The "People's Automobile"

Car that appeared in ZZ Top videos

Carbon fiber, 900 horses
The Petersen did a decent job I though sharing the comparisons of technology and fuels
I had no idea that the Buggati family had such a legacy in the automobile world

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Grand Perspective: Photo Essay, Grand Canyon

Looking across to the North Rim at hikers on the South Kaibab. The Zoraster pink granite (gniess) and the black Vishnu schist as backdrop beneath the pancaked layers of Tapeats sandstone. The bottom layers of igneous/metamorphic rock are much more impervious to river cutting and rain/ice/wind erosion then the upper sedimentary layers above the sweep of the Tonto Plateau

"It's so massive! How can you capture it all in a photo?" Nearly every Grand Canyon client I have taken to the bottom has exclaimed this as we drop through layers of stacked time - venturing back into the earth's twilight with stone at the river depth nearly 2 billion years old...

Perspective is always a curious thing. Camera lenses all "see" a bit differently. Our eyes take in somewhat equivalent to a 50mm... A 300mm will compress things in the distance and often bring them closer then they might actually appear to the eye in person. A 14mm, approaching a fish-eye lens, will grab close to 180 degrees of perspective in one frame... Even with these tricks the span and depth are difficult to fathom. A bit more appreciation comes when a trail from rim to river is traversed, and with head moving like an owl's to experience it all.

images ©Bennett Barthelemy October 2016

Backpackers just beneath the Tapeats Sandstone layer, about 2/3 of the way to the bottom
Heading into the "basement"
Always fun to send a postcard from Phantom Ranch at the Bottom. They come up by mule - the Grand Canyon is the last place in the US that sends mail out that way, in the Park and from Havasupai

When the Spanish Conquistadors were taken to the rim by Hopi guides they thought they could step across the river, not realizing it was often over 400 feet across- thus they made a 250 mile detour on their route north.
Rafters from Montana - another way to see/experience the Canyon. This crew of 16 packed 2700 cans of beer for the journey, about 10 per day. John Wesley Powell (name of raft) was one of the first to float this section of the Colorado River and with just one arm they tied him into the wooden raft for "safety" in the rapids.
It is rare to get rain and cloud but when it happens it really allows for seeing the myriad canyons - adding depth and perspective that is difficult to see without the known height of buildings and trees
Sunset light is another great way to get a greater sense of the vastness as certain features stacked along the horizon catch the light.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

SouthWest (Re)Connection

I decided to take a drive across Indian Country, across the Navajo Rez and the Hopi mesas.

I didn't know where I would end up, wasn't certain when I would return. I didn't quite know the direction I would take and wasn't too concerned when my iPhone GPS lost the signal. I figured at some point I would pick up a Hopi or Navajo thumbing for a ride and gain a bit more local perspective. I assumed I would find a safe place to camp. I expected to see a ruin in a cliff at some point and some fields of corn being dry farmed. I eventually turned right on Peabody Coal Access Road, passing many signs for high voltage, jet black mountains of coal. I listened to Hopi radio that would fade in and out, native singing and drumming mixed with NPR news of Clinton and Trump as signals crossed.

Just before arriving at First Mesa mid-morning I saw a Hopi in the wash next to the highway. He ran forward with his thumb up as I passed so I stopped. He carried with him a garbage bag full of cans and a grey hoodie sweatshirt that held more. He placed them in the back seat on top of my backpacks. Dirt streamed out of a torn corner of the black trash bag. He jumped in the front seat. "Thanks Mister, my name is Leeland. I'm just going to that double wide trailer up at the junction - that's my house. I been collecting cans for two days. I spent 12$ on propane yesterday so I been finding cans. I guy comes from Winslow Wednesdays and Thursdays to buy them- ain't no jobs out here so..." When he stepped out to the highway again a couple miles later we shook hands. He said that when I came through next time and needed a place to stay I was welcome.
At the edge of another day as the shadows grew longer I talked with Darlene. She was selling juniper bead bracelets and pottery from the back of her Ford pickup truck. I just got divorced I told her, so I didn't think I had anyone to buy for. "If you are just divorced then you probably need protection." She laughed and picked up a ghost bead charm. I bought a tiny handmade pot that told the story of the Canyon in ancient symbols and color.
What spurred this sojourn were the remembered words from a favorite but long forgotten author who said the words "It's a landscape that has to be seen to be believed. And as I say on occasion, it may have to be believed in order to be seen." NSM
Even after many years not visiting the secret folds of the Southwest these places are still alive in me. My body remembers when I return...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Grand Canyon of Fear: A photo essay

I hadn't been back to the Grand Canyon for some five years until this early summer. The re-introduction was bitter-sweet.

On the one hand it is nice to see the upsurge in runners, day hikers and excited visitors experiencing the magic of the wild. On the other hand (call me a cynic) there seem to also be a massive upsurge in the "selfie-self absorbed" experience. I think it is great that people want to document their adventures and share them, but the ubiquitous presence of the selfie-stick was a bit disconcerting. The Park seem to be a nexus for this expression - especially when wandering the overlooks and road along the rim - once a half mile or so down the canyon it lessens - a bit... I guess it is nothing new - the self-timer and running to get in the family Christmas photo... yet I think this new explosion of smart phones and Instagram makes the promise of being a media hero all to the more tempting and thus exponentially apparent. The experience and connection to place seem a bit eclipsed by the sense of self and the placement of the primary focus - the image-maker, the human, in the vast wilderness... There was also an upsurge of neon apparel, dogs on trails, graffiti scrawled on rocks along the trail - happy faces and names scratched on to rocks... Perhaps this comes unconsciously from a place of fear...

I think Edward Abbey said it well when he penned this...

Alone in the silence, I understand for a moment the dread which
 many feel in the presence of primeval desert, the unconscious
 fear which compels them to tame, alter or destroy what they
 cannot understand, to reduce the wild and prehuman to human
 dimensions. Anything rather than confront directly the
 ante-human, that _other_world_ which frightens not through danger
 or hostility but in something far worse--its implacable

all images ©Bennett Barthelemy


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Yosemite Valley Dreams: A photo essay

The Yosemite Valley has been called the Center of the Universe by many climbers that frequent there. If I count both days and pitches climbed over more than two decades here it would be in the high hundreds.

Each and every escape here is a torrid affair for sure - of sweat, blood, fear, elation, epiphanies - of chance meetings with heroes of the vertical - crossing paths again with old friends who shared a rope in years long past - the only place I have every experienced such soul weary tiredness when I slept straight through more than 30 hours (after bailing from the Leaning Tower). It is the place that has re-birthed me, raised me, sustains me through my adult life...

History, legends, dreams are all alive and well here through a nexus of intention and shared experience... a love of the wild, steep stone - rock dreamers, dreaming ourselves alive...

all images ©Bennett Barthelemy October 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

5 Days of Fall: Photo Essay

Some weeks are a bit more full then others...  It is still a blur so thought I would try to make sense of it...

On Thursday of last week I climbed a Flatiron at sunrise in Colorado (after sleeping in the front seat of my rental car) and then managed a route on Devils Tower in Wyoming climbing with camera and managed the rappel in darkness...

By Saturday (after sleeping in the economy rental car at the border) I was in Boulder Canyon getting worked on Castle Rock (but got to spend a bit of quality time w my best friend in Colorado)...
Nauhual ready to send at Castle Rock
Sunday I was documenting with stills the Concert Across America To End Gun Violence in Santa Barbara. From 11am until 2 am I managed a couple thousand images. The concert sold out!
Ulises Bella of Ozomatli backstage waiting for an encore...
The real rockstar of the night for me was Bill Allen who was also documenting the event. Bill spent 10 years as editor in chief at National Geographic
I got to re-register to vote (I have moved so many times and was most recently a resident of Denmark so it made sense to)

Monday morning at 7 am I was running three miles of steep trails for a an apparel company shooting two uber fit runners...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mt. Goode: Photo Essay

An alpine climb in the Sierra is a magical thing... The John Muir Wilderness hides some gems for sure... 

All images ©Bennett Barthelemy August 2016