Thursday, March 3, 2016

Worse Things Happen .. In National Parks

When bad things happened my grandfather used to say "worse things happen at sea".  I am not sure exactly what he meant by it - I assume that anything bad that happens on land is a lot worse when you're out in the middle of a roiling ocean, reliant on your own supplies and resourcefulness. Regardless, its function was to give us perspective on petty complaints. After this trip I am adding a new adage to my collection of Life Quotes:

"Worse things happen in National Parks".

Noah and I decided to See the Sunrise at Zabriskie Point. Our sun can be seen to rise and shine from many part of the earth (and I saw a spectacular sunrise through my tent flap the day before). But some parts of the earth have better views of it than others and some parts of earth in National Parks have the misfortune of being accessible to the nation, and being known for this.. this ability to see the sunrise with the same framing everybody else has seen, and also to be able to prove it with a photograph.

I didn't know it, but according to reviews (yes, view sites have reviews on Google):
So, instead of a few folk sitting on a high place watching the suns rays reaching over the curve of the earth, there were dozens of people with tripods vying to get front row seats to photograph the reddening canyons from an iconic vantage.  It was like this about an hour before sunrise.

They jostled for position, ran from vantage to vantage. This guy asked us to "step back a bit" so he could get his desired angle.  He's in the Khaki brigade. When you go to a national park you must wear khaki pants and a kit vest. Do you love him?

And then things got beyond crowded to weird. A TV-style yogi was doing some kind of sun honoring thing with a boombox playing inspirational pop music, loudly, nearby. So, picture this photo with a tinny pop soundtrack.  Oh. And a Japanese-American woman in a white silken tunic prancing around making sun honoring gestures with her hands followed by an entourage of older male tourists. A homophobic man with a bloody eye told me that he and his "boys" got in trouble riding Harley's, and did not do "stuff like that".

A little note which made Tunic Lady seem more calculated was her sneakers.  She was wearing clunky old-person sneakers but she'd slip off before doing her 'barefoot in the sand' dancing and prancing and then put them on to walk around.  Men turned and photographed her, gesturing her over to pose in the foreground of their sunrise.

There were also people camped with cameras like little black pimples on distant buttes ;)

The irony of it all was that the sunrise was not particularly saturated and colored that day as there was a veil of clouds.  I overheard the yoga guy tell someone that "it isn't as intense" as yesterday. I took some photos (but really need to read the manual on my camera as I spent about half the time dicking around with settings).  When I opened the pictures in my photo viewer I started to think about intensity.  Are people hooked on a saturated version of the world, like the "Pop" filter on apps?  Do you slip the intensity slider a little to the right?  And if you do.. what are you moving towards... does the brighter version seem truer, more fun or just more like the life people will Like?

This is as it was recorded by me and the camera.
This is with saturation maxed so I hope it makes you feel nauseous but
there are many published photos on the continuum towards this hyped sky.
Ansel Adams, probably the greatest american landscape photographer wrote about an experience climbing a ridge west of Mt. Clark:

"I saw more clearly than I have ever seen before or since the minute detail of the grasses, the clusters of sand shifting in the wind, the small flotsam of the forest, the motion of the high clouds streaming above the peaks. There are no words to convey the moods of those moments.”

Don't get me wrong, I am glad people get out to National Parks but what I hope they find there is an experience of the minute detail of things, the humility of breath in the great sweep of the earth.  This was not that moment.

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