Arizona in landscape view

McCain Loop Road

McCain Loop Road

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Landscape photography is something that has come rather late in my artistic career.

It’s hard to say exactly what set it off, but when it happened it became a compulsion.

Catalina Mountains

Catalina Mountains

By way of background, I came to Tucson in 1971 to study geology at the University of Arizona. My larger goal was to study the geology of the moon, but in the meantime I would study the planet I could currently stand upon.

And there were similarities. In fact, in Arizona there were a lot of them. A big meteor crater, volcanoes, lava tubes andharsh environments of all sorts.

Train crossing in downtown Tucson

Train crossing in downtown Tucson

I confess, at first I couldn’t see the forest from the trees. The water and plant life seemed to get in my way in viewing the bare landscapes I longed to see. I sought out barren landscapes and enjoyed them.

As we stopped going to the moon as a species, I had to find something else to do with my life. Art and music filled the void, providing landscapes of the mind as unreachable and fascinating as the lunar surface from my grasp. The intangible kept its hold on me.

Catalina and Rincon mountain ranges under clouds

Catalina and Rincon mountain ranges under clouds

I worked at composing and becoming a performance artist, and found in those experiences more of a sense of who I was than I could express in words.

Yet words were still a large part of my life. I worked in newspapers to support my art habit. I went to concerts and tried to describe for those there and those not the mysteries that took place in these boxes with variable seating.

Eventually I felt frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the words and struck out to change my view. I started creating multimedia content for the newspaper’s website, and suddenly found myself very infrequently having to be in concert halls. Instead I was on football fields and political rallies. I was watching archaeologists dig the dirt for fragments of the past, and gazing at my viewfinder as fireworks filled the sky.

West of Gates Pass

West of Gates Pass

I was getting older and seeing history in my rear view mirror, coming to realize that all of history is someone’s experience of life.

And somehow I was drawn back out into the desert again, this time fascinated by the water and the clutter of cactus. I set my camera up and let it patiently watch the churning sky, punctuated occasionally by the passing of birds, animals and if I’d set things up badly enough, cars. I sped the footage up and watched the imperceptible unfold, and the magic of it took me to another time of imagination. A time when no cars and far fewer footprints marked the landscape.

East of San Xavier Mission

East of San Xavier Mission

I saw how different these landscapes had been when I first visited them 35 or more years back. There were fewer and fewer now that avoided population. Our thirst as a species for open spaces has robbed us of the delight we crave. We plunk our houses down and think no one will obscure our view, only to lose that precious view to others who seek the same thing.

The video could show me time but it too was frustrating. Even in high definition the detail was thin, and always the confinement of that tiny box.

I began to experiment at making patchworks panoramas of still photography, stitching them together electronically to create images approximating the broad landscapes that stretched out before me. There are times when what the camera has captured leaves me breathless, and others when I come home hating what I’ve been able to assemble. But when it comes together it tells a story no words can whisper, no phrase can encapsulate, no book can mimic.

View from A Mountain

View from A Mountain

I am at the infancy of my craft in this respect. Perfecting the techniques that captures the world as I see it takes time. Choosing new landscapes also takes time. And other things divide my time.

I make documentaries now to support myself. I talk with people and have them tell me about their lives and views of the world in their times. I stitch together from these stories panoramas of time and place. Joy and sorrow become sky and ground.

I write music still. There is endless joy in crafting and combining sounds, even if only a few care to hear them.  I make larger pieces from bits of spoken history, layering mosaics of time and space.

West of Gates Pass

West of Gates Pass

Still the earth and sky call me back. I watch the birds head out before dawn and watch them return at dusk. I see the colors and shapes of landscapes and sky. I watch the subtle play of light and dark. I turn my head and the world is different.

I search for places where few reside or even visit. I set my cameras up and methodically record the changes of the light.  I plan the next sortie to some degree, but often find myself just grabbing the camera and running when I see the world overhead coming to volatile life.

It never stops.

 

~ by Daniel Buckley on August 27, 2013.

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