Welcome friends - I'm posting published articles and sundry items as time allows. Most subjects pertain to conservation, photo trekking and tourism in borderlands Arizona, USA. More of my articles can be seen on my publisher's website

Friday, June 10, 2011

Article: "Love in the Desert"

(Published February 2009 in Murray Bolesta's "The Borderlands Photographer" in Tubac Villager.)
Valentine’s Day can inspire even the most grizzled borderlands photographer to reflect on the gentle topic of love, becoming mawkish with sentimentality.
I won’t claim a romantic mastery of this topic, and there isn’t exactly a shortage of discussion of love, even by photographers who are customarily mute and surly. But we’re in the season, and in the mood, so why not go for it. The task of capturing love in the desert with a lens can take the borderlands photographer into fanciful flights of lyrical abstraction and visual symbolism.
Literally finding love, as in two potential soul-mates (both with Nikons) stumbling across each other in some remote canyon, is not necessarily what I mean in this article. (However, serendipity of this sort is not outside the realm of possibility, so don’t give up hope. My luck, though, would be to encounter a well-armed border agent on patrol.)
Instead, the nature photographer’s task is to capture the pastoral equivalent of an urban romance, to record a backcountry symbol or token of the act or existence of love. Mother Nature gives us so many examples.
It’s motherly love in the extreme.

The borderlands photographer’s Valentine mixture of outdoor photos should include images reminiscent of love, tugging on the heartstrings of the viewer and creating a vivid and compelling picture.
These include symbols reminiscent of a heart. There are lots of these to be found in nature, from cacti to leaves to shadows. Symbolic also, are intertwined vines and closely-matched pairs of just about anything.
For the photographer, pairs of critters are a bit fewer and farther-between than a single one. A compelling photo of a solo animal, whether a bird or a mammal, is often hard enough to achieve. But from time to time a photographer will catch a pair close enough together to suggest affection in their behavior. Togetherness between any critters, displayed peacefully, is almost always a Valentine winner in photography.
The true emotion of love between critters is a notion I’ll leave to be pondered by others, but an instinctive appearance of such behavior, or an imitation of love, especially in the wild, is a goal of many nature photographers. The “awww” factor rises exponentially for any wildlife photo depicting tenderness or intimacy.
Taking the study a bit further afield, and still in our glorious borderlands outdoors, one can explore abstracted tangents of love, such as the pastoral nurturing of the land by a gardener tilling a row of heritage crops at Tumacacori Mission, or the compassion symbolized by a barrel of water left in the Ironwood Forest by humanitarians to aid desperate migrants.
Further, the painstaking stabilization of a crumbling adobe structure is a depiction of love for our borderland cultural heritage. Mother Nature’s monsoon rainfall to replenish a parched desert landscape is also a powerful nurturing symbol. For you, the lonely photographer wandering from mountain to valley, discovering these actions and symbols and recording them via the camera, can help replenish your own spirit and all those who share your love of borderland imagery.

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