Thursday, November 17, 2011
A recent visit to MCKITTRICK!
No, I did not get to go... but I am proud and pleased to introduce my brother Reynolds Cushman to you. (We think and write a lot alike, but he has hair and a bigger... vocabulary) He did visit the Canyon just days ago, but since he does not blog, I asked him to start contributing to this one, and he graciously sent us this missive...
November 16, 2011 -- Pecos, Texas
If you know anyone that has worked in oil and gas, then you probably recollect that they travel a fair bit for work. That is a look down the drinking straw at the image of my life. I’m on the exploration end of the oil and gas business, and you are likely on the gas pump end of the oil and gas business. A lot goes into getting it found, up to the surface, through the pipes and into your Toyota or Ford, or to your gas stove. And like that little girl in the Shake And Bake commercials on tv in the 1970s, “and I helped!”
Travel for work is what I do, but that enables me to see a lot of fine country between Texas and Montana. My passion is photography. It gets me out chasing storms, sunsets, blue jays, aoudad (wild sheep), mountain peaks, horned toads, slivers of a river 1800 feet below shimmering in the setting sun -- and the occasional person worth photographing. Maybe they’ve got panache, or just got it, whatever “it” is, going on. I can go for weeks without taking a photo of a person. But when the right one steps into your life for that instant, it can be incomparable, so you shoot 30-50 shots then.
So go with me. Explore. Savor the tasty morsels of day trips I get to make every week in West Texas. I really like the long shadows of sunset and the light which often veritably explodes through the clouds just moments before the sun ducks away for the night.
This past year I’ve been to Alaska for a ptarmigan hunt, and spent months touring around Glacier National Park exploring and chronicling the park’s grandeur. Yes, Glacier is the crown jewel of the national parks. Then, after Alaska, I came to West Texas and got to explore the Davis Mountains during the colossal fires, and catch the powerful storms that mount and spill their fury on the parched landscape.
So come on! Get in, let’s go for a ride. We’ll find something that will just make you shake your head and smile big, and make you wonder why you never found this place before. I’m Reynolds, and I’ll be driving this herd across green pastures and chilly mountain streams.
West Texas is not only big but it is beautiful. Outsiders think they know what West Texas is about because they made a trip on I-10 once driving to Arizona -- and then they think they’ve seen West Texas. Not quite so fast. Reconsider: It is just breath taking and staggeringly beautiful at times and in places. Not all the time or in all the places, but it keeps offering up entrancing vistas to the interested sojourner. One just needs to look.
I’m a big fan of going back and shooting places I’ve enjoyed shooting before. It can be the gift that keeps on giving. I met a photographer’s wife in Montana last year staffing his booth at a fair in Kalispell. Magnficent photographic work. One was a late afternoon shot of jagged peaks bathed in orange, reflecting back into a lake absolutely still and reflecting the mountains wonderfully. The reeds in the grass were great, the sky was great, the exposure was superb, it was just awesome. Quick to chat a shopper up, she told me her husband had been going to that spot for over a year trying to get the right light, the right sky, the right water all at that one brief epoch that lingers just before sunset. It is a glorious time, and almost other worldly on occasion. He invested the time, over and over again, and it paid off. It just took months and months for him to hit a payday. But he did, and in spades. So don't be scared to take your camera back to a spot you've photographed three times before. Maybe the fourth time will be the jackpot you were chasing after the first three times and didn't catch.
This is a series of shots from McKittrick Canyon, on the east side of Guadalupe Mountains National Park right west of the elbow where Texas meets New Mexico, taken on November 6, 2011. The hordes go 40 miles up the road to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but for the few, the intrepid, McKittrick in late October each year is, well, out of this state kinda weird.
Eleven thousand years ago when the Wisconsin glaciation period retreated back into Canada, part of what it left behind was a small ecosystem -- isolated as deep canyons are -- which holds onto its plant life much more successfully that most anywhere else in Texas. A stand of maples has held onto the canyon, and annual gives a eye-feast to those willing to hike three miles out of the Chihuahuan desert into the nestled wonder called McKittrick Canyon. Just seeing the maples go through their madrigal dance any year is special.
Very special. They put off all the yellows and oranges and reds you could never imagine seeing in Texas, much less in a Texas framed by mountains. But it happens. Enjoy.
Reynolds Cushman aka Pecos Bill
Editor's Note: Yes, he is my little brother, and he is for real!