Tag Archives: Landscape Photography

The Bonneville Salt Flats are Dying


Tire tracks on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Tire tracks mar the salt near the Bonneville Speedway. Drive at your own risk.

It seemed like I’d been walking for hours. I couldn’t tell. I lost track of time, long ago. There were signs that others had been here before me, tracks in the salt, but I was alone.

I thought I heard something and stopped to listen. Were my ears playing tricks on me, inventing sounds in the stillness that weren’t there? I couldn’t tell.

My pounding heart was the only sound. All else was stillness. Oppressive, silence.

I was alone.

I began again, and the muffled shuffle of my shoes in the salt beat eighth notes to the sixteenth notes of my heart.

I was thirsty. I needed water.

The Sun glistens on water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The setting sun glistens on the water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I had run out . Yet, I could see it on the surface of the salt, shimmering, teasing, taunting. The closer I got the farther it seemed to be.

If I could  just make it to the mountains.

Bonneville Salt Flats reflections.
Water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats forms a near perfect mirror.

Splashes, suddenly. The sound was refreshing. My steps disturbed a sea of glass. The mirage had not retreated. It was real. The surface stretched for miles. My footsteps sent expanding ripples across the glassy mirror, distorting the sky below me.

Bonneville Salt Flats under water.
A thin sheet of water covers the Bonneville Salt Flats at certain times of the year.

I took two more steps and stumbled. The salt gave way to mud beneath it and my shoes remained behind. I fell to my knees and my pants sucked up water, wet coolness, rising slowly up my thighs. I watched the khaki darken with curiosity, as if my clothes were trying to suck waning life back into my body.

Water covering miles and miles of the Bonneville Salt Flats is only a few inches deep.
Shallow water covers miles and miles of the Bonneville Salt Flats at certain times of the year.

Somewhere inside my head I sensed, maybe even knew, I should not drink this water. It renewed these salt plains. But it was so blue, so clear, and the need was so great. My lips were cracked and my tongue was dry.

I could not resist.

Salt Flats mountain reflections.
A distant rocky mountain reflects on water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I cupped my hands and scooped up the water.  It felt cool on my skin, wet. I opened my mouth and slurped it in. Again, in my head, I knew. I should not have done this.

I was consumed by greed and the reaction was violent. I sputtered and spit. My throat burned. When the brine reached my stomach I retched.

A distant rocky mountain reflects on water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.
It can be difficult to determine where the earth ends and the sky begins in the perfect reflections of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Falling forward, my body pushed a large wave across the glass and I broke the surface. The water was not deep. Just enough to cover my face. Salt surrounded me and I looked upon my body, reflecting through the glassy side of a mirror.

When these waters withdraw, others will find evidence that I have been, preserved by salt.

The Bonneville Speedway on the Bonneville Salt Flats used to be thirteen miles long. Now it is only seven. It is not known if the cause of the shrinking salt is due to the depletion of the aquifer as a result of nearby mining, or, from seasonal heavy rains. Nevertheless, the land speed records which have been set in years past must now be accomplished in  shorter distances, as time may be running out on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Sometimes I Can Fly

It started slowly, the falling. At first I was flying, rising on gentle currents. The higher I went, the better the view. It was amazing. I could see everything.

There is something liberating about seeing the world below from great heights above. No sense of fear whatsoever. Drifting with the breeze.


I thought I was drifting. But I wasn’t just drifting. Was I?

I was falling. A knot in the pit of my stomach grew tighter. l fell faster. My insides were screaming. Slow down. Slow up.

I was flying so high that it shouldn’t matter. I couldn’t fall so far. Could I?

Sometimes in dreams I can fly.

In one recurring dream I am running, on a mesa cliff. It looks like the Grand Canyon, but isn’t. For some reason, not fully known to me, I run off the edge and the earth beneath my feet disappears.

I can’t breathe.

The sensation of falling takes my breath away. The rocky cliffs dive to a snaking river below.  Terminal velocity forces air from my lungs. I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE.

Autumn in American Fork Canyon, Utah.

Sometimes, in this dream, I fly. Air returns to my lungs like a drink of cool water on a hot day. I can feel it all the way down. These are good dreams.

Other times, I fall. This time, I’m falling.

Is it a dream? I’m not entirely sure. To be self aware and asleep is a conundrum I can not quite resolve.

Fall leaves color the forest.

I have heard it said that if you actually crash, or hit the ground in your dreams, you die. The reality of this moment is that the sensation of falling feels like death. Death would be a relief from the falling. To fall forever, fear tying each muscle into knotted searing cramps would be a torment worthy of Dante’s examination.

Fall Leaves.

Yet the ground grows no closer. I open my eyes and see colors exploding in brilliance all around me. Then, one leaf falls, and another, and another and…

…they are gone. The sunset season has ended. Winter’s chill is close. I can feel it coming.

In this dream, I will open my eyes before the last leaf touches earth.


The Colors of Brazil

I enjoy watching the Olympics. I’m especially pleased to see the Olympics in Brazil. I was able to visit Brazil just prior to World Cup. It was a crazy, cultural and colorful experience. I witnessed strikes, mobs, gunfire and incredibly beautiful and colorful scenery. The food was amazing. I ate things I had never heard of.  I met friendly  people and heard styles of music that were filled with life and celebration. My experience in Brazil was amazing.

A Brazilian family out for a stroll.
A Brazilian family out for a stroll.

My friends in Brazil would not take me to the Favelas. They said it was too dangerous. They didn’t want me to get hurt, or robbed.  They didn’t want me to see the poverty, overcrowding, pollution and social problems associated with the Favelas.

Two men in Olinda, Brazil.
Waiting, just waiting on the street in Olinda, Brazil.

Nevertheless, the problems were there. I could feel it in the city. I could feel it in the tension among people. It was present in the bus strikes, the police strikes, the metro strikes. It was seeping out of the Favelas.

São Paulo Police
São Paulo Police strike prior to the World Cup.

We were eating lunch at a restaurant near the harbor. Suddenly the lights in the restaurant went out. The restaurant owner told us we had to leave. They were closing. The mobs were coming. The police were on strike and the mobs were looting and robbing.

We had to go.

Now, the Olympics are in Rio and the world celebrates the games. However, many Brazilians, proud of their country and culture, are excluded from the celebration. They can’t afford it.

Hopefully, these games will be a celebration of the the Olympic spirit which inspires all of us, regardless of country and culture. And, hopefully, that same spirit will help to elevate the quality of life in Brazil and shed light on problems which afflict us all, not just those in Brazil.  Perhaps these games will move an immensely complicated people to search for answers to the growing social ills that color the lives of a very colorful country.

Gators and Raindrops on Boggy Creek

Airboats are really loud. If the alligators we were searching for couldn’t hear us coming, they couldn’t hear.

Boggy Creek Airboats.
Boggy Creek Airboats–they’re fast, and fun.

As I put on my sound dampening ear protection, I was pretty sure any, or all, wildlife on Boggy Creek would be gone, scared away by the sounds of a giant airplane prop spinning at a million rpms. When our boat pilot punched it, the airboat jumped, skipping across the water.

We skimmed across sawgrass marsh and into Boggy Creek where the vegetation was thick. The airboat glided over lily pads, grasses and anything else as if it were sliding on ice.  Occasionally the undergrowth would part and reveal that we were, actually, on water.

Reeds and Marsh.
Reeds, marsh and wetlands line Boggy Creek and Lake Toho.

Certain parts of the vegetation were thicker. It looked like dense growths of mangroves, vines, lily pads, grasses, cat tails and other greenish, brownish, orangish stuff had coalesced to form floating islands. As we glided deeper and deeper into the swamp, the vegetation and the floating islands grew thicker.

When our boat pilot cut the engine and the props spun out, the stillness was deafening.

“Look there,” someone on the boat whispered.

Boggy Creek Alligators.
This baby alligator hides among the lily pads of Lake Toho.

A small alligator, maybe 2-and-a-half feet long, scurried over and under branches, and brushes and bushes, then froze. He seemed to know we were watching. Perhaps by not moving he thought we would get bored and go away.

We did–go away. The pilot fired up the engine and we roared off in search of other dragons.

Flying through boggy creek on an airboat is great fun, but the real excitement comes when you stop. In the stillness of the bog and the quiet of a stilled motor, a marvelous world unfolds. The bog is teeming with wildlife. Rare birds, exquisite bugs, unique vegetation, and alligators all share a wetlands eco-system of tremendous diversity.

Wild blooming lilies.
Lilies in bloom in the marshes of Boggy Creek.

Boggy Creek flows into Lake Tohopekaliga, at the very north end of the Kissimmee River, with its system of interconnecting lakes. Not actually within Everglades National Park, Lake Toho and the marshes of Boggy Creek share many commonalities with the Florida wetlands park, including alligators and crocodiles.

Within Everglades National Park numerous rare and endangered species share a protected habitat relatively free from urban encroachment and environmental neglect. Outside the park, just miles from the entrance, no such protections exist. The iconic wetlands outside the park are threatened by over-development and pollution. The eco-system, both inside and outside the Glades, is intimately connected. Unfortunately for wetlands wildlife, there are no doors at the park entrance.

Boggy Creek, Florida.
Boggy Creek flows into Lake Tohopekaliga, near Kissimmee, Florida.

As we returned to the dock, storm clouds gathered above the lake. Lightning flashed, thunder cracked, the skies broke and the rains poured out. The downpour lasted for only a few minutes, but was powerfully cleansing.

When the rains stopped, the air cooled, the sun broke through clouds, calm returned and blue skies once again reflected on the mirror-like waters of Lake Toho. And, for a moment, the airboats were quiet.


Desert Ghosts

The air was dry–bone-dust drifting on a desert draft. A storm was coming, you just couldn’t see it yet.

I could hear an engine–distant but closing. The angry sound broke a stillness the desert was reluctant to give up.

Desert dirt road.
Arizona highway? Just a dirt road in the desert.

A Border Patrol agent looked like he was cruising main on Saturday night, one hand on the wheel and one arm out the window–low and slow, The mud caked SUV stopped rolling and a red dust cloud wafted across the sun.

“What you boys doin’ out here?”

Grit ground in my teeth and I spat. “Taking pictures.” I held up my camera.

“Nice night for it,” he said. The sun was setting, but it wasn’t night yet. “Best be careful.”

The way he said it, I wondered if I should call my attorney. I nodded, not agreeing, just nodding.

Marana sunset.
Arizona sunset near Marana, Arizona.

“Ghosts,” he said, shaking his head like I knew what he was talking about, “don’t leave no tracks.”  He looked  down at the dirt and I couldn’t see his eyes. “They like to cross the border after dark.”

He continued to study the sandy ground for a long moment. Then he looked up. Our eyes met.

“Watch yourselves,”  he said.

A coyote howled in the distance.

“Ghosts,” he said again. He tipped his hat and the SUV lurched forward. Tire tracks appeared where tires used to be and a new dust cloud buried their trail.

As the SUV disappeared into the desert, the sun touched a mountain and set the sky on fire.  Quiet fell on falling dust.

Arizona Sunset.
Sunset near Marana, Arizona.

My friend came out of the brush with his camera and tripod.

“What was that about?”

I thought I knew, but I wasn’t sure. I could hear movement in the brush. Footsteps, maybe.

“Ghosts.”  I Pressed the cable release on my camera. The mirror popped up and the shutter opened. The sound was louder than I remembered.  “They like to cross the border after dark.”

Lightning flashed on the horizon. The sound of a distant jet called from above. The coyote howled again.

Moon rise.
A crescent moon rises after sunset over the Arizona desert.

We stayed there taking pictures until long after the light was gone.


Stopping by Woods…

I lived in New England for two years. My first winter was spent in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, my second winter in Maine. Both winters were brutal. I was cold all the time. Nor’easters or down’easters were common. I survived the blizzard of ’78. One storm was so bad we couldn’t open our apartment door because the snow drifts were too high. We had to climb out the window and dig out the snow so we could open the door. Another time, we lost power for days because the ice storms had stripped the power lines and trees. The damage was horrific. But the world was sparklingly beautiful. It was during this time that I fell in love with the poetry of Robert Frost. His words evoke imagery and meaning with powerful poetic device which transcends place.

DSC05228_29_30_Mountain FenceI no longer live in the east. Yet the seemingly simple home spun lessons of the New England poet stay with me. The words resonate in my western surroundings in spite of their New England sensibilities. Frost’s poetic imagery transcends time and place. The inspiration I found in the New England woods is also to be found in the Wasatch Mountains.


by Robert Frost (an extract)

DSC05253_4_5_Snowy WoodsWhose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow…

…The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

by Robert Frost (an extract)

DSC05207_Snow Fence…He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours”…

Aruba–Bodies in the Sand

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…
Beach Boys

Palm Beach Aruba Couple from James Dalrymple on Vimeo.

I enjoy the four seasons, I really do, especially Vivaldi’s. When it comes to the weather, I like it warm. Hot. Rarely is it ever too hot. I live in Utah. This week, Thanksgiving week, it is supposed to snow. Don’t get me wrong, I like snow. I even like to shovel snow. I just don’t like the cold that comes with the snow. I would enjoy the four seasons more in Aruba, where the average high temperature in November is 86ºƒ and the low temperature is 71ºƒ. Gentle breezes blow all year round and the temperature never varies by more than a few degrees.

I’ve been to Aruba.
I want to go back.

As our family gathers for the holidays, I give thanks for the warmth of home, family, food and abundant blessings. However, as the snow begins to fly, I will turn my electric blanket up and dream of warm Caribbean waters, tropical breezes and the white sands of Aruba. And, I will return, at least in my blog.

Fall in the Wasatch Mountains

I turned off the engine and got out of my car. The first thing I noticed was the quiet. My footsteps crunched. The sound shattered the quiet so I stopped moving.

Not even a breath of air disturbed the stillness.

Late fall colors.
Late fall colors behind Mt. Timpanogos.

I strained to hear something, anything. A distant bird cry, found my ears. A hawk floated on invisible air currents above a mountain meadow. It had seen me first. Its screech brought relief. I had not lost my hearing, rather, I had lost the noise of cities and people when I drove beyond the paved road. It would take some time for my brain to adjust to the back country silence.

Heavy footsteps echoed against the mountains, coming closer. A father and son lumbered past, walking a nearby trail with rifles and backpacks. Deer hunters. They were not quiet. The deer would hear them coming.

Aspen Grove.
The leaves are mostly gone from this aspen grove behind Mt. Timpanogos, although fall colors remain.

I turned from my overlook and hiked into the Aspens. The stillness of open land evaporated amidst the stand of trees. It was not that it wasn’t quiet. It was more that the trees were aware of my passing and were whispering among themselves. I could hear them, but I could not understand the words. I was not unwelcome, but I was watched.

Fall had come to the high mountains. The calendar did not yet speak of winter, but the nearly barren branches spoke of cold nights and shortened days. Fall colors still glowed beneath the trees, holding on to their end-of-life color. There must be an inherent knowledge in nature that life will come again in order to celebrate death with such brilliance.

Mountain stream, American Fork Canyon.
Time slows down near a mountain stream in American Fork Canyon.

In the distance I could hear the soughing of water. In a few minutes I found the stream. It wasn’t a big stream but it had been raining and the gentle babble was swelling to a rush. A persistent drizzle suggested more rain was coming. Perhaps the stream had river aspirations.

American Fork Canyon.
Rays of light penetrate the clouds just before sunset in American Fork Canyon behind Mount Timpanogos.

I would not stay long in these mountains, this day. My journey was meant only as a reminder of peace and place and permanence in Mother Nature’s cycles.

I would touch the earth to quiet my soul and take with me a portion of stillness.

Transcendence, Capitol Reef in HDR

There are moments in life which transcend expectation, which transcend time. And there are places in life which transcend those moments. Transcendent experience is something to hope for, even, to seek after. Yet, the fleeting nature of transcendence reveals an existential quality of mortality.

Grand Valley
The road through Grand Valley, Capitol Reef.

Transcendence can not be achieved, it can only be experienced. And, the experience of transcendence  comes when least expected.

It may be that transcendence is only possible when the imposition of expectation has been removed. Perhaps, in those moments, there is a void which only grace can fill. As grace reveals divinity, divinity reveals truth. Truth transcends the moment and our understanding of existence, who we are, where we come from, what our purpose is, becomes clear, or, if not clear, at least implied. In transcendent moments, inspired questions transform the heart. The sacred nature of transcendent transformation ennobles the soul.

Chimney Rock.
Chimney Rock from a distance, Capitol Reef.

Capitol Reef is such a place–a place of transcendent transformation; transcendent because it exceeds expectation; transformative because it is slowly, yet contagiously transforming.

I have , purposely, waxed philosophic. Indeed, the loftiness of the ideas expressed can not compare to the actual grandeur of visiting Capitol Reef, however briefly I was there. In geologic terms, any time that I could spend there, however long that might be, would be brief. Nevertheless,the time I spent in the park was transcendent.

It is impossible to capture the essence of the place, nevertheless, the  majesty of the rocks cried out for something beyond the ordinary. So, forgive, if you will, my HDR sensibilities. While the images presented may lean toward hyper-reality, the actual experience of moments in Capitol Reef transcends the ordinary and claims the extraordinary.

Besides that, it was a lot of fun 🙂

Deep Time, Capitol Reef

It takes a while for things to change.
Patience and faith, they say.
I can’t wait. I won’t, I say.
You must.

Grand Wash Stars.
Stars above Grand Wash Capitol Reef.

Deep time puts the age of Earth at four-and-one-half billion years.

Hickman Bridge
Named after Joseph Hickman, Hickman natural bridge is 133 feet long and 125 feet high.

I sense immense distance in Earth’s span, yet the years mean nothing in comprehending the patterns of death and life and death again which deposit layers of yesterdays upon tomorrows, until all that remains is this moment.

I stand in a place where the evidence of change surrounds me, yet actual change can not be seen.

Perhaps these rocks crumble to dirt,
for a million, maybe a billion years, for me to walk this path.

Red dirt sticks to my shoes and I carry it with me in defiance of the law of long waits.

Capitol Valley.
The Freemont river cuts a valley just below Capitol Dome.

I am here. Now.

The wind soughs and the rocks speak in whispers. I stand still and listen. The words do not bring me comfort. Change is as the rocks.

Capitol Dome
Capitol Dome, Capitol Reef National Park.

I look up at the sandstone sentinels and the sky stretches out before me.

I am small, insignificant, tenuous.

I look down and a silver stream glints below towering canyon walls. My heart skips a beat and I step back from the ledge. I have climbed much higher than I realize.

Davy on the rocks.
Davy scales the cliffs near Hickman Bridge bowl.

My breath catches as my son scales the cliffs below me. The rocks he climbs are hard broken. I call out not to walk those rocks, they may crumble. He has not yet reached the precipice on which I stand and must choose his path. I squint in harsh sunlight and see myself in his approaching shadow.

I feel old.

I see in him that I am old,
old in that my body is not what it once was;
not so old, in that the elements which make up my frame have not yet been scattered by hot winds relentlessly carving through stone.

My son will climb much higher than I have steps remaining. Yet, I still have steps remaining.

And the Gods said, “Let it be so.” And they watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed. For even the Gods must watch and wait.

Big Dipper above Wind Gate Capitol Reef.
The Big Dipper rises above Grand Wash Wind Gate in Capitol Reef.

In the vast continuum of eternity, patience and faith take time.

So I am learning.

Towering sentinels of Capitol Reef.
Towering sentinels of Capitol Reef.

Wistfully, I lift a handful of dust and toss it to the sky. The wind accepts my offering.

My time has come. I have touched the rock of ages and must not linger.

In deep time,
the changes I hope for are carving the canyons of my soul.

Grand Valley
Capitol Reef National Park.