New Print from the Lower Owens River Project

I finally had a chance to develop my films from my June trip out West. I even developed some other films that were sitting in a box for just over a year . . . This from my most recent trip to work on my series on the Lower Owens River Project. This was made near the culverts on the South side of Manzanar Reward Road. I have been mapping some of the images on Google Earth. Here is an image from Google Maps of what the area looked like before water was flowing. View Larger Map

Lower Owens River, Inyo County, California,  June, 2008

Special Holiday Print Offer

I am offering a special holiday promotion on all 8x10-inch contact prints from my website. This offer will last until the end of the year, and will include a gift of one 8x10-inch silver gelatin contact print when you purchase one at full price ($400 + shipping). This will help offset the cost of materials and future trips to continue photographing the Lower Owens River Project. More information and photographs from the first year of the project can be found on my Website.

Owens Valley Diptych, 2007

First Night in the New Darkroom and More Lower Owens River Project Updates



I have needed to build a new darkroom for every house I moved into for the last six or seven years. Some have been nicer than others–with running water and heating/air conditioning—and some have been in nasty, dank basements, or ones so small I needed to do a week of crunches before I could develop my films. Last night, I printed for the first time in my new darkroom I just set up in the attic. It does not have running water, and I have to carry it up a flight of stairs, and commandeer the bath tub to set up the print washer. But, it feels good, and because of that, I feel like I will be more productive than in some of my previous darkrooms.




It kindof reminds me of the forts I used to build with friends as a little kid—using sheets, books, the coffee table—whatever was on hand. And that is the kind of the spirit that went into this one. It really made me reconnect with what got me so excited about photography in the first place. Not to sound cliche, but having an image appear on paper with nothing more than light and a few chemicals is sort of magical—even more so now that I am actually making beautiful prints (as apposed to the chalky gray ones my first time around). It also made me remember the reason I started using an 8x10 in the first place—the simplicity of  it all.

Here are two of the prints I made last night. Both are from my most recent trip the Owens Valley.

Owens Lake, November, 2007


Owens (dry) Lake near the Lower Owens River Project Pumpback Station and Delta Area. It will be interesting to see how this area changes in the next few years. There are no plans to refill the lake, and much if it is levied off for the dust mitigation program. There is, though, a small continuous flow of water to support the delta wildlife habitat area. 


Tree near Lower Owens River, November, 2007


In the Lower Owens River Riparian habitat area. Near Lone Pine, California. November, 2007


Lower Owens River Project Update - December, '07

I finally got around to scanning some of the photographs I made on my trip in September, and a few of the ones I have printed from my most recent trip in November.

Lower Owens River, Sept. ‘07


Lower Owens River at Release Point, Sept. ‘07

Lower Owens River at Release Point, Sept. ‘07


Lower Owens River, Nov. ‘07

Also, I just updated my website with some of these new photographs, as well as added captions with a more specific location for each individual picture (you will have to click to the right of the image where is says "show / hide caption").

I hope to have the remaining negatives printed from this last year by the end of the month, so keep checking back for more updates.


Canal, Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California, 1912

I found this photograph from this website some time ago when I was doing research for my Lower Owens River project. In addition to having an incredible archive of photographs, one could also do a great deal of research on so many issues that have created California as we know it today.

It is interesting to see the difference in attitudes toward the environment, and how they have changed over the last century—although most of those changes have probably been in the last 15-25 years.

Trees and Originality

After just finishing some printing and scanning of more photographs from my last trip to California, I was talking with someone about photographing the Lower Owens River Project. I mentioned that part of what I am doing documenting the changes in the landscape. But along with that, I want to make personal records of what I feel makes this place so special. That thought was reaffirmed earlier this evening as I was reading an essay that, on the surface, was a defense of straight photography which draws its inspiration from the natural world.


Lower Owens River, June, 2007

Some people believe, because that specific "genre" has been so thoroughly explored, there is no possibility for originality by working in such" traditional" ways. The essay I was reading earlier tonight was born from that very argument. Originally written in 1976 by a graduate student at RISD, and to substantiate his point of view, he included ideas about the nature of art, originality, and expression—some of which are the best I have ever read. There are several other articles and essays here that I should to have enough time this week on which to read and reflect. But, in the mean time, I will simply post a statement by the Modernist painter, Paul Klee. This was originally published 1924 in Modern Artists on Art, and, I think, it is still as relevant as ever.

For the Artist, communication with nature remains the essential condition. The artist is human; himself nature; a part of nature within natural space."

May I use the simile of a tree? The artist has studied this world of variety,, and has, we may suppose, unobtrusively found his way in it. His sense of direction has brought order into the passing stream of image and experience. This sense of direction in nature and life, this branching and spreading array, I shall compare with the root of the tree.

From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him, flows to his eyes.

Thus he stands as the truck of the tree.

As in full view of the world, the crown of the tree unfolds and spreads in time and in space, so with his work.

Nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of its roots. Between above and below can be no mirrored reflection.

And yet, standing at his appointed place he does nothing more that gather and pass on what come to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules—he transmits.

His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.

--Paul Klee

Lower Owens River Project Update - July

Here is an excellent article and short video from Sunday's LA Times about the progress of the Lower Owens River Project.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped me with this photographic project so far. Being on the East Coast, I am often not able to keep as close a watch of what is happening with the progress of the project as I would like. I truly appreciate the people with their eyes and ears open who send me new information and updates that I can't get myself.

Website Update

The Lower Owens River Project section of my website has just been updated. There are now ten additional pictures from my most recent trip in May. I still have ten-fifteen more negatives to print from the trip, and should have those up within the next few weeks. Here is a picture from the trip that didn't properly fit with the rest of the sequence, but I think should still be shown someplace.

More New Work

This new picture from my Lower Owens River Project is similar to other pictures of trees I have made in the last few years. These pictures, which are usually very dense, are the ones that I feel push my vision forward in new, unexpected directions.

The photographer, Justin James Reed, posted one of those pictures on his blog a few days ago. It is actually one of the few pictures I feel is a turning point in my work.

When I have consciously set out trying to make these dense tree pictures the results are nearly always failures. The few times where I have made the really successful ones-- the ones that I feel push my vision forward-- are usually the last pictures I make that day, and result from working very intensely in one area for a short period of time. It is as if these pictures are a culmination up everything I saw and felt until that point.

Lower Owens River Project Updates

In January of 2007, I began photographing the 62-mile stretch of river and delta area that is being affected by the diversion of water from the aqueduct. This will be a several year project that will focus primarily on documenting the reestablishment of the Lower Owens River ecosystem. You can read about the Lower Owens River Project here.

I have been able to find relatively little news about the progression of the project. The latest update I have seen is that the mandated flow rates were met in April.

I was photographing there in early February and early May. I will give my impression of the changes I have seen so far over. It seems like a good time to bring this up because I am in the middle of printing the negatives from the trip this spring.

Someone just asked me if I have seen any significant changes in the Owens Valley at this point? Well, yes and no. I am not a scientist so I can't say authoritatively what is happening in the environment. But, I can look at the trees, and watch the birds and try to catch some fish.

There are locked gates that keep you out of the area from the east side of the river, and there is barbwire along the whole of the road that runs on the east side of the river. That is where they are creating the lakes. You can climb through the barbwire, but then it is a LONG walk to the river from that point.

After I get all the negatives printed from this last trip I am going to approach Inyo Water to get access to all the closed-off areas. I hope I can start working there in the fall.

What most people don't realize is that this is much more than just opening the gates and letting water flow back into the river. They are creating waterways that will recreate small lakes for fish and waterfowl, and creating ways to water pastures so cattle don't disrupt the rehabilitation efforts.

There were always trees along the river, even when it was dry, but they were mostly tamerisk (salt cedar). Inyo Water has been bulldozing and burning those trees (which are actually invasive plants). I walked into one of those areas that was burnt when I was out in May, but it was too hot, and too far of a walk to do with an 8x10. (Although I generally don't like off-highway-vehicles, I am considering borrowing one on my next trip out there in order to go down those roads that are too soft and narrow for my father's truck).

There are certainly more birds than I ever remember as a kid. More even that when I would cruise the back roads to photograph five years ago. I did come across a place east of Lone Pine that might give an indication to how beautiful it will all be in the coming years. Though that also raises a concern, which was one reason for me doing the project in the first place.

My grandfather said to me once something to the effect of, "In a way, LA saved this valley. By taking all the water, they kept all the people away." What will happen to the Valley once people know about how beautiful it really is?