A view from HWY 64 from just across the Arizona border, Teec Nos Pos, 2011
Mark Drolet has one of my favorite tumblr sites. I click the heart on nearly every post. Seeing his own work with more frequency has made it even better. He has meticulously tagged every post of a recent road trip, so you can view them all. He also captions them with the location, so you can go chase this magic yourself.
The roads in this area of the country are so consistent, with high speed limits and low traffic, that you can forecast hundreds of miles, with stops, in a day. Despite the little voice that says, “800 fucking miles?!” the ability to plan makes vast, insane travel seem almost rational.
Travelling with another person, you feel a little bit selfish every time you want to stop for a photo. Without this constraint, you might not get very far each day. To do it alone, both in terms of the motivation to stay driving, to keep going, to hunt around dark backroads of National Forests for a campsite - it takes a certain kind of energy. I emailed with Mark about how it was possible that he covered the mileage he did and yet took the amount of good photos.
He says: “just have the adrenaline going and a vision of clarity about what I am trying to seek out. The days were indeed long. I broke the tent down in the dark at 4am every morning and drove and shot through till at least 9pm or so every night. There were some days where I had to make long hauls (and some of the sites and landscape a bit drab), but I did my best to map out my pitstops for a quick nibble and a hike out to the best vantage point.”
I deeply love the southwest. I’m from the northeast, and it’s the area of the country that looks most different from the northeast. The geology is always right there. Mark’s photo above captures this. For those of us that know very little about geology, the southwest makes it obvious that things are happening (wind, temperature and water) and have been happening for a very long time (ancient volcanoes, ancient oceans, sand dunes, limestone caves, petrified forests).
In the southwest, most of the human interventions, the fences, the roads, the railroad, even the huge dams, feel temporary, insufficient, like a false start. It makes photographing difficult, how do you put the landscape into the tiny square of film or sensor? It’s so well-travelled, how do you find something unique here? Don’t worry about the obvious, the clichés, embrace it all. It starts with a trip, find a few places in Marks’ photos to see for yourself and go.
See Mark’s photos from Arizona, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon