In this this blog I present 17 year old film photographs, and a few other shots from separate visits to Bow Willow in the southeastern Anza Borrego desert; 1995, 2007, 2009.
The first time I went to the desert was for Chico State field camp, which took place between semesters in the barren lands east of San Diego. It was called ‘Anza’ by those who had been. This colloquial name, shortened from Anza-Borrego, had carried over in our school from years prior when most fieldwork was done in the park. Our first day was within Anza-Borrego park at Bow Willow campground.
I was given a 35mm camera over the holidays in 1994: a Kodak Cameo zoom that had a panoramic mode. I shot seven rolls before getting them back to learn that these panoramic shots were not very useful. Worse, was my penchant for making multi-shot panoramas with the panoramic mode. I had to learn by making mistakes. I couldn’t hear what the 42 year-old guy in our class who quite calmly assured me that panoramas would come together better if shot sideways. Walt was absolutely right. When the photos came back and we all got together to share, his 35mm slr and sideways panoramas trounced mine. Plus, at that time, I used a fairly terrible print lab. So to see these images from the negatives for the first time is pretty neat for me. The trouble was that I shot about two hundred frames on six rolls of film over two weeks. A short time later in March 1995, I shot another ton of film in the central Nevada desert. After that March trip, I shot much less with the Cameo. It is easy see that I had the same passion for photographs way back when.
After the long drive from Chico to Ocotillo, our first day was at Bow Willow campground. There I saw what granite weathers like in the desert for the first time. The alluvial surfaces at Bow Willow are comprised primarily of gruss, or disintegrated granite.
We had great respect for our lithology professor Howard Stensrud. Most of us had learned all we knew of geology from him up to that point. The major was linear, and only after his Historical Geology course in the spring could you take his Mineralogy and Lithology course in the fall. We’d all just finished that class the semester before and this was our first real application of our first year learning geology.
He spoke of metamorphic skarns, schistose rocks, and plutonic intrusions.
Pictured are Steve Sunding, Peter Oblander, John Haberland, Dennis Jones, David Pyles, Dr. Howard Stensrud, Brian Solecki, Tony Mikacich, Walt, Bob Hess, Heidi Ring
The landscape was totally alien. Our first task was to measure the slope of the fan with tape measures and brunton compasses. I remember being slightly bewildered for a couple of reasons. The upper class students had told us only of the difficult mapping that awaited us at Fossil Canyon in the southeastern Coyote Mountains. Plus, the major emphasis was on ‘hard rock geology’, so this homework in alluvium (that easy to map, Qal, color with a yellow colored pencil), was not in my head. I specialized in this type of geology in graduate school, studying the morphology of alluvial fans in the central Nevada desert about 10 years after this introduction to desert landscapes.
Below, gruss detail from a visit in 2009:
With my second roll of film in my new camera (iso400 Kodak Gold), I visualized a three shot panorama. I believe I climbed on top of the university van. Looking east at left (and into the sun), rotating to southwest at right. It took 17 years to see it as I imagined that day in 1995.
Of course, these fake panoramic negatives were lame, and I took way too many before I understood that the camera was blacking out parts of the 35mm negative. Looking more closely at the first and last shots are fun. On the right-hand edge below, for whatever reason our 6’7” classmate Walt is running to the left.
Jason and Nathan were some of the funniest guys I went to school with.
For a few years there, I was a closing clerk at a clothing store. The holiday shopping scene at the mall was something to see. Since I was hired as a seasonal hire the year before, I suppose these are one year into my tenure at the long-forgotten Miller’s Outpost. I won’t forget the good times I had there, but I recall being eager to move on and being a professional. How life can mock you! (These shots are from only days before).
Indeed, if I thought computers and data would frustrate me then, boy, I didn’t know the half of it. Or rather, the 0.5 of it. (btw, look at the lens distortion at upper left below!)
So out at Bow Willow, I was just getting a taste for geology, photography, and the wonders of being ‘out there’. In this shot, were are standing within the panorama that opened this roll of film.
I put in a roll of Royal Gold 400; the only time I think I used such film.
All of these years later, this film is much better looking than the other rolls. More photographs will be in a future blog. There is major distortion of this Kodak Cameo’s lens. I got over wearing those big Red Wing boots. I used to say they would last through my PhD, but I found them to be far too heavy duty for Quaternary mapping. I still wear an Ultimate Hat, though I now have a lighter duty than the one seen here. And yes, those are Oakley Blades that I borrowed, knowing our fondness for winging hammers into bedrock.
It is a little hard to stop, but I will wrap things up. After that first visit in 1995, it took nearly thirteen years to make it back to Bow Willow. I had lived in western Kentucky since September, and though I was warned, I was not prepared for the deep cold I found in Zion, KY. It was great to be out in desert.
My life was headed towards some major changes as I geared up and regrouped for what proved an ill-fated move to Nashville.
When one learns from mistakes, it can become hard to stop making them; each brings a flood of new wisdom.