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Death Valley Elementals

In California’s Death Valley geologic forces are visible in the intersecting erosion lines and soil layers, the rock fractures and seams. Shifting tectonic plates created deep basins and high mountain ranges; ejected lava and ash to form the black slopes around ancient volcanic craters. Upthrust mountains erode onto immense alluvial plains. The bottom of the valleys are flat and cracked, the mud and salt pans baking in the sun, a quiet evaporation of a mineral wash.

This geological dynamism inspired me to do some image terraforming of my own. I have manipulated my images to replicate some of nature’s forces and imagine what Death Valley might look like if somehow the sea were able to pour back in and the resulting inland seas began to fill with life or if the volcanos were to erupt again.

Yet one of the most straightforward shots in this series, ‘Mud Hills,’ always gives me a moment of joy: it’s the bare eroded surfaces, the vein like skin of the earth recedes into gullies and the long gray sweep of the alluvial plain in the foreground is spotted with bits of struggling vegetation.

Death Valley is sometimes dangerous, wide-open, quiet, beautiful and endlessly appealing.