Backside of the Grand Tetons

Teton Valley — Idaho

The Grand Tetons. If you’ve never seen them, you have no idea just how truly stupendous they are in person. They are so tall and massive compared to all of the other mountains and peaks around them, they can be seen for at least 125 miles (201 km) on a clear day. Even the word “grand” doesn’t do them justice, as they totally dominate the skyline in both Idaho and Wyoming for — seemingly — forever.

If I have any claim to make of my childhood, this is it. Southeastern Idaho and the sections around there — where the Grand Tetons are always looming on the horizon — are the stomping grounds of my youth. They are the place that I’ve always considered home, and the place that I’ve always tried to get back to as an adult.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the famous naturalist and preservationist, John Muir, wrote the following letter to his sister — which includes the entirety of his famous quote (highlighted in yellow):

Dear Sister Sarah:

I have just returned from the longest and hardest trip I have ever made in the mountains, having been gone over five weeks. I am weary, but resting fast; sleepy, but sleeping deep and fast; hungry, but eating much. For two weeks I explored the glaciers of the summits east of here, sleeping among the snowy mountains without blankets and with but little to eat on account of its being so inaccessible. After my icy experiences it seems strange to be down here in so warm and flowery a climate.

I will soon be off again, determined to use all the season in prosecuting my researches–will go next to Kings River a hundred miles south, then to Lake Tahoe and adjacent mountains, and in winter work in Oakland with my pen.

The Scotch are slow, but some day I will have the results of my mount mountain studies in a form in which you all will be able to read and judge of them. In the mean time I write occasionally for the Overland Monthly, but neither these magazine articles nor my first book will form any finished part of the scientific contribution that I hope to make. . . . The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

My love to you all, David and the children and Mrs. Galloway who though shut out from sunshine yet dwells in Light. I will write again when I return from Kings River Canyon. The leaf sent me from China is for Cecelia.

Farewell, with love everlasting

John Muir — September 3, 1873

Even though Muir was writing about his beloved mountains in what is now Yosemite National Park in California, his words resonate for me in the same way about the area in and around the Grand Tetons… an area that I hope to soon call home again.

Photo info:
The backside of the Grand Tetons
Teton Valley
Tetonia, Idaho
September 2014
Apple iPhone 5S


Abandoned cabin — Arco, Idaho

Anytime we go on a road trip, I always bring along with us a camera kit of some sort and my watercolor field kit. However, we usually have so much ground to cover during our headlong flight along the spiderweb of asphalt that we are rarely able to stop long enough for me to get in a plein air watercolor painting — which usually can take me anywhere from 30-to-60 minutes or so (longer if I take the time to really enjoy my surroundings). Instead, we can briefly pause long enough for me to take photos of a scene to use as a later reference for a studio painting, like this one — a tiny abandoned cabin, out in the middle of nowhere

Can you imagine living in this tiny place that’s so isolated? As a profound anti-social introvert, I certainly can, though I expect life was quite tough here when the cabin was occupied — the closest town was at least 20-miles away, the ground is all basalt (hardened lava), it’s high desert (almost a mile above sea level), not much in the way of water or game, no trees for as far as the eye can see, and not much grows here beyond desert scrub (i.e., little in the way of farm crops).

Like I said, life was tough… maybe that’s why the cabin is abandoned.

Photo info:
Abandoned cabin
Arco, Idaho
September 2014
Kodak TMAX 100 film
Voigtländer 15/4.5 ASPH lens
Leica M3 35mm film camera


Sand dunes — St. Anthony, Idaho

During one of our many road trips to the American West, we stopped by the St. Anthony Sand Dunes. The sand dunes were new to me. Even though my hometown of Idaho Falls was fairly close by, I’d never been to the sand dunes before and didn’t even know that they existed. Considering that this section of eastern Idaho is all basalt, sand dunes just didn’t figure into my perception of what home really was.

However, once we parked in front of them, there was no denying that the sand dunes were right there in front of our eyes — so we spent most of the day exploring them and the surrounding area. This particular photo was taken on the northern side of the sand dunes, in an area devoid of anything but a rough dirt road and desert scrub… no houses, no fences, no property markers, no trees, no water… nothing except short bushes of aromatic sagebrush and isolated patches of tall dry grass.

Which makes the KEEP OUT sign all the more baffling… keep out of what, precisely? Keep out of trouble, perhaps? There was nothing to denote a property line. The only road was the one we were on, which was public, even if it was just dirt and poorly maintained. Not only that, but this was the only KEEP OUT sign to be found… weathered and forgotten.

Photo info:
Keep Out
St. Anthony Sand Dunes
St. Anthony, Idaho
September 2014
Kodak TMAX 100 film
Voigtländer 15/4.5 ASPH lens
Leica M3 35mm film camera