Death Valley National Park is often thought of as a barren wasteland, devoid of any unusual features or life. The name alone implies that it is a harsh environment to exist and survive in, yet I find myself visiting every winter. The park is full of vast valleys filled with dune fields, mud cracks, salt flats, and almost every erosional feature you can think of. Every year I visit, I challenge myself to find different and exciting things to photograph. This past winter, I looked past the grand views and found a whole other world on the desert floor.
If one looks closely at the ground, another dimension of texture and patterns can be seen. I found myself focusing on these smaller yet impressive creations. These patterns in the mud, compositions in the sand, and mosaics of Earth are formed from the seasonal and erosional cycles in the desert. These represent fleeting moments in time when the rain puddles dry, and the currents of water flow through the sand and mud. It's evidence that moisture does exist in this harsh environment. As quickly as it happens and dries, these patterns are beaten down and eroded in just a few weeks under the harsh sun, never to be seen again. These patterns draw my eye and lens in every time because Mother Nature is a fantastic artist. The chaos of turbulent sand, the cracking mud, and evidence of small mudflows is what she leaves behind and what I love to get lost in. With imagination, they could represent anything, and even I forget at times that these are small-scale tapestries woven from the elements.
All of these were photographed from only a foot above the ground, yet I found myself feeling like I was shooting aerial photographs or walking on an unknown planet. It's easy to get lost in the grand landscapes around you when you're visiting a place. Sometimes, if you look down at the ground around you, a whole other world will appear to you.
This project was published in the 2018 Lenswork "Seeing in Sixes" book and issue 147 of Lenswork magazine.