Greetings from the Nevada desert, where Queen Anne (aka Lefty) and I embarked on a wild escapade, armed with nothing but our cameras and a sense of adventure that’s as robust as my morning coffee—deceptively strong and slightly bitter.
It all began in a Mexican restaurant in November, where we had planned to wrestle with the wilds of Gold Butte National Monument. But as we surveyed our gear, we realized we were about as prepared as a fish on a bicycle. With a sigh that echoed off the terracotta walls, we decided to pivot faster than a gambler on a losing streak.
So there we were, poring over maps and munching on nachos when the Valley of Fire State Park flickered onto our radar like a beacon of salvation—or at least a beacon of cell service and paved roads. It was a unanimous decision, fueled by the promise of not getting stuck and the allure of a good story to tell.
After a hearty debate over hash browns and highway maps at Peggy Sue’s Diner the following day, we plotted a less ‘Oregon Trail’ course and more ‘Sunday drive.’ We planned to loop through Overton, graze the shores of Lake Mead, and enter the Valley of Fire from the east, with a sunset deadline to beat the buffet back in Mesquite.
On a whim, we decided to pay our respects to the submerged ghost town of St. Thomas, which was now high and dry thanks to the ever-thirsty sun. The remains were intriguing, but we passed on the hike, preferring to keep our boots dust-free. Instead, I hatched a master plan to lure our friends—the Poteets—into a Jacques Cousteau-style watery charade involving wetsuits and mock-panicked flailing for a film I’d tentatively titled The Great St. Thomas Aquatic Caper.
As the day wore on, we wandered among the storied stones of the early Jurassic Era. Like Whitney Pocket, these rocks were part of a grander narrative, a to-be-continued tale of petrified dunes stretching from Zion to the Grand Staircase and beyond. The Valley of Fire’s chapters were penned in red Aztec sandstone hues and crowned with white Navajo crests, a chronicle of time written in Earth’s hand.
This week’s photographic heroes are a testament to this fiery anthology. The main photo—a regal formation of red Entrada sandstone—is the park’s namesake, standing proudly amidst the Mojave’s scrappy flora. The supporting act, Silica Dome, wears a coat of Navajo Sandstone, pale and majestic against the desert sky. Together, they tell a story of a sea that once was and dunes that danced in the wind before time turned them to stone.
So, dear readers, come for the photos, stay for the tales, and return next week for another chapter in our desert saga. Will the Poteets make a splash in their wetsuits? Will Queen Anne ever forgive me for the early morning escapades? Find out in the next installment of our arid adventures.
Until then, keep your lenses clean and your humor dry.
Techniques Unveiled: A Tale of Two Sandstones
In the photographer’s toolbox, contrast isn’t just about light and shadow—it’s the story of elements, epochs, and the Earth’s grand design. This week, I set out to capture a tale of two sandstones, a narrative etched into the very landscape of Valley of Fire State Park.
Our lead image, Nature’s Palette, is a canvas painted with iron-rich sandstone, a souvenir from the mid-Jurassic era. Here, the dunes are frozen in an eternal dance, caught mid-twirl by the relentless grip of pressure and heat, akin to the timeless beauty of Canyon de Chelly and the famed arches of Moab. Look closely, and you’ll see the canvas of the ancients—the water-stained varnish that once served as a blackboard for the Fremont and early Pueblo people to etch their indelible art.
The supporting act, Silica Dome, steps onto the stage from a later act in Earth’s drama under the watchful gaze of T-Rex and company. It’s a piece of the past where the climate was as dry as a prohibition-era bar, and vast sandy beaches fringed an ancient inland sea. In this shot, we confront a dune face-to-face, observing its neighbors’ retreat under the onslaught of time, exposing it to the elements that now conspire to return it to its granular beginnings.
I’ve served up larger versions of these geological delicacies online for those hungry for more than just a visual snack. You can feast your eyes on them via the links on my website—< Jim’s Web Page>—and their respective galleries on Fine Art America—<FAA Link>. Or click on the images peppered throughout this article for an instant teleportation to their online abodes.
Your thoughts are the garnish to our digital dish, so please sprinkle liberally in the comments section below. What stories do these ancient stones whisper to you?
Last Tuesday, I released another video in my portfolio series on YouTube. This vignette is about the beauty of Arizona’s Farmlands. The five-ish-minute-long video is now online, and you can use this link to see it: <YouTube Link>.