Dried Mud, Canyon Light. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 25, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Dried canyon mud illuminated by reflected canyon light, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
There are at least two stories in this photograph. The first one can be read directly from the materials, patterns, and colors of the photograph. The location is the bottom of a wash, a shallow canyon that is often dry but which may flood during rain. When water flows everything is rearranged. Sand settles to the bottom, a fine silt may lie on top, and eventually the layers dry in this warm climate. The dried silt contracts and splits then curls into odd shapes — here some of the silt has formed small tubes and all of it has rolled up and separated from the underlying red sand. On a sunny day like this one the light strikes canyon walls high above and bounce among them, picking up the color of the red rock and softening. The red light that suffuses the scene is contrasted by a slight bluish tint that comes from blue sky vaguely reflected on smoother parts of the dry silt.
The second story involves a group of a half-dozen photographers and friends. After a rather lazy morning of breakfast and coffee and conversation, we finally set off on foot down the wash that passed by our camp. As we walked the canyon narrowed and before long rocky walls began to rise on both sides — a common story in this terrain. Rounding a bend we caught sight of… dry mud. What happened next would probably perplex or amuse any non-photographers who might have happened by. In this grand landscape of towering walls and deep valleys, we spent the next half hour earnestly bent over tripods, carefully and repeatedly photographing… dried mud.
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