Swirling Sage

Swirling Sage

13×33 prints are $1,500
20×50 prints are $3,000

When Ruth and I were headed east to photograph in the fall of 2005 we took a two day detour through the south of Idaho to Nevada, passing through the small town of Jarbidge. This area has the most remote feel of any place we’ve been in the lower 48 states. The sagebrush countryside looks the same as it must have been a thousand years ago.

This particular group of sage had a wild growth pattern because it was near a bend in the Jarbidge River and was hit by floodwaters every spring. That summer had been unusually wet for that part of the country so the sagebrush put on more growth than usual.

We camped out near these sagebrush plants and that evening I saw that they had strong photographic potential but the light was not ideal for making a worthwhile image. In the morning I was up before dawn, looking for photographs. The air was cold and dry with the singing of the waking birds echoing throughout the rocky canyon.

I came to these bushes and saw that the light was promising, but the rising sun would soon strike the tops of the plants and ruin the composition. With Ruth’s help, we quickly set up the camera and fiddled around almost too long, trying to get the composition to fall into place.

The sun continued it’s relentless progression (as it tends to do) and was almost at the tops of the plants. Oftentimes the best light for a scene is when the sun is almost striking the elements of the photograph. It gives a glow to the scene and splits the illuminating light into warm/cold colors, which increases tonal separation and the vibrancy of the image. In this case, it helped highlight the yellow sage blossoms on the tops of the plants and brought out the turquoise qualities on the lower parts of the plants.

This is the first panoramic photograph I ever took using my 4×10” adaptor (part of the reason for fiddling around and almost missing the image). The forms, shapes, texture and even the colors remind me more of storm tossed ocean waves rather than desert sagebrush. Nevertheless, to me there seems to be an order and cohesiveness to the image which gives a sense of wholeness to the wildness of the forms.

Format: Panoramic (horizontal)
Location: Nevada
Reference key: swls