View Full Version : The Story Behind Every Photograph

Steve Sherman
7-Jan-2016, 18:58
Apologies as this is due the 1st of each month and have been away.

I regularly travel to the SouthWest with my good friend and mentor Jack Holowitz. Some years ago we had photographed some “Cap Rocks” outside of Page Arizona heading West on the right hand side of Rt. 89 just before the Ranger Station leading into the Paria Canyon Wilderness.

I had seen some photographs of a striking landscape of high key erosion resembling cap rocks but with even more interesting erosion than the ones outside of Page, AZ. We asked around the Page area and were finally referred to the Ranger Station near Lake Powell and the Wahweap Marina. We learned the location was in a remote area of the Escalante Wilderness and sought out more info in the Lake Powell Ranger Station. We spoke to a ranger early one morning in November 2003, the ranger gave us an unusual look asking how did you hear about this location, we asked around and were told someone in this office could direct us to the spot. He asked several questions and I guess he believed we were serious enough and had enough back country experience to share with us a “loose description” of how to access the location. The directions as I remember them were along the lines of go out a back country road to the end and it will dip down into a dry river bed. Head West for 5-7 miles and up out of the river bed on the left you’ll come upon an area resembling our description. For over two hours in our rented 4WD we dodged good sized rocks and negotiated some fairly sandy areas and finally came upon this magical area up out of the river bed by now about a 6 ft. climb by foot. Using considerable energy to get up a sandy embankment out of the dry river bed and on my hands and knees to come upon a good sized Tarantula spider not far from my hands. At first I thought it was part of the scrub brush which is typical of Utah, it looked odd enough that I stared for a bit and finally realized that it was in fact a Tarantula spider, it didn’t really move towards me but then I sure didn’t stick around to watch. We stayed in the area for about 3 hours during uncharacteristically overcast light, which was perfect for my sensibilities. Summertime in Utah you are warned to be very careful as Scorpions are know to crawl into backpacks or other clothing if left on the ground, now in November I had to think about Tarantulas crawling into my pack or under foot. Many times after I have made a negative from an area I am amazed at what I am willing to go through in the interest of getting an image !

I believe I made about four 7x17” negatives during our stay and by late afternoon it was time to head out as we figured the last leg out we would be in near darkness. As an aside to the trip, these were the very first negatives that I ever processed using the Semi-Stand method of Film processing. Some of the negatives were lost to inappropriate dilution or technique but the ones that remain are simply striking in their acutance and micro contrast.

Most of the dry river bed was between 50 - 80 feet wide which we sometimes used a switchback method on the way in to avoid troublesome flood damage from summer rains. As we made our way out, this time a bit faster as we tried to follow our tire tracks from a few hours earlier. Suddenly we came upon a section of the river bed which had a 5/8” - 3/4” steel cable strung across the entire river bed, there was no passing this point and it was clear it was erected after we passed earlier in the day and had been done with machinery as the cable was extremely taught !! What the Hell are we gonna do? Fortunately for us we saw a 4WD vehicle on the other side and a couple with a young boy were setting up camp for the night on the side of the river bed, we asked where the cable came from and they told us the BLM had installed it earlier in the afternoon. Thankfully, they knew the area well and told us to go back down the river bed about 100 yards and there was an area fairly low that we could climb out of the river bed to higher ground and just go slowly over the scrub grass and get beyond the new cable and back down into the river bed and back towards the road in Big Water. Obviously, we did get back long after dark with a few times myself getting out to make sure we were driving in the best track while in the river bed. Memory serves me we got back to the motel about 9 pm that night.

Since that we trip in 2003, we have found a much easier allow longer drive in from the West where we only travel in the dry river bed for about mile.

There is a whole secondary story about focusing the camera but I feel this story maybe too long already.

Jim Cole
7-Jan-2016, 21:24
Great story and even better photograph. Tarantulas are basically harmless, scorpions, not so much.