Mar 14 2009

“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Published by under portraits,travel,visual concepts

I always like surprises. Once again on the Salton Sea trip we came upon a brand new truck stop in what was a desolate intersection coming out of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I was first attracted by the bright primary colors of the red signage, yellow construction tape and the blue sky. And then I saw her….

20090307 stk 59281 Ive always depended on the kindness of strangers.

The primary colors attracted me to this new truck stop

It was almost too good to be true. A matching vision wearing a yellow blouse with a red hat and matching shoes jumped out of the corner of my eye. I first thought that it must be a mirage. Did she dress to match the station?

20090307 stk 59371 Ive always depended on the kindness of strangers.

A mirage of matching colors

Using mostly sign language I implored her to move from under the overhang in front of the “Diesel #2″ sign. It turned out that she was there with her husband, who helped to translate my direction into Spanish. He was installing the pumps at the truck stop and she was there either to help or keep him company. Either way it was my lucky day!

Mark Harmel

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Mar 14 2009

desert sun

Many photographers only want to shoot in the “golden hours” at sunrise and sunset. I recall being in a workshop with one of my heros Ernst Haas and hearing him talk about “looking for the light”. He believed that there was always good light at every part of the day. You just had to know where to find it and more importantly – how to see the great light.

What is fabulous about the desert is that even the high noon, burnt-out light that I often avoid looks right in the desert. The subject matter lends itself to that hot and desolate look that goes with the harsh light. Here is a blooming occotillo cactus positioned against an open sky.

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Near high noon show the empty expanse of the desert

You can then revisit the same subject matter later in the day to achieve a completely different look. This time it was close to sunset, with the help of my friend Martin who helped to flag the sun off my lens, I was able to shoot right into the sun and place the tall occotillo cactus against the mountain instead of the blue sky.

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Late afternoon lighting shooting directly into the sun

Different treatments of same subject shot with very different light. It is all a matter of of telling the right story at the time of day you are shooting.

Mark Harmel

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