One of my favorite respites from road-weary travel in the Black Rock – High Rock country of northern Nevada is a stop at Planet X Pottery. John and Rachel have become great friends over several decades of occasional, but all-too-rare, visits to their home and gallery northwest of Gerlach. Our shelves are lined with the basin-born art, pieces having evolved to daily utensils that maintain our connection to the desert at the foot of the Granite Range.
We went out to visit John and Rachel and to share Thanksgiving dinner, taking a holiday break with a drive into northwestern Nevada. We are rarely confined here at StoneHeart, but we will take any opportunity to shrink into the space of the Smoke Creek Desert. The forecast called for a chance of an early-season, slider storm. Hard to predict where the fast-moving fronts will have an impact, but they usually provide an active sky.
I took some time in the evening to follow the build-up of moody skies. I circled the property, walking the desert in search of compositions that would give a sense of space while also highlighting some subject of interest. I kept coming to views of the Planet X gallery set against the changing skies. John and Rachel often use images of the gallery and its desert habitat to advertise gallery shows and to highlight its unique setting. I thought I might try to add a few to their collection, a thankful expression of many years of welcoming visits and a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner to come.
Wind vane. Installation on Smoke Creek Desert. 1/50 sec, f/8, ISO 100; Canon 5Div, EF 17-40mm F4L (17mm).
The vanishing at Planet X. I love lonely, straight-line roads, especially where good friends are found. 1/50 sec, f/8, ISO 100; Canon 5Div, Sigma 20mm F1.4.
First storm. The skies turned ominous in the late evening of Thanksgiving. The storm, however, passed us by — dramatic decoration only. 0.5 sec, f/8, ISO 100; Canon 5Div, EF 17-40mm F4L (17mm).
The skies cleared in the early morning. After a few very early excursions outside the house, watching the constellations spin above the desert, I drove into the pre-dawn darkness to work on a series of sunrise shots in the arroyo of Squaw Creek west of the gallery. These are the kinds of images I really want to make work. Arid landscapes with prominent landforms or compelling evidence of geomorphic process and change—highlighting the beauty, subtlety, curiosity, and occasional drama of the natural systems of deserts and mountains. High hopes, and though unsuccessful this morning, I enjoyed, as always, engaging the landforms and watching the light of the morning come alive. It was good practice.
Arroyo dawn. Waching sunrise over Squaw Creek arroyo at the margin of the Smoke Creek Desert. If I am going to highlight landforms, I need to compose with their features as clear subjects of interest. The sunrise dominates this composition. 1/4 sec, f/16, ISO 100; Canon 5Div, EF 17-40 F4L (17mm).
I spent the mid-morning wandering the gallery taking hand-held stills of the beautiful habitat of art and life around the gallery. This was not something I’d practiced at all previously and I enjoyed the outcome.
Morning bell. A scene from the porch gallery at Planet X. 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100; Canon 80D, EF 24-70 F4L (35mm).
Wheels and wood. Looking for patterns and contrast. 1/640 sec, f/5, ISO 100; Canon 80D, EF 24-70 F4L (26mm).
Broken window. Painted ceramic by John Bogard; my favorite of his motifs. 1/125 sec, f/5, ISO 100; Canon 80D, EF 24-70 F4L (42mm).
Thanks so much to John and Rachel for our holiday escape to Planet X. We will return with pies some day soon.
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