Along the eastern plains of Mono Lake lies a sandy plain sparsely dotted with long dead shrubs. Driving east on California Highway 120, past the iconic Mono Lake tufas (towers of precipitated calcium carbonate), a small dirt road leads north. It is one of many such dirt roads that crisscross around the lake. I'm often alone when photographing and it puts me in a unique artistic mindset; a wandering mindset. On this shooting trip, my destination was anything of artistic interest along the 400 miles of the Eastern Sierra escarpment. And so I turned onto a long stretch of sandy road, unsure of what I'd find.
The road meandered north for several miles before turning due east into a series of deep dry riverbeds. I thought for sure the sand would bog down my Jeep with its slightly balding tires, but slowly I came through and rolled up onto the alluvial flats of Granite Mountain. Slipping and sliding through the flats, I was again nervous about getting the Jeep stuck, so I stopped at the first hard patch to turn around. There I saw my scene.
In the distance, the Sierra Crest rose like some impenetrable wall, shielding moisture from reaching the dry, hot expanse of the inland deserts. A dead and burnt shrub-land lay before me, and the stark contrasts between these two distinct elements made me grab my gear. Swiftly moving clouds lent the sky a foundation to support the distant mountains. Had I left the clouds static, it would have created a visual tension between the two that I didn't want.
I wanted this image BW, so I used my Hasselblad camera loaded with medium format Kodak BW film. I wanted the sky and foreground shadows to go black, a perfect use for the deep red #25 filter (which absorbs most blue light thus turning blue sky black). Stacked with a 10-stop neutral density filter (which uniformly reduces the amount of light entering the camera) my exposure was around 8 minutes. I waited with an open shutter.
No sound was heard save the pebbles crunching underfoot, no movement seen except my own. Long exposure times afford something rare: time. Time to lose oneself to stillness and the sensory acuteness that accompanies it. A wind passing overhead, the distant flutter of a raven's wing beat, and the desert quiet all become much more consequential.
The making of art should be like that.