We were at Big Bend National Park, camping in the Chisos Basin. The evening program, posted at the campsite bathroom, suggested that anyone interested in great Park photography should bring a camera and tripod and meet 15 miles south of Panther Junction at 7:30pm. If we did, the secret of how to become another Ansel Adams would be revealed to us! (Adams was the great American landscape photographer.) Twelve of us made the scenic drive at twilight in Big Bend National Park and awaited the secrets that would take our photography up to the next level.
We gathered in the soft evening light of the Chihuahan desert. Cacti surrounded us. Mountains, striped pink and deep purple in the dimming light, ran along the eastern horizon. Alas, the Ansel Adams’ secret was not revealed to us, but, Bob, the Park Ranger did tell us a secret, and he made us promise not to reveal it. (Sorry! You had to be there.)
We can tell you that, after the secret, his remaining talk was about his love for Big Bend, respect for the works of nature, the joy of photography, and his admiration for Ansel Adams. Since the days when Adams was taking his famous photos in Big Bend, the Park has suffered from increasing air pollution. Even though Big Bend is so remote that it is one of the best locations in the US for viewing the night sky, as we looked out to the distant mountains we “clearly” saw that a haze masked the horizon. A sobering thought of how quickly the Park has been degraded, even though very few visitors step foot inside its boundaries. Particulates in the air from as near as El Paso and as far as China create dramatic colors to photograph but also pollute and degrade the park’s air.
With that, the sun was quickly setting, and we all dashed to take our own photos of the unforgettable wilderness at sunset. Clearly, whatever it was we learned, we still can’t take a photo like Ansel Adams. Not even close!