Shop Sundance Catalog

icon icon

Monday, February 20, 2017

STONED IMMACULATE: A Trip in the Desert by Robert Glenn Ketchum

STONED IMMACULATE:  A Trip in the Desert
by Robert Glenn Ketchum

As a young photographer, two places I “discovered” by chance greatly influenced both my photographic vision and my personal relationship with the greater planet. A previous blog, LIMEKILN, is the story of the first location. THIS is the second location which I discovered because my car broke down. As Jim Morrison/The Doors wrote, “Out here we is stoned Immaculate!"



Monday, February 20, 2017

Stoned Immaculate, #16:
Immaculate, #16:  As I went further back into the watercourse, the fins and domes continued to rise and narrow around me, in many places towering hundreds of feet overhead. When opportunities allowed, I scrambled up onto ledges or lesser summits to have a look at my surroundings, and I found myself grateful to be spending most of my time down in the shade of the “slot” sections. It was blazing in the direct sun. The midday heat was peaking and on the horizon you could see that it was generating weather that was moving towards us. Even so, I no longer felt uncomfortable in the canyons because I realized I could get above them to higher, drier ground easily and quickly, so the prospect of weather really did not change my plans, and I continued to wander on, eager to see where this waterless stream path was leading me. Over many years and visits, I would learn that most of these summits could be ascended in non-technical ways through some pretty interesting ledge connections, but for the moment my attention was on finding the “the headwaters of the Nile."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________
Monday, February 13, 2017


Stoned Immaculate, #15:
Immaculate, #15:  As the walls around me narrowed even further and grew taller, I could feel the comfortable cool of being in this shady slot. The sun at this point in the day was blazing and uncomfortable to be in directly, but “down” in this carved canyon, I was having a very “curious” hike at a much more comfortable temperature. Most of the vegetation I had seen so far consisted of grasses and sagebrush, so I found this hopeful tree quite surprising. Although not apparent here, its twigs proved to be quite thorny, and I would eventually learn that virtually EVERY living thing out here had thorns, barbs, or hooks. When working through a wash with vegetation, it was always best to avoid casual contact. Even the grasses had seeds with little hooks that I would find embedded in my socks when I got back to camp. For the moment, however, I have fallen into a dangerous staring ponder, becoming fixed on the “tree-of-life,” so clearly it is time to keep moving, and to remember - it is all about being in the flow, don’t get drawn too deeply into any one detail. Squack!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, February 6, 2017


Stoned Immaculate, #14:
Immaculate, #14:  The world around me was mostly rock - sandstone and silica domes and fins. Very vulnerable to erosion, these formations were being quite forcefully sculpted by the rain and the wind. The evidence of the power of water surrounded me in my shady watercourse “cave” while I snacked and sought relief from the growing midday heat. The wind force I would learn about later, but for the moment I was pondering the world surrounding me in an ever deepening river channel. Over 30yrs. of visiting this location, I would see an occasional coyote, many birds, never once a snake, and little else except a lot of tracks in the sand, and maybe a lizard every once in awhile. There was plant life that survived wherever there was sand, but most of the time it appeared dead and only “came alive” after a rain. Much of this I still had not yet taken in, so sitting in my cool cave was a perfect respite and in the shadow of my shelter, I was reminded once again of how much the more subtle colors responded to the even light and shade. Water and snacks renewed me, so with my break over, it was time to continue further into the labyrinth created by this flow.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, January 30, 2017


Stoned Immaculate, #13:
Immaculate, #13:  The watercourse I had been following brought me into the wide basin I have shown in the last few posts. Many slot canyons flowed into the basin as well, some of them coming “through” narrow channels from other basins, others just flowing out of slots that were box canyons - dead ends. There was little soil/sand anywhere except in the riverbeds, and clearly the dominating rock surfaces did not absorb much water, so when it rained hard it was obvious, these now-dry channels would be raging AND feeding into the bigger system. I wanted to see what the rest of that bigger system looked liked so I scrambled down from my elevated viewpoint and returned to the “grand” wash. Upon leaving the expanse of the basin, the broad watercourse I was following narrowed quickly and the domes and fins around me began to rise ever taller. As any river does, this one meandered in big curves, apparently going wherever it pleased and cutting right through whatever sandstone got in the way. That debris in turn became part of the turbulent rushing water’s cutting edge. There were no big boulders at this point, but lots of sand and small pebbles, which must be pretty effective when you see sculpting like this. The day was getting very hot and this damp, cool cave in the shade looked just like the place for some midday “snacks."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, January 23, 2017


Stoned Immaculate, #12:
Immaculate, #12:  A few steps farther along the high ridge of stone upon which I have been scrambling, and I can see the narrow wash I am gazing down into comes to a dead end. The walls of the slot canyon close off and a crumbling “bridge” of rock reveals the head of another box canyon, going off in the opposite direction. This new wash was MUCH deeper so I suddenly found myself with a good bit of vertical exposure, staring down into a whole new world. The wall of the wash directly across from my vantage point was breathtaking and clearly there was a picture to be made, but it took me many minutes of pondering and moving the camera position to try and find a point-of-view that I could understand and that would suggest the scale of what I was seeing. This image also makes clear what I said in the last post about finding this strange desert world VERY DISORIENTING. Minutes pass while I drink this in and take some shots, but there is no way down into this slot from my present position, so I will retrace my path along the ridge and return to the large bowl through which the watercourse I have been following flows. I want to see where THAT goes, and to what else it might lead.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, January 16, 2017


Stoned Immaculate, #11:
Immaculate, #11:  My elevated view point was a wildly striped pinnacle of reds and yellows, and most of the landscape seemed dominated by those colors until I began to dial in the subtleties around me. The ledges I had ascended had deep slot washes on two sides, and one was so narrow it had already passed into shade. Here the glare off of the brilliant sandstone surrounding me abates and in the flat even light of the wash, a whole new assortment of colors becomes visible. The more I study the amazing strew of boulders, the more I begin to realize the blue and purple shades are all around me, but in the sunlight they are “overwhelmed” by the warmer tones. As a young photographer, I did not know it at the time but this place in the desert, and my recent attention to the work of Eliot Porter with whom I had begun communicating, would teach me to see and understand color in a unique way that would come to define my career 45yrs. later. Another thing I began to realize was that not only were the swirls and bands of color disorienting, but combined with the verticality and unusual ledge formations, having any sense of visual space was easily confused. In some of these shots I have had to look at the lettering in the film-edge to determine up, down, or sideways.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, January 9, 2017
Stoned Immaculate, #10:
Immaculate, #10:  Working my way up along ledges, I am trying to gain an overall view, when I find myself at this point. If you look carefully near the middle of the picture you will see a horizontal band of sand and green shrubs. That is the water course I have been following and I have come into this basin from the right. At my elevated POV I begin to see the waves of astounding color that wash across these rocks. Everything is banded or striped. Some rocks are just blocks of color unrelated to anything else nearby. A favorite word widely used during these years was “trippy” referring of course to some weird event that happened when you were high. Well, THIS is trippy!!! The water course I have walked up continues to the left as it winds between some of the tallest domes but for the moment I am going to sit here and try to take all of this in. It is so bright, it takes awhile for my eyes to adjust, but as they do I began to see ever greater nuance in the colors, and trippy just gets trippier.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, January 2, 2017


Stoned Immaculate, #9:
Immaculate, #9:  Over the years of my visits, I would adopt names for certain areas because of the way they felt. In last week’s post, I called that large rock basin an “arena” because of its expansive scale. Here is what I call a “cove.” Parts of the surrounding domes can easily be scaled, but other parts are too vertical to ascend without rope. BUT, while scrambling on the ledges that can be climbed, you often come upon massive high walls, frequently with overhangs that seem to envelope you while you stand at their foot. I am wandering along these ledges from right-to-left and JUST AT THIS SPOT, this scoop in the rocks flows from red sandstone to these stunning stripes. I did not know it on this first day but I was also taking in something else that would become part of my visual obsession with this place - look carefully at the upper-third of this wall. Do you see the “caves?” Those caves have purple interiors with red and orange stripes, but I am still too blown away on this first visit by what is right in front of me to notice these just yet. Just wait!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, December 26, 2016


Stoned Immaculate, #8:
Immaculate, #8:  Somewhat sobered by my discovery of the power of flashflooding here, I continue to follow the water course as it continued its way “upstream.” It eventually brought me to this “arena.” I don’t know what else to call it. It is a huge expanse of space - a big, open basin of rock - and it looks like somebody paint-bombed it! The wash at this point was just the lowest point in the basin, there was little sand and few random boulders, but NO EXPLANATION for this display of color. It was everywhere, and different on every surface. As it was quite simple to hike up the less steep inclines of the domes, I did so in order to have a better view of this “valley” floor, and in my expanded view, the basin looked more and more as though it had been stained or dyed with some fantastically large brushstrokes of color. I had to sit for awhile and ponder this, and I took off my sunglasses just to be sure this was not some trick of my coated lenses, but it was NOT (it was just blindingly brighter, LOL).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, December 19, 2016


Stoned Immaculate, #7:
Immaculate, #7:  The wash I was following can be seen coming in from the skyline, upper-left. It cuts quite deep into a slot between rock domes and then emerges at an “opening” - I am referring to the upper-center of this image where you see the strew of boulders appearing to veer off to the left and into that slot. Standing at that place, I do not quite understand all of this yet, but I traverse around the boulder field by walking on the sandstone shelf that follows along the left flank of the rubble. Arriving at THIS vantage point, I can now see the that down-flowing water came in from the right, banked off of the shelf I just crossed, carved out a very deep pool that still has water in it (just over the lip of this foreground rock), and then swept the sand and the tumbling boulder debris through the gap (lower-middle) and out onto the more open plain of the wash. At that point, the rain stopped and the flashflood abated. The water quickly sank into the porous sand and left these boulders stranded, BEFORE pushing them further down through the narrow slot that had become my inbound path. As I would learn, except for the deep pool, THAT ALL HAPPENED IN YESTERDAY’S STORM! You definitely do NOT want to be in these washes when weather breaks!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, December 12, 2016


Stoned Immaculate, #6:
Immaculate, #6:  The whipped-chocolate-mud morphing into sandstone continued up the wash for a hundred yards or more and was then replaced by a grainy sand. Still dimpled by the raindrops, I bent over to dig my fingers in and see if it was wet beneath the surface. Then I noticed these tiny rocks suspended on little towers of sand. I thought that curious enough, but when I took off my dark glasses to have a closer look, I suddenly realized every stone was a different pastel color. There were golds, purples, yellows, oranges, some that looked blue, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, after looking around - NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER ABOUT WHERE THEY CAME FROM. There was literally NOTHING anywhere near by that offered up rocks in these shades, AND there was no other place in the wash where such a formation occurred. Apparently I had discovered some strange eddy in the creek, that when flowing with water collected these chips and placed them on tiny pedestal displays in just this one spot, so it would bogle my mind when I arrived for my walk. Surely they would be gone with the next rain storm (which would happen later in the afternoon).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, December 5, 2016


Stoned Immaculate, #5:
Immaculate, #5:  During the afternoon before my discovery of this area, it had been swept by thunderstorms, so many of the washes I might walk up very likely had some water in them. My initial arrival was late enough in the day for the weather to have begun clearing, but all I saw of the landscape was close to the road on my first drive by. Eager to see more, I awoke early, had breakfast, and pointed the jeep back in the direction of the washes. As I started out the dirt road which they crossed, I passed the first several and they seemed little more than sand streams across small channels in relatively flat rock. However, I finally came upon one where the road was actually taken out by flash flooding and the wash was a relatively narrow gully cut into the sandstone. I decided this would be my starting point. My daypack had water, food, and lots of film because I intended to stay out until the evening, but once I stepped into the wash, I realized I might not get far from the car. Water had flowed in the wash the day before but it was gone now. This is what has been left. The tiny pattern of dots are raindrop impressions, and you are looking at the edge between the stream mud and the sandstone bedrock. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I realized I was entering another niche environment like Limekiln where elements in the landscape “blended” into one another. I am not 10-minutes into my exploration and this small cluster of fins, domes, and washes and already things are beginning to “morph” before my eyes.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, November 28, 2016


Stoned Immaculate, #4:
Immaculate, #4:  On my short drive to the allowed camping area, more of the garage owners advice began to make sense. If you have ever driven from LA to Las Vegas, you probably have noticed how in the great expanse of the desert, you can actually see the slope of the earth. This place I was now going to explore was a series of tilted fins and domes sticking up out of a very large sloping desert floor extending down from nearby mountains. Water off the mountains and the slope flows downhill, carrying sand and rock with it, at first exposing these fins, then cutting washes and slot canyons through them, and then eventually, wearing them down. When I asked about needing a map so as not to get lost, he had said getting lost would be hard to do. The road was on the downslope and although I might wander around a bit in the backcountry, any wash or canyon would eventually pass through to the upslope desert. To return I should just follow any wash back down, and it would bring me back to the road. These formations were a kind of narrow spine rising from a sandy floor that was being worn away by wind and water - AND while it was doing so I would learn, it was sculpting and fracturing these emergent sandstone and silica domes to reveal designs abstract-expressionist painters would have envied.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, November 21, 2016
Stoned Immaculate, #3:
Immaculate, #3:  In the course of my career, I learned to listen carefully when someone “local” is giving advice or instructions. The things they are saying to you may not register immediately, or you might not even understand what they are talking about until you are “there,” then suddenly their words have new meaning. I could see down the dirt road in front of me that there were several places where low points were crossed by dry washes, so I would follow the garage owners suggestion and chose one of those to hike through tomorrow. However, as I returned to the jeep, I walked past this, and it reminded me of something else he said. He was sure I would find this strange place in the desert an interesting photographic subject because of the rock formations of fins and domes, but he also told me that once I followed a wash back into the maze of rocks, I should look more closely, especially at the eroding walls, caves, and overhanging ceilings being created by wind and rain. I was not quite sure if this was what he was talking about, but I could see that this small dome was deteriorating in a rather colorful and dramatic way, and I had to wonder about what was out in the backcountry that made him feel it was more unusual than this.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, November 14, 2016


Stoned Immaculate, #2:
Immaculate, #2:  The garage owner who was repairing my car and who had loaned me his jeep and sent me camping in the desert, offered me some other advice as well. Camping was in designated areas only - no camping in the “backcountry.” Also, he said most visitors to the area, drove to the end of the dirt road, had a picnic, and came back. He suggested as a photographer, I might want to have a “closer” look, and that in many places that dirt road was crossed by dry creek beds. He said I should choose any one, leave the car, and walk “in” following the dry creek. He assured me that was when things would get REALLY interesting, AND every creek was a different experience. The sun is now setting quickly, and I need to set up a camp elsewhere, but at the moment I am at the start of the road I will explore in the morning, and I am staring down at this, thinking, “how much more interesting can it get?"
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Monday, November 7, 2016


Stoned Immaculate, #1:
Immaculate, #1:  In the late 60’s, I was a student at UCLA and had discovered photography. I was mostly taking pictures of rock bands on The Sunset Strip but after attending the Monterey Pop Festival, on the drive home through Big Sur, I camped in Limekiln Creek
and had an epiphanal moment that redirected both my life and my image-making. Not long after, enroute to visit my parents at their winter “home” in Sun Valley, Idaho, I was crossing the desert and my car broke down. I was fortunate to be near a very small town with a service garage and a tow truck, who rescued me. With my car on the rack, we determined what had to be replaced, and were actually able to order it from Los Angeles - to be delivered in 2 or 3 days by UPS. The garage owner saw my cameras and my camping gear and made me an offer I am glad I did not refuse. There was no place to stay in town and he would let me sleep in my car if I wanted, BUT he would give me his jeep if I would like to go camp in the desert for a few days. He said he knew a great place close by. Kurt Vonnegut said, “As Bokonon says: 'peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from god.” Heed those words well. I did. I took the jeep, my cameras, and the camping gear and followed his instructions on how to get to this place. After a short drive and then some dirt road, I came to an area of multi-colored rock domes illuminated dramatically in the setting sun. When I stepped from the car, this awaited!!!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________


Social Media by @LittleBearProd