Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lair of the Spider Woman

"Spider Rock" - Canyon de Chelly, AZ
This photo, in itself, is probably not my very best - although not my worst either:) - but the process of taking it definitely epitomizes what I love about the art of photography. This location is exactly 750 miles from where I live; I drove the whole way in one day, almost non-stop... and don't regret a minute of the effort it took me to get here, because unlike my experience a few days later at Monument Valley, I was able to appreciate this scene in an ideal way. I scouted the location earlier in the day and by the time I arrived again in the early evening, all the casual visitors were returning to their camping spots or motels, leaving me to select a nice perch on the rim of the canyon from which to observe the shadows climbing these fantastic spires as the sun slowly sank in the west. Only the occasional raven would stop by and sit in a nearby tree to see what I was up to... and I could hear coyotes calling clear as a bell from the canyon floor 1000 feet below. In a place like this, all alone in the warm evening light watching the shadows grow, you can imagine yourself observing the scene 100 or even 1000 years ago, and wonder at how similar it would have been.
Known as Spider Rock in Navajo lore, this 800 ft. tall formation is believed to be the home of Spider Woman, one of the most important figures in their mythology; a main character in the creation of the world and the one who taught them their most revered craft of weaving, which they still practice with great artistry today.
Would I make the same effort to be here if I wasn't so determined to capture the scene... and would I have learned about the Navajo traditions surrounding it?.. probably not. That kind of unexpected benefit is what makes this work rewarding on so many different levels. Producing a successful photograph is really just icing on the cake.
A short but interesting history of Navajo weaving
can be found here, with some good links that go deeper into the old tales and history should anyone be interested.

Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact it is a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument.
- Henri Cartier-Bresson


gh said...

Excellent work, Mark. I agree, our burning passion for photography is what brings us to many of these fascinating places and has us exploring and learning about cultures and events. Everyone is driven by something which enables them to absorb lifes riches, and for a photographer, the photograph is the icing on the cake after the journey.
As always, your work is rich with fine techinique and patience to wait for the right lighting from which we all benfit from.

Jackie said...

I have to agree also Mark. I am learning this more and more everyday.

I can't wait until m husband is finally retired and we too can go to all of the wonderful places we want to photograph and learn about.

I have found even in my own yard I will go o almost any length trying to get a shot.

When I was face to face with that bobcat I never even felt the fear at all. I only felt the adrenaline rush.

I knew even if the photo didn't turn out well that I was experiencing a rare moment and I had my camera with me.

I painted for years yet I never felt any of the excitement, curiosity or passion that I do about photography.

I only wish that I had discovered this in myself years ago. But, as I am part Cherokee I do believe that all things come at the time planned for our lives.

I love the shot. The lighting with he shadows is just terrific and your writing about this was very inspirational!

Ashrays said...

Couldn't agree more with what you say Mark so true and a lovely vertigo inducing shot :)

I'll need to checkout the link! I have a book about somewhere dealing with some of the mythology of the original indigenous peoples of the US some of which mirrors Norse mythology... now where did I put it??? cheers thanks for sharing.

pixelshots said...

hi friend... its really amazing and pleasing to meet peoples with similar interests and ativities in this www..

Am also loving the art of photography and i am fasinated by your work here.. hope we can give the world more amazing and truthful products from our cams, and let them see the not a professional photographer as you seems in your shots but does the best as i can.

hope you may have a look on ma work mainly on the nature, landscapes,flowers,tourist attractions like hill stations,sunsets and etc etc in ma blog
cu around..

Nancy Lovering said...

What a gorgeous pic - vertigo is right! Definitely worth the drive :)

The Retired One said...

An AWESOME photo..well worth your time.

J. Evan Kreider said...

I particularly like your thoughtful commentary, as have others. I have wondered whether such a trip would be spoiled by tourists all trying to get the same shots. Part of the joy of this picture is the silence, the absence of people hurrying about.

storybeader said...

the shadows are the first thing I noticed... after that magnificent rock protruding from the ground. I can see green... trees.... It's beautiful, but must be amazing to see in real time!

Mandy said...

That shot literally took my breath away. I felt my stomach drop! (Think I am developing a thing for heights, experienced that yesterday too!)

I went to the Natural History Museum in New york and took in the exhibition on the Native American tribes but it was far too much to absorb. I would like to go back one day. (Obviously, as a South African / English girl I know next to nothing). said...

Another gorgeous shot, Mark. I immediately thought of a giant sundial. And your description of being there makes me wanna plan another cross-country trip! I still remember what late afternoons felt like when in the deserts and canyons out there...

Anonymous said...

Maybe I`ll never get to Spider Rock or maybe I will. Or, maybe I just did. Thank you for that.

Jeannette StG said...

Came over from another blog - I think I saw this landscape in a painting, but from another angle - your pics carry a sober and artistic atmosphere.