Views from the Southwest
Photographer finds bird and flower treasures in the desert and beyond.
Story and Photos By Dale Dombrowski, Las Vegas, Nevada
Overcast skies greet the new day and a threat of rain hangs in the air. This is unusual weather in the Mojave Desert.
It's the kind of day when most photographers wouldn't even think about photographing nature. Not enough light. Muted colors. Slow shutter speeds. Shallow depth of field. The reasons not to shoot are many, but, all in all, it sounds like a great day to me.
While I love the soft hues the morning light creates as it cascades through the sky, this weather reminds me of a concept developed by photographer Freeman Patterson. It's called "thinking sideways," and it's something I always discuss with my photography students.
Basically, the idea is to look at the situation, identify the positives and move forward. Overcast means no harsh shadows, an array of soft, muted colors and a shallow depth of field, so it's easy to add the illusion of depth to the image.
In the desert when I photograph birds or wildlife in these conditions, this means going back to basics. In other words, I sit in one spot and practice patience. My goal is to become part of the environment. Once you do that, the birds and other wildlife soon go about their normal routines. And this is when you get the best pictures.
A Life of Photography
I became interested in photography in college and have used it in virtually every position I've held during my career. It was also what I did whenever I_had time off.
For years, I had a studio and also worked as the chief photographer and editor on daily newspapers. Then I went back to school and got my master's degree, emphasizing photographic composition. From that point on, I have taught photography and other communication courses at universities around the country.
Several times a year, I would take my photo students to state and national parks. While they were shooting whatever caught their eye, I was primarily photographing wildflowers. Next to birds and wildlife, flowers are probably my favorite subjects.
A few years ago, I spent two summers as a park volunteer wandering around the rim and through the high alpine meadows at Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah. During my time there, I did most of the large-format slides of flowers for a display in the visitor center.
Today, I am photographing in and around Las Vegas, at the Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire in Nevada and Zion National Park. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to catch a job as a seasonal interpretive ranger in the National Park Service.
It doesn't really matter where my photography takes me, though. I will always find great views of nature along the way.