After a busy summer and fall, and suffering some pretty serious computer issues, I’m really excited to start sharing images more frequently.
I did a post some time ago about photographing at a friend’s parent’s house near Bennett, Colorado. I went with my friend on the first day of summer, June 21, and it was an absolutely spectacular evening, and a much needed exploration. Her dad has collected some very interesting artifacts, but I was most intrigued with the decaying tractors on his land and the land itself. I took a lot of photos that night, and because of the number of pictures, I am going to separate this post into three parts. The Land. The Tractors. The Chevy.
I hope you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed taking them.
“I had gained the summit of a commanding ridge, and, looking round with astonishing delight, beheld the ample plains, the beauteous tracts below.” Daniel Boone
They’re not ten miles to the east of my house. In fact, they’re visible from my workplace. But in the shadow of the dominating Rocky Mountains, the western edge of the Great Plains seem forgotten. But they’re right there. The satellite images on Google Earth makes them look barren, almost toxic. But on the evening of June 21, I learned otherwise when I visited my friend Tori’s parent’s property near Bennett, Colorado. Perhaps it was because it was early summer or from an abundance of rain, but I found the plains to be anything but plain or barren or toxic. Rolling hills of green and golden velvet tumbled in every direction and the smell of earth and life permeated the air as grasshoppers and crickets and other invisible critters created a tapestry of sound that was welcoming over the usual din of traffic, construction and car radios.
I had driven across the plains on a number of occasions. Seen them from a plane. But I had never once made the plains my destination. All of my excursions in Colorado had been west to the mountains, or north or south. But not east. Nothing to see there but flat expanses of land. This, I discovered, is reason enough.
I met Tori at the interchange of Quincy Avenue and E470, a beltway that almost completely encircles the Denver Metro Area, except for a segment on the Northwest side where Boulder gets in the way. Her parents live off of Quincy, just about 10 miles east of E470. It was at this interchange where a unique blend of the plains and the city begin to separate. The constant hum of traffic is dominant and neighborhoods and office buildings are visible on the west side of the highway. On the east side were fields of green prairie grass, rolling hills and water towers. Massive electrical towers intersect the landscape, stitching the rural and suburban sides of the highway together.
Once Tori arrived, we continued east on Quincy where the plains quickly dominated the landscape. The road was as straight as an arrow and soared up and over the rolling hills. Traffic ended at the interchange and it was easy, almost compulsory, to go as fast as one pleased. After cresting one last hill before turning into her parent’s house I truly felt as if Denver was hundreds of miles away and that we had arrived at a spot in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but blue sky and green and golden fields for miles. The sense of space was exhilarating. I had an urge to call my wife with a simple message: “We’re moving.” I’ve had this urge while taking in a vast mountain vista, while hiking through an aspen forest and while playing in the sand with my sons on a beach, listening to the peace and power of the Atlantic.
There is a spirit here. Perhaps it’s been personified by movies, or stories of the pioneers and battles between the mass-producing food manufacturers and local farmers. The sense of independence is as buoyant as the winds gliding over the fields of grasses and as large as the views are distant. Perhaps it is that the space and the distance and the smells and the sounds remind us that we’re insignificant, that while the pressures of our lives squeeze us, there is room, there is freedom to move and that every once in a while, we need to step out of our lives and experience something new. Let our eyes focus on something five, ten…twenty miles away, rather than on what’s in our immediate three-foot field of vision.
And by “we” and “us,” I mean “me.” I don’t mean to generalize.
My childlike bewilderment about the plains is causing me to shake my head right now. After reading this, I’ve portrayed myself as someone who is for the first time discovering that these mysterious places called the “plains” exist. I enjoy departures from the hustle and bustle of life and am well aware of the environs that surround me and have a healthy respect for and outright adoration of the natural world. But for some reason, the vast expanse of the plains had never been on my radar. Have I taken them for granted? I suppose I have. It’s easy to take much of what this state, or this nation and this planet have to offer for granted as we all tend to get wrapped up in our lives, focused on the things that need to get done, rather than making time for the joy of places or people or even things. Again, I generalize.
On a very personal level, this visit to Tori’s parent’s house on the plains was a shift that I very much needed. Inspiration never comes on its own. It comes with doing. And this is a tough lesson to learn. Being inspired does not necessarily mean success, or that once inspired everything falls into place. To be inspired means to never stop looking and to look in different ways in different places. Finding and creating new opportunities is one way to get and stay inspired. Getting the wheels out of the ruts is very challenging, but when you do, it is such a rewarding and inspiring experience.
When I seek to escape, or when I’m searching for a new place to photograph, from now on the plains will be one of the first places I consider. Their guilelessness, their simplicity and their expanse are intoxicating.