We got a little carried away – When I took these I thought they would just be rubbish test shots—all of them were taken with a brand new and uncalibrated Canon 80D and Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art, and focus was all over the place. At the time I didn’t much care: this was supposed to be a quick afternoon outing to check out a spot I found on Google Earth, and see if it might be good for a sunset shoot later this summer. It’s a good reminder to always review photos on the big screen before deleting anything. I guess it was a good spot, as those few test snaps quickly turned into a few hundred exposures. No planning, no hair, no makeup—just goofing around with a few different poses, getting way too cold, and finding our way home through the dark over unknown roads.… Just a Scouting Trip
Wow, it’s hard to believe this shoot was six months ago. This was really where the recent changes in my photographic style began. We’d casually fooled around less-than-clothed with the camera before, but this time Dani wanted to put in real effort and see where this kind of shooting might lead us. After picking and scouting a location that afternoon, we raced the setting sun through the abandoned desert facility to capture this set. It was my first time shooting the person as the main subject. It was her first time playing model. She was nervous. I was nervous. We both set that aside, knowing the minimal risks—snapping a few photos you aren’t required to share—would be well worth the potential rewards…… One
Mornings in Swansea can be deceptively cool. The placement of this ghost town up against the north side of a northwest-to-southeast mountain range results in four extra hours of shade on the ground each evening. It can be 60°F at sunrise, and reach 90°F by 09:00. Despite experiencing this first hand on my last visit, we set off into the mountains on foot in search of mines. Wild burros thrive in the Mojave. The great thing about wild burros is their habit of pounding smooth trails into the ground they walk. The bad thing about wild burros is they have little desire to pound those trails up the mountains and to the mines as their domesticated ancestors once did. The old mining road faded to burro trail just outside of town, and the burro trail altered course about half-way up the mountain in favor of a water pocket in the nearby wash. Resorting to cross-country travel and bouldering we reached the summit with no sign of the mines seen from town, but the view was worth the climb. Railroad Canyon, our exit path, was a fun little diversion of high-speed wash running and smooth desert road—the “more difficult” rating only applies to a few yards on the Swansea end. After winding our way through dunes and cactus fields to Midway we said our farewells and parted ways. My course: east across the Arizona desert. Bouse The sunburnt town of Bouse is what those crumbling ruins along every desolate desert highway might be if their long-buried citizens remained. Not dead, but not quite alive either—a fate all too common on highways like U.S. 60, which continue to exist merely as service corridors for the railroads and shortcuts to cities deemed unworthy of an interstate. I’ve passed this way many times, but never stopped before. As a twenty-year-old Lincoln pulls up easy to the general store across the street I watch in anticipation, waiting for our antihero to retreat, guns blazing, and speed us off on three hours of Tarantino-style action. Such is the feel of a hot summer day in Bouse. The Climb The road up to the abandoned Harquahala observatory starts out innocently enough, with cactus and ocotillo covered hills closing in on a narrow, winding canyon. Those hills and canyons obscure the climb to come, leaving one to think the long steep hill at the end of the canyon… Harquahala
Something I love about living in Prescott—it takes forever to get anywhere. All of the interstates are over 40 miles away, and you reach them right smack in the middle of nowhere. A road trip to any destination involves a long drive on twisty two-lane roads through a harsh beauty only northern Arizona can offer. In taking the time to slow down and enjoy life’s little distractions, I’ve come to appreciate this remoteness—even when I’m in a hurry. I was in a hurry this morning. The sun had risen without bothering to ask me first, and left me with only four hours to reach Lake Havasu City. Another interesting footnote on the geography surrounding Prescott: there is no straight line connecting anything. This is true for both navigation within the town, and when outbound. Havasu is only 100 miles away, but the quickest route involves over 200 miles of road. Fortunately, speed limits out here reach a generous 75 MPH. My second closest friend (the closest being my wife, Danielle) asked me to be his best man next weekend, and this is the last opportunity to get him out for the obligatory bachelor party. For this particular friend the ideal bachelor “party” has little to do with strippers, and everything to do with the desert’s solitude and the company of a good friend. Our destination: Swansea, a small town of only a few hundred thousand… cactus. About half way between Lake Havasu and Alamo Lake along the Bill Williams River, the ghost town has a similar geographic isolation to Prescott, but with an additional 20 miles of dirt protecting it from the nearest tarmac. The most scenic route along-and-through the river has unfortunately been closed off by the BLM, another victim in their undeclared war against free access to Arizona’s backcountry. That leaves Shea Road out of Parker, Swansea / Lincoln Ranch Road out of Bouse, and Alamo Road out of Yucca as the only ways to reach the ghost town, any of which can be combined into a worthwhile loop. Using the Shea Road approach, we reached our camp in the center of town at 3 in the afternoon, plenty of time to set up camp and explore. Our exploration took us along the old water pipe that once fed Swansea, and down to the Bill Williams River. There’s always something new to see when I visit the Mojave,… Return to Swansea