Northwestern Nevada: day two, mostly The Blackrock

There are very few places that go by only part of their name and The. The Blackrock is one of them. I love Death Valley, but it is always Death Valley; The Valley is always Yosemite. Like The Canyon is always the Grand. Maybe – for me – The Escalante for the Grand Staircase National Monument, but there are not many The’s. Even the Bonneville Desert is the Bonneville Saltflats or Desert; The Bonneville always refers to the speed trials.

The Blockrock Playa dominates this part of the world. It is huge and very flat. Big enough and flat enough to drive a car faster than the speed of sound.

Looking down on The Blackrock, it is huge. Being on it, it is almost infinite.  At the south end is the town of Gerlach and when you drive north on the playa – oh! you not only can drive on the playa, there are marked entries and exits – Gerlach disappears by sinking below the horizon. You can actually see the curvature of the earth! Here are a couple of shots but they are weak sauce; it is like trying to understand a Rolling Stone – actually, The Stones – concert by listening to a CD.


The last shot by the way was taken about twenty years ago on film and was then scanned. I like to think I am more subtle now. Hummm….maybe not.

One of things that Peter and I talked about – as we drove around was how blogging had changed our photography.  We both think of ourselves as Good Photographers, even Art Photographers – actually, I am speaking for myself here and only imagining for Peter – but we both are Fine Art Photographers. In that we both think about what we are doing and what we are trying to show and we both have a good eye. But, when blogging, and we were both thinking blogging as we went around the Black Rock – we have to tell a story and that means we have to take pictures that push a narrative. We don’t have the luxury of  indulging in 100 pictures of patterns on the desert floor and I think that is a good thing. It is also a thing that will play out later on this trip.

As an aside, in 1988 – man that was long ago! – I had the opportunity to photograph Machu Picchu with nobody around. It was wonderful – wonder filled – and I got some great shots. I also got about 15o shots of stone walls and shadows. I was also chewing coco leaves which may have been a factor, but almost every one of the shots was worth framing as an image. One hundred and fifty shots of stone walls and shadows….On film, five rolls. Jeeeze! End aside.

After the Blackrock, we went back to the Smoke Creek area. It was getting windy and colder and dusty and – most importantly – the light was getting flat. We figured we would drive  down to the Smoke Creek creek to see if we could find a place to camp out of the wind. On the way, we found a couple of hummocks that we decided to walk to. That walk turned out to be a bit longer as we walked past the hummocks and down to the temporary wetland by the edge of the playa.


But the light was flat and my imagined picture of the fence running into the water  à la Christo didn’t pan out. Photography is capturing light – especially landscape photography – and without good light, even the most stunning scene looks dull.The grandest vista, flat.

After wandering down to the actual Smoke Creek lookinbg for a sheltered campsite, we went back to a campsite just south of last night’s.

It was warmer than last night and the same immense space but the wind was picking up and the clouds were getting that rounded look which is never a good sign. After sunset, we got a feeble show of color but not much.

To be continued and to see another take on the day from Peter, go here.






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