By Catherine Bruce
We were on the road to visit my in-laws. My husband, Ed, was driving, and as usual I was looking out the window, imagining wagon trains coming through the hills on the Oregon Trail. Most of the area traversed by the highway is still undeveloped and fairly rustic. But it’s now changing rapidly after years of inactivity. On this trip I had my camera and, feeling bored, snapped some pictures through the window. (Click images for larger views.)
When I got home I debated how much through-the-window look I wanted the images to have, and started playing with cropping out the side-view window, car roof, etc. Your mind does that for you when you look at a scene, and I found it easy with these pictures to make them look like what the mind sees, which in that area includes lots of desert and sky. Once the photos started looking fairly Oregon-Trail-like (except for the occasional paved road or farm building), I decided that would be my theme.
Once I started cropping, I decided on a few more tweaks. For one thing, the foreground was going by at 60 mph and looked kind of messy. I might have left more of it in if I had software that would dodge and burn, but I’m using MS Picture Manager because my software-developer sensibilities reject the cumbersome design of Photoshop.
The first photo I took, of the trailers, is a true “hipshot,” although it looks composed. We’d pulled off the road for some reason and were turning around in that field. I took the picture because I’ve always liked sagebrush and dried grass, and I feel like the desert doesn’t get enough respect. And I thought the trailer encampment looked a little mysterious. So I just held up the camera and clicked. The picture you see is exactly what I shot.
Meanwhile, the deep green field at the top of this post looks like alfalfa, which has always interested me because it is so amazingly green it practically knocks your eyes out. Many people, including some who live there, don’t realize that Southern Idaho is desert. They see towns and dairy farms and don’t realize what a small part of the landscape they take up. So this was just a little impromptu attempt to get photos of the desert while it’s still there.
I never spent much time in the desert until I met my husband. His family moved from the Southern California desert to the Southern Idaho desert a few years ago. Visually, the two towns they lived in are almost indistinguishable. The main streets are lined with the same chain hotels, restaurants, and big box stores. The California town grew up because the Federal government sees the desert, home to Edwards Air Force Base, as a handy place to crash airplanes.
The Idaho town was established because the Snake River was a good source of water for turning the desert into farms. And both expanded because of low real estate prices. I might like the desert less if I had to live there. But I fantasize that if I did live there, it would be in a house on the sand with cactus for landscaping, tumbleweeds for interior decoration, and desert wind for air conditioning.
Catherine Bruce is a mostly-retired software developer who gave up film photography when she claims she stopped improving. She recently became more interested in snapping pictures with her digital camera, when Doodlemeister.com persuaded her that it’s not necessary to agonize in advance over what the photos will look like. She still has a weakness for symmetry and order, but is working on developing a “hip-shot” mentality.