Archive for magic hour


Posted in Hopi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by brettvanort

Anyone for 18 before I want to melt in the sun?

Water in the desert southwest.  There has always been little to begin with.  Now there is more but also there is less.  Some of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century created a foundation for the establishment of Phoenix, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, Los Angeles, CA and countless other smaller towns and cities in a region that should by all means be relatively uninhabited.

Page, Arizona, the leaping off point for recreation galore.  Nearby is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where Lake Powell is located.  80 miles from the heart of Hopi by the way the crow flies are golf, water skiing, boating, and boozing.

The dam that creates Lake Powell.

Most of these leisure activities exist because of the dam that was created in 1966.  The Colorado river is held here to generate 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of energy per year.  There are ultimate failings with the dam though, and not only because of the water being held back to the Colorado and Little Colorado that run through Navajo and Hopi territory to the south.

The dam has a large amount of risk associated with it, most notably the build up of silt and sediment from the Navajo sandstone that ring the reservoir and line the cliffs that the Colorado has carved over the millenium.  The silt and sediment slowly fills Lake Powell, reducing its capacity.  The lifespan of the dam at this point is by some estimated at 85 to 100 years at which point the breaching of the dam would cause a megatsunami downstream that would crest Hoover dam by over 200 feet.  Because of these risks associated with the dam and the resulting Lake Powell the project was termed “America’s most regretted environmental mistake,” at its completion by the then executive director of the Sierra Club David Brower.

Navajo Generating Station

A few miles outside of Page is another power plant that uses the water from Lake Powell to cool its turbines which allow it to function in the midst of a desert.  The Navajo Generating Station produces 16.5 billion KW per year and releases 19.9 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.  The energy produced by the plant serves over 3 million homes every year in the desert southwest.  The plant also employs nearly 600 Navajo workers when you combine the efforts of those at the Keynata Mine where the coal is mined for use at the plant.  Because of this and the lack well paid jobs in Navajo country, the plant and mine are a slippery slope for those in the Native community to talk about.  In one respect it produces high paid, skilled jobs.  But in another it is digging into the heart of country that to many Native Americans in the region consider sacred.  Talking to Native Americans about this is virtually impossible as an outsider.  On so many occasions I was told that this issue and others involving mining  or energy production are “very sensitive” to the Hopi.

The Navajo Generating Station at Dawn. Navajo Mountain can be seen to the left of the smokstacks, seemingly emerging from the cooling towers.

The Navajo plant began producing power in 1975.  As part of its development the plant required the construction and hanging of nearly 800 miles of 500 kilovolt lines so generated power could reach its intended target of Phoenix, Ariz0na.  Also interesting is how the turbines at Navajo are cooled.  As Lake Powell is a reservoir in a sense without a flow or current to it, the Navajo plant does not expel its waste water back into the body it originated from like most plants situated on a river or coastline.  When this usually happens it will raise the water temperature of that body of water.  In some cases, on the Hudson river, during summer time when flows are lower,  the temperature will raise 24ºF or 13ºC in the vicinity of the plants and down river from them.  How this impacts the ecosystem in that vicinity is hardly seen as it mostly occurs underwater.  But imagine the effect is has on fish and other wildlife in the area.  The Navajo plant, on the other hand, uses cooling towers to disapate the heat generated but in doing so about 30,000 acre feet of water per year evaporates in an area where water is already precious and to the Hopi, considered sacred.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the mine on Black Mesa.  To both the Hopi and Navajo a place considered sacred.


Cabinwood revisited.

Posted in Murfeesboro Tornado, Personal with tags , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2009 by brettvanort

These were taken a while ago.  The very end of September to be exact.  I’ve been neglecting quite a bit of late, wrapped up with the exhibition my final project and everything, I’ve nearly forgotten about certain photographs I took this summer.  Now that the exhibition is hung and on the wall, I want to revisit the other projects I pursued this summer.  Hopi, Rest Areas, whatever else I managed to cram in, I’m focusing on that while I’m also trying to hustle for work.  I figure I will have enough to keep me occupied for a little while.

One last look before it would be gone.

I’ll start with a couple from Cabinwood.  The day after I took these the house was to be leveled completely, the logs were to be sold off for a total of $3000 I’ve heard.  It’s a shame but there is not a lot that can be done.  What’s interesting is the guy that will be removing the logs will also set up a deer blind on the property and pay our family $500 for every deer he bags with a bow and arrow.  While I was there, there were deer everywhere.  I counted 7 or 8 at one point while I was trudging around at dusk with my camera.

You can see two deer to the left of the creek bank middle frame. The others scampered away.

I felt I little more at ease this visit.  The shock of seeing what used to be so heavily canopied not open to the sky was the strangest thing at this point.  The above photograph would have been just a green and brown thicket with no sky prior to the tornado.  I’ve decided that on every visit I will shoot from the same spots and see how the land transforms slowly back to a forest.  Will it take 20 years?  30?  50?  Will I ever see it the same way that it is in my mind when I recall it?  It brings up a host of questions about memory and how it relates to photography, and memory and how it relates to landscape.

There used to be a hedgerow here.

Tower Hill

Posted in London Dawn, Personal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2009 by brettvanort

I figured last night that if we are lucky we live to see about 29,000 days (close to 80 years).  I’ve got around 17,000 to go if I’m lucky.  A finite thought but I had it after spending the day at the beach and having the space and time to think.

As I got home at around 10:30pm I used the thought to convince myself to wake up after only about 4 hours sleep.  It took me around an hour to power down so by the time I closed my eyes it was close to midnight.

I really didn’t want to get up and I really didn’t want to go all the way to Tower Hill but I somehow dragged myself out of bed and shiver by ass off waiting for the bus at 4:15.  Once I get off the bus everything switches on though.  Even without coffee or breakfast I’m good to go for a couple hours and what I get to see keeps me going.

5:13 AM

5:13 AM

Lights on the bridge or lights off?  I can’t decide.

5:18 AM

5:18 AM

It’s getting lighter later now.  I don’t really know how much longer I can pursue this as I only have about 30 minutes to work with now until the City starts to pulse, buzz and hum.  By 5:45 cars and trucks are virtually everywhere and by 6:15 forget about it, there are pedestrians everywhere and the London that I own for myself for about an hour is gone.  Given up to everyone else to use.

5:39 AM

5:39 AM

I’ll keep at it.  At least until I head to Bosnia and Kosovo.  Looks like I’ll be headed there around mid-August.  Then back here for a few days until I leave for Hopi Nation and other things August 28.


Posted in London Dawn, Personal with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2009 by brettvanort

I’ve started to reserve the commter centers, major train stations, busy tube stops etc, for the weekends.  I hope that they won’t be so busy.  As this is my first full weekend back from my getaway I’ll be going out both days.  Today was Waterloo.  I’m probably more familiar with the inside of this one than most as my wife’s two cousins live in different towns serviced by Southwest Trains.  The inside was not familiar without the amount of people though.

5:06 AM

5:06 AM

Of course I couldn’t get a shot without ANY people.  It was impossible inside but this was the best I could do.  Outside was a bit easier although I really had to wait.

5:35 AM

5:35 AM

The light got better and better and I believe I have a better shot on film as I reserved those few moments when there was no one around for the film camera.  As it grew more and more light more people started showing up.  Everyone that had a happy snappy took a shot of their own as they walked past.  The sunrise was great today.


5:53 AM

Tomorrow it’s King’s Cross.


Posted in London Dawn, Personal with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by brettvanort

Today was tougher.  I got up earlier.  3:30 am and caught the 24 to Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street.  I’ve never seen so many drunk fools on a Thursday morning in my life.  It leads to another post which I’ll work on later.

Anyway.  There were a lot of people out.  Too many in fact.  It was about 4:15 when I got there.  Light was beginning to show in the sky and it didn’t seem like this location would work.  I scrambled down to Oxford Circus.  More people, not as many at least, I guess as there was more light these vampires were scuttling off to their coffins.

Made my way to Piccacdily.  The last place I would try today.  I hung out and waited. . . a while.  And got this.

4:50 AM

4:50 AM

Abandoned London

Posted in London Dawn, Personal with tags , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2009 by brettvanort

Term over.  Hopi Indians in mid-August, along with a follow up on Tejon Ranch in LA.  So what’s a MA student to do?  Well, I’m going to peddle my crap around town a little and look to get shot down a thousand times.  But I have to keep shooting.  I have one idea that will be kept on the back burner until October or November but until I leave for Arizona I need another project.  One that’s cheap and keeps me in the city.

Here’s the beginnings of it.

5:34 AM

So I’m planning on going out every morning and trying to capture at least one London land/cityscape by itself.  No cars, no buses, no people.  I woke at 4 am this morning and got to Parliament Square by about 4:45, right at sunrise.  I will have to get up a bit earlier I think but I am happy with the results of today.  And it wasn’t just one.  I got two.

5:15 AM

If the weather keeps up like this I should have more to come.

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