A friend commented recently that one of my photos really impressed her. The photo, a black-and-white shot of a mission graveyard south of Farmington, New Mexico, was made one morning in 2003 as David Martin and I were ending an excellent desert hiking trip, Desert Cold. One reason it’s possible to make photos like this is that when I travel, those who are with me and I have an agreement that we are in “The Zone.” The rules of The Zone are simple: anytime anyone wants to stop and make a picture, we stop and make a picture, no questions asked.
I know that many of you share the experience of going on family vacations. When I was 11, we drove to California, and along the way we stopped at White Sands National Monument. I don’t know if you have been there, but I have been four times now, and not only is it a very interesting photographic subject, it’s a playground wonderland of gypsum sand and sunshine. When we were there in 1974, we stopped about a third of the way along the Dunes Drive where the sand dunes start to get interesting, got out and posed for a picture, then got back in the car and drove the rest of the Dunes Drive, past the giant, pure, glistening mountains of perfect white sand. We couldn’t get out and play on them because we had to be somewhere – Yuma or something – by a certain time.
When, as an adult, I began to travel the American west, I decided that I wouldn’t be like that; anything we wanted to stop and see or photograph would be on the list. Thus, “The Zone.”