“Badlands in Bloom” by Guy Tal
Guy Tal (www.guytal.com) is a naturalist, photographer, and writer residing in the state of Utah, in the heart of a unique and scenic desert region known as the Colorado Plateau. He chose nature photography “as a way of capturing and sharing the beauty, power, and fragility of wild places and the life that inhabits them, so that those who have become mired in the man-made chaos may open their eyes to the real world. His goal as a person and, by extension, as an artist, is to witness, participate in, and share the delicate beauty of wilderness – those moments in time when nature and spirit transcend the manufactured reality of politics, wars, fashions, and mass media, to inspire the raw emotion and primal awe that lies dormant in each of us.”
Guy Tal: “This image is especially meaningful to me because its story is closely tied with a turbulent and emotional period in my own life. For several years, my wife Sarah and I considered moving to the small town of Torrey, Utah, a short drive from where this image was made. As the years went by, the yearning for “our place” became progressively more powerful, but so did the challenges. When I first saw this area in bloom, in the spring of 2005, I was amazed. I never quite appreciated the beauty of these stark arid badlands as I did then. Unfortunately, I only got a passing glimpse. I was on a trip with friends, and there was little time to explore or wait for favorable light.
“It was also around that time that my dream of living in these parts seemed almost out of reach, a fact that colored almost every other aspect of my life. As we drove away from the blooming badlands, I remember feeling a sense of hopelessness. Nevertheless, I knew I had to return to photograph the magnificent bloom, with sufficient time to make a meaningful image and to immerse myself in the experience. I was able to return in the spring of 2007. To my surprise, the carpets of flowers I remembered from my prior visit were nowhere to be found. I later learned that the colorful displays generally occur at intervals of five or more years and require the rare combination of significant precipitation within a narrow time window. There was no telling when these conditions might occur next.
“I returned again in the spring of 2008. The flowers were still not there, but something every bit as wonderful did happen on that visit. After nearly five years of searching, Sarah and I finally found the perfect little house in Torrey and, despite much uncertainty, decided to purchase it. Though I could not live in it right away, being still employed in another industry, I was no longer a passer-by. This place was now part of my neighborhood, in a larger sense, part of my home. The two years that followed were among the most memorable in my life. With much effort, I was able to leave my day job and make Torrey my permanent home. Now closer to the places I loved, I made repeated trips to the badlands, discovering and learning to appreciate more of their subtle beauty with each visit. By the end of 2009, I already had a substantial body of work inspired by the place. Still, the flowers continued to elude me. It was not until the spring of 2010 that I finally saw them again.
“Five years after conceiving the image, I was at last able to capture it. More than that, I had the dramatic backdrop of a thunderstorm early in the morning – an especially rare event in these parts. Having found my ideal composition, I captured the image using my Canon 5D Mark II camera and a 17-40 mm zoom lens. What began with a profuse bloom of purple scorpionweed transformed within days to a yellow beeplant followed suit. Each day the patchwork of colors shifted and changed until, just a couple of short weeks later, the place was again barren.
“Sadly, the beauty of these hills belies their struggle for survival and preservation. Despite harboring endangered species and being adjacent to a large area open to legal motorized recreation, many do not heed the small closure signs, which are the only things standing between fragile and sensitive habitat and the violent assault of small-minded motorists in search of a momentary thrill. Less than a year after making this image, I returned to the place to continue exploring its many wonders. The image below tells the rest of the story better than any words could. This beautiful scene may never appear quite this way again.”