barrel cactus

barrel cactus — Phoenix, Arizona | 1987

By the mid-1980’s the majority of my photography was black and white. I was still taking Kodachrome into the backcountry with me, but most of what I was doing day to day was done with my trusty FM2 loaded with Tri-X, or my Mamiya C220 loaded with the venerable Verichrome Pan which was only available in medium format rolls. To my mind Tri-X and Verichrome were two of the greatest B/W films ever made, though the later T-Max films ranked right up there. I was pretty much living in the darkroom in those days developing and printing my own stuff. I was also developing and printing for other people and doing some copy work to bring some money in. Some friends and I rented the space collectively and we had a small gallery along with the darkroom to try to sell some of our prints. I never made a lot of money, but I did learn to develop and print.

This photo was done in the spring of 1987 on a trip I made to visit my parents who were wintering in Phoenix. I got on a Greyhound bus with a bag of clothes and my FM2 with a few rolls of Tri-X and away I went. I had another friend who ran a small travel agency, and when I mentioned heading out to Arizona on a bus, he said he could probably get me a more extensive trip for about the same price as a round-trip ticket to Phoenix, so I said let’s go for it. I ended up going from Phoenix to San Diego, and then up the coast all the way to Seattle on 101, with a couple of days spent in LA and San Francisco. Then it was back to Missoula after three weeks on the bus. It was all new country for me, and a thoroughly enjoyable trip, but I don’t think I’ve been on a Greyhound since… That was my first time to California, and I would never have thought at the time that now, over thirty years later, I’d be living here. Life takes some funny turns if you hang around long enough.

By this time I was doing fewer grand landscapes, and more of these close up views of the natural world. This is one of the few from those earlier years that I think stands up to the test of time.

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