Sooooo, I believe I am finally through processing the images from this winter’s trip to Big Bend National Park. I know, I know; one is never really through, but I am at a stopping point. I am also finding some of my favorite work I captured digitally, I prefer presented in a traditional monochrome format. Somehow, the desert atmosphere feels more authentic (to me) in B&W. BBNP will be the theme for the next post or two as well, followed up to this with color work. I hope you enjoy these and feel free to comment (they are welcome).
We spent a week out in Texas at the beginning of this month and made a return trip to Big Bend National Park. The park is so vast that there is little hope for us to view it all and we are planning to return again next year for our 3rd trip (my 4th). This year, we decided to attempt the River Road, a dirt road only suitable for high ground clearance vehicles. This is a 56 mile road that will take all day to travel (7+ hours). We came across an old abandoned mercury mine in the far reaches of the park. It is accessible but in a remote location of Big Bend. The park itself is very remote so needless to say, we were a long way from civilization.
I was shooting a lot of film, B&W and color and was striving for a certain look. I wanted an authentic portrayal of this mine and film was my obvious choice. Vintage and grainy for the B&W and color using a 65+ year old lens on a 45 year old Leica to portray the feeling of time gone by. The isolation, the remoteness of the area led me to choose Tri X as opposed to TMax100 for B&W. TriX is an old emulsion giving that “classic” black and white look. Color was Kodak Ektar, my go to film for daylight landscapes. Though usually a contrasty and punchy film, on the ancient serenar 50/1.8, I knew colors would come out with a pastel look with low contrast giving the appropriate vintage look.
The mine is Mariscal Mine which was abandoned in 1942. From 1901-1942 it produced approx. 25% of all the mercury in this country. Amazing considering in the early years the ore was packed out by mule around 60+ miles to the nearest town of Terlingua on a rutted out dirt road. The workers were all from Mexico (the Rio Grande is a short, couple miles away) and all suffered severe health problems as a result of the mining. Apparently the brick still contain quicksilver and there was a warning to not touch the bricks. Mine shafts were still visible, dotted through the hills but thankfully secured by steel grates.
The feeling of isolation in BBNP is intoxicating. To be out all day and not see another person, to look out over the vast desert and mountains and feel completely alone, in a timeless state is very appealing. This abandoned mine are like the skeletons of a by gone era. I hope I convey the feeling I am attempting too through these images. Enjoy!