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Death Valley National Park, 2016

Three years ago I released a photo that I titled “Moondial” featuring a full moon setting over an extraordinary playa of mud tiles. I have since told the story behind that photo in numerous talks and interviews, each time recounting my discovery of the playa and the multiple failed attempts that frustrated me before I finally came away with what I wanted. I’ve now learned that the playa in that photo and all of the others nearby it no longer exist, having been ravaged by rains and winds that filled them in with sediments.

For better or worse, time and nature are always engaged in an elaborate dance. As nature’s clock keeps ticking, old features erode or evolve, and new ones emerge. A massive amount of rainfall in late 2015 probably set off the chain of conditions that were necessary to create the playa pictured in this photo that I am sharing today for the first time. As was the case with “Moondial”, discovering this new field of mud tiles was immensely exciting. As we were passing nearby, my friend Ted spotted some interesting terrain that lured us deeper into the desert where we came upon this massive expanse of tiles, and location lust set in immediately.

Again I returned repeatedly to pursue an idea: I wanted to create a companion piece to Moondial that featured the sun. I didn’t know quite what circumstances might bring that idea to life for me, and I tried numerous compositions in a variety of conditions, with the only constant being the inclusion of the sun in the frame. Finally, while enjoying a week alone following a series of workshops last year, I ventured out there again on a stormy afternoon. Just when I was beginning to doubt that I would ever produce a photo that I could title “Sundial”, nature sent me the message: it was time!

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