The Lost Ark
Eastern Sierra, California (2017)
I often say that my archaeological experience did a lot to prepare me for life as a landscape photographer. I spent four expedition years excavating a site in Israel, where the summer days were so hot that we had to begin digging before sunrise in order to avoid too much time out during the hottest part of the day. There is nothing quite as grueling as swinging a pick axe into hard ground in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, except maybe having to run a wheelbarrow full of debris up a hill afterwards. So we awoke every day at about 3:00am and trudged through the black of night up to the excavation area in time to have our tools prepared for action at the break of dawn. As soon as there was enough ambient light to see what we were doing, we went to work.
Excavating was a dirty affair, of course, and we tended to finish each day coated in a thick layer of sweaty grime. We worked hard and went to great extremes to protect ourselves from the elements outdoors, but we looked forward to each new day for the surprises that it might bring. In the excavation squares that I supervised, we found architecture and mosaics from a Roman bathhouse, sculpture from a Greek temple, and pottery sherds from every ancient civilization that ever occupied that region. Watching an artifact emerge from the ground for the first time in millennia was always a source of awe and excitement, excitement not only due to the process of discovery but also for the expectation of working with the finds later as pieces of a larger project.
The parallels with landscape photography are many. I still travel to exotic places, get up well before sunrise, work hard outdoors, get really dirty, make discoveries, and bring back treasures to turn into projects. And I still sometimes find myself trudging through a desert landscape with the Indiana Jones Theme playing in my head.