Thursday, July 9, 1998
"Karnak Ridge" in the Trinity Range, NV

10:30 a.m: We hike across the rolling bajada to the base of the ridge, pick a slope below a feasible break in the cliffs and head up, a gruelsome toil. A horned toad scampers out of our way. Dragonflies flit about in mating pairs. A jackrabbit bounds effortlessly out ahead of us. Wind whistles through the tripod I carry over my shoulder.

11:35 a.m: Mark starts shooting. The ridge, named after the temple site in Egypt unearthed by the Brits in the 1850s, is composed of columnar andesite, a light gray rock that weathers into a deep reddish brown varnish. The five-sided columns are wedged intricately into each other, a massive yet delicate crystalline assemblage sliding slowly down, piece by piece, into the valleys on either side – a process evident in the original photograph by O'Sullivan in 1868, the Second View shot in 1978, and now.

It's an awkward, unlevel, moderately hazardous cliff stance for Mark and Byron as they work, and we can't imagine how O'Sullivan found it, much less worked here with his heavy wet-plate camera gear. It's obvious, though, that he planned his shot for maximum pictorial value.

When done with the rephotography, Byron makes one of his 360º quick-time panoramas with all three of us at different points of the compass. Mark stands near the top of the ridge, posed in a gentle parody of the heroic photographer in quest of the trophy shot. We leave behind one of the Polaroids, a note from Byron, and my compass in a zipped plastic baggie under a small cairn, hoping that someone will find our tribute to O'Sullivan in the future.

On the way down via a small saddle in the ridge, we find a metal tobacco tin under a star-pattern of columns. "When a feller needs a friend," reads the tin. The label inside has handwriting on it, but it's virtually unreadable after years of weather.

By 3 p.m. we're back at the vehicles and headed into Fallon to post our findings.

8:30 p.m: We're almost at mid-point for this Third View field expedition, so we splurge on dinner at the Stockman's restaurant next door. We mark the occasion with a roundtable discussion of how difficult it is for us to balance our two conflicting needs – more planning to increase "productivity" (clean field images and notes for the Web) versus unstructured exploration.

At first we incline toward laying out a daily working template, a predictable schedule that would increase our time to discuss the key images of each day, as well as the time devoted to editing and posting material on the Web site. But then Mark suggests the opposite: setting aside a portion of each day for individuals to go off on their own, even at the expense of production values, in order to discover things for themselves.

Like the rephotographic process itself, the conversation is still very much a work-in-progress; both are evolving sets of circumstances that we know intuitively will be more productive in the long run than trying to pre-program the results.

11:35 p.m: After dinner we sit in the computer room (this time Mark and Kyle's) and watch Toshi's video for the last two days. It's not professional broadcast-quality work, as if we were being followed around by a documentary crew for public television, but, rather, an hour of images from which a few minutes will be distilled as a sketch from the field. In a sense Toshi's work is data gathering, not commentary or analysis, a late-twentieth-century technology harnessed to a nineteenth-century model of exploration, and thus a procedural reappraisal of the territory akin to the rephotography.

Stu and I are getting ready for bed when there's a loud thunderclap – he rushes out to unplug the computers, a wise decision. The next bolt a minute later knocks out the power. I stand in the open window for the next quarter of an hour as the storm passes through, lightning blasting the nearest transformer a block away in a shower of sparks and again disrupting the power. There's still lightning proceeding eastward as we go to bed and fall asleep.

 

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