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The Super Cool Wild Burro Tree and an Encounter with Gun Toting Lads

Why Revisiting Your Favorite Photo Locations is a Good Idea

I visit my favorite locations often for several reasons. In this video I’m out at the Wild Burro Tree in the Mojave Desert and I chat up how I scout some of my favorite places. I also had an interesting interaction with a few kids carrying rifles in a very careless manner on this trek which I talk about. If nothing else get to the end and check out the Wild Burro Tree. It’s very, very cool!

Please visit: www.SavageTerritory.com for my limited editions.

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Turn Around There’s a Goblin Behind You!

Goblin Rock at Goblin Valley, Utah by Gary Orona

Goblin Rock at Goblin Valley, Utah by Gary Orona

Watch Your Back for Amazing Landscape Photography

When I’m trekking out in wild landscapes I watch my back very frequently. You never know what might sneak up on you. No I’m not talking about mountain lions although I’ve run across fresh cat scat so many times it has crept into my constant awareness! What I’m talking about is periodically turning around and scanning the landscape to my back for two important reasons.

First I’m looking for landmarks that I will see when I’m headed back. If I’m in difficult and maze-like badlands I want markers to get me back to the Land Rover safely. I don’t use rock cairns as markers for many reasons which I’ll get into in a future post so for now, I do not like cairns.

Secondly, sometimes amazing things are happening right behind you. The light is different, the perspective is different and that huge rock you just passed up may look completely amazing from the other side.

So I’m often turning and marching backwards which perplexes newbies I’ve got with me for the trip. I can almost read their minds as the ‘city folk’ are asking themselves, “what the hell is he doing”? Years ago I took an urbanite friend of mine into the Superstition Mountains in Arizona and as I continually marched turned, shifted and gazed intensely across the horizon I could see that he was becoming very uneasy. This went on for hours and soon he was really looking paranoid. When I asked if he was okay he confessed that he was frightened because I seemed so concerned about bears, or mountain lions or some other predator that might jump us!

I laughed and explained that I was memorizing landmarks and watching for possible shots. The blood returned to his face and later that night he had a great time downing a few beers at the campfire unconcerned about death while on a photo adventure!

So here’s this photo of a rock goblin in Goblin Valley, Utah. And yes it snuck up on me. If I hadn’t turned around I would have missed the shot.

Good Thoughts – Gary Orona

BTW I have ultra limited editions of select shots available here: www.SavageTerritory.com


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Muscle Memory Applied to Cinematography and Photography

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Uranium Truck Boot by Gary Orona

The Photo Shoots Itself: Zen and the Art of Focal Lengths

In physical fitness excellence comes from repetition and the concept of muscle memory. Your muscles remember stress and they build on it. The same principles apply to your creative muscles. This shot is all about the focal length of the lens. So here’s the setup.

A massive thunderstorm was approaching with a wall of black clouds right behind this group of scattered ones. I had just a few seconds before the sun was going to be lost in the approaching tempest.

With almost no effort I knew to get on the ground with an extreme wide angle lens to make that old boot imposing and powerful. Had I spent any time considering which lens to use this shot would not have happened.┬áSo the lesson here is whatever your craft is in life, do it over, and over, and over until it’s second nature. Build those mental muscles so that art happens without effort.

In Zen it is said that the master archer does not force the shot but rather, “the arrow shoots itself”. This level of excellence is not magic or some in-born ‘talent’. This is a product of repetition and love.

Good Thoughts – Gary Orona

BTW This was shot with a lens that would be about 16mm on a 35mm camera.


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Kill Your TV and Take a Trip Into Savage Territory

gary orona dinosaur point

The Sublime Branch of Dinosaur Point as photographed by Gary Orona.

Blood, Sweat and Tears vs. Comfortable Desperation

These don’t come easily. Take a look at the landscape behind “The Sublime Branch of Dinosaur Point”. It’s vast and those mountains in the background (the La Sals) are about 50 miles away. This small area of badlands and canyonlands is about 30×60 miles so that’s 1,800 square miles.

To find special secret locations such as this requires trekking on foot seemingly endlessly in this wilderness space and this is just a tiny section of the Colorado Plateau. That’s a lot of marching with packs full of heavy camera gear.

But it’s worth every step.

We can choose to sit comfortably and watch a television which is basically spitting out illusions and propaganda OR we can choose to explore life in savage territory.

I chose savage territory a very long time ago. I have no regrets.

Challenge yourself to your own adventures in 2015. If you’d like to get some inspiration check out my landscapes gallery here.

Good Thoughts – Gary Orona

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Be a Balanced Rock with Gary Orona

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A Balanced Rock as Metaphor for Tenacity Despite Erosional Forces

Persist on the Hero’s Path Against All Erosional Forces

This is what persistence in following your dream looks like. If this rock had given up there would be very little beauty here. This can be a very lonely place. Ask any hero, but that’s no excuse to quit.

Go through the savage gauntlet despite the discouragement you will receive from friends, family and enemies. It’s a lonely place. But it’s worth the journey.

Good Thoughts – Gary Orona

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Story vs Frozen Moment in Mythic Fine Art Photography

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Quicksand Ruined Mrs Kibble’s Holiday as photographed by Gary Orona.

Mythic Story Frozen in Quicksand by Gary Orona

As a TV and film producer, director, cinematographer and still photographer I’m constantly in a state of conflict. Movement and storytelling in motion pictures and the frozen moment in photographs both tug for primary attention within my embattled psyche. The closest thing to resolution of this conflict is the photo above.

When not filming TV shows I experiment with story in photography which isn’t really in my roots since for me photography has always been about getting the epic landscapes. But that’s all changed now.

Photography is more popular than ever and as such the masses seem to be congregating around this informal ‘bucket list’ of strong visual locations. So what we end up with is 200 million photographs of Mesa Arch in Utah. The mesmerizing landscapes of our world have become just another postcard.

I’m very interested these days in creating a mythology of sorts, imagining what events could have happened in strictly remote, off-the-charts landscape locations. It so happens that I reside in one of the most stunning and least populated areas in the continental USA. People go missing in these canyons and their skeletons aren’t found till years later. There is an undercurrent of the primal and of the savage that runs thought these badlands.

So these are the stories I’m uncovering here whether I’ve staged them or not.

My obsession with motion picture storytelling and with the still photographic image is merging and it’s quite interesting. I’m discovering beautiful, mysterious and disturbing stories out here.

Good Thoughts – Gary Orona

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The Opportunity of Attacked by Savages

savages rv gary orona

An RV Attacked by Savages in Badlands

Always be Prepared for Savages

Allowing for spontaneous creativity is key every good work. In this instance I had an old license plate in my backpack and didn’t have much of an idea of what I might do with it. But I knew that sooner or later I’d trek into a setting that would give it an opportunity to become a centerpiece.

There is this area in badlands near Green River, Utah in which these would-be Burning Man types produce a kind of counter culture event each year. I was surprised at the terrible condition they’d left the area in with junk art of the lowest grade thrown all over the desert. So this RV which had obviously been attacked by savages was the perfect symbol of the setting but as it stood alone, without comment it didn’t really resonate.

By adding that old license plate from South Dakota the setting jumped out and suddenly we have a story.

Visit my Photo Gallery HERE.

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Billy Was Welcomed Home in the Most Fabulous Way by Gary Orona

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Billy Was Welcomed Home in the Most Fabulous Way by Gary Orona

The Wild West as Photographed by Gary Orona

Again, it’s amazing the things you’ll discover when you don’t allow boulders in the path to slow you down. It’s all about tenacity. When people say “oh you’re so talented” I shutter a little bit only because it’s taken decades of insane challenges to gain this “talented-ness”.

So yesterday the Land Rover went back into transmission ‘limp mode’ which means it went permanently into 3rd gear. That’s a hell-of-a-way to travel when you’re in rugged terrain off road. Instead of turning back I just pushed on so I was able to get this shot.

I figured I’d take my chances and attach an external battery bumper to give it a little extra juice for the tranny after the sun went down. So not knowing if the ride home was going to work out I went ahead and did my work anyway.

I’m glad I did because this image worked out well and the bump to the Land Rover battery worked and I didn’t have to ‘limp’ home for 30 miles!

Good Thoughts – Gary O.

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