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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Capturing Southwest Light

Larry Lindahl explores his desert home in search of the unexpected

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Sedona-based photographer Larry Lindahl takes us on a tour through his own backyard, Arizona Canyon Country. Clouds hover over Camels Head Rock in the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area.
Sedona, Arizona, is a special place. Outdoor enthusiasts know it for its ubiquitous red sandstone rock formations, which have drawn photographers for decades who juxtapose the almost glowing red rocks with deep blue skies for dramatic landscape images. It’s the natural beauty that first drew photographer Larry Lindahl to the region. But his aesthetic tends to look past the most obvious and dramatic compositions in favor of the more unique offerings around Sedona, and the desert, in general.

“The subject matter I’m drawn to runs a fairly wide gamut,” he says. “From Southwestern landscape images to Native American traditions, close-ups of butterflies, wildflowers, backpacking stories… What I enjoy most in photography is telling a story through a series of images.”

The story that Lindahl’s photography tells about the Southwest is one of an area in constant change. It’s easy for amateurs to assume that, in a beautiful region such as Sedona, you simply show up before sunrise, snap a picture and hike home. Some photographers may take that approach, but Lindahl prefers to photograph at the edges—the times of greatest flux when the landscape comes alive.

A swallowtail butterfly finds nectar on a blossoming fendler bush along the slopes of Doe Mountain in Coconino National Forest.
“Timing is everything in so many memorable pictures,” he says. “Clouds floating into perfect position, a rainbow appearing after a storm or finding a rattlesnake drinking water from a spring. It’s those moments that keep me coming back for more. And it’s in those moments that I feel most aware of the spiritual element that animates all life.

A garter snake approaches a creek bank looking for prey.
“The juxtaposition of opposites in the Southwest is something I seek,” Lindahl continues, “especially those places where sandstone and water meet in the desert. Those scenes make the most engaging photographs. The eye dances with the geometry of shapes and the drama of opposites—wet and dry, transparent and opaque, fluid and unyielding, reflective and textured—meeting together, charging a scene with energy. I like that visual dance; it’s playful and serious all at the same time.”

One of Lindahl’s favorite photographs, an agave in full bloom, represents the tension between the rough-hewn stone canyons and the soft beauty of a flower. And it came from a serendipitous moment of personal connection with the landscape.

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