Jesus Maria, Baja California 1988

Pemex - Baja California, Mexico 1998
Kodak TMX B&W film on the road in Baja California – December 1988

This photograph was made with my reliable Mamiya on TMX 120 – a film I reluctantly became familiar with in the early 1990s after Ilford forever altered the chemical personality of FP4. It wasn’t a smooth transition but eventually we got along once I slowed down and began treating TMX gently. Pictured here is the unpaved road to San Borja, shot through an R25 sandwiched with a polarizing filter. Camera was on a tripod due to the extreme filter factor – something like four or five stops, dropping the shutter speed down around 1/8 – too slow to hand-hold. Breaking winter light with lots of shadow. Wind making the only sound over the quiet clicking of my old Jeep (which was almost new on this day).

The drive from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas is exactly 1000 miles. If you put in 24 hours behind the wheel you’ll get there in 24 hours. For every hour spent eating, drinking or stopping for a photograph – add those hours to your itinerary. Since highway D-1 winds through some of the most savagely beautiful landscape on earth, the drive can take a lot longer because it usually involves side trips to odd places that contain things like prehistoric painted caves, valleys filled with roadrunner cartoon rock formations, secluded shimmering bays – there are almost no ordinary stretches. A narrow strip of mountainous land between the Pacific and the Mar de Cortez automatically creates strangely beautiful weather. When we were kids we called it The Land That God Forgot.

A friend of mine asked me to start this blog with a description of what it’s like to make a photograph. It’s metaphysical cooking: everything you need is scattered in front of you and it comes together the instant the shutter is tripped. The sky, the light, clouds. The emotions you possess after you’ve pulled the camera out and framed the shot, sometimes fleeting, sometimes as certain as the ground beneath your feet, are like walking into a kitchen with a shopping bag full of ingredients. As the photograph comes together a funny thing happens: time goes away. Somewhere between pulling the tripod out and deciding to filter the light, you enter a kind of suspended reality where experience and disposition get together for a little duet. If you were a musician, it would be like feeling a certain way and playing it. The mood, the loneliness, spirituality, whatever you’ve got – gets put in the mix. There can be intensely tactile sensations: the familiar weight of the camera, tripod – cool to the touch, the incessant mechanical sound of film advance are all part of it. Then, after working on an idea for a frame or two – sometimes more – you move back into reality, put the gear away, finish the hike or start the car and move on. That space out of time is your negative (if you were shooting negative film) and it’s permanently imprinted with everything you brought to that day, that fraction of a second. Don’t ask me why, but those fractions are different from the rest of daily life. How different? To answer that, there would have to be some tequila…

About John Durant

Professional photographer in California
This entry was posted in B&W negative film, Baja California, Mexico and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jesus Maria, Baja California 1988

  1. bill jones says:

    Sensational job JD. The writing is wonderful and compliments perfectly your work. Who was that friend who convinced you to start a blog?

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