Zabriskie Point overlooks badlands in Death Valley, California. A claim to fame is that it was location of the eponymous film made by the Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni, a film registering visually with shots of geological beauty, if underwhelming for its wobbly narrative and wooden acting.
Though I doubt he knew Antonioni selected Zabriskie Point for a film shoot, one of my community college darkroom cohorts--whom I will call Al--went there on a pilgrimage for some spectacular landscape photography.
Al took his photography seriously. He had a full-kit Mamiya twin-lens reflex medium-format camera with accessories. He once said his gear cost, new, at least $13,000. So if shekels spent on gear is the metric, then Al was one high-roller driving the 887 miles from Portland, Oregon, to Death Valley, California, to take pictures.
The plan was simple. Al would stay overnight in Death Valley and drive to Zabriskie Point before sunrise and plant his Mamiya-mounted tripod in a sand dune and wait for the moment the sun popped up in the east, then photograph the eroded badlands. As fate would have it, Al was soon joined by another photographer with the same idea.
The new companion had a European accent. Even more expensive gear. A world traveller in no hurry anywhere, his savoir faire suggested, as Al sincerely related, the fellow might have been titled.
Standing there on the sand dune, the two with high-style gear waited in the dark to nail the perfect shot.
Then disaster struck. Or at least as Al related it.
A car stopped and parked on the highway shoulder, Doors opened. With sunrise moments away, a rambunctious young boy scrambled with total abandon across the sand dune and into the frame of Al's Mamiya.
Al was furious and screamed at the mother to take her son away. She tried to call him back, but to no avail. The kid wasn't leaving, kept running about. Al was convinced the kid was autistic.
Al told me this with the keenest sense of a lost opportunity.
I nodded along at his tale of woe, unwilling to say I saw it differently.
For me the picture that demanded to be taken was this one small boy expressing delirious joy--even body-surfing--across the sand dune at Zabriskie Point. Besides Light and Composition, good photography is Capture.
What do I remember of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point ? What does anybody remember? It's the camera following Daria Halprin and Mark Frechette. rolling together--in slow motion--down the sand dunes. A Capture the Italian master got right.
Image credit: nightflight.com
Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.
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5:27:17 Reading My Great Grandfather's 1868 Diary
4:27:17 The Bickford Fuse, a book review
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