GUMO AIR, July 2014

Getting settled in… By chance I was assigned to bunk at the historic Ship on the Desert, known by the staff simply as The Ship.  It was built by one of the fathers of GUMO, Wallace Pratt, who later donated over 5k acres to the NPS.  Been busy getting through the visitors centers and meeting various park employees plus discussing schedules and programming for next week.  Tomorrow is an employee luncheon and then I’ll load up and hit the backcountry for my first overnight and hopefully some nice photographs.  Juggling images for my programming, traditional landscapes for the park service, and my own ideas with triptychs.  Everyone at GUMO has been most helpful.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Entrance to two room apartment attached to The Ship.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Historic home of Wallace Pratt located inside the park. Known as The Ship on The Desert or just “The Ship” by park personnel.

First overnight backpacking / photo trip on the Permian Reef Trail. Hiked up 4 miles and gained over 2k’ elevation. Only got a few shots before sunset and then it was overcast most of the morning so I hiked back down after lunch. Hoping for some better light tomorrow on the Guadalupe Peak Trail.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Entrance to McKittrick Canyon from the Permian Reef Trail.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Looking towards McKittrick Canyon and the high country.

Working through some ideas with various image combinations while on location. I’m considering these “sketches” and hope to add text. Have several things going on this week. Preparing a program for park visitors, shooting scenic photos for the park, and working with my personal images. Enjoying the AIR experience; although, the Guadalupe Mountains are very challenging.

Guadalupe Mountains

Guadalupe Mountains


UPDATE (07.12): Gave a presentation at the Guadalupe Mountains Visitor Center this afternoon as part of my artist-in-residence.  Seemed to go pretty well and I was able to share some old and new work plus give a few tips on photography.  I’m adding a few more composites from this past week and will be relocating to another section of the park (100 mile drive) and getting back on the trail.  Work seems to be coming together some.  Wanted to work more with text  or quotes, but that hasn’t developed yet.


Along the Salt Basin Overlook Trail, Guadalupe Mountains Wilderness Area.


Taken from atop Hunter Peak (in shadow), showing El Capitan to the left, Guadalupe Peak, and Bartlett Peak.


Hiking along Salt Basin Overlook Trail.


Guadalupe Mountains from the Butterfield Overland stage route.

UPDATE (07.19): Trip over to Dog Canyon didn’t turn out as planned.  Did a short overnight to West Dog Canyon and returned the following day.  A lightning storm sparked a wildfire in the mountains along Frijole Ridge, which put me on standby for my next overnight trip to McKittrick Ridge.  The fire burned into the next day and then more thunderstorms were threatening so I had to change my plans.  I drove back over to the east side of the park and felt that I had lost two days of photography, but it was a good afternoon / evening of editing.   I planned an early all day trek into McKittrick Canyon the next day, but the canyon was closed until mid-morning.  Finally hit the trail around 10:45am and just enjoyed a nice 10 mile day hike into the canyon.  I felt like that was the last hike I had in me for the trip.  I met with the Superintendent and Chief of Interpretations for a brief close out meeting.  It was a great experience and I’ll put together a summary soon.

Here are a few images I put together from Dog Canyon.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

West Dog Canyon

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Dog Canyon from Marcus Overlook

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

West Dog Canyon

UPDATE / SUMMARY: 09.04.14
Nothing like getting back to reality to help one reflect on time spent in the creative process. Overall, the experience was very challenging and rewarding beyond my expectations. I mainly concentrated on the Wilderness Area, which is largely accessible only by trail. In addition, there is no water available in the mountains so you are required to carry all of your own water, which caused me to limit what I carried for backpacking. Typically I would carry 1-1/2 gallons of water (approx. 15 lbs). I chose to have “no cook” meals and left my camp stove and slept under a tarp to reduce pack weight. I went on five different overnight backpacking trips to various sections of the part and ended up hiking over 70 miles.

For me, the AIR experience was a perfect recipe for the creative process. The solitude of staying in the park, the freedom from distractions, no set schedule, time to actually think freely, and the freedom to roam and respond to the mountains. It reminded my so much of graduate school; although even better. It has been a very long time since I was in a position to totally immerse myself in my art. For me, it was about as pure of an artistic experience as I have had.  Although I was not totally isolated, two different research teams on two separate occasions occupied “The Ship on the Desert” during my AIR, which was adjacent to the stone apartment I called home.  One group was there over a weekend from The University of Texas, El Paso (5 member biology team headed by a professor and 4 students collecting samples from several natural springs) and the other from The University of Texas, Austin (a two member geology team, a lead graduate student w/ his undergraduate assistant, studying the western escarpment of the mountains).  Wi-fi extended to the back porch of The Ship so I frequented the patio while I was in from photographing.  It was refreshing to engage in conversations with the science minded.  The biologist saw micro-organisms in natural spring while the geologist looked to tell a story from the rocks.  We all most certainly viewed the landscape differently, but with a common respect and appreciation.  Another unique element to the creative process was the ability to shoot in-the-field, return to the stone apartment, and begin editing. That time to think through my images and compositions was invaluable to my next outing. Essentially, I was able to see what was and wasn’t working and make adjustments or try other ideas the following day. Artistically, I felt that I grew tenfold through this experience.

I am very gratefully to the folks at GUMO for giving me this opportunity.

Here is a web gallery link (high resolution) and I have also created an album under Air Galleries.  I look forward to following everyone’s work.

7 comments for “GUMO AIR, July 2014

  1. October 10, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    HI Sean, I enjoyed reading your post. What a great experience. I think it is always interesting to see the artist housing. I agree with Kathy – it looks very cool. I am glad you are interested in the annual exhibit on mountains I am organizing next summer!

  2. July 20, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    One thing I love about doing residencies is how nature trumps all our plans, and makes us realize it’s bigger than we are! But it’s also very frustrating sometimes! Sounds like you made the best of it. I love your images and the way you pair the black and white and color. Seems to suit the desert mood very well!

  3. July 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Gorgeous – the place and your work! Will have to look into this one. I’m guessing this is a new AIR program? Are they hosting artists year-round? Can’t tell from their web site.

    • July 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks Lisa! From what I know, the park recently resurrected their AIR program. I am the third one. I believe it was spurred by this year being the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. That is what they asked this years concentration to focus on. Not sure about year round, but I know they have accepted one for the fall (lots of fall colors in McKittrick Canyon amidst the desert environment) and one for the spring. I suspect if lodging is available they would accept throughout the year, but that is only my opinion. I will try and write an overview when I return.

  4. July 9, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Added an update to the original post.

  5. Mark Dupre'
    July 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Looks like some nice digs at The Ship…
    Praying for safety, joy & “Golden Time”.
    …watch your back, bro.
    love yah, -Mark

  6. July 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    That little stone apartment looks very cool and the hint of landscape around it is very intriguing. I just may have to look into that one!

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