I had an art festival this past weekend in LaQuinta, California near Palm Springs. After the Festival ended and I finished delivering framed prints around the LA area, I drove to the largest lake in California, the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea is a strange place. It was created in the early 1900s as farmers began diverting water from the Colorado River to irrigate farms in Southern California. Some kind of freak flood by the Colorado River then coursed through the canals and flooded the basin, creating the Salton Sea. It was a boom area in the 1950s and 1960s. drawing some development, quite a few tourists, and a lot of eccentric characters. But it was short lived. Floods and drought, increasing salinization, fish-killing algae blooms, and general funky smell apparently turned off the tourists and developers. But not birds, they love the scene and have flocked to the Sea in droves, especially white pelicans.
So today the Salton Sea exists as a strange lake in the middle of the California desert, filled with a surreal mix of interesting people, odd scenes, great wildlife, and the decaying remains of houses, trailers, mobile homes and miscellaneous abandoned dreams. My kind of place.
In the morning, I photographed in a little town called Bombay Beach, where a number of abandoned mobile homes are now buried in the sand and rusting into oblivion. I also came across an old outhouse that was kind of interesting. Then I went to a place called Salvation Mountain, near Niland, where a 75 year old man named Leonard Knight has made it his life’s passion to cover a dirt and clay hillside with countless layers of paint celebrating Jesus. He is a really sweet man and the place is amazing. I think he said that he has used over 100,000 gallons of paint so far. The hillside is basically encased in layer after layer of paint.
In the afternoon, I stumbled across an abandoned mobile home on shores of the Lake where I found an abandoned boat, adding machine, lawnmower and orange chair sitting in the driveway. Very strange. The home had burned at some point. As I peered in, I saw a charred book whipping in the wind. I moved it onto some broken glass and photographed the book, a dictionary, so that one page was still and the remaining pages were flipping in the wind. The still page has as its title the word “Unexplainable.”
At the end of the evening, I found a pier with a beautiful view of the sunset light setting on the lake, framing white pelicans and stilts in the shallow water. I got a handful of nice shots, though I cursed myself for not bringing my largest lens. Oh well, gotta make due with what I got. My favorite image is actually a combination of 4 separate images, with pink light and soft, gently floating pelicans. The image size will be 90″ by 17″ once I print it. I think it will look great.