[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  Field Notes From
Salton Sea

<< Back to Feature Page

Salton Sea On AssignmentArrows

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Gerd Ludwig

Salton Sea On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Author

Joel K. Bourne, Jr.

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Peter Wintersteller (top) and Rebecca Hale


Salton Sea On Assignment Photographer Salton Sea On Assignment Photographer
Salton Sea

Field Notes From Photographer
Gerd Ludwig

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Launched with just a few parent trees imported from the Middle East, the date groves in the Coachella Valley are an important part of the region's agriculture. I went to one of these groves, the Oasis Date Gardens, to photograph the harvest and it was exciting to ride a huge forklift bucket up into these 80-foot (20-meter) palm trees. I also got to photograph a group of lovely, energetic women picking fresh dates, and eat dates right from the trees. They were so incredibly soft that they nearly melted in my mouth. I never knew dates could taste so good.
    Later, I went back to shoot again, but I had to ask myself, Am I really just going back for the women and the dates? I'll leave that question open.

    Paragliders enable photographers to get low-altitude aerial shots over populated areas like retirement homes and golf courses, which surround the Salton Sea. So I found a local instructor who let me ride tandem with him, and on our third round up, at approximately 600 feet (180 meters), it suddenly went a little too quiet. The engine had stopped and my instructor told me to prepare for an emergency landing. My first thoughts were of us dangling off a power line or becoming a vibrant fresco on the side of a house. But just as we did start moving toward a house that was under construction, my instructor brilliantly guided us to a sand pile in its back yard. To land, we had to throw our feet up into the air and come down on our butts. Otherwise we would have risked falling forward and smashing into my camera gear, with the weight of the paraglider's heavy motor behind us. Later the person who owns the home sent me an e-mail that said, "You're always welcome back, but next time please use the front gate."

    Part of my story was photographing the irrigation canals that deliver water to the fields, but just a plain picture of that didn't seem very exciting. And driving along the canals, I grew frustrated while searching for something interesting. But then, suddenly, I thought I saw a dead body floating in the canal. As I got closer I realized there were actually two fully dressed people taking a cool dip in the water to escape the intense midsummer heat (see page 93 of this month's issue). So, I decided to join them with my camera, and it felt great.


© 2005 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe