Friday, August 3, 2018
Canyon Wilderness of the Southwest Hardcover – March 15, 2016 by Jon Ortner (Author), Greer K. Chesher (Introduction) (Welcome Books)
Jon Ortner takes the reader through a photographic tour of the great American Southwest in this "mini" edition, a scaled down version of the "deluxe" edition, a much larger and more expensive book. Don't let the very affordable price fool you; while the "mini" edition is obviously smaller, it's also more easy to transport, and the quality of reproduction is every bit as good as, if not perhaps exceeding, the reproduction quality of the larger book.
In this tour, Jon takes you to the familiar national parks of Utah and AZ as well as the tribal lands like Monument Valley and the slot canyons near Page, Arizona. However, the essence of this book is when Jon gets off the beaten path (quite literally) and takes you to places many a visiting tourist has never been to. So you'll get your "typical" shots that define Bryce Canyon, for example, but then Jon will also produce a gorgeous panoramic of a bristle-cone pine that I'm fairly certain many a photographer has strolled right on by, ignoring the unique shot while chasing the common. Same with Zion: you'll see the usual shots of this wondrous NP, but then Jon will have hiked into the "Subway" to show you some of the far less accessible areas for a view most visitors to Zion never see see. And on it goes. You'll get the images that define the park or monument, but in almost every case he'll also show you an image or two that you don't immediately recognize, something more unique.
That's just the appetizer. The main course is when Jon gets truly off the familiar path, and that is when this book shines. For this reader, the magic of this book is when Jon explores the "strip" where Northern Arizona and Southern Utah meet. The White pocket and neighboring Coyote Buttes South, in particular, a rugged canyon wilderness accessible only by 4WD (along with a good dose of patience), is supremely presented with magical photographs. The beauty of "The Wave" in Coyote Buttes North is as good as anything that has been photographed there, and the soft, serene, stillness of the Wahweap and Rim Rock Hoodoo's is enough to make one reach for their credit card and book a flight to Utah. The imagery for these areas alone are easily worth the price of the book.
All in all, this is a great reminder of the beauty of this area for those who have traveled there, a visual tour of sorts (although not a guide book) for those who have not yet been, and in many ways a "sampler platter" for photographers who wish to photograph in the region. Highly, highly recommended, particularly given the extremely affordable price.