Old School Film Hack

My Kinda Place

Edge of a giant potato field -- Hamer, Idaho (September 2014)iPhone 5S + 30/2.2

Edge of a giant potato field — Hamer, Idaho (September 2014)
iPhone 5S + 30/2.2

This is the part of the country where I come from.  The land of high desert, tumbleweed, enormous plains of basalt, and agriculture operations on an industrial scale.

Hamer, which is close to my home town, has a population of just 48 people.  Or did.  That figure was from the 2010 census.  The place looks abandoned now.

When we explored the local dirt roads in 2014, the only thing we saw were a few scattered air-conditioned tractors out in the endless potato fields, kicking up a line of dust behind them that drifted for miles through the vast undulating basin toward the distant Rocky Mountains.

I know that the majority of people passing through the unending arid emptiness of southern Idaho absolutely hate it for all the reasons I just described.  But it’s heaven to me.  And it smells like dusty sage.

46 thoughts on “My Kinda Place

  1. Peter W. Belenky

    I drove across Idaho in 1965 and haven’t been back since, but I remember two things about it. Your mention of “enormous plains of basalt” reminded me of the tongue-in-cheek roadside advertisements for Little Stinker Gasoline (the emblem was a skunk). One of these was: “If you lived here, you’d be home now” in the middle of one such plain. Does that company still exist?

    The other thing I remember was seeing nearby snow-capped peaks at eye level. My traveling companion said that I must have been looking upward, but I was unconvinced. Looking at the map, I discovered that those mountains were 80 miles away, and calculating from the earth’s radius, I found that a horizontal tangent from my modest altitude would intercept the peaks at that distance. The deceptive impression resulted from the complete absence of atmospheric perspective in the clear, dry air.


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Haha — I hadn’t thought of that company in years! Sadly, I think it’s long gone, as are the Burma-Shave signs that used to populate the roadside along I-84 in southern Idaho decades ago.

      Yep — on a very clear day out there, one can see mountains as far as 125 miles away. Lots of local humor about that.


  2. Oleksandra Budna

    We drove through part of Idaho on our way to Craters of the Moon a couple of years ago. Emptiness, lots of space and sage is what I remember most about that drive and I loved it! It’s great to see spaces not overrun by people. Beautiful photo! I can almost smell that dusty sage.


  3. Larry McGraw

    I had a job in the desert west of Idaho Falls that involved shift work. When I could catch the sun rise it was always stimulating to to see the mountains seem to rise with the sun. Those mountains were the Tetons at 150 miles away. I’m sure this has to do with the clear air and the way light is bent by the low angle at sun rise.


  4. A // W // F

    I enlarged your photo just to get my head around it. I’ve never been to Idaho, and to me, it looks about as alien as the surface of the moon. Which just makes me enjoy this little moment of exploration all the more.

    It’s a mighty big country we live in — thank you for making it a little smaller today, in a good way. 🙂


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Did someone say”moon”? 🙂 Here you go, a shot from Craters of the Moon National Monument in central Idaho: https://exploratorius.us/2014/11/03/how-black-was-my-valley/

      I have a bunch of Idaho posts: https://exploratorius.us/tag/idaho/

      Most of southern Idaho is a great big empty. There are a few small cities (Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, and Boise), but by and large there just isn’t a lot in that vast high desert area.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. A // W // F

      I had so much fun scrolling and clicking through … I don’t know WHAT I thought Idaho looked like, but it wasn’t this. It is beautiful — really — in its way… Like one of those girls the boys never seem to notice who ends up becoming a fashion model of the austere, avant-garde variety.

      I grew up on the Great Dismal Swamp (yes that really is what it’s called) in Southeastern Virginia. Most people find the place depressing, but I always found it hauntingly beautiful — full of quiet ache and longing and the best and worst kinds of solitude. It’s never ceased to move me, with its white herons in soundless flight, its black water smooth as a mirror.

      Here’s to those of us who find beauty in hard landscapes. 🙂 I think it says something nice about us, don’t you?


    3. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Yep! Parts of Idaho are an acquired taste. 🙂

      I find that most people like the northern part of the state — pretty much everything north of Boise — a lot better; it’s still quite arid by Eastern standards, but gets a LOT more rain than the southern part of the state.

      The southern part — by contrast — has been dominated by the slow tectonic passage of the Yellowstone hotspot (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_hotspot) over the past 16 million years, and the Snake River Plain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_River_Plain) has vast fields of basalt, which you can read more about here: https://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?wp=GC3EGTT&title=snake-river-basalt. They used to think that the basalt was all millions of years old, but have radically revised that figure to be just 15,000-to-2,000 years old in the area encompassed by Craters of the Moon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craters_of_the_Moon_National_Monument_and_Preserve)

      Ah — you’re the very first person I’ve encountered to have grown up in the the Great Dismal Swamp!

      Aren’t you glad it was named “Great”? Just imagine if it was named the “Soul-Crushing Dismal Swamp” (or worse)! 😀

      I’ve been through the Great Dismal Swamp several times and never felt it was dismal at all, but filled instead with the same beauty that you describe.

      Even in really nasty places — like the barren industrial wasteland to the east of St.Louis, or the abandoned mining region of Centralia, Pennsylvania — I try to find things of interest or odd bits of beauty that remain.

      It’s all in your mindset, so yes — I think it says something nice about us! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    4. A // W // F

      I feel like I’ve taken a little journey now — I love all these strange photos and landforms. It constantly amazes me, the size and variety and loveliness of this great big country we live in …

      Keep shooting. I’m watching. 🙂


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      It depends on what part of the state and what kind of person you are. The northern part of the state is less arid and quite green, while the southern part is mostly like this.


  5. Melinda Green Harvey

    I’m from a part of the country that could also be considered an “acquired taste” – the High Plains of Texas. I love it here – the wide skies, the huge sky, the long vistas. How can people come here and say there’s “nothing” to see?

    I like this photo a lot, as it reminds me of some of the ranchlands that are nearby. In fact, if you hadn’t identified it as Idaho, I might have thought you’d been to Texas….


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Haha — I’ve been to Texas many times, both for business and pleasure.

      My fraternal grandmother lived in McAllen for many years, my sister lived in San Antonio, I’ve visited the Dell facilities in both Austin and Round Rock, spent some time in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, visited Big Bend National Park, and — lastly — have had a number of road trips that have taken us through Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo, and other places in the northern part of the state.

      Our favorite part of Texas has to be the panhandle, specifically for the reasons you describe. We briefly considered the area for retirement planning, but ultimately decided that we want to be closer to big mountains and cooler temperatures — so we’re looking further north.


    2. Melinda Green Harvey

      I live in the Panhandle – in Lubbock! And I work in the appropriately-named town of Levelland. You’re right to look elsewhere for retirement if you like to be close to mountains and want cool temperatures. But if you’re ever back this way, please be sure to look me up!

      (For the record, my favorite part of the state is the far west, around Alpine and Fort Davis. I feel content when I’m out there. I’d like to live there, but there’s that whole job thing…)


    3. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      So I noticed when I visited your About page! 🙂

      We’ll see what retirement brings (we know all ABOUT that whole job thing…). 🙂 At present we’re nowhere near ready to leave the workforce (we figure another decade or so for us), but we’ve been keeping an eye open for potential places ever since our honeymoon back in 1990.

      We like the wide-open spaces and lots of elbow room, so your area is not a bad one for that. It really will depend upon our health by that time, and whether we can tolerate the cold of the big mountain country. We’re keeping our options open for now.

      If we come back down there, we’ll be sure to look you up!

      You have serious photography chops; I’m very impressed! Are you self-taught?

      I’ve also been doing at least one photo per day (sometimes more), but not for as long as you; I tossed about 2/3rds to 3/4ths of all my earlier non-WordPress posts because they just didn’t fit with the direction I’ve chosen to follow.


    4. Melinda Green Harvey

      Mitch – unlike you, I am a complete non-professional photographer. I took 2 photography classes in college (one because I had to and the other one because I wanted to). That was a long time ago, and it took me until recently to wander back and fall in love with photography again. So I very much appreciate your saying I have “serious photography chops”!

      In the past year and a half, I have been lucky enough to take two classes at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. The first one was with Brett Erickson, whom I met through our WP blogs. (https://brettlerickson.wordpress.com/) His class was on b&w images and printing. And last spring, I was very fortunate to get accepted into a master class taught by former National Geographic photographer Sam Abell.

      Both of those classes were hard – technically and emotionally – but have allowed me to advance my skills past where I ever thought they’d be. And, if you’re ever looking for a place to take some classes, I’d definitely recommend the Workshops.

      But other than those classes, I am self-taught.

      I’ve left my early (and, usually, awful) work up, mostly in case I need reminders about how far I’ve come…

      I can’t remember how I first found your work, but it might have been from Toad Hollow’s posts on Light Stalking. At any rate, your images always catch my eye because they are so…big. You get a lot into the shots!

      My work brings to DC from time to time (I was just there at the end of September, actually); I’ll let you know when I’m heading back to your part of the country; it would be fun if we could meet up. I am still amazed at how many people I’ve become friends with after “meeting” on our blogs. Brett Erickson and I are very close friends, and blogger Ehpem (www.burntembers.com) and I are, too; I’ve made a couple of trips to visit him and shoot together. It’s a small and crazy world!


      PS – I have to say that I am totally impressed by the number of followers you’ve got! And as for moving to Lubbock to retire – I’ve never heard of anyone doing that on purpose but I suppose its possible!


    5. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Well, just remember — we ALL start out as non-professionals! 😉

      I’m familiar with Brett, and have been following him for awhile. I’m curious, what sort of curriculum did the photo classes have? If they aren’t tough, they don’t push you. And by emotionally, is that due to the class critiquing or something else?

      When I went through design school, the class critique at the end of each project was brutal, and many students dropped out simply because they couldn’t take their work being analyzed to bits.

      The “big” in my shots comes from using ultra-wide angle lenses (between 12mm and 15mm) and figuring out how to use them. It’s funny, up until about a decade ago, I was a telephoto kinda guy and utterly hated wide-angles. But something changed in me and now I can’t get enough of ’em! 🙂

      Well, heck! The next time you’re out this way, let me know and we’ll see what we can do about getting together and meeting with you. As you said, it IS a small world!

      PS — my numbers pale compared to Leeann Cole (almost 40K). And Lubbock? Uh, we were actually thinking a bit more to the west of there, as Lubbock would kinda hem us in. 😀


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