Grizzly Giant – Carleton Watkins

Grizzly Giant - Carleton Watkins

Grizzly Giant - Carleton Watkins - I want to tell a story while It's on my mind. Something that is becoming more relevant in my life as time goes on. A story of a well intentioned photographer and a giant Sequoia called Grizzly Giant - Carleton Watkins.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the late 19th century photographer Carleton Watkins. His life was filled with hardships but his passion was the natural world and photography. I’ve found inspiration in his work and his life. He was also the first person to photograph the gorge.

Carleton Watkins was born in New York but moved to California in 1851 to find gold. He had never taken a photo before but was asked to tend to a shop for a daguerreotype photographer. He learned photography from his employer and by 1858 he had his own photography business. Most of his photos were commissioned work including one that took him to Mariposa.

In 1861 he made a trip to Yosemite that would change his career. Carleton used a huge view camera that used 18” x 22” glass plates. This allowed him to take much larger and more detailed views. When he returned from Yosemite he had made 30 huge glass plate photos and a hundred stereoview images. The photos were some of the very first photos that anyone had seen back east.

One of his photos was of the Grizzly Giant sequoia tree. His huge 18x22 camera captured the whole tree, which was the first time that it had ever been done. Between making a photo that had never been done before and his fame the photo went 19th century viral.

Watkin’s intentions were to photograph the trees to protect them but what happened was quite the opposite. More exposure led to more tourism and with more tourism came more commercial exploitation of the resources he intended to protect.

Today in the 21st century we’re going through a similar situation with photography. With digital cameras comes with more photographer taking photos of these amazingly beautiful natural places and with more people comes more wear, tear and damage from overuse or bad decisions.

I can’t help but think that I can understand how Carelton Watkins feels, especially in the aftermath of this senseless fire in the precious, fragile and sensitive Columbia River Gorge. I have spent over ten years innocently posting photos from the gorge not realizing how it could help cause such an influx of people both caring and uncaring.

It hurts me inside that my intentions would have some part, even in a small way, in causing harm to a place that I love so much.

Silver City Idaho

Silver City Idaho Saloon Girl

Silver City Idaho - Where time stands still.

I had the opportunity to visit Silver City Idaho this last June for a day. I'm still in a bit of disbelief that this kind of place still exists in today's modern world.

My friend Bruce and I packed our gear and headed to southeastern Oregon where we explored several places that we've been curious about, so on this trip we drove past the familiar scene of the amazing Alvord desert, after a burger and a shake at Fields Station, and headed north in to the Jordan Valley area including The Pillars of Rome and Leslie Gulch. After a side trip in toe Nampa Idaho to get a tire repaired, we made the side trip through the beautiful southern Idaho area to Silver City.

Once we arrived in the little town hidden back in the hills we knew we were some place special. After traveling over an hour on back country, single lane dirt roads of varying condition, we arrived to a large sign stating, "Welcome to Silver City Idaho. All property is privately owned. Please do not destroy or trespass. Violators will be prosecuted. Signed the Owyhee County Sheriff". Fair warning I thought. 🙂

We traversed the dirt streets past old well kept 19th century buildings, daring not to exceed the 5 MPH posted speed limit, and pulled up to the Idaho Hotel as if we were riding up to the hitching post on our horses after a long ride on the dusty trail. We walked inside and found the proprietor busying himself inside. We were glad to see that he was open for business and sold cold beer. Bruce and I each ordered a cold one and proceeded to engage the keeper in interesting conversation concerning the history of Silver City.  Established in 1863 the hotel has changed little in character through the years. The old building showed obvious wear from an untold number of foot falls and activity through it's 150 year history.

Once we finished our refreshment and a series of interior photos, we left the building to roam the streets, guided for a time by our new found friend. As we explored the town I photographed a few of the details in the quaint little city. There are so many different views and details to be noticed and creatively photographed.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Silver City and feel adventurous enough to travel the old back road to the little town, take a day and go take a visit. Remember that this is a real town and not an amusement park. People live there. They enjoy showing a stranger around but appreciate their privacy.

Below are a few of the variety of black and white photos that I made while exploring the beautiful little "ghost town" of Silver City Idaho.

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