After a long drive through a cold, barren plateau, you descend into the hot, dry air that hangs between the mountains in the deep, narrow valley. The sun’s heat is held in the bare rocks and earth the whole day, long after nightfall you can still sit in a t-shirt, gazing at more stars than you knew existed. Suddenly fierce gusts of wind rush down from the mountains towards the valley floor, gusts that last 20 or 30 seconds, perhaps more. Gusts which blast you with cold air, hold you fast with their strength, bend you to their will. The gusts return five, six, seven times, longer and colder each time. And then the night is freezing cold. You creep into the tent, shiver down amongst thick sleeping bags trying to keep warm.
photos © Christopher Sand-Iversen
In the middle of the night you are woken by the howls and yelps of a pack of coyotes close by in the mountains, your blood curdling.
In the morning you emerge into sunlight, but the air is still cold. You put on a jacket to climb amongst the stony outcrops. But soon the sun beats on the earth, the rocks quickly grow hot. The long, sultry day has arrived.
Out on the salt basin the white salt crystals throw back the sunlight like fresh snow, everything is bright, the air brilliant. The camera’s light meter registers the difference, making it concrete, the 400 ISO film is too light sensitive, but you try your luck anyway. The salt crunches underfoot, it reflects sound as intensely as it does light. Your friends are having a quiet conversation 100 metres away, 200 perhaps, and you can hear every word perfectly clearly, as though they were standing right next to you. Fluvial mud and salt are in places mixed together, creating hard, brittle spikes you can play notes on, the sound amplified by the strange acoustics.
Later, when you step off the salt and return to the road, you realise the underside of your nose is sunburnt.
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- Robin McAulay.