Big Sky: Wild West Panorama

Big Sky: Wild West Panorama


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A personal celebration of the American West by one of its finest photographers and authors.

Distilled from more than two decades of exploration, Tim Fitzharris' Big Sky captures beautiful panoramas rarely matched in majesty and diversity. Big Sky includes tinted canyons, cactus-studded deserts, ice-capped mountains, rumpled badlands, the misty beaches of the Pacific and a limitless expanse of prairie wildflowers. These are images that reflect the still heart of America's native wilderness.

Fitzharris opens Big Sky with personal observations on photographing the American West and then presents a retrospective of his photographs, organized by region:

  • High Plains
  • Canyon lands
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Southern deserts
  • Pacific coast.

For each of these six sections there is an introduction to the landscape, followed by 12 plates for a total of 72 panoramas.

Stunning and beautiful, Big Sky is a lovingly compiled collection of remarkable panorama photographs of this vast section of the nation. This will be Tim Fitzharris' definitive work, demonstrating his reverence and respect for the American West.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781554071760
Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date: 08/20/2006
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 15.25(w) x 11.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Tim Fitzharris writes a monthly column in Popular Photography and Imaging magazine. He is the author of 26 books, including Rocky Mountains: Wilderness Reflections, and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt

Canyon Lands

My words are tied in one
With the great mountains
With the great rocks
In one with my body
And my heart

- Yukots

A rattlesnake lies coiled a few inches from the cliff edge, heedless of the abyss that falls in a sheer drop thousands of feet to the Colorado River. It has spent the day in a cranny out of the heat. Now as darkness floods over the red sandstone walls, the atmosphere cools quickly. The thick serpent, sheathed in leathery scales, rests on the warm mass of rock. Nearby is a packrat's den, a bushel of twigs, bones, foliage and cactus pads blocking the entrance to its nest in the rock face. The snake's broad head is supended in the darkness, its arsenal of sensory and attack weapons fully engaged. Its nostrils pick up the first scent over the edge of the cliff. As the rodent pauses to monitor the night's sounds, the snake's tongue flicks through a notch in its upper lip, fork triangulating the distance to its prey. Infared sensors housed in pits between the snake's eyes are also on the target, calculating its shape, size and distance. Scales on the reptile's belly rise slightly and then pull down and backward against the sandstone, inching the serpent forward. The viper's hollow fangs fill with venom. Scratching at its belly with a hind paw, the packrat belches softly and pulls an inquisitive sniff out of the night air.

The rattlesnake and packrat are denizens of the Colorado Plateau, a territory like nowhere else in the west., like nowhere else on Earth. The plateau sits like a great basin, tinted in shades of pink, vermilion and amarillo, sprawling 130,000 square miles (337,000 square km) across southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and western Colorado. Lightly populated, it boasts the largest roadless area in the contiguous United States.

The landscape is a fusion of the infinite and the intimate. Cliffs descend in ten-story leaps, plunging a vertical mile before sliding over rock rubble into a snarl of buttes, terraces and alcoves. Out of the grit and cobble of the desert floor sandstone formations loom like celestial chess pieces hundreds of feet high. Purple crags backdrop labyrinths of hoodoos, domes, stone dunes and voluminous amphitheaters lined with pillars. A hogback runs out in a straight line to diappear over the horizon, not once breaking its formal geometry. The dry air, sparse vegetation and huge scale generate mesmerizing vistas. Yet the same elements make hiking the staircases, corridors and box canyons of these convoluted reaches an intimate, somehow familar, experience.

The diverse topography is nearly matched by its biota. Isolated in chasms and restricted by precarious walls and ledges of naked rock, coping with limited moisture and extreme temperatures, flora and fauna of hundreds of species call the Plateau home. Rarities like the Mexican spotted owl, California condor and peregrine falcon take flight over the ponderosa pine groves and extensive pinyon juniper woodlands. Where water collects in the tens of thousands of miles of canyons and sub-canyons, hikers are greeted by hanging gardens, tall rushes and grasses, oaks, maples and Douglasfir. Grass and sagebrush lightly dress the dry flatlands.

The Colorado Plateau boasts a record concentration of famous national parks and sanctuaries, hosting tens of millions of visitors each year. The most popular include Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde. Areas just as spectacular but unspoiled by crowds can be discovered in abundance, offering perfect solitude for those willing to abandon the tourist routes.

Table of Contents

Land of the Sky
Plains and Badlands
Rocky Mountains
Southern Deserts
Canyon Lands
Sierra Nevada
Pacific Coasts

Photography Notes

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