Posted by: Bruce Proctor | February 9, 2011

1st visit to Coal Mine Cyn, preface

When I left Santa Fe four days earlier, I decided on a meandering route back to see some new country on my way back to my home in Salt Lake.  Since it was early July, to my considerable surprise, every day was filled with clouds and even periods of rain. I expected July to be overwhelmed by pitiless, relentless heat and sun, like it invariably was in Utah.

This overcast weather is great for my photography. Much of my landscape work is characterized by textures and subtle colors which only emerge in such indirect light. Cloudy weather is the most useful of indirect light because it affects the whole viewable world, and for substantial amounts of time. It gives me free play. (A thin wash of high clouds is another sort of indirect light, much rarer, but colors on the ground pop in most thrilling and unexpected ways. And before sunrise, and, better, after sunset on clear days. You have to choose your spots. In desert country I usually chose my photo trips for spring and fall, partly because there was great likelihood of stormy weather then. )

But this weather baffled me. Could rainy weather be more common here in New Mexico/Arizona than just to the north, in Utah in July?

Two afternoons into my drive, when I was stopped by a road crew working on the highway over the Malpais lava field in east-central New Mexico, a great flotilla of clouds was gathering overhead and farther west, where I was headed, heavy and dark again. Rain drops, fat as bumblebees, started splatting on my windshield. I waved the local flagman over.

“Does it often rain here this time of year?”

“No,” he said, “In fact, this is our first rain since April.”

It seemed to be dogging me. That day, it continued on and off through the afternoon and night.

Now, however, two days later, in the Coal Mine Canyon area, the sky was spotless. The heat was well over a hundred in this arid, forbidding landscape. This weather was what I had expected all along.




  1. Just had dinner with Chris Durban – you were part of the conversation if you are the Voorheesville/Deep Springs Bruce Proctor. If so would love to reconnect.

    Dick Howard, DS’69

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