(I am grateful for Tara Hart’s help in getting some additional information from Compass Minerals. They manage the 50,000-acre solar evaporation pond to produce various minerals and brine shrimp. Thank you all for the information which you will see below in italics, starting with CM.)
Fly Over the Great Salt Lake
On August 8, 2008, I took a helicopter ride over the Great Salt Lake to see the famous landmark, Spiral Jetty. The trip was extremely enjoyable and the view most impressive.
The lake is so large that it feels like the sea, but the feeling of vastness quickly takes a back seat to the color and the texture that is an integral part of the lake. Depending on the depths, sometimes no water at all, and the type of bacteria and algae growing in various parts, the color of the water varies from red to blue and many shades in between. The photographs in these folio collections are reflective of my extraordinary experience over the Great Salt Lake. A set of five photographs from the Fields of Color was awarded Honorable Mention Winner of PX3, Prix de la Photographie Paris 2012 in the Landscape category.
GSL Folio 1: The Pastel Collection
From the air, the Great Salt Lake greets the eye with a range of hues that both amaze and delight. This folio contains photographs in soft, cool tones with a salty appearance.
ACE: I see some random patterns created, seen especially in the Pastel Collection. Are they the result of evaporated water leaving their mineral content? I see patterns that look like waves breaking on the shore but cannot tell if it is indeed flowing or frozen.
CM: Unable to answer definitively without more information, but most of these patterns look like a combination of deposits of minerals from lake evaporation, land features, and shallow, inundated shorelines.
GSL Folio 2: The Found Patterns Collection
With eight photographs, it presents the patterns created by nature and by human touch. Nature’s patterns, with a palette of minerals and evaporation, challenge the canvas of most painters both in structure and artistry. Human touch, on the other hand, creates direct patterns that are easy to identify or through interference with nature, which is much harder to discern.
GSL Folio 3: The Glow Collection
Looking down to the Great Salt Lake is a surreal experience. Not only do the colors change unexpectedly, but also the surface-depth-bottom relations present visual riddles. There I was, in the helicopter, looking down at a reddish-orange, or orangish-red water, not being able to figure out what lied on the surface and where the bottom was. An unexpected glow seemed to come from beneath the surface delineating shapes, lines; of what I could not tell.
ACE: In the Glow Collection, there are white elements on what appears to be the surface. Are they crystallized salts or wave sprays?
CM: It could be foam, created by wave action, crystallized salts, or both.
ACE: In the same collection, there is some kind of a glow coming from the bottom, some being in bright strings with a dark surrounding. What are they?
CM: Likely we’re seeing features at the bottom of the Lake. Shallow areas will show up brighter as sunlight reflects off of the white, salt floor. Deeper areas will appear darker.
GSL Folio 4: The Fields of Color Collection
Minerals and evaporation in the Great Salt Lake work like the palette and the brush of an artist to create an amazing range of colors and abstract “art,” nature’s painting if you will. When this is combined with human efforts to extract different minerals, the result is divided into parcels of colors, sometimes in stark contrast to each other.
ACE: The first question I have is the source of the amazing colors in some parts of the waters. I answer that as “the result of trying to extract different minerals” which, in a very general sense may be true, but why are they so different. Some are red, strong red, or green, blue, yellow, … What gives them the colors?
CM: The natural algae in the Great Salt Lake is the primary source of color in the brine. The algae type and population do depend on the mineral makeup of the brine they inhabit. As the concentration of minerals changes, both in the Lake and solar evaporation ponds, different types, and colors of algae manifest themselves.
ACE: In the Fields Of Color collection, I see large parcelled-out areas with different colors. Are they in different stages in the processing or undergoing different processes?
CM: These are solar evaporation ponds used for mineral extraction at different stages of processing. As the water evaporates, the minerals deposit on the pond floor and the content and color of the brine changes accordingly.
GSL Folio 5: The Halophiles Collection
The marshes around the Great Salt Lake give way to halophiles, plant forms that require high salinity environments. Mostly algae that are visible in clumps from the air, the plant life mixed with the colored waters of the lake create surfaces reminiscent of paintings.
GSL Folio 6: The Spiral Jetty Collection
The Spiral Jetty stood below us, wound up like a spring full of energy and tension, possibly reflective of its creator. Robert Smithson created this monumental earthwork, or land art, in 1970 using black basalt rock available on location.
GSL Folio 7: The Borders & Boundaries Collection
The ecosystem of the Great Salt Lake contains a rich variety. They create borders and boundaries where one stops and the other begins. The photographs in this collection explore some of these interesting borders and boundaries.
ACE: In the Borders & Boundaries collection, the first one is amazingly smooth in the transitioning of colors. Am I looking at water and seeing through it, or is it a surface that dried up in that shape?
CM: Again, unable to answer definitively. It is likely a combination of the dried lakebed and inundated and semi-inundated shoreline.
ACE: In the same collection, the last photograph shows something like cracked mud, but they are colored. Why?
CM: The colors appear to be pools of brine, trapped, and in various stages of evaporation.
GSL Folio 8: The Human Touch Collection
Compared to the orderly creations of nature through apparent chaotic processes, the human touch seems to create chaotic visuals through apparent orderly processes. At least it seems so from a sufficiently high altitude. (Note: In the printed folio, some of the vertical photographs are combined into triptychs, thus containing fewer prints than the photograph seen in this gallery.)