Saturday, February 25, 2017

Where Buffalo Roam - Monochrome Photoessay of Antelope Island State Park, Utah - Part 1

Bison In The Road - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
In 1876 Dr. Brewster Higley penned the now-famous words:

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play

The poem, My Western Home (later renamed Home on the Range when it was put to music), is considered the unofficial anthem of the American West. Dr. Higley wasn't specifically talking about Fielding Garr's ranch on Antelope Island in Utah, but it sure sounds like he could have been.

In 1845, legendary frontiersman Kit Carson became the first non-Native-American to visit Antelope Island. In fact, he gave the island it's name, after finding an abundance of Pronghorn Deer, which are also called Pronghorn Antelope.

Fielding Garr, a Mormon pioneer, began building a cattle ranch on Antelope Island in 1848. By 1870 the Mormon church had lost interest in the island, and it changed ownership a number of times over the next 15 years. Finally, in 1884, the Island Improvement Company (an upstart of investors) bought the majority of Antelope Island, and they would control most of the land until 1969 when the north half was purchased by Utah for the establishment of a state park. They sold the rest of the island to Utah in 1981
Light Streaming Over Antelope Island - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere, and is much saltier than the ocean. The only things that live in the lake are brine shrimp and algae.

At 42 square miles, Antelope Island is quite large. From north-to-south it is 15 miles long, and at its widest point it is five miles east-to-west. The highest peak, Frary Peak, is 6,594', which is just over 2,000' higher than the lake.

While the landscape is somewhere between desert and scrubland and grassland, and seems pretty brown and dry, there are 40 natural springs on Antelope Island. There is a lot of wildlife, including Pronghorn Deer, American Bison, Bighorn Sheep, and many others, including a large variety of birds along the shoreline (over 200 different species of birds have been observed on the island).

The Great Salt Lake is relatively shallow and the water levels can significantly change from year-to-year. During drought years, Antelope Island was accessible by foot or horseback. Otherwise it was only accessible by boat. In 1969 the Utah State Park system built a road to Antelope Island via a causeway on the north tip of the island.
Frary Peak Reflected - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
At the north end there is a visitor center with a small museum and gift shop. There's also a small marina that currently has no boats because of the water level.  Along the western beaches are picnic tables, some public showers and even a seasonally-open food shack. Towards the southeast end of the island is the historic Fielding Garr Ranch, which is open daily for self-guided tours.

The barren and wild landscape of Antelope Island is surprising because of its close proximity to the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which sits right across the water to the east. On the island it feels like a remote wilderness, yet it is right outside the city. The downtown skyscrapers are clearly visible from the ranch.

Because of the stale and salty water of the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island has a smell (think rotten eggs), especially along the shoreline. There are tons and tons and tons (no exaggeration) of bugs in the warmer months. While the sandy beaches almost remind you of an ocean shore (without the crashing waves), because of the stink and the bugs and the distance you have to walk from your car, the locals mostly stay away. It is almost exclusively tourists that you will find here. And yes, it is true, you can float in the salt water, but the water is shallow so you have to go pretty far in for it to be deep enough.

Despite those negatives, a rugged western landscape that is full of wildlife and history is what draws me back to this place. There is a certain beauty about it that is easier to put into photographs than words. The emptiness, the reflections, the dramatic skies, the surprises around every turn--all of these things and more are what make it stunning. It's an island where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. It is Antelope Island State Park in Utah, one of my favorite places to photograph.
Area Closed For Bison - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
One Buffalo - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Beach Beyond The Bison - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Island Buffalo - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Deer Statue - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
The Lookout - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Stotting Deer - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Empty Marina - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Church Birdhouse Reflected - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Nope, Not Abandoned - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Circle Hashtag - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Fielding Garr Ranch Fence - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Oquirrh Mountains Behind Ranch Fence
Rock Mound - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Wasatch From Antelope Island - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
View From The Visitor Center - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Wasatch Mountains From The Causeway - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Old Salty Stump In The Lake - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Ice, Lake & Mountains - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Ice On Antelope Island - Antelope Island State Park, Utah

All of these photographs were captured using a Fujifilm X-E1 on 2/18/2017 and 2/20/2017 over three hours total. I used a Helios 44-2 f/2 58mm, X-Fujinon-T f/3.5 135mm, and X-Fujinar-Z f/3.8 80-200mm lenses. Nik Silver Efex was used to give the images a high-contrast grainy film look.

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