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The Seductive Beauty of Spring Cheatgrass

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

In the shade of certain Escalante canyons, the delicate appearance of cheatgrass can draw attention away from even the most beautiful of canyon walls.



The middle section of Willow Canyon—sensuous slickrock and a shallow flow of water. For more images of Willow, click the photo. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes



My recent posts on our companion Iris Arts website include a number of intimate photographs taken in meadows and along the side of the road. It's no secret that I enjoy photographing the fine detail of the flowers, stems, and leaves. Ordinarily, I don't show the meadow's surroundings in the photo, and I usually exclude the sky.

There's a whole world to be found within the borders of one of these "intimate" photographs—stems, leaves, flowers, and (sometimes) insects. The photograph is not about the broader relationship of the meadow to its surroundings. It is more about the relationship between the plants and insects in the meadow.


Arranging those relationships in a manner that is pleasing, harmonious, and even meaningful to the viewer is the essence of photographic composition. Sometimes, finding the "right" relationships can take quite a while. Sometimes., the "right" arrangement eludes me.



Narrows in Willow Canyon. Click the photo to go to the Willow Canyon gallery. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes



A couple of years ago, I was camped in Willow Canyon in Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. The sandstone canyon has high, smooth, and colorful walls that make a sinuous course towards the Escalante River—now under the surface of Lake Powell.


The walls are very photogenic, and there is a big natural arch. In one memorable section of the canyon, the canyon narrows to the width of my outstretched arms and the knee-deep water is wall-to-wall. I spent the better part of the day photographing.


The following morning was sunny and warm. I hiked in the opposite direction, following the small stream that ran the length of the canyon. With the twists and turns of the high-walled canyon, I was sometimes in the sun and sometimes in shade. Rounding a turn of the canyon, I was plunged again into shade where I saw these grasses on the stream bank.



Springtime cheatgrass and other tufted grasses in the shade of a high canyon wall. The grasses, which look so delicate here, quickly turn brittle and lose much of their color as the dry season progresses. Click on the photo to see the image on the Iris Arts website. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes



It may not look like it, but I spent an hour or two with these grasses, fiddling with the composition, waiting for a breeze to die down. In the end, I think I got several images of grasses that I like—something I never anticipated when I started hiking down this lovely stone canyon.




Grasses in the same general area. Click on the photo to see the image on the Iris Arts website. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes




Another image in the series. Click on the photo to see the image on the Iris Arts website. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

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