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The Story Behind the Project: Havasu Falls: from Dawn to Dusk

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

This Eden-like oasis, once a part of Grand Canyon National Park, is back under the rightful ownership of the Havasupai Tribe, who have continuously inhabited the area for more than 800 years. To the tribe, the falls are sacred, being their only water source in the harsh desert, which they use for drinking, farming, and to support themselves economically through tourism. Believing that the Creator has charged them not only to be guardians of the falls but of the entire Grand Canyon, the tribe has engaged in a decades-long fight to ban uranium mining from public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. If the mining activities polluted the aquifer that feeds the spring which in turn feeds the falls, this could threaten the very existence of the tribe.

Havasu Falls can be accessed by a 10-mile backpack through the harsh desert with the reward of a swim in the falls’ pool. Havasu Creek is mainly fed by a spring from which area precipitation percolates through cracks in the area limestone. As the water flows over the limestone, above and below ground, it breaks down the limestone into tiny crystals which get suspended in the water. Depending on the amount of sunlight and abundance of the tiny crystals in the water, they can reflect a fantastic blue or turquoise color. The tiny crystals are also responsible for the unusual rock formation, travertine, which redeposits itself on whatever is in its path, encrusting moss, ferns, and/or trees. As rock, travertine can appear pink, red, brown, or rusty.

The goal of this project was to capture a series of images showing the amazing colors at Havasu Falls, under a variety of lighting conditions, from a number of different perspectives. Each image of the project, Havasu Falls: from Dawn to Dusk, was masterfully captured as a single image on slide film. No digital compositing was done to create or print these images in order to be a true representation of what I witnessed.

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