crater lake

  guarded source 
   (click image to return to gallery)   
   
  

I created this photo-montage after reading about a date palm oasis in Libya situated inside an extinct volcanic cone.  I wasn't able to find a photograph of it at the time (maybe fortunately, since the one I saw recently didn't turn out to be very evocative), so I composed what I imagined - an eroded but still recognizable cone of dark lava rock rising starkly out of pinkish sand, guarding an equally anomalous forest of date palms crowding around a shallow pool. 

The fracturing of the cone is meant to provide simultaneous views of the outside, the inside, and the landscape beyond, revealing the full extent of the contrasts yet compressing them into a single experience.  The concept is similar to Interior although I see the atmosphere in this one as more ominous.  Not only do I imagine the cone itself as forbidding...I envision the oasis as initially inviting but ultimately unwelcoming, as if it feels trapped by the dark walls around it. I think the composition needs to be re-worked slightly--mainly, the central piece of the volcano in the foreground currently comes across too forcefully.

The volcanic cone, as in Interior, was photographed in the Valley of the Volcanoes in Peru, and the surrounding desert at Erg Chebbi in Morocco (as in Hollow).  The more distant section of the oasis was also shot in Morocco, overlooking the Draa Valley.  The palm is Phoenix dactylifera, the typical palm of most North African and Middle Eastern oases. The enlarged portion of the oasis was photographed in a semi-desert area of Rajasthan, India, with the date palm Phoenix sylvestris--the north Indian Natural grove of Phoenix canariensis, Canary Islandsequivalent of P. dactylifera (my mixing up the species was only a function of the images I had available)

Phoenix dactylifera, Draa Valley, Morocco (my photo)

Phoenix dactylifera, Draa Valley, Morocco (my photo)

Phoenix sylvestris, Rajasthan, India (my photo)

Phoenix sylvestris, Rajasthan, India (my photo)

Phoenix atlantica, Cape Verde Islands

Phoenix atlantica, Cape Verde Islands

Phoenix canariensis, Canary Islands (my photo)

Phoenix canariensis, Canary Islands (my photo)

Phoenix theophrastii at Vai, Crete

Phoenix theophrastii at Vai, Crete

To round out the discussion of desert date palms - other species include Phoenix canariensis of the Canary Islands (the most commonly-cultivated date palm in California and Mediterranean Europe and the most visually distinctive), Phoenix atlantica of the Cape Verde Islands, and Phoenix theophrastii of Turkey and Greece. 

This last species forms the only natural palm forests in Europe, both on the island of Crete--the largest, at Vai Beach, containing 5000 individuals.  It has been suggested that this forest was planted purposefully or accidentally centuries ago by visitors from the Arab world, although the existence of the same species today in Turkey and nowhere else would seem to refute this.  Not surprisingly the beach is a popular recreational spot, and visitors threatened the existence of the palms until the grove was recently declared a protected area.

Restricted natural distributions of plants - "islands" in their own sense - attract me for the same reasons that true islands do, on top of the reasons rarity tends to interest people in general.  The isolated quality of these distributions is of course compounded when they tend to occur in dense, widely-spaced clusters (as do most date palm species) and on actual islands.

Darren