Gary Ladd prepares publication of 19th book

Photographer and author Gary Ladd signs copies of his book "Badlands" at the Glen Canyon Conservancy flagship store in Page on Dec. 18.

Prolific photographer and author Gary Ladd is putting the final touches on a new book about the geology of the Colorado Plateau, which he expects to be published by the end of 2022.  

The book, titled “Crystal Clear Geology of the Colorado Plateau,” will be his 19th publication. 

“A lot of my books have had partial or full geologic themes, but this one is going to be different in that it’s based on my geology talks that I have given over the past 20 or 30 years,” Ladd said.

“Those talks are illustrated with diagrams, so it’s not just talking about it, and it’s not just photographs, but I think the diagrams are going to be extremely useful in making it clear on how we ended up with this landscape.”

He said the book will include about 30 diagrams, plus 20 or 30 photographs and about 11,000 words of text. 

“I think that the title is absolutely correct in saying this will make it very clear about how we ended up with places that look the way they do,” he said, adding, “I’m not in a rush to get this book out, partly because it’s taken years to put it together, and another month or two or three is not going to make any difference. If I’m lucky, I may have it by summer or fall. I’ve been wrong about when it’s going to come out repeatedly, but here’s the latest guess.”

In the meantime, Ladd was at the Glen Canyon Conservancy flagship store in Page on Dec. 18 signing copies of his book “Badlands: The Page Arizona Portfolio,” which was published in 2020.  

The 108-page book, available in both paperback and hardcover, features photos of natural locations outside of Page, along with several brief, first-hand writeups from Ladd about “dicey moments during the photographic pursuits.”

Those experiences include close calls with flash floods, boat flips on the Colorado River and encounters with cactus spines

“It’s just a good collection of all the terrific areas that we have around here, including along the river and Grand Canyon and the rims of Grand Canyon and, of course, the standard places like Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon and White Pocket Vermilion Cliffs,” Ladd said.

“Also, some places that don’t even really have names or have multiple names or nicknames. So, it has a little a bit of everything, and there are just one or two or three pictures per location, so it’s 35 different locations.”

He said Glen Canyon was unknown for a long time, partly because there was no nearby railroad at the beginning of the 20th century, and it didn’t have any valuable minerals. That all changed when the dam was built in the 1960s, but the focus has been more on the lake than the surrounding landscape. 

“I think that for people who moved to Page to work on the dam, the wilderness was interesting, but it was kind of horrifying at the same time,” he said.  

“When you read the early newspapers from Page’s history, it’s like residents have made a garden in their back yard and they have obliterated all signs of the desert, and it’s full of lush, green plants growing. That, to me, is very peculiar. But eventually we caught on to all these other locations that surround the lake, and that’s what this book is about.”

While the photos are beautiful, the book has an elegiac tone, regarding both the “obliteration of Glen Canyon” by the dam and the way ageing inevitably curtails the ability to travel into remote wilderness areas.

Ladd describes his decades of exploration as “wonderful years.” 

“But now, looking back, we realize that we didn’t fully appreciate, or didn’t completely comprehend, what a party it was,” he writes in “Badlands.” 

“We were young and strong, and (usually) smart about minimizing risk. Yet we were too dumb to accept that time would inevitably erode our abilities (including many we didn’t realize we possessed). Knees, feet, hearts, ankles wear out. Now, the party is winding down. And I’m thankful that I made a few photographs along the way.”

Ladd said he hasn’t had many opportunities to get out on the lake in the past couple of years as the water level has gone down, partly because the COVID pandemic has interfered with the photo-workshop tours he leads.

“I would like to have been out there more than I have been, but I’m not too concerned about it because I know that the lake usually has spoiled old locations that used to be really beautiful,” he said. 

“There are some exceptions to that, but I don’t see that the lake being down an extra 25 or 50 or 100 feet is going to reveal that many locations that are really scenic anymore. I am sorry that I have not been out there more, but I’m hoping that will change in the next few months before it begins to rise again.”

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