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07.30.2011

Ryuichi Oshimoto

Title Photo: The sparkling surface from the canal seems to continue endlessly. On the border of California and Arizona, water drawn from the Colorado River used for agricultural irrigation, flows into the farms along the river.

Camera: SD15 Lens: APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed:1/320 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 198mm

In Mid-April, I journeyed from Hoover Dam to Parker Dam along the Colorado River. Two weeks later, I felt like venturing out further south of the Colorado River, so I went on an excursion. Starting from Los Angeles, I headed east on Interstate Freeway 10 and just before crossing the Colorado River (before entering Arizona), I entered California State Road 78 heading south. The state road went through vast farmland and when looking at satellite photo, the long strip of green land surrounded by desert and mountain was a great big farmland.

The green field looks like one giant fluffy carpet.
Using the compact high-magnification zoom lens, I focused on one area of the field to capture the green landscape.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 250mm

Along the road running through the expansive farmland, there were houses scattered throughout and as if it was there to protect the house from strong wind and sun, each house was surrounded by big trees. Also canals varying in size run parallel and cross across the road I was traveling on. The scenery doesn’t change regardless of passing through the small village of Ripley. I came across a crossroad in the middle of the field and SR 78 turned right. I decided to go straight toward the south. Under the sweltering sun, I saw some people working on the large farmland in the distance. I saw canals both small and large and ones that were dried up. Scattered throughout the farmland were haystacks piled high.


The canals varied in size and whether they were used for agricultural use or as storage use, both sides of the canals had palm trees growing tightly next to each other.

Camera: DP1xExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100,White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 16.6mm

The agricultural irrigation, temporary toilets and the people who work on the farm. The large-scale irrigation on the large farmland was photographed.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 50mm

Near the dried up channel, there was a sign that read, ‘Fumigation Area.”
Dropping the saturation, the contrast was increased to express the dehydrated agricultural channel.

Camera: DP2sExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:24.2mm

The many haystacks I saw on the everywhere were also piled high along the road.
Holding the compact digital camera, I took the photograph from inside the car, while capturing the scent of the hay at the same time.

Camera: DP2sExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:24.2mm

I drove south on the straight road before running into a small bridge. There were no signs anywhere, but I knew that this body of water was the Colorado River. The water flowing from the north spread out in the western and eastern direction by the bridge. While looking at the sign that read, “Speed Limit 5 MPH, 40 ton limit,” I drove through the narrow bridge slowly into Arizona.

By the small Cibola Bridge, there was another sign that read, “THIS BRIDGE CONSTITUTES A DANGER USE AT YOUR OWN RISK” Using the large aperture standard lens, the fence’s seam was sharply focused to emphasize the sign’s existence.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 30mm F1.4 EX DG HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/640 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 30mm


A little after driving over the Colorado River, the farmland decreased and my left hand side (the eastern side) had become an arid desert region. As I head further south, the right side (the western side) of the road becomes a field of green. By looking at the American flag billowing in the wind, I entered the nation’s wildlife preserve, the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. During the summer the temperature could reach as high as 120?F and the annual precipitation be as little as 2 inches. On the protected area of the dried up floodplain of the Colorado River, water flows through a canal constructed in the 1960’s, spreading throughout the farmland and the sound of chirping birds echo in the forest.

The Burrowing Owl, unusual for an owl to be active during the daytime.
Photographed from inside the car, when I moved in closer, it fled the area.

Camera: DP2sExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:24.2mm

Not a large-sized bird, the Red-winged Blackbird flew around the forest.

Camera: SD15 Lens: APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed:1/250 sec, Aperture: f6.3, Focal length: 500mm


The dehydrated pond in the preservation area. Despite the slightest amount of moisture, I was impressed by the small plants in bloom. Focusing on the flowers, I lied down on the ground where I would usually tread over.

Camera: DP2sExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100,White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

Wanting to go further south to Imperial Dam, the visitor center at the conservation area suggested turning around north toward Freeway 10, then heading east and then south on US Highway 95. Driving away from the Colorado River area, I drove through a desert for quite a while and arrived near the river again. I stopped by the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge and the Martinez Lake, included with resort facilities, but I didn’t stay for long. Not long after, I headed west for the road leading to Imperial Dam. Driving toward the setting sun, there was much traffic with mostly US military personnel.

A landscape I saw on the side of the road in Arizona.
Surrounding a cactus, the tree bloomed pink flowers.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 30mm F1.4 EX DG HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 30mm

On the desolate desert, there were US military tanks on display.
The large aperture mid-telephoto lens captured the overpowering presence of the tank to the intricate details of the small parts of the tank.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 85mm

After passing through the military facility, I see the Imperial Diversion Dam. Wetlands surrounded the dam and water flowing through the channels and it was difficult to see where the Colorado River was flowing. In order for the water from the Colorado River to flow into the two main canals (the All American Canal and the Giala Gravity Main Canal), a dam was constructed to raise the water level to 25 feet. The construction was difficult to perceive from land. I wanted to go near the dam, but the entrance was closed and there weren’t any people. While I walked across the Colorado River, I stepped into California.

Parallel to Mexico’s border, this is the beginning of the All American Canal that flows 80 miles through California to Imperial Valley. The fisherman said, “This is my first time here, so I don’t know what I will catch.”

Camera: SD15 Lens: 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f7.1, Focal length: 43mm

The setting sun brightly reflected off of the water surface. When I used the EF-140 DG external flash, not only did the sign in the front illuminate, but also the one in the back. The end of the day was expressed through the contrasty photograph.

Camera: DP1xExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec, Aperture: f9.0, Focal length:16.6mm

Around the vacant dam, a rattlesnake welcomed me.
The high magnification zoom lens captured some fondness in the snake’s face.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec, Aperture: f6.3, Focal length: 250mm

Driving south on the Imperial Dam Road along the Colorado River, I come across Laguna Diversion Dam that gave an appearance of a waterfall. From the road, only a small part of the dam (constructed from 1903 to 1905) was visible and since the structure was difficult to understand, there weren’t many people exploring the area.

Water fell vigorously like a waterfall from the first dam ever made on the Colorado River.
Setting the camera on a tripod, the slow shutter speed captured the flow of water.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/8 sec, Aperture: f22, Focal length: 147mm

During the era without dams, vegetation flourished on the land where floods frequently occurred.
The dam construction workers were mostly Mexican Americans, but Native Americans were involved in the construction.

Camera: DP2sExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length:24.2mm

Traveling further south from the dam, the road divided. The sunset was approaching so I chose state road 24 because it seemed to continue into a town. I stepped out of the car to photograph the large farm and a strong gust of wind almost grabs my hat away. The sound of the water pumping out of the canal was drowned by the sound of the wind. The vast farm was empty and I felt like the land was all mine.

Crossing the small bridge over the waterway, the super wide-angle zoom lens captured the sweeping landscape nearing the end of the day. Small birds flew in the sky.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/80 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 8mm

The pump that drew water from the canal and fed out into the field, shined from the afternoon sun.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 50mm

A strong burst of wind rustled the grass on the field as well as the canal’s water.
Securing the camera on a tripod, the wind was captured with a slow shutter speed.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1.3 sec, Aperture: f29.0, Focal length: 50mm

The town where I stayed in Yuma, Arizona was overtaken by raging wind that night and I woke up a few times from the noisy wind, but the wind subsided like nothing happened the next morning. Early in the morning I crossed a number of bridges parallel to train tracks and parked the car in a park under one of the bridges. I verified with the park sanitation worker that the river I was seeing was the Colorado River. “When you get to this area, the Colorado River becomes smaller, the salt content is higher and the water is dirtier, so it’s better to go up north where the landscape and lakes are more beautiful,” he said as he watched my camera.

The freight train carrying military equipment crosses the bridge over the Colorado River.
The landscape of the morning light directly striking into the lens was captured.
Changing to monochrome, the presence of the nearly silhouetted bridge and train tracks were emphasized.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 8mm

The park sanitation worker was indeed correct, but I wanted to explore further south of the Colorado River, I drove on US Highway 95 that ran parallel along the river. Vast farms and waterways spread throughout the land. The Colorado River served as the western border of Yuma, but it soon changed to Mexico’s border.

The well-equipped waterway on the green farmland, shined like a meadow.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 9mm

When I approached the southern border of Mexico, I headed west the Colorado River. As I headed on the dirt road inside the farmland, I see a tall iron fence constructed. There was a young man working by himself in the field. He pointed north in the direction of the narrow road that leads to the other side of the fence. I drove a quarter mile on the narrow road that was elevated from the farmland and I arrived in front of the gated fence. After going through the gate, I saw the canal and the landscape across the western side had some vegetation, but it was mostly bleak. Wondering where the Colorado River was, I was staring at the western direction and a car drove toward me slowly. I knew immediately that it was border patrol. I asked, “I want to see the Colorado River, so where can I find it?” to the young patrol officer and he replied, “It’s right there, but most of the water dried up,” as though speaking to a peer. He questioned why I was here and where I was headed. I let him know I was there to take a few photographs and leave for the highway after. He stayed while I finished taking the photographs. At one time the Colorado River caused large floods and it seemed like the water had dwindled down a few miles from where I photographed.

Standing on the western border of Mexico, I look in the southern direction. On the right hand side, the dried up Colorado River and the other side, Mexico.
The water flows through the canal, a route controlled by people and the iron fence stretches out south.

Camera: SD15 Lens: 30mm F1.4 EX DG HSMExposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 30mm

The Colorado River branches out into a complex path through a number of waterways. I wondered if the water from the source of the Colorado River is the same as the water flowing in the concrete waterway. I knew for certain that water flows from a higher elevation to a lower elevation.

All artwork on this page was processed from RAW data (X3F) with Sigma PhotoPro software. After processing, some selected images were imported into retouching software to remove dust. This photo essay is currently running on Sigma Japan’s site and it is published here two months later.

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