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Juniper’s Last Gasp Hear its message

One similarity between life and photography is that sometimes events and consequences turn out unbidden. This is one of those situations.

While driving along the curvy roads up the Colorado National Monument, a stark, leafless, and lifeless Juniper stood out shouting at me from a cliff. “Look at me, don’t you see!”

I drove past that bend but something about that dark and dead juniper kept haunting my subconscious mind.

Juniper trees thrive in the most inhospitable conditions. Junipers will withstand bone-chilling cold temperatures, scorching heat, and intense winds. Even with very little water, its roots will find a way to quench thirst. Junipers are said to last from 400 years up to even 1000 years. Imagine how many before us these trees have witnessed?

I kept driving further but my mind was playing with me and keeps flashing the image of that tree. I pulled over abruptly and then decided to turn back downhill. The narrow roads were difficult for parking by the roadside but I put my hazard lights on and grab my camera. For a quick minute or perhaps two, I managed to take several shots from below the rock formation the tree was wrapped around. Finally, that Juniper tree got the attention it deserved.

Little that I know that this image at some point in time will share a message through my photography. And it did.

Two weeks after, I went on a field tour to a landfill and recycling facility organized by Walking Mountains Science Center. I brought my camera and took numerous images knowing I may get a photo story from that tour. Several photos taken were of compacted recycled ♻️ materials, mostly empty plastic bottles and containers.

Before downloading photos, I started exploring some unfamiliar and unused functions of my camera, I noticed a label for ‘in-camera overlay.’ Being curious about that option, I merged two photos, using the dead Juniper and a photo of the compacted recycled plastic pile.

Boom! This image jumped out!👇The title was unmistakably clear and precise to me; “Juniper’s Last Gasp.” This tree had a message for me, a whisper of a sort, to share its story. While it can and may endure all harsh weathers and a multitude of challenges over time, even the indomitable Junipers will perish if we fail to care for our environment.

Juniper’s Last Gasp and its message go broader beyond this specific tree as it shares the story of the ever-growing threat that encompasses our waters, land, air, and the beings that inhabit our 🌎 planet.

This photo has been published in Vail magazine, and exhibited in several galleries in the country including, Denver, CO Yeiser Art Center, KY., and Webster Grove, MO.

A mock up (only 10 prints available, now at 4/10)

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.

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Created By
Raj Manickam
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Photo and Story © 2021 Raj Manickam