Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Been Awhile...

Hello Behind the Lens followers,
There's been some staff changes in the last few years and we're about to launch the blog again along with an email newsletter. Our goal is to post every quarter. If you are interested in receiving the email just subscribe as directed below. Otherwise we will use this blog as a platform to archive the newsletter so check back occasionally for news!
Thank you for your continued support of Laurence Parent Photography.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Big Bend: Land of the Texas Imagination"

The Wittliff Collections present

“Big Bend: Land of the Texas Imagination”
ON VIEW JANUARY 18 – JULY 17, 2011
SAN MARCOS, TX — The majestic, rugged land in West Texas is a world apart. As writer Joe Nick Patoski says, “This is the mythic Texas, a place where you can see all the way to tomorrow on a clear day.” Designated a national park in 1944, the Big Bend has inspired generations of writers, filmmakers, photographers, and musicians. Selections of their works are on view now through July 17 in the new Wittliff Collections exhibition, Big Bend: Land of the Texas Imagination.
In conjunction with the exhibition, on March 31 the Wittliff Collections will present a 6:30 p.m. reception and 7:00 p.m. panel discussion on the Big Bend with photographer Laurence Parent, authors Joe Nick Patoski, Barbara “Barney” Nelson, and Jake Silverstein, editor of Texas Monthly, and Marcos Paredes, a long-time National Park Service River Ranger at Big Bend, recently retired. Attendees are asked to RSVP to (More information is below.)

The Big Bend exhibition and program are presented in support of the 2010–2011 Common Experience theme of “Sustainability” at Texas State University-San Marcos. Admission to both the exhibition and program is free and open to the public. The Wittliff Collections are located on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library at Texas State.
Big Bend: Land of the Texas Imagination explores the way authors and others have been influenced by and interpreted the geology of Big Bend and its culture. Maps, photographs, books and articles, manuscripts, journals, and other items illustrate how the Big Bend has infused mythic storytelling and folklore, served as the scene of the crime for mysteries and thrillers, added depth to novels, stories, and memoirs, effected transcendent nature writing, spurred environmental calls to action, starred as atmospheric location on film, and played a part in the border’s history and politics.

All the exhibition pieces are from the permanent archives at the Wittliff Collections, including materials from such noted writers as Billy Lee Brammer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, James Crumley, J. Frank Dobie, John Graves, Stephen Harrigan, Cormac McCarthy, Joe Nick Patoski, James Sanderson, Sam Shepard, and Bill Wittliff, along with selections from the Collections’ extensive Texas Monthly archives. Also on display are photographs by Jim Bones, James Evans, Laurence Parent, Bill Wittliff, and Bill Wright. A short film by Shelly Seymour, A Walk Across Big Bend, is also on view.
Considered the earliest “Texas” writer, Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca traveled through the Big Bend region in 1535. The Wittliff Collections owns a rare 1555 edition of Cabeza de Vaca’s La relación, and the exhibition case features facsimile pages from the book in which Cabeza de Vaca writes of the “extremely barren and harsh” mountains he encountered.
Since then, generations of writers, including Joe Nick Patoski and Stephen Harrigan, have acknowledged the rugged environment depicted by Cabeza de Vaca. But they have also expanded the definition of the Big Bend, bringing to light the region’s wondrous natural beauty. Patoski, in his recent book, Big Bend National Park (UT Press, 2006), observes, “Big Bend is otherworldly. No one thinks twice when Big Bend is described as a place where water runs uphill, where rainbows wait for rain, where the river lives in a big stone box, where mountains go away at night to play with other mountains, and where the lies told about Texas are true.” Stephen Harrigan, writing in the pages of Texas Monthly, describes the allure Big Bend holds for many Texans: “For thousands of harried urban dwellers throughout the state it is a recharge zone, someplace pure and resolute, an imaginary ancestral home.”
The exhibition also shows how the Big Bend has inspired storytellers and novelists. In the 1920s, J. Frank Dobie mined stories of lost treasure in the Big Bend, which he included in Coronado’s Children. In the 1950s, a young reporter named Billy Lee Brammer visited Marfa to write about the making of the epic movie Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. Brammer’s experiences on the set inspired a portion of his classic novel, The Gay Place. First published in 1961, The Gay Place celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The Big Bend offers a dramatic landscape for fiction. Contemporary novelists Cormac McCarthy, Nevada Barr, James Crumley, and Jim Sanderson have all set mystery/thrillers in the region. Playwright and actor Sam Shepard includes dispatches from the Big Bend in his book of stories, Cruising Paradise. Numerous films have been set in the region, including Giant, No Country for Old Men, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Barbarosa, Bill Wittliff’s 1982 movie starring Willie Nelson.
Throughout the exhibition nearly a hundred books from the Wittliff’s supplementary materials collection show the Big Bend’s range of creative influence across genres of all types. A complete bibliography is available as a take-away for visitors. Big Bend: Land of the Texas Imagination was curated by Steve Davis with assistance from other Wittliff Collections staff.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the exhibition, contact Wittliff Collections Curator and Interim Director Steve Davis at 512.245.2313 or

On Thursday, March 31 beginning at 6:30 p.m., the Wittliff Collections will host an exhibition reception and panel discussion on the topic of Big Bend. Featured panelists include Joe Nick Patoski and photographer Laurence Parent, co-authors of Big Bend National Park and many other books, Barbara “Barney” Nelson, editor of God’s Country or Devil’s Playground: An Anthology of Nature Writing from the Big Bend of Texas, and Marcos Paredes, a long-time National Park Service River Ranger at Big Bend, recently retired. Moderating the discussion is Jake Silverstein, editor of Texas Monthly, who worked as a reporter for the Big Bend Sentinel prior to joining the magazine and writes about the area in his first book, Nothing Happened and Then It Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction. A book signing with the authors will follow the program; books will be for sale by the University Bookstore. The event is free and open to the public.

Attendees are asked to RSVP to

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Mexico Magazine

I just had a new cover story, that I wrote and photographed, come out in the February New Mexico Magazine.  Climbing up the mountain last year with no trail, camping gear, two gallons of water, food, and camera gear was a chore. Nevertheless the summit was spectacular, worth all the pain and suffering.

Here is a shot of the cover, go grab your copy today!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We busted on Huron Peak!

As described in my previous blog, the Mount Harvard climb went well. The next morning we awoke before dawn to gale winds but decided to go for Mt. Columbia anyway. Wind was better than lightning any day. Steve and Ed were tired and decided to relax in camp while three of us did the climb. Rick, Jen, and I headed out at dawn. I, of course, took photos as we went.

Within a quarter mile, the "trail" headed straight up the mountain in loose scree above timberline.

Foot by foot, we scrambled higher, puffing in the thin air. Mt. Harvard loomed above us to the north. Just because the air was thin, however, didn't mean that the wind didn't flail away at us.

We finally reached the crest of the south summit ridge at roughly 13,500 feet. The trail improved and the grade lessened as we headed north toward the summit. Soon we were there, at the top of 14,073-foot Mt. Columbia.

As always, the view was spectacular, making the hard climb worthwhile. We took pictures and huddled up behind some rocks out of the wind to wolf down some snacks and water. We quickly got chilled, so down we went, slipping and sliding our way back to base camp.

Once at camp, we tore down our tents, packed up our gear, and hiked out to the trailhead, all downhill blessedly. In Buena Vista we rewarded ourselves with beer and pizza. Jen, Rick, and Ed headed back to Colorado Springs, while Steve and I drove partway up to the Huron Peak trailhead to camp for the night along Clear Creek. We'd had two successful ascents in two days. What could go wrong with a third?

That evening Steve and I photographed the ghost town of Winfield in beautiful golden light. During the night it rained off and on, raising questions about the next morning's climb. We slept in a bit later than normal because of the rain. We ate breakfast as golden light burned through the clouds, raising our spirits. Soon enough we drove the short way up the bad 4WD road to the trailhead and started hiking. Dark clouds were already starting to form again, putting a damper on our enthusiasm. Regardless, onward we went, trudging up the trail as it switchbacked higher and higher through the spruce and fir trees. The sun tried to come out once, but slowly faded in the steel-gray skies.

The wind started to rise as the clouds darkened to the west. At about 12,500 feet, well above timberline, Steve and I huddled up behind a boulder to try to get out of the wind. The sky was rapidly becoming gloomier and the temperature was falling, so Steve decided to bail out and head down. I, being the crazy one, continued higher, hiking with a couple that had caught up with us. Soon the first bits of sleet began to pelt down, bouncing off our jackets. Surely it wouldn't last long and at least there wasn't any lightning, we told each other.

We were completely exposed to the gale on the steep tundra slopes. Soon the sleet turned into a full-fledged snow storm. "Should we keep going?" we kept asking each other. Even with Gore-tex, we were getting pretty wet and cold from the windblown snow. Visibility was down to a few hundred yards. We were lost in a gray world of tundra and snow. Finally we decided to turn around, although the decision was frustrating so close to the summit. But it was the right one. Minutes later the first lightning bolt hit. Lightning in a blizzard in August. How fun. Our already rapid pace accelerated. We were hunched over, unable to even look in the direction we were walking. The wind-driven snow and sleet stung our faces, making it painful to look up.

Finally we reached timberline and relaxed a little, with a little more protection from the lightning. As we descended, the air warmed enough that the falling snow turned to rain. We sloshed our way down the mountain, getting to the bottom just as the sun burned through. The clouds lifted off the snow-covered peaks above and a beautiful day began.

And we were back at the bottom of the mountain. Well, the mountain would be there next year. Steve and I packed up and headed back to northern New Mexico for the night and then home the next day. The score? Steve and Laurence: 2, Mountains: 1.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mt. Harvard or bust!

I just got home a few days ago from a long trip to West Texas and Colorado. My ultimate goal was to climb Mt. Harvard, Mt. Columbia, and Huron Peak, all 14,000-foot peaks, with some friends. However, to justify my little climbing adventure I had to take a few photos along the way. I started in the Davis Mountains of West Texas by shooting a large ranch up in the mountains and another smaller ranch with an incredible house down in the Marfa grasslands. The area has had a wet summer, so the mountains looked more like Ireland than West Texas. Shooting the two ranches was a pleasure, even if I hadn't been getting paid for it. I had beautiful country, dramatic skies, and great light, key ingredients for any good photo.

On the second morning at the ranch in the mountains, I got up well before dawn and stepped out of the guest house expecting clear skies, typical on summer mornings. I was greeted with a flash of lightning and rumble of thunder. Could be interesting, I thought. I head out in the predawn gloom on the dirt ranch road that I had scouted the day before with the foreman. I parked at the base of a ridge and started scrambling up onto the ridge top, hoping I wouldn't step on a rattlesnake. I'd already seen two the previous two days. The grass was so tall that I couldn't see where I was putting my feet. However, I made it to the top unscathed as a little pink light was hitting the storm to my west. The storm was moving my way, but fortunately was losing strength. I didn't want to be chased off by lightning. I quickly started shooting. With 360-degree views, the view was tremendous. The clouds were lighting up and soon the first rays of golden light struck my ridge and the tall grass. I couldn't move around fast enough, shooting in every direction. The summit was covered with boulders and tall grass, so I had to be careful as I ran around. Breaking an ankle would not have been a good thing. As with many places I photograph, cell service was nonexistent.

Eventually the sun climbed up into some clouds and the light faded, so I packed everything up, picked my way down the treacherous slope back to my truck, and called it a morning. I loaded my gear at the guest house and headed back into Fort Davis. That evening and the next morning I photographed an incredible house lost on a lonely hilltop in the grasslands surrounding Marfa. It was incredible enough that two people were there scouting the house for a party scene for a movie. Unfortunately the light and weather weren't as cooperative this time, with clouds and rain. I did get some good interior shots, however, and some dramatic shots at sunset and with the house lights on at dusk.

The next morning, I tried to shoot the house again at sunrise, but clouds blocked me out again. The photo biz is like farming. The weather makes or breaks you. I headed back to Fort Davis to my friend Steve Kennedy's house, tossed my stuff into Steve's truck, and off we went to Colorado. We made it as far as the mountains above Taos that night, stopping along the way for lunch in my old hometown, Carlsbad, with some friends there. That evening we stopped and shot an old adobe church in La Cueva just before sunset. The sky was a little bland for photos, but the light was good, and the handsome church, isolated all by itself in a meadow, made a good subject.

The next day we headed up to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We snagged a campsite and then relaxed a bit as we waited to see if there would be sunset light. It wasn't looking hopeful, with storms to the west over the San Juans. We weren't itching to drag our heavy camera packs all the way up to the top of the 700-foot dunes if we weren't going to have any light. Finally, about an hour and a half before sunset, it looked like we might get a few breaks in the clouds to the west, so we gritted our teeth, donned our packs, and headed across Medano Creek and up the dunes. One step up, 3/4 step back. What a slog, especially at close to 9000 feet elevation with heavy packs. Puffing and panting, we made it to the top of one of the highest dunes right as the light started breaking through. I started shooting, dripping sweat all over my camera and breathing hard. Storms hovered over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above while golden light slanted across the dunes, highlighting every ripple. Then a thunderstorm started to build overhead. The wind start blowing hard, pelting me and my camera with sand. Now I really had some grit in my teeth. When the rain piled on, I stuffed my camera in the pack, and stood there squinting into the blowing sand and rain, hoping that lightning wouldn't be following. Here I was, on top of one of the highest dunes with a nice electrically conductive tripod.

Eventually the wind calmed a bit and I started shooting again. We went until the last color faded from the sky. We hustled back down, hoping we could find our truck in the dark. We managed, emptying sand out of our boots several times along the way.

The next morning was boring for photos--blank blue sky--so we packed up and headed for Buena Vista. We drove to the N. Cottonwood Trailhead, loaded our backpacks, and hit the trail into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Up we went into the thin air, camping gear, food, clothes, and cameras strapped to our backs. Three and a half sweaty miles later, we reached our 11,300-foot campsite in the Horn Fork Basin at the base of Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia. Later that evening, just as it was getting dark, three of our friends from Colorado Springs arrived at camp, tired from hustling up the trail as it was getting dark.

None of us slept well that night and the chilly morning came early. We dragged out of our tents before dawn, forced some food down, and headed up the trail to Mt. Harvard, at 14,420', the third highest peak in Colorado. We puffed and panted our way upwards as the rising sun tipped the peaks around with color. I took photos as we went, driving my hiking buddies crazy. I was reminded once again that living in Texas at low elevation is not conducive to climbing high peaks.

The last part of the climb involved some scrambling up ledges and low cliffs, but by a little after 10AM we were there. There was nowhere higher to climb. I took photos, we ate some snacks huddled up out of the cold wind, and observed the building clouds.

It was time to leave. We headed down, breathing a little less hard than we had on the way up. Rain that afternoon and evening trapped us in our tents quite a bit, but we all slept a little better that night in preparation for climbing Mt. Columbia the next morning.