Book Report

Baja's Wild Side: A Photographic Journey Through Baja, California's Pacific Coast Regions. By Daniel Cartamil. 2017, first edition. 101 pages. $19.95.
BY: JEANNINE PEREZ

Daniel Cartamil, the author/photographer of this book, is an environmental consultant who also enjoys mountain biking, playing Afro-Cuban percussion and photography, particularly the photos he has taken on Baja's Pacific Coast. This beautiful book of photos and descriptions of a land still unknown to many tourists is the result of Daniel's interest in Baja, his 10 years of experience photographing the wild side of Baja, and his desire to protect that "wild side" forever.

Daniel has a PhD, has authored scientific journal articles, conducts research in conservation and marine biology, once worked in a fishery, and has had many Baja experiences that have made him an expert in those areas, including shark biology and ecology. He also leads adventure photography tours in Baja. It seems like there's not much that he doesn't do.

A forward written by Baja's own Graham Mackintosh, an author I've written about several times, gave me even more incentive to read this book and enjoy the photography. The book offers breathtaking glimpses of Baja's spectacular sunrises and sunsets, cave paintings and rock art, seascapes, along with the author's unexpected photos of ordinary places, sights, and happenings that are usually overlooked in photo collections (a favorite for me is the photo of a Boojum tree arched to the ground). Daniel's photos tug at our deepest emotions, and also help us realize how very fragile the ecology of this region is.

Photographs in "Baja's Wild Side" include dawn and dusk scenes of the blending of land, sky, and sea, photos of shark skulls and shark fisherman, roadside shrines, whale skeletons, gray whales, yuccas,  ospreys, and so much more! These photos record Baja's unique natural beauty. We also see long ago human art, ghost towns, dwellings, ruins, and cemeteries in Baja's spectacular natural settings.

There are four chapters in this book, each relating to a specific region in Baja. A map and preface by the author readies us for our next trip through Baja.

The first chapter takes us into the Vizcaino valley, a desert place that has always seemed magical to me. Named for a Spanish explorer, this desert contains many plants and trees unique to the area, huge unexpected boulder piles, and few residents. The first photo in this section is a mystical one of yucca trees on a foggy morning, surely a common sight to frequent Baja travelers.

Chapter two guides us through 140 miles of wild coastline with few human occupants. Old fishing boats, beaches, sandstone cliffs, pelicans and a foggy sea dominate this chapter. Dawn's pastel hues and spectacular sunsets give us hope that the beauty here will never be diminished.

Chapter three takes us to another setting, the Valley of the Boojums, with its boulder fields, cholla, cardon, and ocotillos. And there are the trees that look like skinny carrots, growing upside down; the whimsically-named Boojum trees. Like the ones found in Dr. Seuss books, they bow, twist, and seem to have almost human qualities. The landscape here is unlike any other on our planet. We also see some more examples of rock art in this chapter.

The last chapter adds to the mood with more photographs of the Gold Coast and High Sierra. Don't miss the portrait of two California condors, found on pages 78 and 79. (One looks a little like an uncle of mine.) Condors soaring over foothills are found on the next page, and the photo shows the condors as "oddly charismatic" and beautiful. Bobcats, chapels, vineyards, statues, boats, and boat wrecks provide still more glimpses into Baja.

 In his epilogue, Daniel wonders what all of these wild places will look like in 100 years, or even in 20 years. Can we preserve the wild side of Baja? Only time will tell.

The photographs in this book make many statements, and each page and photo shows the great love for our Baja felt by the author/photographer.

You can purchase this beautiful coffee table book at El Caballo Blanco, my book store in Loreto. And once you've finished taking in the stunning photos, drop me a line at betojeannine@gmail.com.