Searching for Tao Canyon

ISBN 9781771602587
Hardcover | Publication Date: May 11, 2018
Book Dimensions: 7 in x 10 in
184 Pages

About the Book

A stunning book of retro, mind-bending photography that unlocks a hidden world of natural wonder, personal reflection and outdoor adventure.

More than 40 years ago, British Columbia photographer Art Twomey stumbled across a narrow crack in the desert floor in northern Arizona. It was a slot canyon, a stone crevasse – narrow, carved by water, its interior lost in shadow when seen by a curious person peering in from the rim.

Twomey’s photos from that day were unlike anything he had ever put on emulsion. They pictured a dream world, an intricate underground fantasy where lines bent, topsy met turvy, upside was down, inside was out. The images made as much sense backwards as forwards, which is to say they made no sense at all.

For over a decade, Twomey, Morrow and Schmidt spent spring and fall seasons hauling their cameras through the wildest, most intricately carved slot canyons they could find. At the time, slots were virtually unknown, their exquisite beauties not yet appreciated. There were no guidebooks, no guided tours, no high-resolution satellite images to work from. A big part of the pleasure was a sense of discovery, of finding places no one knew.

About the Author(s)

Pat Morrow is an adventure photographer based in Invermere, B.C. and has worked on magazine, book and corporate assignments, as well as shooting video documentaries worldwide for the past 35 years. He began a collaboration with Jeremy Schmidt that ranged from coverage of canyoneering, back country skiing and mountain culture stories, to launching out with their wives on a seven-month overland journey around the Himalaya, resulting in the book Himalayan Passage. Pat was the first to climb the highest peak on all seven continents (as documented in his book Beyond Everest), and received the Order of Canada for his photographic and exploratory work. He and his wife, Baiba, have won nine national magazine awards, and they now concentrate on volunteer efforts for a local environmental organization called Wildsight.

Jeremy Schmidt is a writer and photographer specializing in natural science, conservation and adventure travel. He is the author or co-author of more than fifteen books and hundreds of articles for magazines, including Audubon, Equinox, International Wildlife, National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, GEO and others. His collaboration with Pat Morrow covers several decades of global adventuring, resulting in articles for numerous magazines and the book Himalayan Passage, winner of the first Barbara Savage Award for adventure writing. Jeremy is a founding faculty member of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, a Fulbright Scholar in the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and a popular expert for National Geographic Expeditions trips worldwide. He lives with his wife in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Art Twomey was the conduit for both Pat Morrow and Jeremy Schmidt into the hidden world of slot canyons. Twomey was a glacier geologist, an accomplished mountaineer, a professional photographer and a leading conservationist in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia. His photography and films appeared regularly on television, inspiring countless viewers. Art Twomey died in a helicopter crash in his beloved Purcell Mountains in 1997.


“In…a stunning new book, adventurers reflect on four decades of discovery – and friendship – in the American desert southwest.”
– Mountain Life Annual

Searching for Tao Canyon chronicles in razor-sharp Kodachrome film and text a decade’s worth of exploration in the subterranean world of the American desert, long before it was Instagrammed to death.”
– Gripped Magazine

“Impossible to put this page-turner of a book down. Each lavish image is a portal into the mysterious and overlooked secrets of rocks, rivers, weather, and wildness.”
– Ormsby Review

“This book is, in a word, stunning. It’s also thought provoking, inspiring and downright groovy.”
– ACC Gazette

“The book is, in part, a dedication to those canyons lost to man-made interference, to Art Twomey who clearly loved them so dearly, to the local Navajo people and to the true beauty of the slot canyons that can only be captured with patience, respect and years of visitation – what you might call the search for Tao.” – Explorers Web

“[Searching for Tao Canyon] is far from a guide book; rather, it is an inspiring tale of three men driven by the thrill of finding places no-one knew.” – Outdoor Photography UK

“…a thought-provoking, inspiring, touching and downright spectacular tribute. ”
– Rocky Mountain Outlook

“Engaging with a historic kinship between photography and wilderness conservation, Tao Canyon’s narrative points to the fine balance between raising environmental awareness and attracting greater numbers of tourists to remote destinations.” – BC Studies

“Searching for Tao Canyon imparts a poignant message that may be applied well beyond the scope of slot canyons. Morrow, Schmidt, and Twomey’s text and remarkable photographs question the ethics of visualizing fragile landscapes, and give us pause to consider terrain threatened by climate change, increased population density, the extractive industry, and our desire to get off the beaten track.” – BC Studies