I made this image at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. I’ll just allow the image to speak for itself.
I haven’t been to Ah Shi Sle Pah for nearly two years, but we went out there yesterday to try to locate a rock formation that has been eluding me for some time now.
Ah shi Sle Pah is a dry wash that runs from east to west through the San Juan Basin about thirty miles northwest of Chaco Canyon. Over the course of millions of years, the run-off has eroded the soft mudstone leaving the harder sandstone balanced precariously on the remaining mudstone columns. These bizarre fformations, referred to as hoodoos can stand for thousands of years before finally yielding to erosion and gravity.
The sandstone that is slowly being exposed by erosion was formed in the late Cretaceous period when this area was a tropical forest with rivers which served to compress and cement the sand particles into the sandstone we see today. There are petrified logs lying about as if carelessly tossed aside by some giant prehistoric toddler.
One of the things I find intriguing about Ah Shi Sle Pah is the variations in the visual texture of the place. It is a photographer’s dream come true. The erosion channels in the mudstone are a never -ending source of delight for me.
When the light hits these incredible features in a certain way, especially early or late in the day, the side-lighting makes the textures jump out and the whole scene is electrified with a sense of other-worldly drama.
Did I find the formation I was searching for? Well, I have to confess that I failed, but that’s alright. I guess I’ll have to go back another day.
We went back to the Lybrook Badlands yesterday to do some more exploring and to come up with a format for a photo tour in the area. Just after leaving the paved road, we came across two guys parked on the side of the road. We stopped to talk and learned they are from Paris, France, and are traveling the southwest to photograph some of the more popular places. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Lybrook is on their list.
They were uncertain about the weather and asked if they could tag along with us. We agreed and set out to see what we could see. This photo shows Dominic, his son Frederic, Robin and me in the heart of the badlands.
Because of the conditions, heavy clouds with intermittent rain, I decided to shoot all HDR (exposure fusion) images. I have found that this is a good way to achieve depth and contrast in this kind of light.
These first three images were made right on the side of the main dirt road that leads into the Lybrook badlands. We weren’t more than a couple hundred yards from our vehicles as we photographed this small collection of hoodoos.
There was some blue sky as you can see in this image of what I dubbed the Hoodoo Playground. At this point, no rain had yet fallen, but I could smell it on the wind and knew it would be only a matter of time. As some of you who have read my previous blog entries may know, I am energized by this kind of weather. So, why the sudden shift in my attitude? The roads in this area have a high clay content; when it rains hard enough they can quickly become impassable quagmires. As much as I enjoy spending my time making images out here in the rocks, I didn’t relish the idea of spending a night in the Jeep waiting for the roads to dry out.
As we entered the main section of the badlands, the lightning began to flash and the thunder began to roll, but none of us showed the slightest hesitation at continuing the trek into the oncoming storm. By the time we reached the place named Hoodoo Cove, the rain began to fall, not hard, but steady, so we headed back towards the parking area to be in a better position in case we needed to make a run for the cars.
I couldn’t resist making one more image before we left. Even though the rain had begun to fall, there was a break in the overcast that allowed the sun to light part of the rim. It seemed somehow fitting that this dwarf Ponderosa Pine was sharing some of the rays.
When we were about a half mile from where we parked, the rain let up and then stopped altogether, but the storm still moved all around us. We headed up a wash between two prominent buttes to continue our exploration. I made this image from a high point on our trail, we then continued on through the notch towards the darkest part of the cloud cover.
We spent another two hours wandering the washes and climbing around the incredibly complex terrain, getting to know the place a little better. As we made our way back to our vehicles (again), I made this last image. to remind myself how fragile life is and how easily it can come to an end in a place such as this. At the same time, I was looking forward to our next trip out here.
Edward Abbey once wrote an essay called “TV Show: Out There In The Rocks” It was in the form of an interview with an old codger (Abbey) who had been a Park Ranger at Arches National Park in Utah. He wrote about this time of his life in “Desert Solitaire”, the first of his works that received the recognition it deserved (forgive me Ed-he was not a man who recognized his recognition).
These images are not from Arches NP. They were made in the Lybrook Badlands. No matter, either place is definitely out there in the rocks. I recently found myself driving the gas company roads that criss-cross this section of the San Juan Basin; they branch off here and there, ultimately dead-ending at gas wells. Actually, Robin was doing the driving, I was navigating with the help of my friend Garmin.
We were searching for the elusive heart of the Lybrook badlands. We had already seen them from the mesa-top, stretching out before us like some huge geological maze. Now we were down in the midst of them, down there in the rocks exploring and looking for one certain spot in these miles of desert landscape.
As it turns out, the journey was as rewarding as the final destination. The search for a unique landscape in this case was more a constant visual feast. Being a seasoned desert rat and badlands connoisseur, this is not a new experience for me, but I am always pleasantly surprised when it happens. Because many of the roads in this area are not on any map (even the topos on my GPS), we made many false starts on dead end tracks. It was all good though; the scenery was spectacular, and the ride was an adventure in itself.
Finally, after nearly a full day of bouncing over rocky and rutted not quite roads, we reached the co-ordinates we had been searching for. By now, it was more about just finding the place than there being anything special about it.
We had enough time for a short hike and a few images before we had to start back home. That’s OK. The hook is set. Another day will find us back out there in the rocks. Ed would be proud.
I was just informed that I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. I am honored and I would like to thank Sherryl at Sat Nav and Cider for the nomination. I highly recommend her blog: great images and intriguing stories about an expat’s life in England.
Now to comply with the VBA’s rules, I must
- Thank the blogger who nominated me, and link to their blog (I’ve already done this above).
- Nominate fellow bloggers for the award
- Contact and inform your choices of their nomination
- Share 7 things about yourself
Here are my nominations:
- Antiquity and Adventures
- Bogdan D Photography
- Cornwall-A Photographic Journey
- Everyday Paranoid Visions
- In Search Of Style
- Joshi Daniel Photography
- Morgan Wiltshire Photography
- Random Sights and Diversions
- The Local Tourist-Colorado
OK. Here’s the hard part-7 things about me?!
- I am a father of two beautiful girls first and foremost.
- I have a wonderful partner who loves to come along on my photographic adventures (She’s a pretty darn good photographer in her own right!).
- I never leave home without a camera!
- I love teaching and sharing my knowledge with others.
- I never leave home without a camera!
- I have a cat.
- I never leave home without…well, you know.
So, once again, thanks to Sherryl, and of course to all of you who follow me, like and comment on my posts, and help to make up this wonderful community. See you down the road.
I couldn’t resist. 🙂
Being a desert rat in New Mexico is a full time job; there are so many places to polish your craft. One of my favorites is the Rio Puerco Valley. The Rio Puerco is a mostly dry riverbed that winds its way through some spectacular country on its way to join the Rio Grande.
This is the view looking south from BLM Rte.1114. It is a primordial landscape, dotted with volcanic cones and with the addition of a stormy sky, it becomes a journey to the time of dinosaurs if you disregard the cattle-guard in the foreground.
One of the things you can find without too much trouble (unfortunately) is trash. It comes in all shapes and sizes. This piece of culvert, with catch basin attached, is the extra large variety. It lies slowly rusting into the earth with Cerro Cuate as a silent witness.
There is also an abundance of old tires in the valley. They can be found serving as containers at watering holes, on the roofs of old trailers, or as in this case, ornamental artwork hung on a cattle-guard.
But, regardless of the trash, cattle, and other abrasive signs of man, there is much beauty to be found in this unique landscape. I will soon be adding The Rio Puerco to my High Desert Photo Tours line-up.
I made this last image from an overlook near Cerro Cuate. There are no rock walls or steel stanchions at this overlook, so you must be careful. In a place like this, the buzzards will find you long before a rescuer.