photography from the ground up

Out There In The Rocks-Chapter II

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.

As you can see from the stormy skies, our concerns about the weather were well founded, but we decided to continue on; we all had rain gear and the means to protect our camera gear from the elements.

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.

19 responses

  1. Especially like the moody dark sky – gives so much atmosphere and presence…


    May 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    • There was definitely some atmosphere; some of it was falling on us. 🙂


      May 15, 2012 at 5:42 am

      • Ah, well – it keeps us mellow as we age, I suppose… 🙂


        May 15, 2012 at 7:37 am

  2. Lovely pictures. I particularly like the way HDR brings out the clouds. How many exposures do you use for each image?


    May 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

    • Thanks, I usually bracket five exposures. Sometimes I use them all, sometimes I may use only three. It depends on the image and what I need to make the exposure work.


      May 15, 2012 at 5:44 am

  3. so amazing…


    May 15, 2012 at 9:09 am

  4. John P. Meyer

    Dramatic photos indeed Jim.


    May 15, 2012 at 5:28 pm

  5. I’m just back from a long weekend in the Canadian Badlands in Drumheller, Alberta. The hoodoos were my main destination and I was a little disappointed to find that there’s only a very small patch of them (literally less than 10!), at least as far as we could find, and we walked pretty far in the end. The trick with shooting the hoodoos at Drumheller turned out to be the fact that they’re surrounded with boardwalks, stairs and railings to give easy access and to protect the site. I found there was only one spot where I could shoot without the iron work in the way. Maybe I need to head down to the Lybrook badlands instead!


    May 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm

  6. I just love your photos, I’m creating my own private folder gallery. Great work!


    May 25, 2012 at 10:57 am

  7. wow, these are great photos. You must have had a such a good time in such a beautiful place.


    June 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    • Thanks. Yeah we had a great time. I will be leading Photo Tours out there, so I hope to be spending a lot of time photographing Lybrook.


      June 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm

  8. THe cloud give it a nice atmosfere… THanks


    August 18, 2014 at 5:13 am

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