photography from the ground up

Out There In The Rocks-Ah Shi Sle Pah Wash

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.

17 responses

  1. Awesome set. Thanks for sharing.


    May 22, 2012 at 9:48 am

  2. You may have failed to find the rock formation you were looking for Jim but the images you came back with are fabulous. I especially like the last.


    May 22, 2012 at 9:58 am

    • Thank you. The last image was obviously made on a different day. The clouds on that day were amazing.


      May 22, 2012 at 10:28 am

  3. Excellent work and the last image is simply mind blowing!


    May 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

  4. The last picture is simply amazing, Jim!


    May 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm

  5. Aw, shucks – poor you. You have to go back… 🙂 Looks like the perfect set for a Men in Black reunion, complete with alien life forms… so cool.


    May 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm

  6. John P. Meyer

    Worth another trip – anytime.


    May 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm

  7. Looks like it could be another planet. Very cool!


    May 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

  8. Jim, you’ve done it again, it does seem like another planet. I’ve to ask you have you ever been to Valle of the Moon? It’s located just a couple hours outside Brasilia, Brazil. Your camera would go crazy.


    May 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    • Thanks. No, I’ve never been to Brazil, although my daughter spent a year in school there.


      May 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

  9. Mars may be very similar o that.


    August 11, 2014 at 7:52 am

  10. Jim Caffrey, if you ever came to Brazil, let me know…. I am from Brazil.


    August 11, 2014 at 7:53 am

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