I spend a lot of time these days in one of several badlands in the San Juan Basin. These images are from a tour I led recently in the Bisti Wilderness. I normally take a tripod whenever I go out photographing, but recently I have been leaving it at home when I lead tours.
The main reason is that I want to be able to devote my time to my clients and the time involved with setting up my tripod every time I make an image is a distraction.
Also, shooting handheld puts me in another frame of mind, one where I have more freedom to shoot from the hip. I think it also has an an positive effect on my creative vision.
At one point, I saw my client down in the rocks looking around for a shot and was able to capture this image of him processing the scene. If I had to fiddle with my tripod, I doubt the image would be as spontaneous.
I’ve also found that I make images that I would normally pass up. This one is an example; at first glance, I wasn’t really that impressed by this scene, but, I did like the cracks in the foreground. I’m glad I decided to make this photo, after spending time processing the image, it’s grown on me.
This petrified log is half exposed in a small wash in a remote section of the Bisti Wilderness. There are several other relatively large logs in this same area. Actually, I’ve taken this photo before, but I like the light much better in this version.
As we were packing up to leave in the parking area, this group of riders approached us. I called them over and we shared some water with them, then they posed with their horses.
It was a fitting end to the tour and my clients were overjoyed.
When rain finally comes to a parched landscape, the earth seems to give a sigh of relief. In the high desert of northwest New Mexico, the Rio Puerco Valley hasn’t seen appreciable moisture since last summer. And now the skies are opening. The result is a study in contrasts.
And the biggest contrast is that of life and death. There is a very real danger of dying of dehydration in this unforgiving environment. The image below shows the irony of being so near yet so far from the life-giving flow.
With the rains come the dramatic skies that are so common in New Mexico in the summer. The wide horizons allow the sky to, seemingly, stretch to infinity; it feels as if you could actually fall into it.
This image was taken at the Guadalupe ruins, a Chacoan outlier that sits atop a small butte deep in the Rio Puerco Valley. It was inhabited from about 900-1150 CE. This view is to the north across the Rio Puerco with Cabezon Peak and Cerro Cochito in the distance. There just happened to be a rainbow sitting on the horizon which made this moment even more worth capturing.
I spend a lot of time in this valley, and it is pretty rare to see water in the drainages. I was immediately drawn to this scene as I drove past it, so I stopped to make this image. The light was just perfect and the sky emphasized the mood.
As I was driving out to the highway, I noticed these ominous looking clouds hovering over Cabezon Peak and had to race to the stretch of road I wanted to use in this image. I lost some of the light in the process, but I think I managed to capture most of the drama.