After photographing White Sands National Park in New Mexico, I then traveled north to the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area — 45,000 acres of desert badlands featuring loads of magical, mysterious hoodoos and otherworldly rock formations.
I've photographed similar desert landscapes in Utah and Arizona, but the New Mexico badlands have a different vibe. The colors of the earth are mostly gray, brown and beige, and the sandstone has a "drippy" look like melted wax or wet sand castles at the beach. It's the kind of sci-fi, alien landscape H.R. Giger would have felt right at home in.
I spent a few days photographing Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah (which means "gray salt" in Navajo) and Bisti Badlands, and found both to be exceptional environments for landscape photography. I documented the experience of being there in the video below, and published a photography guide for anyone who'd care to learn more about the area.
These places had been on my landscape photography bucket list for many years, so it was thrilling to finally see and experience them first hand. I also feel like I brought home some pretty good images as well (one of my favorites is at the top of this email). Check out the video below:
Special thanks to Glass for sponsoring this video. Glass is a photo sharing community where photography comes first. No ads, no algorithms — just great images. Download a free trial of Glass, then use this link to get $10 off an annual subscription.
Behind the scenes — Shiprock
While in northwest New Mexico, I paid a visit to Shiprock, a giant chunk of volcanic rock on a desert plain governed by the Navajo Nation. The rock has particular significance in Navajo culture and religion, and can be seen at a distance from miles around. Shiprock is on tribal land, but no visitor permits are required (you simply drive out to it).
I wasn't terribly interested in Shiprock photographically (plenty of images have already been created), but I wanted to at least see it in person and take a few casual photos. (For others, I bet it would look fantastic with a strong western side light at sunset, but I didn't have time on this trip to dedicate an evening to it.)
While I was there, something surprising (and kind of hilarious) happened.
I was preparing the leave Shiprock when a car pulled up alongside mine. The driver got out of their car, looked at the surrounding landscape for a few seconds, then turned to me and asked, "Hey — may I ask you a question?"
"Sure", I replied.
"Is there a ship here?"
"You mean...a boat or something?"
"Yeah! Where's the ship?" 🤦
I tried to explain that "Shiprock" was a rock, not a ship. I thought for a moment that perhaps English wasn't their primary language and the name was confusing (similar to words like "pineapple" which...aren't apples), but they were definitely American.
"Huh", they said with obvious disappointment as they quickly got back in their car and drove away.
Why they thought a giant boat would be out in the middle of a barren, dry desert in northern New Mexico is beyond me.
Never do this with a tripod!
A few years ago, I made a big mistake when using a tripod on wet, black sand in Iceland. That mistake forced me to take the tripod apart, scrub each individual piece in the shower, then put the tripod back together. It was the last thing I wanted to do while traveling! 🤬
What mistake am I talking about? Check out my YouTube short to learn how to keep sand, dirt and grit out of your tripod while shooting sand dunes, seascapes, or other sandy environments.
Favorite things this week
• Fantastic new EP (Spotify) from one of my favorite electronic musicians, Rival Consoles. If you like this, definitely listen to his Night Melody / Articulation album (Spotify) which includes the majestic "Johannesburg".
• Are 4K monitors bad for macOS photo and video editing? According to this video, lower resolution displays (eg, 1440px wide) may provide better performance and savings. I use a 4K display, but could definitely see how rendering pixels 1:1 at 1440 (without scaling) could be better.
• Currently enjoying Jeff Tweedy's How to Write One Song. I have no interest in learning how to write a song, but I love reading any book about creativity, process and craft. So far, an excellent read with plenty of parallels and insights.
• NASA ramming a spacecraft into an asteroid to simply see what would happen (and potentially save life on Earth one day) was easily the most metal thing this week, month or year. Bonus points to Google for adding a clever easter egg to celebrate.
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