Image no. 1 and no.2
Early Light, Bisti Badlands, NM
After staying in Gallup, NM the first night since I would never have made it to the Bisti Badlands before sunset, I had to leave around 3am the next morning to try to get there by 5am to give me plenty of time to hike by headlamp to the “Egg Factory”. However, I was detained quite a while with a bit of a problem that was alluded to in a previous post, so I won’t bore anyone with a rehash of that scenario. Let’s just say that the Bisti has so much to offer the photographer, but when they say “no services”, they really do mean No Services!!
So needless to say, since this was also my initial hike and many items needed to be unpacked, I began my headlamp hike much later than originally planned. In fact, after hiking about a mile and a half, I realized that the sun was ready to pop over the eastern horizon. I was about a mile away, but I did find myself in an area of very low hoodoos on a bit of a rise in the otherwise flat, very wide main wash. If I had begun my hike when I had wanted, I probably would have passed this area on my way but not stopped since the famed egg factory was my goal for the sunrise light.
I found myself in this wonderful area surrounded by loads of these small hoodoos, but needed to be able to isolate some in order that the sunlit areas weren’t just jumbled in with areas of shadow. I frantically scrambled around a bit with time running out quickly searching for a spot where the elements fell into place and finally settled on this area literally seconds before the first warm rays of the sun hit. I could isolate the one hoodoo against another layer of shadow just behind and ridges far beyond to the west. But one major problem was how to keep my own shadow from showing up within the frame. I was fortunate to have a bit of a column behind me which cast it’s own shadow in the frame and I was able to incorporate most of my own shadow within it. A minute later, the sunlight began to lose it’s initial warmth and the bottom of the scene was no longer in shadow losing the isolating effect of the light and the moment was gone.
Every photographer of scenes like this would love to have had the added drama of clouds in the sky, but that day did not have that additional element. It was a completely bald sky. I would come to find throughout the entire trip that having just the right amount of clouds and their proper placement was quite elusive. It was always a battle to have the clouds within the scene lit by the sun because if there are clouds in the sky, then there is a strong possibility that clouds may block the sun at just the moment when you want the sunlight and the sun sets or rises behind them. That was clearly illustrated to me in Aspen trying several days for the elements all to fall into place around the Maroon Bells. Either there were no clouds at all and a lack of drama to the scene or clouds around the peaks and the sun blocked in the east, or just a completely cloudy day and no sunlight at all!! It can be very frustrating at times. But we have to be adaptable to the elements we find on any given day or situation and try to make the best of the elements we confront. One additional bonus from having started my hike late that day was coming across a spot just short of the Egg Factory which had some very interesting hoodoos that I knew would light up in the same way as did this original scene with that first warm glow from the sun breaching the horizon. I filed that information for later in the trip when I revisited the Bisti and hiked to it as my goal for the morning and had plenty of time to find a nice arrangement and simply wait several minutes for the sun to work its way down the column to just the right spot for the bottom to still be in shadow and the hoodoo lit up. But still no clouds!!