Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Arizona Adventure - Part 2: Little Painted Desert at Sunrise

After exploring Petrified Forest National Park, we overnighted in Winslow, then rose early the next morning to photograph an area called Little Painted Desert at sunrise.  

Little Painted Desert was once a county-level park -- not even a state park! -- about 17 miles northeast of Winslow.  It's a hidden gem, with wave after wave of the colorful soft-rock hills and formations like the ones we had seen the day before at the more-visited national park 50 miles to the east.

Here's what it looked like in the "blue hour" before sunrise:

Twenty minutes later, the sun began to brush the tops of the hills . . .

As the sun rose, larger areas were illuminated . . .

Eventually the light's higher angle of incidence began to fade the rich, warm colors.  But I kept shooting because I knew that harsher (but still low angle) light would make for good black-and-white images, highlighting shapes and textures.

After about an hour, we headed back to Winslow for breakfast, then made the pilgrimage to the trompe-l'oeil mural and statue on the corner made famous by the Eagles' song, "Take It Easy," which you can listen to by clicking here.

If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

Next stop on the Arizona Adventure:  Horseshoe Bend, near Page, AZ.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Arizona Adventure - Part 1: Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

Last October a photo buddy (Alan Postelnek) and I took a road trip to Arizona.  Our primary purpose was to photograph a remote geological feature called White Pocket, which I had visited in 2014.  (More about that later.)  

But we decided that since we were making the trip we would visit a number of other (and better known) Arizona landscapes along the way.  In this post, and in a few more to come, I'll share stories and images from the places we explored.

First up:  Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.

This area in east central Arizona -- about 200 miles west of Albuquerque -- covers about 230 square miles of semi-desert steppe (treeless grassland) and multi-colored badlands where very little vegetation exists.

We spent most of our time in the southern section of the park, which consists of vast fields of petrified trees . . .

. . . as well as geological features of soft sedimentary rock (mud, silt, and sand) deposited by rivers, lakes, and wetlands about 225 million years ago and uncovered by erosion that began about 60 million years ago.

Much of the park's petrified wood is from extinct species of conifer trees.  Fallen trees accumulating in rivers and wetlands were buried in water-saturated sediment or volcanic ash.  Over time, the organic material in the plant (tree) was replaced by minerals in the water, resulting in a quartz chalcedony, multi-colored depending on what elements are present (such as cobalt, copper, manganese, silicon, and iron), while preserving the original plant structure and general appearance.

The process yields beautiful textures and colors.

You probably noticed that there are no unbroken tree trunks . . . they all look like they have been cut into sections.

The breaks are caused by cracks formed in the heavy quartz logs when the ground beneath them erodes and settles.  The shortest distance for a crack to grow is perpendicular to the long dimension of the log.  The log breaks like a piece of brittle chalk.

In addition to the petrified trees, the other iconic elements of the park are the colorful and interestingly-textured topographical features of soft sedimentary rock . . . which in many cases are basically dried multi-colored mud.

The most dramatic location in the park for these features is a badland area eponymously named Blue Mesa.

The features have emerged by the erosion of a layer of younger geological material on top of them.

You'll notice that, in addition to their color, the features all share the same wrinkled, elephant-skin surface texture.

The texture is created by the presence of Bentonite, an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate clay, which swells up with rainwater, then shrinks and cracks as it dries.  It's very crumbly to the touch, so we stayed on the paved pathways to avoid damaging it.

The wrinkled features make for great visual interest, both from below and above:

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Valley of Dreams

In the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area of northwest New Mexico there are three distinct areas of strange geological features.  The primary, and most easily accessible area, doesn't have a name (other than ASSP WSA); I have posted about it here.

The other two are "King of Wings" (see blog post here) and "Valley of Dreams" (this post).

My photo buddy, Alan, and I have visited Valley of Dreams twice.  It's a two-mile hike from where we have to leave the car, and the first time we visited it we only explored the part nearest the car.  But the far side of the area, which we visited in September, is much more interesting.

Valley of Dreams is filled with fantastic features, some of which look like the crumbling walls of a fortress . . .

There are hoodoos large . . .

and small . . .

This one even has a name; it's called "Alien Throne":

There are lots of nooks and crannies . . . 

and even some shapes we can recognize:

The top of this one reminds me of a Cubist reclining nude sculpture:

It's like the abandoned ruins of a large, medieval fortress city . . .

In addition to the large-scale features, Valley of Dreams is full of small-scale details, textures, and colors:

You might ask, "How do you find these details?"  I would answer, "I just look for them."

Here are a couple of examples.

The detail:

 and where it came from:

Another detail:

and where it came from:

In this rocky soil there's very little vegetation, but occasionally some tenacious plant will take root and bloom . . .

And not much in the way of wildlife either, though I did see a hawk . . .

perhaps hunting for this rabbit hiding among the rocks:

And on our way back to the car, we saw horses grazing on the scrubby land above the Valley of Dreams:

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.