Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Black (and White) Place

In northwest New Mexico there's an area where hillocks of gray, black, and tan emerge from the side of a large mesa.  The hillocks are actually mounds of volcanic ash and dust laid down millions of years ago, then covered, and now revealed after millenia of erosion.  The material is not lava -- it's caked dust, and very fragile. 

The hills' dark tones are the result of oxidation of iron and manganese, and they get their crinkly "popcorn" texture from the chemical composition of the dirt.  Georgia O'Keeffe called it the "Black Place," and from 1936 to 1949 visited it often to sketch and paint the weird-looking formations.

Since moving to New Mexico in 2012, I, too, have visited the Black Place many times to capture its beauty in photographs.  You can read about it in a post I made last year; click here.

Earlier this year I went with a couple of photography buddies hoping to see snow at the Black Place.  Our timing was good.  There was only about an inch of snow, but it was enough to cover the ground and give the hills an extra range of texture and highlights.  Here's a comparison.  The bottom (black-and-white) image was made standing about 60 feet to the right of where I stood to make the top (color) image.

June 18, 2016

January 7, 2017

Sky conditions weren't great -- monochromatic overcast with little texture most of the time we were shooting -- so I have chosen to present the snow images in black-and-white.  

First, to give you a sense of scale, in addition to the image at the top of this post, here's another view:


Here are some of my favorites from the day:

As you can see, in the basin at the base of the hills there are lots of random rocks and boulders -- mostly shale, conglomerate, and chips of lava -- left over from higher layers of rock that had been deposited on top of the layers that form the hills now.

Finally, amid all the monochrome, there were occasional bursts of color:  literally rusty sand in the channel of a frozen stream of snow melt . . .

and orange lichens on a rock . . .

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