Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Covid Respite #6 - Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness

The month of September in New Mexico (as in most other parts of the United States) is when the weather turns cooler and it's more tolerable to go out and do photography.  All through the month, my friend Alan and I had been itching to get out into the field for another Covid respite trip.

This year, however, it has been unseasonably warm -- temps in the 80s and 90s instead of 70s -- until mid-October, when we finally got a break:  a day with the predicted high in the low 70s.  So we jumped into our separate vehicles to hit the road . . . this time to one of my favorite areas of the New Mexico badlands:  the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness.

I have posted about trips to ASSP a number of times, so if you need some background or a refresher, you can check out my earlier posts here, here, and here.

Our goal this time was to avoid the highest temperatures of the day and shoot in the late afternoon and early evening -- especially in the period after sunset known to photographers as the "Blue Hour."  (And here, again, if you need a refresher on the "Blue Hour," take a look at a post from 2019 here.)

When we arrived, there were two other cars in the very small parking area -- usually there are none, or at most one -- and in the five minutes we spent getting our gear out of the car, three more cars drove up!  Yikes!  A veritable mob scene for this remote area.  Fortunately, there's plenty of room for visitors:  the area covers over 6,500 acres (that's about 5,000 football fields).

So we wandered around, enjoying the freedom of being out in the field instead of tethered to the house, and seeing (and photographing) all the strange and beautiful formations:

We spent a couple of hours exploring and scouting interesting formations that might be good candidates for Blue Hour photography.

To be a good candidate for Blue Hour, a formation needs to face the direction of the sunset, or turned at a slight angle away from that direction.

And as we walked around, I enjoyed photographing some smaller scale features like the hard sandstone caprocks that sit atop softer mudstone columns to form hoodoos:

As the sun set, we got out our tripods and prepared for the soft shadows and colors that are created by the diffused light from the blue sky above.  

The term "Blue Hour" is actually a misnomer.  Depending on the time of year (the sun rises and sets faster in winter than in summer), the usable soft light lasts anywhere from 15-45 minutes -- never an hour at our latitude.

Moreover, in the first 10 minutes or so after sunset (and the last 10 minutes before sunrise), the light is what photographers call "flat" because the sky is brighter than the light on the ground.  Here's an example:

The prime "Blue Hour" light is when the sky and the land are more or less equally lit.  And, as noted above, it doesn't last long.

I had scouted a few different formations that I wanted to shoot, and they weren't all in the same place, so I chose to shoot each one briefly and then quickly carry my tripod and camera to the next spot as the light was changing (and fading).  Here are my "Blue Hour" images (including the image at the top of this post).  I'm happy with what I got.

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.