The Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is the most incredible, surreal, extraterrestrial place I have ever been. I felt like I was on another planet. My opportunity to photograph this beautiful landscape came because of some terribly sad circumstances, but if the death of a loved one reminds one of anything, it is that we need to live our lives fully while we have the chance.
Halfway through the process of booking airline tickets to go home to New Mexico for Laura's funeral, I decided I was going to drive there and back and aborted the booking process very abruptly (I was already choosing my seats on AA.com when I quit). I thought that I would drive from Wisconsin to New Mexico quickly, attend Laura's services, and spend time with family. On the way back to Wisconsin, I would take my time and make it a photography...something. Trip? Excursion? Whatever, I really didn't have a plan other than a resolve to photograph something.
As the day to drive back toward Wisconsin approached, I decided to visit a part of New Mexico I had never been to, despite having spent most of my childhood there: the Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, near the Four Corners region. I knew little about the area, other than it supposedly had some amazing natural formations, and is one of the most beautiful places the desert has to offer. And it is in the middle of nowhere. The.Middle.Of.Nowhere.
I was able to shoot one sunrise and one sunset in one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. It was a decent hike in an absolute wilderness. There are no trails. There are no signs. The landscape is completely alien. If you are going to explore the canyons (which I did), it is imperative to have a GPS and/or some polished orienteering skills - you WILL get lost in them. It is a long hike at high elevation to even find these amazing formations. All told, I did twelve and a half miles of hiking in two trips, some of it very difficult, to find some absolutely gorgeous scenery, the likes of which are not available almost anywhere else on the planet.
The following photographs are my favorites from the trip. The first set - with the blue skies - are from my pre-dawn trip. I arrived at Bisti about an hour before sunrise and shot until about two hours afterward. The second set - with the cloudy skies - are from my attempt to shoot the Wilderness at sunset, though as you can see it was quite cloudy due to thunderstorms about ninety miles south. Though I didn't get a spectacular New Mexico sunset that day, I did get some awesome drama in the clouds!