Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness

The United States Congress designated the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (map) in 1984 and it now has a total of 41,170 acres. All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

An eerie otherworldliness surrounds Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, especially when the moon casts shadows across the hoodoos, weird rock formations with mazelike passages. Difficult as it is to believe, this stark landscape was once buried beneath an ancient sea. As the water slowly receded, prehistoric animals roamed about, living off of each other and the lush foliage that flourished along the many riverbanks. Eventually, the water disappeared, leaving behind a 1,400-foot-thick layer of jumbled sandstone, mudstone, shale, and coal that lay undisturbed for 50 million years. Then, 6,000 years ago, the last ice age receded, exposing fossils and eroding the rock into the fantastic hoodoos you see today. The soil underfoot now lies soft and yielding, wrinkled like the surface of stale popcorn. Very few animals inhabit the area--save a handful of cottontail rabbits, coyotes, badgers, and prairie dogs. Similarly, very little vegetation grows out on the badlands, only some sagebrush, tumbleweed, and cacti. Researchers believe that dinosaurs passed into extinction around these parts, so keep an eye out for fossils (if you find one, remember that removing fossils is illegal).

dark sky travels magazine

Precipitation in this wilderness averages a mere 8 inches a year, and that typically holds off until July and August when temperatures rise to sweltering highs. When a downpour does occur, the soil, typically baked to ceramic hardness by the sun, softens into a slippery, yielding substance. The sun’s heat, both direct and reflected from the sand, can be surprisingly intense, even at 80 degrees F. In summer, temperatures can quickly climb from 65 in the morning to close to 100 in the afternoon. Winter temperatures can get as cold as 10 degrees in the mornings. Elevation averages around 6,300 feet and the most striking scenery is in the southern two-thirds of the area.

The Wilderness boundaries enclose parcels of private Navajo land. Please respect private property. Carry a map, a compass, and plenty of water. Backpacking and horse packing are unrestricted, but campfires are forbidden. There are two main access points to this area, one is the Bisti Access which has no trails. Visitors may walk into the area in many directions to explore, but will need to keep track of their surroundings to find their way back to their vehicles. The second access point is the De-Na-Zin Trailhead which only extends about 3/4ths of a mile to the De-Na-Zin Wash. As this is a wide-open area with little vegetation, many visitors choose to explore beyond this trail. Chances are you won't encounter a soul here.

Matt Domonkos

Galaxy Arching over Lake

Galaxy Arching over Lake

Based out of Albuquerque in the Land of Enchantment, I spend a good bit of my free time capturing the visible portion the electromagnetic spectrum after it has interacted with or emanated from the natural landscape.  

It is my desire to share the beauty, vastness, and variety of creation with others so that we may all grow in our appreciation of this small corner of the universe we call home.

If you'd like a copy of any of these works for yourself, I sell prints, metal prints, and canvas prints through this site.  You may also contact me via the email below if you are interested in non-standard size or format (i.e. framed).

The Other Night in New Mexico

The Other Night in New Mexico

As a New Mexico (nearly) native, I finally made it out to the Bisti Badlands for the (also nearly) new moon. The formations are as varied, other-worldly, and numerous as any search on the location would indicate. Perfect for nightscapes with the Milky Way...did I mention the dark skies of western New Mexico? This image is on top of a nest of hoodoos with the landscape shot at twilight, and the sky a bit later. The clouds had mostly cleared just as the Milky Way was exiting my frame to the west. 

Galaxy Rise

Galaxy Rise

The Bisti Badlands make for an ideal backdrop to other worldly night sky images such as Milky Way rise. The hoodoos, a couple compliments of some petrified wood here, produce a scene that is itself alien for many of us. Add in the dusty portion of the Milky Way before you can discern its form, and you have this scene. Jupiter is blaring away in the upper right for good measure. The landscape is a bit of a composite to retain detail and contrast of earlier light. 

Ralf Rohner

Arching over Alien Lands.

Arching over Alien Lands.

As a landscape photographer and pilot I have the privilege to travel the world and visit some of the most beautiful places on our planet. I started photography as an astro-photographer, which still shows in my passion for nightscapes. While not exclusively shooting at night, a big part of my work shows the beauty of the starry night skies in combination with some iconic landscapes.

The Universe on a Wing

The Universe on a Wing

I took this image during my visit in April. The night was perfectly clear, but very windy and a strong gust tipped over the tripod with my LED light and it dropped into the ravine behind the wing, I was glad that I was able to retrieve it in one piece. EXIFAstro-modified Canon EOS 6DTamron 15-30mm f/2.8Low Level Lighting with 2 LED panels and one omnidirectional light.Fixed Tripod 10 x 20s @ ISO6400 Individually stacked with fitswork for the sky and PS for the foreground. Thanks for all your faves and comments. Prints available :ralf-rohner.pixels.com

Wayne Pinkston

Finland Pano 1n.jpg

By profession I am a Radiologist, recently retired. Photography and Radiology share many of the same principles as far as image capture and display. As photographs moved into digital age imaging so did radiology. I am a visual person. An early interest in photography may have later helped to stimulate an interest in radiology. I have had a longstanding interest in outdoor photography, but now my primary interest is Landscape Astrophotography. Over the years my interest in landscape photography has exposed me to a world that I may have not experienced otherwise.

The photos were taken with a variety of cameras over the years, changing with the times. The 35mm film cameras were initially Canon with a few rare exceptions. Earlier Medium Format cameras were Bronica and Contax. Over the last few years the cameras have been Canon and Nikon DSLR's. Canon cameras include the 6D, 5D Mark III, and 1Dx. More recently I have used the Nikon D810A, D750, and D850. Lenses include the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II and the Nikon 12-24 mm f/2.8 zoom. Other lens include the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4, Rokinon 12 mm f/2.8 fisheye, Rokinon 20 mm f/1.8, Rokinon 35 mm f/1.4, and the Sigma 14 mm f/1.8.

King of Wings

King of Wings

I use a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod and an Acratech ballhead and leveling base. Image processing is done on a Mac Computer with Adobe LightRoom CC and Photoshop CC. I am currently use a commercial lab for printing (Bay Photo). Virtually all of the daytime images were taken with available light. Low Level Lighting is used in many of the night photos. If there are any questions please contact me by email.

There are several names for this type of photography including Landscape Astrophotography, Wide Field Astrophotography, and Nightscapes. It's a type of astrophotography that combines night landscapes with wide field astrophotography. This has only become practical within the last 6-8 years as camera sensor technology advanced.

I became interested in this field after seeing a few early landscape astrophotography photos on the internet 5-6 years ago. The next year I had the chance to try capturing a few Milky Way images along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I was immediately hooked when the first image appeared on my camera LCD screen. For me, there was no looking back.

These photos require very dark skies, and were taken in some of the darkest places in this country, and in the world. The eastern half of the USA, most of Europe, and parts of Asia have too much light pollution to perform this kind of photography. The camera captures a lot of subtle color in the night sky that we cannot see with our eyes. The green is primarily airglow, appearing somewhat like the aurora. The sun’s extreme ultraviolet light excites oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere during the day. The resulting products then interact with other atmospheric components to later produce light emission by chemical luminescence at night.

Wizard of Bisti

Wizard of Bisti

This is called airglow and is most often green or red. The camera captures these colors but we see only a faint grey illumination with our eyes. The yellow and orange tones are frequently are due to light pollution but can also be due to the setting or rising sun or moon. Light pollution from a city can be seen for hundreds of miles.

The stars themselves have different colors and there is a lot of subtle color in the core of the Milky Way. In many of these photos the nearby landscape is illuminated to some degree using a technique called Low Level Lighting (http://www.lowlevellighting.org).

So why do I do this at all? Living in the Eastern USA I was not used to seeing the true spectacle of a dark night sky. The light pollution in the East obscures many of the stars as well as the Milky Way. Once I experienced a truly dark sky I knew I wanted more. You have to actively seek the darkest skies in the country to see the sky as our ancestors did. It is exhilarating to be in these places at night and see the Milky Way arching overhead. There is a feeling that is almost primal to see the sky just as our ancestors did thousands of years ago, and this may one of the few experiences we can still share with them.

We have largely forgotten the beauty of the night, especially in the eastern US and Europe. When the sun sets we go indoors and turn on the lights, and spend little time outdoors. As we retreat from the dark we create more and more light pollution and in turn we obscure the night sky even more. I hope that this can change. If there is one primary goal I hope to accomplish, it is to help people remember (or learn) the beauty of the truly dark places. The sky is beautiful, the land is still and quiet, and the crowds of the day are gone. Occasionally a rabbit, fox, mouse, or coyote will appear and then scurry away. It is peaceful and quiet in a way that is rarely possible during the day.

For those that have not tried this kind of photography, here is a little background. Those photos are taken in the darkest places possible, to allow you to see the Milky Way and stars. There are "Dark Sky" apps that can help show you the darkest places in the world.

Delicate Erosion

Delicate Erosion

Moonlight is usually too bright and this means that you take those photos around the time of the new moon, or well after the moon has set. Most of these photography trips are planned around a new moon to minimize moonlight. All of the exposures are long, usually 15-30 seconds. All are taken with a tripod. Since the stars are moving in the sky, you will get "star trails" if you use exposures longer than 15-30 seconds. This means the stars turn from dots into curved lines that look like small commas. Twilight (the time after sunset) lasts much longer than most people realize. There is some residual light from the sun for up to two hours or so after sunset, and most of the photography is obtained after that time. You also need a camera contains a sensor that functions well in low light. As for the landscape, you can provide lighting or leave it natural. There are times each may be best.

Thanks,

Wayne Pinkston