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Bisti panoramas, NM


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In the fall of 2018 I returned to the Bisti Wilderness with a new project: Since I've already taken thousands of photos there—this would be my fifth trip—this time I chose as my subject not any individual charismatic "star" hoodoos, isolated in the camera frame, but rather the look and feel of the whole landscape. (It was on my accidental snowstorm trip in 2017 that—by necessity, because I could barely move across the wet clay to approach individual features—I began to look for images composed of the entire snow-filled Bisti world.)

Snow or not, one characteristic ingredient of the experience of walking in the Bisti is the sensation of seeing hundreds or even thousands of formations at a glance—and then of turning 90 degrees and seeing an entirely new vista in that direction, with geology so unlike the first that they could be two different planets.


Another essential element is created by the colliding colors and textures and shape of the land. Before now, when I came home and rhapsodized about the unlikely colors of the background Bisti clay and rock, people who knew the place only from my photos looked at me in puzzlement—and I realized that by focusing on individual heroic hoodoos I had in many cases framed out the more quietly heroic colors around them: the blacks, the greens, the reds, the whites, often all visible at a single glance.


As usual, the long days out in the trackless land—I generally walked, at about an art-museum strolling speed, for 6 to 8 hours a day—were pure joy. And as usual, when I reviewed my photos later I thought, "Well, hell: I still failed to capture the feeling of being here." So I guess I'll have to go back…

All of these panoramas are presented at the same widescreen ratio, 64:27, which is close to Cinemascope—and mathematically nicer, being 4 cubed by 3 cubed.

STUART GELZER photography

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