I recently made a trip to Badlands National Park, located in a seemingly unremarkable stretch of grasslands of the South Dakota prairie. The park protects an escarpment containing sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires carved out of multi-colored sedimentary rock layers. Erosion started to reveal the Badlands about 500,000 years ago, carving fantastic shapes from the soft clay formations.
Photography, not unlike natural erosion, is a process of revelation. Some landscapes are obvious, with photogenic features standing up tall for all to see; think, for example, of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park or mighty Mount Fitz Roy of Patagonia. Many landscapes, however, are much coyer, and they require some coaxing by the photographer to encourage them to confess and reveal their hidden potential. It is the photographer’s job to thoroughly explore the landscape, looking for the details that make it special and unique, and to then prominently display those features in the final composition.
In my opinion, it is water that reveals the true beauty of the Badlands. Rain carves channels into the soft clay, which create photogenic erosion patterns, curves, and lines. A soaking from the rain can also turn the top layer of clay into mud, which then dries and cracks in the intense summer heat. The result is a carved and fractured landscape, covered in beautifully cracked mud displaying a range of pastel yellow, blue, and red hues. Although there are few obvious landmarks...[vision_notification style="tip" font_size="20px"]Read the whole article inside issue 68.[/vision_notification]