Back to the Bisti:

Photographing the Night Sky and the Landscape


“There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.”

― Edward Abbey, Author & Essayist

Hidden away in the Four Corners region of New Mexico lies the breathtaking Bisti Badlands and the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area. Join us for three nights of exploring this magical 45,000-acre desert wilderness with photographer Tye Hardison.

WHAT: The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a rolling landscape of badlands with some of the most unusual scenery in the Four Corners Region. Time and natural elements have etched a fantastic world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. The weathering of the sandstone forms hoodoos—weathered rock in shapes of pinnacles, spires, cap rocks, and other unusual forms. Translated from the Navajo language, Bisti (Bis-tie) means "a large area of shale hills." De-Na-Zin (Deh-nah-zin) takes its name from the Navajo words for "cranes." 

WHO: This workshop is a terrific for all digital photographers who are essentially familiar with their cameras. You will need to know, before you get here, how to set and use auto bracketing on your camera if your camera has this feature. You should be able to download, edit and manage images on your laptop computer. You will need to be able to carry your own gear and be capable of walking/hiking for three to five miles on rugged terrain on each field trip. This workshop is limited to six participants.

PLAN: Our plan is to catch the last light of the day on these lunar-looking formations and, weather permitting, the stars in the night sky. In the mornings we will be sleeping in as we will be up late each night making photographs. Late mornings at the hotel, we will present examples of the instructor’s images along with discussing techniques for dealing with the extreme lighting challenges of the Bisti. Late afternoons will be spent photographing and searching for the perfect location to capture an amazing sunset. The workshop is based in Farmington, New Mexico and will go from noon September 4 til 2pm September 7.

BACKGROUND: The area that includes the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness was once a riverine delta that lay just to the west of the shore of an ancient sea, the Western Interior Seaway, which covered much of New Mexico 70 million years ago. The motion of water through and around the ancient river built up layers of sediment. Swamps and the occasional pond bordering the stream left behind large buildups of organic material, in the form of what became beds of lignite. At some point, a volcano deposited a large amount of ash, and the river moved the ash from its original locations. As the water slowly receded, prehistoric animals survived on the lush foliage that grew along the many riverbanks. When the water disappeared it left behind a 1,400-foot (430 m) layer of jumbled sandstone, mudstone, shale, and coal that lay undisturbed for fifty million years. Sandstone layers were deposited above the ash and remains of the delta. The ancient sedimentary deposits were uplifted with the rest of the Colorado Plateau, starting about 25 million years ago. Six thousand years ago the last ice age receded, and the waters of the melting glaciers helped expose fossils and petrified wood, and eroded the rock into the hoodoos now visible.

Traveling into the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness today, one descends from tawny sand and sage desert, into a world of gray, black, red and purple sands and rock (see photo above). The Wilderness badlands result from the erosion of the sandy layers of the Ojo Alamo formation, which has left bare the thick deposit of volcanic ash and below that the Fruitland formation and the Kirtland Shale. The western side of the Wilderness, formerly called the Bisti Wilderness, is primarily Fruitland Formation. The eastern side of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, formerly called the De-Na-Zin Wilderness, exposes the Kirtland Shale. The ash covers much of these features. When the Wilderness area was still deep underground, water often and easily found its way into the ashy layers. The water left behind deposits of lime that eventually built up and became limestone tubes. As the softer layers wore away, the tubes became exposed. The caps of many of the all-gray hoodoos in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin wilderness are limestone.(Wikipedia)

WHAT TO BRING: Lots of enthusiasm for making pictures. Your digital camera with lenses, a tripod and filters. A laptop computer with Lightroom software installed and working. (We will provide a complete list of necessary gear before the workshop begins.

NOTES: Tye Hardison is currently working on a photographic project on the Bisti Badlands and the De-Na-Zin Wilderness. We highly recommend you purchase travel/trip insurance in case you need to cancel.

QUESTIONS: Have any questions, suggestions or concerns? Feel free to contact us any time – our expert team will be more than happy to help! Call Cindy at (505) 983-2934 or email 


Tye Hardison has photographed all across New Mexico since 1999. A meticulous craftsman with a native’s sensitive eye, he assists Craig in the field and with Eloquent Light's photography workshops. Tye is Adobe Lightroom Certified. This means that after rigorous testing by Adobe, he is now considered an expert in the joys and pitfalls of Lightroom photo editing software.


September 4 - 7, 2018


Bisti Badlands, New Mexico

Class Size

6 participants only


Tye Hardison