Valley of (shattered) Dreams
I don’t know how the Valley of Dreams got its name -- perhaps from the German explorers who found it (joke! (the Germans seem to know more about the desert southwest than we natives do)) -- but it seems to me to be appropriate. It is an inaccessible place that can be reached only by driving down about 15 miles of dirt road, then a couple of miles of sandy jeep trail of varying quality, and finally half a mile of no trail at all.The view in this photo is looking north from the southern edge. Just over the hood of the car you can see the first stand of hoodoos. About half a mile beyond that one sees the second stand, and half a mile further north (where you see the red hills) is the third and most impressive area.
My truck can make it to the middle set. I was parked there, sitting in my folding chair in the shade of the truck and trying to wait out the late afternoon heat, when I saw on the horizon a large white panel truck. It was located near where I was standing when I took this photo. I watched it drive back and forth for a while and considered that it was probably a local rancher moving some cattle or horses, but it didn’t seem like the kind of truck for that purpose.
Eventually I lost interest in the truck and went to take some shots of the hoodoos behind me. Later I came back to my chair. I noticed a person walking toward me from the panel truck. He was far away and I had some time to speculate on his intent. I began to wonder if I should be afraid. This area is a checkerboard of patches of BLM, private, and Navajo land, each about a square mile in area. It’s so mixed up you can’t know for sure where you are with regard to property boundaries. So I wondered if the person coming toward me was a local rancher who was going to tell me to get off his property, or a crazed drug addict who would rob and murder me, or just another photographer.
As he came closer, I noticed that he was wearing knee-length shorts, which led me to believe with some relief that he belonged to the final category. Indeed, this was the case.
I rose from my chair as he approached and we shook hands. He asked me how I got my truck there and if I knew whether I was on BLM land or not. We discussed whether his truck could make it and decided that it probably couldn’t. He said that he would just have to carry his equipment from where the truck was parked on the horizon. He told me that he was getting footage for an IMAX movie about the Southwest. I offered to drive over in my truck and load up his equipment but told him I wouldn’t be available to help him carry it back. He declined the offer.
I told him that I was about to set up for a time lapse sequence during the night in the hoodoos behind us and hoped that we wouldn’t interfere with each other. He headed back to his truck and I went over the hill to set up my camera and get the time lapse started. Later I saw his truck moving again. After darkness moved in I didn’t see him or the truck until the next morning. As I was eating breakfast, I saw him coming again from his truck. He had a large shoulder pack. He told me that he had gotten stuck in the sand during the night and had to call a tow truck. He must have had a sat phone; I didn’t ask. I did ask about his equipment for shooting IMAX. He uses a Red Epic Dragon, a nice piece of equipment that shoots 6k video and probably costs more than my truck. He uses a Nikon D750 for star photography because of its low noise floor.
He said he was just walking around to explore the area. He had maps and instructions on how to reach promising locations. He knew about most of the prominent features that attract photographers to the area. I gathered that he would be in the area for some time.
After breakfast, I left for the Bisti area.