Click here for slide show version!
The first thing that always grabs my attention after being out of state for awhile is that amazing New Mexico sky: crystal clear; a luminous, deep blue; and constantly changing with the time of day and season. The ongoing drama includes sunsets and dawns beyond description, arching rainbows, and finely drawn clouds of every shape, texture, and color imaginable. High icy cirrus tentacles form prismatic displays against brilliant sun; cumulus armadas sail through the cerulean vastness trailing blue-gray shadows across the desert floor below; summer monsoon thunderheads billow 50,000 feet into the stratosphere giving true dimension to the vaulted skyscapes.
The keys to this constant drama are in the name “high desert” or high and dry. Humidity refers simply to evaporated water molecules temporarily intermingled with atmospheric gases. Water molecules make air denser, “thicker” if you will. They dull the atmosphere and rob it of clarity while humidity’s absence creates sparkle and crispness. High elevation affects light quality in the same manner for the same reason. Air is less dense or “thinner” up high, making the visible spectrum more intense and balanced because of less selective color absorption by atmospheric gases. Unfortunately, the also more intense ultraviolet increases the need for extra awareness and skin protection. Finally the badlands’ isolation guarantees absence of air pollution, especially suspended particulate matter, again resulting in no light scattering or color distortion.
All this adds up to sweeping vistas, amazing clarity, and vibrant, true colors - a photographer’s (and philosopher’s) dream come true.
And when night falls, stars appear one by one, diamond chips against black velvet. You realize how naked and fragile you are, sticking headfirst into infinity, gazing out past a trillion luminescent beacons to the universe edge.