Shiprock, New Mexico

December 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_3Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_3A colorful sky behind of Shiprock at sunset near Gallup, New Mexico. Just as I finished editing the photos from this trip to Shiprock, New Mexico, I received an email from a fellow photographer and friend about how the Bureau of Land Management will add some improvements to the trail leading to House on Fire in Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah. Two of the potential improvements could be a chain "fence" in front of the ruins, preventing people from going closer to the ruins, and limited parking. 

Things are changing quickly in our rapidly shrinking world with a growing population, and that was why I stopped at Shiprock on my trip south to spend the holidays in Louisiana. Although I really try not to be a tripod-hole photographer, I do have a checklist of locations I want to see and photograph. House on Fire is one I have never visited, and I may not be able to get there to produce a photo I want before the BLM installs the upgrades. Shiprock is another of these locations I wanted to see before changes take place.

Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_4Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_4A closeup view of the peak on Shiprock lit by the rays of the setting sun near Gallup, New Mexico. Shiprock Peak is a 7,178-foot monadrock (an isolated rock knob, ridge or small mountain that rises abruptly from the landscape) located in northwest New Mexico within the Navajo Nation. This unique and sacred formation that sits by itself along with a long ridge of rocks to the south is what remains of the throat of a volcano. The Navajo refer to it as Tsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock" referencing the legend of the great bird that brought the Navajo from the north to their present lands.

Accommodations: The town of Shiprock offers limited services but nearby Farmington, New Mexico, about 30 miles to the east, offers a wide variety of comfortable hotel options. I stayed in Gallup, New Mexico, a nice midpoint for me between Shiprock and my next destination, Petrified Forest National Park. Although some websites say you can camp along the dirt road leading to Shiprock Peak, this is not true as this is sacred Navajo land.  Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_1Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_1The face of Shiprock lights up in an orange glow from the setting sun near Gallup, New Mexico.

Timing: This location could be photographed at sunrise or sunset. I chose sunset to get the light along the left side of the peak and hopefully some colorful clouds behind the monolith. I also hoped to photograph the Geminids meteor shower at this location but unfortunately my trip was running a few days behind schedule causing me to arrive a couple of days before the full moon. The forecast also called for increasing clouds. That bright moon along with a cloudy sky would make the night sky too bright to capture images of meteors or be blocked by clouds so I ditched the idea of staying late into the evening. That is the challenge of night photography versus sunset photography; you want those clouds at sunset but they have to dissipate in time for photographing the night skies. 

Seasons: On the evening of my visit, a few patches of snow remained at the base of Shiprock Peak on the north side. I would imagine this would be a beautiful location after a fresh snowfall. This is also desert country so there isn't much in the way of vegetation near Shiprock. Most of the landscape is red dirt with sporadic sage brush and grasses. After a wet spring, this may turn into vibrant green, which could add some color to the image. It being desert also means that summer will be hot and dry, producing the less appealing blue skies. My recommendation would be one of four options:

  • spring after an abundance of late winter or early spring moisture to help desert plants bloom
  • monsoon season to capture dramatic storms passing through the area
  • summer on the night of a new moon to capture a meteor shower or Milky Way (note that images will include light pollution from Farmington )
  • winter after a fresh snowfall

Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_5Shiprock_Sunset_NM_2021_5High, whispy clouds fill the sky above a barren desert landscape to the east of Shiprock, New Mexico. Since I was visiting the area on a trip for the holidays, I was at the mercy of my schedule rather than the best weather conditions. 

If you make a trip out to Shiprock, please be respectful of the importance of this formation to the Navajo. Do not climb on the rocks or remove any artifacts.


Comments

Subscribe
RSS
Archive
January February (1) March (1) April May June July August September October November (2) December (2)
January February March April (1) May June July August September (15) October (22) November (9) December (10)
January (2) February March April May June (1) July August September October November December (2)
January February March April May June July (1) August September October November (1) December
January (1) February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May (1) June (2) July (2) August September October (1) November December (1)
January (1) February March (1) April May June July August September October November December
January (1) February (1) March (1) April May June (1) July August September October November December (3)
January (1) February March April May June July August September October November December