It’s amazing to think that the “toadstools” and other rock structures in Toadstool Geologic Park were once buried under the soil itself, probably in nearly the same shapes as they exist today, before the soft clay around them was gradually eroded away by water and wind, leaving just the harder sandstone to remain. It’s an ongoing process that is said to remove about an inch of clay from the streambed per year, making me wonder just how high “ground level” was in this place thirty million years ago, the estimated age of many of the prehistoric bone fossils and tracks that are found throughout the park.
The photograph below is among a larger series of black and white photographs that I took while my friend Daniel Dunlap and I visited the park last week. It was taken on a sunny, windy late afternoon, the kind of conditions that are almost never ideal for landscape photography. But I’ll make a case for it in a place like Toadstool, since, at any given moment, the gradual movement of the overhead sun serves to reveal the textures and curves of the sandstone structures and hills through the interplay of light and shadows. I would imagine that the same composition captured at each hour on a clear day would show a vastly different scene in each resulting photograph, since even diminutive features cast shadows of varying size, becoming apparent in relief by varying degrees, before disappearing from notice altogether as the sunlight angle changes.