Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Hoodoos and overhangs at Sandstone Bluffs

with 22 comments


At New Mexico’s Sandstone Bluffs in the El Malpais National Monument on October 14th
several hoodoos and overhangs caught my photographic attention.



For the picture below, I positioned myself so that the formation blocked the sun.



The pareidolically inclined among you may see a face looking back at you.


¶         ¶         ¶


We hear a lot of talk lately about an “existential threat” to this, that, or the other thing. Most of the claims are partisan and hyperbolic. In contrast, I take the article “An Existential Threat to Doing Good Science” seriously. Written by Luana Maroja, who came to the United States at age 23 from Brazil and is now a professor of biology at Williams University, the article bears this subtitle: “What scientists are able to teach and what research we can pursue are under attack. I know because I’m living it.” Check it out.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2022 at 4:29 AM

22 Responses

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  1. How amazing


    November 11, 2022 at 4:41 AM

  2. All those little caves in the 2nd shot look intriguing – I’d want to watch out for rattlers & scorpions but I’d have to go peer into them.

    Robert Parker

    November 11, 2022 at 7:50 AM

    • So many things at Sandstone Bluffs looked intriguing. At a couple of the sites we visited on this trip, signs told people to be alert to rattlesnakes. I don’t recall seeing a sign to that effect here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if rattlesnakes (and scorpions) live in the area. When I’m out in nature I don’t worry about it. Whether that’s naive, I don’t know. As for the holes in the sandstone, I don’t think they went very far in. Now you’ve got me wishing I’d taken a closer look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2022 at 8:38 AM

      • I don’t want to disturb them of course, but I’d love to spot a burrowing owl or one of the other types that live there in the southwest desert.
        But I imagine you’re right, most of them are probably too shallow to make good homes.

        Robert Parker

        November 11, 2022 at 8:46 AM

        • The site had no shortage of deeper cracks and fissures that could well have been home to many kinds of creatures.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 11, 2022 at 9:15 AM

  3. Erosion by wind or water is the question when I look at these bizarre rock formations.

    Peter Klopp

    November 11, 2022 at 11:04 AM

    • It’s a pretty dry area now, so I suspect wind has a greater effect than water. On the other hand, freezing water can go a long way to breaking up a formation. I also wonder if the area was wetter in other eras.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2022 at 12:19 PM

  4. Stunning rocks !! I live in a country without rocks so I am always amazed how special they are formed, they come in all shapes and sizes. Love them !


    November 11, 2022 at 12:04 PM

    • Since you love rocks, do you make it a point every so often to travel to mountainous places like the Alps, the Pyrenees, or the Black Forest?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2022 at 12:25 PM

      • Alps, Pyrenees, Arizona,…..the further away we go the more beautiful the rocks are.


        November 11, 2022 at 4:02 PM

  5. It’s clearly not a rattlesnake or scorpion, but the top photo does resemble some sort of creature rising up out of the rock — rather like a prairie dog peeking out of its burrow to scan the horizon for threats. As for the last photo, I did see a face, with a truly humorous expression. It looks tight-lipped: perhaps a sign of perplexity or bemusement.


    November 11, 2022 at 8:13 PM

    • Now that you’ve suggested other animals, my imagination went large-scale and turned the formation at the top into the open mouth of a hippo. Glad to hear the last picture made you face up to your pareidolia.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 12, 2022 at 7:44 AM

  6. Yep, I do see a face – and the top photo suggests a cobra or something similar. Might make me feel a bit on edge to be walking around there…

    Ann Mackay

    November 12, 2022 at 10:45 AM

    • I can see a cobra’s open mouth in the top picture. With a change in scale I can turn it into a hippopotamus’s open mouth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 12, 2022 at 12:17 PM

  7. The rocks are impressive, and I feel sad for science. Maybe geology will not be affected by ideologies though.

    Alessandra Chaves

    November 13, 2022 at 9:05 AM

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