Santa Elena close up

As I mentioned in my last post, after snapping the previous picture from near where Ansel Adams once worked, I kept on hunting for additional compositions.

As I’m sometime prone to do while I’m hiking, I was  looking around at the world and not paying much attention to my immediate surroundings.  It’s a big mistake, and one that can cost you dearly whether you’re in the desert or a busy downtown.

For whatever reason, I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to incorporate some cracked mud in some of my images.  Well, finally, along the banks of the Rio Grande I found some cracked mud – and in a perfect location!

So while I was busily scoping out a spot to make a great image, I blindly took one and then another big step into what looked like very dry, cracked mud.  But it wasn’t.  Instead, I instantly sank up to my calves in what I can only describe as quicksand.  At first, I couldn’t believe what I had done and tried to just step back out.  Not so fast!  The more I wiggled, the more I sank and I was now up to my knees and still sinking.

I was carrying my monopod, so I decided enough was enough.  I went to push the monopod down to the bottom of the quagmire and was rather surprised to discover that I couldn’t touch bottom.   I had a fleeting thought of “what would Bear Grylls do”?  Well, I’m not going to pee my way out of it was the next thought….

I finally remembered that the trick to handling quicksand was to evenly distribute your weight and then float your way out.  So I basically sat down and then laid back in the slush.  And stopped sinking.  While I was laying on my back, I glanced over at the canyon wall and viola!  There was the shot I was looking for all along.


It continued to strike me as rather odd how dried and hard packed the mud all around me looked while I was stuck floundering around in mid-thigh deep mud and slush….  But I was able to scoot myself out of the morass and catch my breath, thankful that I hadn’t lost a boot or worse.

As I headed over towards the river to try and wash the mud off of me, I caught sight of another composition I liked and thought I would share this one with you as well.

cool water

Hopefully you can learn something from my mistake here!!!  Pay attention to your surroundings, you never know what you just might step into. 😉

~ by Derrick Birdsall on February 11, 2011.

10 Responses to “Santa Elena close up”

  1. Beautiful photos Derrick, but it sounds like kind of a tough way to get them. What some guys won’t do for a unique angle on a photograph… 😉

    Glad you kept your head about you in a spot like that though.


  2. I really need to get back to this area. I was there in 2008 but that was before I’d gotten my SLR. I’d love to go back and reshoot the scenes I took with only my P&S. On the to-do list!


  3. What a story! Glad to hear it turned out alright and that they just didn’t find a monopod floating on top… 😉

    Bear Grylls would probably get a chuckle out of this story. You kept your wits about you, got our of your predicament and managed to capture an interesting photo! What more can one ask for? 😉


  4. LOL at PJ’s comment, but it sounds like it wasn’t too funny at the time. What an entertaining, hair-raising story and great images too. I like how the first one catches the canyon wall as though it were like a perspective view of the corner of a building and I like the water in the second. You ought to try large format photography because apparently you compose well laying upside down.


  5. Man, that sounds like a scary experience. I’m glad you kept your head about you. I hope you have your cell phone with you when you are out!

    Very nice work here, Derrick!



    • It could have been a LOT worse, for sure! Cell phone reception in the park is VERY hit or miss. I think what I’m going to do is invest in one of those SPOT gizmos. 🙂


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