The King of Wings

Equipment Info
24mm / f/16 / 1/60 sec. / ISO 200
New Mexico


The King of Wings is a beautifully eroded hoodoo that sits overlooking the remote badlands of San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico. Also known as Bisti Wilderness Area, this immense spread of land is, for the most part, unremarkable and featureless. So any land-like topography is welcome, and that is what sets up the gasping surprise of the famous hoodoos and other creatively eroded earth - out of nowhere it seems. In addition to crazy shaped land forms are the outrageous colors and patterns that accentuate the visual experience. I had heard of the elusive “King of Wings” for a number of years and even explored the area without any luck of discovery. But this day I carved away time from my photography travels to attempt another hike. This formation is infamously hard to find due to no trails and obscure legends. Similar to many other nearby hoodoos, the King of Wings is a large flat strata boulder that is balanced on top of a clay pedestal. What distinguishes it from other surrounding hoodoos is that the boulder extends about 12ft beyond the the pedestal, or 30ft overall, creating what resembles a giant wing stretching out into the forgotten New Mexico landscape.

After hiking around and getting a loose course correction from another photographer, I stumbled upon the alien feature. I knew I wanted to shoot next to sunset and after, but I knew this would put me in the dark with only a partial moon overhead (that didn’t really help direction as I had hoped.)

And of course, I got lost. Eventually, as I started to plan how I was going to remain a captive of the night until daylight returned, I barely caught a faint glimpse of moonlight reflection off of something shiny in the distance - My vehicle!

Date Added
September 14, 2020
Date Taken
October 15, 2018