On our trip to Arizona and New Mexico, the friends we were traveling with wanted to drive along the famed Route 66. Many of you who live in the American Southwest know that this famous road no longer exists as a US highway. Route 66 was officially replaced in its entirety by the Interstate Highway System in 1985. You would have laughed at us Easterners as we drove around looking for this famed road. There are still some sections of Route 66 that still exist but it wasn't until we stopped in Williams, Arizona and saw this sign that we realized we were searching for something that no longer existed. As a side note, Williams still has a stretch that still has some of the feel and look of the road.
Two of the characteristics of the American Southwest are the unique shapes and colors of its many sandstone formations. The combination of these characteristics are most prevalent in Monument Valley where you can sometimes feel that you have been transported to Mars. There are certain times of the day where the colors are nonexistent and the shape of the formations become the main focus. Such was the morning when I captured this image. I had gotten up early to shoot the sunrise. We were staying at Gouldings Lodge and was headed to photograph the Mittens a few miles away. I noticed that dawn was about to break and saw the outline of the formations known as (left to right) Brigham's Tomb; The King and His Throne; Stagecoach; Bear and Rabbit; and Castle Butte. The silhouette created by the dawn's colors made the shapes stand out more that in daylight.
When booking a trip, a little luck comes into play especially when you are booking a hotel. Often when you go online to check out the place, there are great images of the facilities and the surrounding area. I've stayed in some places that look good and when I get there, I am disappointed that the property is nothing like the pictures and the reviews. There are other times they surprise you in a good way. Such was our stay in Sedona. The Orchards Inn was located in Old Town and the entrance was hard to find as it is tucked behind stores and restaurants. It looked okay from the outside but not what I was hoping for. We checked into the hotel and moved our luggage to the room. The room was nice, maybe a little better than average. And then I opened the sliding doors and walked out onto the balcony. I stopped in my tracks and stared at the wonderful view that I had. I quickly ran back into the room and grabbed my camera and tripod and rushed back onto the balcony. I shot off a few photos and realized that I wasn't getting what I wanted, so I decided to shoot a panorama to see if I could capture what I felt and saw. I don't usually shoot panoramas, not sure why, but after this experience, I need to shoot more of them. Anyway, this is the result. This 21 image panorama captured the scene as I hoped it would with the great evening light giving the famous Red Rocks their great glow.
To finish this week's posts, we leave Europe and travel across the pond to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. There are many theories of how the Grand Canyon was formed, but the most prevailing one is erosion. The present day canyon is the result of nearly two billion years being exposed to water, ice and wind. Many geologists believe that the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago cut channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. I tried to keep this geological feat in mind when I composed this image of the Colorado River on the eastern end of the park. It is hard to believe that it could have formed such a dramatic landscape but I guess a lot can happen over 17 million years.
On my first visit to Monument Valley in 2005, I captured one of my favorite images of the park that was featured in this previous post. On my more recent visit to the Valley in May, I wanted to capture a similar image but more focused on that great tree that just jumps out of the landscape. The timing of my visit was late in the evening when the setting sun was beginning to cast long shadows. As I began to compose the image, I decided to take advantage of these shadows and include the tree and it's shadow on the glowing rock. I thought the great color contrast between tree and the orange rock contributes to the feel of the image.
I am sure that everyone with an imagination has looked up toward the sky and imagined all kind of different "images" in cloud formations. This same imagination has been applied to the many of the mountains, rock formations, buttes and mesas on the ground. Nowhere is this more true than in the American Southwest, especially Monument Valley. Almost all of the structures in the Valley have a descriptive name and it is often unknown whether the name was originally created by early settlers, the Navajo people or someone else. Mentioning names like "The Mittens", the "Rain God Mesa" or "The Three Sisters" to people who have visited the Valley will conjure up great memories. Our recent trip to the Valley was my wife Carol's first trip there. Although I told her how beautiful and stunning it was, it wasn't until she saw it that she understood my love for it. She was fascinated by the names of the structures and was trying to memorize them all. The image in this post is of a rock formation known as "The Hand of God" whose fingers can be seen on the right side of the formation.
Back from a short respite from the blog. My first trip to Monument Valley was in 2005 and I wanted to make sure that I captured an image of Tear Drop Arch. I had seen it on the cover of a Grand Circle travel magazine and was captivated by it. The resulting shot was the one in this post. The arch is actually outside of the park on Navajo Tribal land and one can only get to it by hiring a Navajo guide. It was quite the spiritual experience.
This past May, I revisited Tear Drop to recapture the shot. As we left the guide's jeep and walked up toward the arch, he told me that if you looked closely at the scene, you can see the "Elephant" in the sandstone with the left side of the arch forming the head and trunk. I was so focused on the arch itself that I had never noticed the shape. Suffice to say, focus is all well and good but make sure to step back and take everything in.
I have posted a few images of my recent trip to Monument Valley. They were taken from parts of the tribal park that require the hiring of a Navajo guide. The guides are not inexpensive but are well worth it for their local knowledge, stories of the Navajo culture and even playing musical instruments and singing Navajo songs. If you cannot afford to hire a guide, you can still see wonderful scenery as well as all of it's famous landmarks for a $5 per person entrance fee. This fee allows you to drive a 17-mile dirt road that winds throughout the park. It is a fabulous drive and I recommend doing it at least twice - early morning and evening. The light is so different at these times that the formations take on very different looks. This image of the world-famous East and West Mittens and Merrick Butte was actually taken from the visitors center in the early evening. The dirt road can be seen below as well as the shadows of the visitor center. I left the cars on the road to give the image scale - those buttes are really huge.
When most photographers think of Antelope Canyon, they think of it's famous upper and lower slot canyons. Slot canyons are very narrow and are formed by water rushing through rock. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide. Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona and the entrance is just a few miles from the center of town. There is another view of the canyon that did not exist before the building of Glen Canyon Dam in 1966. When the dam was finished construction, it created Lake Powell by flooding Glen Canyon. With the creation of Lake Powell, it is now possible to visit Antelope Canyon from the water. It is a short 45 minute boat trip from the Wahweap Marina to reach the terminus of the canyon. As you can see in this image, the walls of the canyon are quite narrow and high. As you reach the small "beach" at the end, you can almost reach out and touch the walls. The trip is well worth it for a different view of Antelope Canyon.
The Glen Canyon Dam is a dam located just north of Page, Arizona. The dam was built to provide hydroelectricity and control water flow from the upper Colorado River Basin to the lower. It is actually situated on Federal land (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area) and is run by the Federal Government. When it was built in 1966, it created Lake Powell which is the second largest artificial lake in the country. It took 17 years for Lake Powell to completely fill for the first time. The city of Page was created in 1957 to house workers and their families during the construction of the dam and now thrives as a tourist destination. Tours of the dam are conducted daily and I highly recommend taking the tour if you are in the area. Security measures are high at the dam for obvious reasons. This vantage point is from south of the dam looking north toward Lake Powell.
On our recent southwestern trip, we headed out of Monument Valley for a full day of driving to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We had planned to stop at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeastern Arizona but there were really high winds and visibility was almost nonexistent. As we reached the town of Chinle, we decided to stop at the canyon anyway. Amazingly, the wind seemed to stop and we were able to drive the full length of the south rim. For those who have never visited this National Monument, it is a majestic canyon lined with towering red sandstone. It is unique in that it is owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust Land and is administered by the National Park Service. The highlight of the canyon is Spider Rock which can be seen at the very last lookout on South Rim Drive. Spider Rock is actually twin 800-foot towers isolated from the canyon walls. Navajos believe this is the home of the Spider Woman, who taught Navajos how to weave and also devoured disobedient children. It is said that the white caps of the towers are children's bones.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument, located near Page, Arizona, is one of the world's highest natural bridges with a height of 290 feet. It is almost as long as it is high with a length of 270 feet. Rainbow Bridge was known by Native Americans who have long held the bridge sacred as a symbol of the deities responsible for creating clouds, rainbows and rain--the essence of life in the desert. They named the bridge "Nonnezoshe" or "rainbow turned to stone." One of the natural wonders of the world, the bridge was formed by erosion of the sandstone by water flowing from Navajo Mountain towards the Colorado River. Rainbow Bridge can be reached by a two-hour boat ride on Lake Powell from either of two marinas near Page. After a wonderfully scenic ride on the lake, boats drop you off at the National Park wharf in Bridge Canyon and, to reach the bridge, there is short mile-long walk. The only other alternative is to hike several hours from a trailhead on the south side of Lake Powell but requires a permit from the Navajo Nation.
When planning for photographing the bridge, I realized that I would not be able to shoot it in great light as the earliest boat reaches it at almost 10 am. For those of you that have seen images of the bridge and it's reflection in the water, it is not possible to capture. One of the Park Rangers told me that due to the low water levels on the lake, the last time water flowed through the arch was almost 20 years ago. Regardless of the not perfect light and lack of water, the bridge is still an impressive subject.
The first day on our trip, we stayed in Sedona, Arizona. We had caught an early flight out of Hartford and landed in Phoenix. After stopping for an awesome barbecue lunch at Thee Pitts Again (found this place through the Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins television show - I try to eat at these places whenever I can), we headed to Sedona. I had been through Sedona twice before but only passed through on my way to the Grand Canyon. This time, I wanted to stay overnight to take in the beautiful red rocks that surround the town, particularly Cathedral Rock. Cathedral Rock is a famous landmark on the Sedona skyline, and is one of the most-photographed sights in Arizona. It was a gorgeous evening as we headed out to Red Rock Loop Road (there is an upper and lower section of the road that forms the loop). The only thing that was missing were clouds but when I asked someone about it, their reply was, "It's the desert, we don't get clouds too often.", (duh). Clouds or no clouds, the light was just about perfect, giving the rocks the famous red glow that they are famous for.
Today we return to wonderful and spiritual Monument Valley located on Navajo land in southern Utah. The first time I visited the valley in 2005, I felt I was transported to a very beautiful but alien place. I remember remarking to my son that we had landed on Mars. After spending time there then and more recently, I realize that the true benefits of the valley beyond the landscape was to be exposed to and learn a little about Navajo culture and traditions. The Navajo name for the valley is Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii meaning "Valley of the Rocks". The structures in this image "Yei Bi Chei" on the left and "Totem Pole" on the right hold deep spiritual meaning for the Navajo. “Yei Bi Chei” means Navajo spiritual gods and is viewed as a formation of dancers emerging from a Hogan. A dance called the Yei Bi Chei dance originated in the valley and is performed for healing purposes in a very sacred nine day ritual called the Night Way Ceremony.
So how do you capture the magnificence, vastness and the wonder of the Grand Canyon? The answer is that you don't. The best that you can do is to capture a small slice of the canyon and hope that a little of it's beauty comes through your image. There are two times to best photograph the park: sunrise and sunset. When the sun is near the horizon, it's light casts long shadows and adds great definition and depth to the canyon walls. Any other time, photographs seem flat with little or no definition because the sun is higher in the sky thus casting very shallow shadows. This image was taken just before sunset from Yavapai Point on the South Rim of the canyon. The sun cast a great golden glow onto the rocks creating terrific long shadows in the canyon itself. While many shoot into a rising or setting sun, my tendency is to shoot away from the sun to capture the great warm tones on the surrounding scenery.
The Glen Canyon Recreational Area is located adjacent to Page, Arizona. The area is named after Glen Canyon which was carved by the Colorado River in the shadows of the Vermilion Cliffs. Lake Powell, a reservoir, was created by the Glen Canyon Dam. In fact, if it were not for the building of the dam, Page would not exist as a town. Lake Powell is the second largest man-made reservoir in water capacity in the United States. It starts in Page, Arizona at the Glen Canyon Dam and extends to the Bullfrog Marina in southeastern Utah, 186 miles away. It has a shoreline of almost 2,000 miles. The lake is a favorite destination of vacationers who rent houseboats (pictured here in the image) during the summer months.
We had arrived in Page earlier in the day and wanted to scope out the Wahweap Marina where we were scheduled to take a 5-hour round-trip cruise to Rainbow Bridge early the next day. The setting sun cast beautiful light on the rugged mountains in the distance.
Back from an excellent vacation touring the American Southwest. Visited many spots in Arizona and New Mexico, many of them for the first time. While this wasn't a photography trip, I still managed to take a boatload of photos. We had great weather although a bit hotter than expected. I typically don't edit my photos right away as I am often disappointed with my shots because they don't seem to match the beauty I saw. I will be making an exception to that "rule" this week. My last post, "Go West, Young Man" was from my favorite place in the Southwest, Monument Valley. It was taken in 2005 on a hiking and photography trip with my son. It was there that my photography passion was rekindled. It is only fitting that my first post from my trip is from Monument Valley. This image is of a hole in Submarine Rock toward the back of the park. The only way to visit it is to hire a Navajo Guide (I used Simpson's Trailhandler Tours - Highly Recommended). I am not sure exactly what the hole is called. It is sometimes referred to as Keyhole Arch or Pottery Arch which is interesting as it is obviously not an arch. Whatever it's name, the view through the hole shows the beauty of the valley and it's structures lit by the setting sun.
"Go West, Young Man" is a quote attributed to Horace Greeley in an editorial published in 1865. Living on the east coast all of my life, I have been attracted to the west ever since my first trip there. I am very happy to report that tomorrow, I am headed to Arizona and New Mexico for the next two weeks. While it is not specifically a photography trip, you can bet I will return with quite a lot of images. In selecting an image for today's post, I decided to pick my favorite place in the Southwest, Monument Valley. This is a view of the valley that I took on a guided tour with a Navajo guide (the only way to see Monument Valley off of the public road). It was the trip that re-ignited my photography passion in 2005. I am really psyched that I will be hiring another guide on this trip to capture the wonderful scenery and colors of the park.
I will not be posting to my blog during this trip, so I will see you when I return. Look forward to catching up with you all when I get back.
A quick post and run today. This is another image from the archives that takes us back to Monument Valley and the famous view from Artist Point. It is a spectacular setting and is aptly named. The butte seen in this image is the East Mitten Butte and it is tremendously large, dwarfing the houses that can be seen along the road. You can truly understand why so many westerns and commercials were shot in the valley. It is one of my most favorite places to visit and I am looking forward to retrace my footsteps there in May. Have a great weekend, everyone.
Okay, it seems that I received an unexpected late Christmas gift this weekend. I was looking for something and came across some backup DVDs that contained some of my images from 2003 - 2006. You may ask why I am looking at this as a gift. The easy answer is that I took some memorable trips during that period and, at that time, really didn't know anything about RAW files and processing (other than that, everything was fine). I processed the JPG files in Photoshop Elements with my very poor skills and DELETED the original files. That's right, all gone. I have rued the day I deleted them ever since. Now for the good news, the DVDs that I found contained the original JPGs. I now have a lot of my favorite images that I can now reprocess. This is the first image that I have reprocessed and it is significant in that it is the photo that started my photography hobby in earnest. I always had an interest in photography and in the early 1980′s even took a high school course in developing black and white film (boy, did they lose money on me). Career, family and finances got in the way of photography and I didn’t pursue it again until the early 2000′s. Then in 2005, I decided to see if I was serious about it.
My son Greg and I headed to Utah for two weeks for the sole purpose of hiking and photography. One of the places that I had longed to visit was Monument Valley. Located on a Navajo Indian Reservation on the Utah/Arizona border, it was the location of many famous westerns (Stagecoach and The Searchers to name a couple). I had seen a photo of Tear Drop Arch on the cover of a tour guide and always wanted to shoot it. The park has a 17-mile dirt road, but in order to photograph the more iconic places such as Tear Drop Arch, you must hire a Navajo guide. Our guide took us all over the park for four hours and saved Tear Drop Arch for our last stop at sunset. The biggest surprise was that Tear Drop Arch is actually about 3 miles outside the park. While Greg and the Navajo guide talked about his culture, I shot the arch until well past sunset.
This was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had and it lit the passion that I still have for photography.