Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Antelope Canyon Revisited

                                                                                  You are not here to verify,
                                                              Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
                                                              Or carry report.  You are here to kneel
                                                              Where prayer has been valid.

                                                                               -- T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The last stop on our Road Scholar photo tour this fall was Lower Antelope Canyon -- one of the most amazing places you will ever experience!  I first visited Antelope Canyon in May of 2014, and again in April of this year, and I have posted stories and images about those visits in this blog; you can find them here and here.

Some things have changed since my first visit two and a half years ago.  In particular, as with Mesa Arch, the crowds have grown, thanks to the unfortunate addition of a second tour company pushing people through the canyon to maximize revenues.  So on the quarter-mile walk to the entrance of the canyon, instead of this . . .

May 2014

it looked like this:

October 2016

And in the first large room inside the canyon, instead of this . . . 

May 2014

it looked like this:

October 2016

So the opportunity to experience the sacred beauty of the canyon has been significantly diminished.

On the happy side, however, once we started making our way through the narrow twists and turns of this slot canyon . . . 

if you lifted your sights (and your camera), the shapes, textures, and colors were still magnificent and awe-inspiring:

(Yes, that's brdsht on the lion head formation.)

To give you a sense of the scale, here's a vertical of the same area in the image above:

And the light was different this time, creating new looks for every part of the canyon (from slightly different camera positions):

October 2016
May 2014

May 2014
October 2016

And speaking of light, I'm sure you've seen those images of a shaft of light coming straight down onto the canyon floor.  I've never been in the canyon at the right time and place, and on this trip we weren't there at the right time for exactly that image, but we did get an opportunity to photograph a similar scene:

We even saw Emperor Palpatine . . .

Eventually, of course, we reached the end of the canyon and had to climb back out to reality.  

However crowded it was, it was still a wonderful visit. 

If you would like to see these images -- and many more -- in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Canyonlands and Monument Valley

The fourth and fifth stops on our Road Scholar photography trip last September were Canyonlands National Park (including the photogenic Mesa Arch) and Monument Valley, location for many a famous Western movie back in the 20th century.

The day began with overcast and rain, so I've converted the Canyonlands images to black-and-white.  Further south and later in the same day the skies cleared, so Monument Valley is in color.

Canyonlands National Park is about 527 square miles (about one quarter the area of the Grand Canyon).  It's filled with rugged and remote canyons, mesas, arches, fins, hoodoos, and rivers in the high desert of southeast Utah.  With limited time and a large tour bus, we could visit only a tiny portion of the park.

We arrived just after sunrise at Mesa Arch (about an hour's drive from Moab, Utah), one of the most photogenic of the Canyonlands features.  As a result, it's usually a mob scene, and getting "the shot" means jockeying for position among 20 to 30 other photographers.  Here's what I mean:

The attraction of Mesa Arch isn't the arch itself, which is rather small compared to the gigantic arches of Arches National Park.  And the "window" of the arch is commensurately small, as you can see.  The "money shot" of Mesa Arch is the framed vista you get when you look through the window:

It's much more beautiful when the sky is clear and the sun is rising behind the mountains, but we were not in luck on this day.

After Mesa Arch, we backtracked to Dead Horse Point, a Utah state park that overlooks the northern end of Canyonlands.  Here the view is terrific and the crowds are minimal:

That's the Colorado River on the right in the image above.

If you would like to see Mesa Arch and Canyonlands in better light and in color, click here for a blog post from a previous visit.

After breakfast at Dead Horse Point, we paused for a group photo, then hopped back on the bus and headed for Monument Valley.

Coming into Monument Valley from the north on US 163, there's a sign by the side of the road:

                   "Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run at this spot." 

For a video clip of the end-of-the-run scene in the film, click here.

Naturally, of course, we stopped for the photo op:

And being among photographers, there's always someone who wants just one more shot!

Monument Valley is a tribal park controlled by the Navajo Nation -- it's not a U.S. national park.  There are lots of massive sandstone monoliths and mesas, the most famous of which are Left Mitten, Right Mitten, and Merrick Butte (seen below).

As with Canyonlands, this Road Scholar tour had only enough time to stop for 45 minutes of photography from the Visitor Center, but the view was awesome:

If you'd like to see more (and different) images of Monument Valley from one of my previous trips, click here.

And if you'd like to see images from this post in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bryce Canyon National Park

The second stop on our Road Scholar tour last September was Bryce Canyon National Park.  (It's worth noting that Bryce Canyon is not a canyon, whereas the west half of Zion National Park is a canyon, carved by the Virgin River.)  

Bryce is a series of vast amphitheaters filled with fins and hoodoos caused by the erosion of the east side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southwestern Utah.

You can see an amphitheater in the photo at the top of this post.  And you can read more about hoodoo formation in Bryce by clicking here

The fins and hoodoos are enormous and majestic:

And when the light is right -- in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset -- the natural drama of the hoodoos and fins is enhanced by the reflection of sunlight off of one formation onto another.  The reflection creates a "glow" on the rocks facing away from the sun, and it's beautiful.  Here are some examples, made in the late afternoon from a location called "Sunset Point":

And as the sun descended, the glow faded, leaving only the tops of a few hoodoos illuminated:

The next morning, we rose early to catch the sunrise.  We were rewarded with a sky filled with clouds . . . a rare and, for photographers, happy occurrence.

Indeed, on this day the sky was the show instead of the hoodoos:

And there were dozens of people there to see it.  This is "Sunrise Point" at dawn:

Wisely, one of our number took the opportunity to stop shooting, sit down, and simply enjoy the peaceful view:

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Zion Reflections

The first stop on our Road Scholar photo expedition back in September was Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.  The park includes two very different topographic and geological areas.  The west side is a deep canyon carved by the Virgin River, 

while the east side is arid and filled with petrified sand dunes thousands of feet high.

We spent most of our time in the western section walking along the Virgin River, where steep sandstone cliffs reflect sunlight into the canyon.

So my focus this time was primarily on the beauty of the canyon's colors and textures in the reflected light.

And of course the water in the river provided additional photo opportunities for reflected light:

We ended our day capturing one of the iconic Zion scenes:  the gigantic "Watchman" formation overlooking the Virgin River at sunset.

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.