Alice Springs Photographer Blog

Photographing the South West USA. Part 2

Lupin Point, Grand Canyon NP, Arizona

Here I am again a little strung out from lack of sleep but coherent enough to put that last few days into some sort of comprehensible form or at least I hope. Only having 4 hours of sleep the last 2 nights and spending all day walking and looking for locations to shoot you can get close to the burn out limit. But as if to slap me square in the face everything my enthusiasm wanes these places of incredible vastness and beauty get me back on track.

Since the last post I've dramatically altered my original plans to take in a quick drive through of Bryce Canyon to finish up at Canyonlands National Park sometime around 12pm. I have been very fortunate to meet people who have not only been to these place but also have the ability to convey just how amazed they were by them. Even while standing on a cliff edge 900m above Zion Canyon two different groups of people said that "oh you simply have to go" and so go I did.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands NP, Utah

I awoke to the sound of a car door slamming closed and muffled voices then almost instantly my alarm went off, it was 6am and it was time to walk out to Mesa Arch and stake out my spot. It was still dark plus I didn't have a map but not to worry Americans have constructed a road to pretty much very spot you'd want to go and I also had my fellow nutcases to follow somewhat.

Mesa Arch is a very impressive sight as it is by no means small, possibly 25m is length and as the sun rises it has a very unique visual quality. The sun as it breaks the horizon and hits the wall behind and under the arch it illuminates it from below giving the under side of the arch a very deep rich orange glow. Sounds pretty spectacular and peaceful doesn't it. Well that's what the other 11 photographers and I concluded as we pulled away from our cameras after the show concluded for another day. Yep there was 12 of us there all crammed into a small area all after the same thing, WA HA haaa (evil laugh) my friends it pays to be early.

Its 9am and I've got what I wanted for the day, time to go an a bit of a walk over the highway in Arches National Park. No prizes for guessing what the park if famous for.

Again I found myself driving down the access road of another national park coffee in one hand camera in the other, knees firmly gripping the wheel (that is unless it was a sharp corner when I would simply bite it for extra stability) and eyes popping. Its just too easy to use words like incredible, amazing, awesome, inspirational when talking about these places as that is exactly what they are. Although the grey clouds had come over negating the possibility of shooting it was still an energising place. From about 10am through to 3pm I wandered through what is described as fins of sandstone 30-50 meters tall and sometimes 100 meters long. The landscape was covered with them and hidden in the middle of these fins is where you can find some of the largest natural free standing stone arches in the world, the biggest measured in at 96m! (and a well deserved exclamation mark it is).

I had all but given up on a sunset shot and stated driving back to Moab the nearby town to do as I'm doing now charge batteries, empty the flash cards and catch up with my lovely lady. But....

Delicate Arch, Arches NP, Utah

But as you can see above I was again lucky with the weather. A small gap in the clouds on the far horizon was exactly where the sun was due to drop in an hour or so. I made for the signature arch in the park Delicate Arch which is a quick 4km one way dash and minutes after arriving it all lit up. Today while flipping through some books in the Grand Canyon resort I stumbled across a classic quote that I've heard a few times before. "Chance favours the prepared mind" 

OK OK this blog post is getting on a bit so lets keep it moving now... quickly

Early the next morning it began to snow which was nice as it allowed me to sleep in a little. That day I set off south for Monument Valley possibly the most classically recognisable mesa on earth, especially if your into John Wayne movies. The drive was somewhat entertaining as it was now snowing very heavily which meant slow tentative driving, it was fun and a great experience I LOVE SNOW.

The greatest thing about the snow was it was one of my dream scenarios for this trip I dreamed of shooting either the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley sprinkled with snow. BOOM, this wasn't a sprinkle is was a blizzard and I couldn't be happier. The Navajo guides waiting for customers surely though I was mad standing in the falling snow taking photos of a barely visible mesa in the distance.

For me its on a par with shooting Uluru (Ayres Rock) in the rain, the total shift in appearance of both the subject and the landscape where they stand. This place is 99% of the time red sand and red rock against a blue sky so for me to have the time and space to wait for it to be just right was golden.

Monument Valley NP, Navajo Nation, Arizona

So I'm on the biggest roll of my photographic life getting the exact shots I set out to achieve and in good time too.

Ok now I'm just fading out bad so lets just cut to the last location I was at before the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly. It was another landscape covered in snow and it was hard shooting compared to Monument Valley as I just couldn't find a spot where I though it conveyed the canyons size and beauty. I spent almost two days looking for locations before I found the Junction above which was the right combination of weather and formation.

The Junction, Canyon de Chelly NP, Navajo Nation

So there it is a quickish update of the travels to date and just a few photos, Be sure to check back in later for part 3 which is hopefully going to be finished before the flight down to Mexico.