I’m enroute to Phoenix for the holidays and am spending a couple of nights in my beloved Moab, Utah. I almost missed this shot yesterday – I just happened to look out my hotel room window not too long after sunset and saw that just the upper peaks of the La Sal Mountains were glowing. Another minute or two and I would have missed this view altogether. (Click on the photo to view a larger version).
Mesa Arch in the “Island in the Sky” district of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park is one of those iconic locations that has been photographed ad nauseum but that every landscape photographer just HAS to shoot to see if he/she can possibly get a better shot than everyone else. I’ve read accounts and seen pictures of photographers lined up, elbow to elbow, vying for the best spot in front of the arch to park their tripods in order to capture the 4-5 minutes of perfect light that exist only at sunrise.
I was at Mesa Arch last week. It was high noon, just about the worst time of the day to photograph ANYTHING, and the place was crawling with people. It was difficult to maneuver around fellow visitors to get an even remotely good shot without body parts in it. I wasn’t there at sunrise and I didn’t use a tripod. I know… bad form. Oh well. My shots of Mesa Arch are pretty dull in comparison to the iconic sunrise images (do a Google Image search on mesa arch sunrise and you’ll see what I mean), but they are mine and I like them anyway. So there.
Last week while in the Moab area, my traveling companion and I (and the poodle) went for a hike in Negro Bill Canyon. Yes, that’s really what it’s called. See? It was named for William Granstaff, a mixed-race cowboy who prospected and ran cattle in the canyon in the late 1870s. Considering that it used to be named something even less politically correct, Negro Bill Canyon doesn’t seem quite so bad. Regardless, it’s a gorgeous canyon carved out of the Navajo sandstone with a lovely (and rare for the desert) little perennial stream that renders the bottom of the canyon lush and green with a huge variety of plant life. The hike involves approximately 10 stream crossings and it’s an ideal outing for a hot summer day.
The highlight of the hike can be found at the end of the second side canyon on the right - Morning Glory Natural Bridge. This soaring rock formation is 243 feet long, making it the 6th longest natural rock span in the U.S. Some argue that it is not actually a natural bridge but an alcove arch. After seeing it, I would have to agree with the alcove arch assessment. But whatever you call it, it’s an impressive sight. Off to one side of the arch, a trickle of water runs down a crack in the wall and forms a pool under the arch.
As with the sunrise earlier that morning, the overcast skies made for less-than-ideal photography conditions overall, but the sun did manage to break through the clouds toward the end of the hike and we saw blue sky for the first time that day.
I’ve driven by the trailhead to this hike many, many times while visiting Moab and I’m so very glad I finally had the chance to explore the stunning beauty of Negro Bill Canyon. Click HERE to view many more photos and some videos from this hike.
I was trolling through my archives this morning to find a random photo to post and I came upon this shot of the Great Salt Lake. I took this photograph from my window seat while taking off from the Salt Lake City airport on my way to Phoenix at the end of December, 2005. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is I love so much about this image… the colors, the light, the wispy patterns on the lake… I don’t know, but I love it. Click HERE to see a larger version.
Even more so than taking pictures from a car, moving or otherwise, I love taking pictures from airplanes. There are many variables that can contribute to the relative success of one’s taken-from-an-airplane photos: the position of the sun, the scenery on your side of the plane, the condition of the window itself (scratches, dirt, ice crystals), where your seat is in relation to the wing, cloud cover, etc. On a flight between Amsterdam and Minneapolis once, I was so excited that we were going to fly directly over the northern edge of Iceland, only to discover that the entire island was covered in clouds. Major bummer.
An interesting book on this subject is Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking by Julieanne Kost
For Christmas, I went on a road trip from Denver to Arizona to spend time with family and friends. After spending the first night in Moab, Utah (one of my most favorite places on the planet), I decided to do a sunrise photo shoot in Arches National Park. I arrived at the Windows section parking lot while it was still dark and followed a couple of other crazy photographers up a snow-packed trail and got my tripod and camera set up in front of Turret Arch. The sun took about another hour to make its way over the top of the LaSal Mountains, and when the first rays of the morning sun hit those red rocks, it was like the rocks had suddenly burst into flames. It was an amazing moment. The photo below was taken 12 minutes later.