On my recent trip to Salt Lake City the afternoon I arrived look promising for sunset. Having lived in and around SLC for the better part of 3 years (a lifetime ago) I never did shoot any good cityscapes. In fact I had just only had the camera in my hand a year when I left. That first afternoon back I decided to head up behind the Capitol and get a sweeping view of the valley below. Salt Lake has a spot in my heart and it is truly a beautiful place to live. Here is one of the captures from that eve. The shortness of breath hiking up to get the perspective was worth it 🙂
On The Road (Utah)
When I get to do my road trips around the country there tends to be a lot of driving. Much of that through very pretty places. When I’m driving my general thought process is ‘get there as fast as possible’. However when in these circumstances the opposite is generally true. Well…at least it’s fast driving and then a fair amount of stopping and sometimes turning around 😛 But the idea is there. Sometimes I even have to remind myself that the reason I’m even in the car in the first place is to shoot…which includes more than just my destination. Then I get that sense of relaxation…that my time is my own…just me and the road and the camera (which often sits on the passenger seat next to me). It’s these moments that I often cherish while exploring. And sometimes, the road becomes the subject itself 🙂
Remote Southern Utah.
Getting slotted…Pt 1 of ? – Southern Utah
Just getting back from Utah and had myself an adventure! Last year, around the same time, I found myself in Southern Utah for 5 days. Exploring the truly incredible landscape that is that part of the world. One in particular slot canyon in Escalante National Park eluded me. Hiking by myself the waist deep and cold water thwarted my attempt at this place last year. This year…while the water remained and was a longer slog, I was able to successfully enter this magical place. Getting to the entrance of this slot greets you with brown water….and judging by my experience last year, and the fact that the low the night before was around 20F…very cold. I brought my waterproof pants again and seal skinz (socks) to be able to make the adventure more comfortable (oh, and long underwear under the pants). This time around there was a group of 3 women that had hiked down just in front of me. They weren’t expecting the water like I was but one of them was adventurous enough to want to give it a shot. As we ventured deeper in to the slot it narrows further and further until the choke (where I was stymied last year), except this time the water level was slightly lower, I wasn’t 5 weeks off a knee injury, and there was the fact that I wasnt alone. My excitement once stepping up in to the main chamber was palpable. Not only did we make it in but there were NO footprints. We were the first ones in since either the last flood or the crazy dust storm the day before could have filled them in. Either way…wow! My accomplice spent about 15 minutes with me and then I was alone…for the next 2.75 hours. Over the course of the whole experience inside the canyon I heard voices two different times…both inquiring as to if there was anyone in there (I left extra supplies outside the entrance to lower my load). Both times they failed to make the journey. Sollitude! This allowed me to study and shoot at my own pace without having to worry about any sort of pleasantries :p As the time passed and the sun a bit too vertical the amazing glow in the canyon eventually washed out…and then it was time to go. Getting back in the COLD water was a necessity but the warm sun once exited was very welcome. So was the victory beer back at the car 🙂
Some behind the scenes shots with my phone are added…and yes…a few more photographs to come (plus the rest of the trip; Goblin Valley, San Rafael Swell & Bryce Canyon).
Devilish – Southern Utah
Another image from my southern Utah adventures in late March of 2013. After sleeping in my car (like usual) the night before, my alarm went off around 4am to be able to capture the stars I had previously scouted at a different spot in this section. As the sun rose and the landscape changed I began to wander around to see what I could find. These amazing formations were all over and the trick was to find something to show off how weird of a place it was. Luckily the previously clear sky (good for stars) was giving way to some unique clouds and I returned to a spot I had found the evening before. Given the texture of the rock and the cool clouds in the sky this one had some possibility. I spent another 30-45 minutes enjoying the solitude as I played like a kid in a playground. Then off for what was to be an epic day in slot canyons and over 6 miles of hiking. Nonstop!
False Kiva – And Wandering Though The Desert
So many stories surrounding this image. Of which include; powering through a month-old knee injury, getting a bit lost and then un-lost, ‘no fall’ zone hiking, fellow hikers lending me their trekking pole for the night and spending hours alone in the dark in a cave to then hike out in the dark, alone. Of course returning with a successful image always makes those details worth while when the effort is rewarded. This location, on the edge of a cliff, tucked in to a cave, was used hundreds of years ago by the Anasazi Indians, though the details and usage are still unknown. Being as I was out there, with a very clear sky, my instinct turns to photographing the stars. It’s amazing how much light cameras can pick up nowadays. Watching the nocturnal transition from such a remote location, one cant help but be transported back to ancient times. Chills. And then for that very dark walk back to the car….
Garden Of Good And Evil
When I travel to shoot I need to research an area to get an idea for what to explore perhaps, and find other things along the way of course, but in doing so I try to extremely limit my exposure to other people’s photographs. Never do I want to be at a location and have a shot to replicate. Of course there are very oft photographed areas that I am sure to overlap, however if similarities occur this would most likely be by chance. Which I am ok with as my intention was pure.
Arriving at this southern Utah location I knew very little about what to find here, other than bizarre rock formations. Which could be said about much of southern UT 🙂 I took the late afternoon to wander around and explore what the area had to offer. Rock monoliths standing like goblins or some otherworldly creatures. As I came across this arch section the challenge became how would I photograph this place. And I moved on to find other rocks to photograph at sunset. The clearish skies did not lend themselves to good color but my default then becomes stars. Making my way back to this spot I moved back and forth trying to best compose the shapes in front of me and then the waiting game for the night sky to make it’s full appearance. During this course of events I took out my phone and checked the Sky Walk app to see what kind of sky I would be looking at. Fast forwarding to the morning I saw that the Milky Way would actually cross in to the gap! Well that settled it. I was going to set my alarm for 5am and come back here. Knowing it would be almost impossible to compose this shot in the dark, even with my headlamp, I marked the sand where the tripod legs were to be able to place it back at the weeee hours of the morn.
Dinner in the car and sleeping in the back of the truck…5am comes. I head out to my spot and set up. There’s the tail end of the Milky Way as expected though not the super vibrant section that was over my right shoulder. I ran around for about 30-45 min light-painting and shooting. Then finally deciding to try and capture other shots while the stars were still blazing (see: There Be Goblins). For whatever reason I decided to head back to the spot of the arch to just capture it one more time. Just in case. The faint light of dawn already starting to rub out the stars I ran around even faster. Finally settling on the fact the stars were gone to the daylight and off to find other compositions.
Weeks later, while going through the photographs it was clear. My choice to go back and reshoot the original idea was a good one. While the sky was not the blazing Milky Way I wanted the cool blue tones of twilight combined with the warmer light from my headlamp created a surreal scene. And even still, the Milky Way can be seen through the arching rocks. When it all comes together, even if different than planned, it makes all the early mornings worth while 🙂
Solitude among Arches
Up on a ridge in Arches National Park I had spotted a location to photograph a great panorama of sunset over the park. Of course, like any photographer there was a significant amount of waiting. So there I was, perched on this rock with my camera at this great expansive scene. Then I turned around.
Abbey’s Country II
After not returning back to my car from the previous night’s shooting until after 11pm I knew the morning was going to arrive too quickly. Packed my car and headed off for the 45 min drive to my next location, Arches National Park. For whatever reason I knew I should photograph Arches but internally I wasn’t overly excited. Of course this changed when I woke up in the parking lot about an hour before sunrise and saw the landscape before me. In a serendipitous offering the entire Milky Way was arching over the exact landscape I was walking toward. Brilliant! I got about 30ft from the car before my camera bag was already on the ground and camera being prepared for the first photograph of the day. While the sky still felt dark the slight glow of dawn was already apparent through the camera’s sensitive settings. With sunrise still over 45 min away I was amazed at what could be seen. Over on the far right was the distant glow from the town of Moab. I made a number of panoramas of the scene before me and then off to my intended destination for the morning. Now if every day could start like this… 🙂
Reflected Light: A Story Of Serendipity
There is something special about traveling by oneself. Of course there can be times of loneliness and solitude but the freedom to do/go/feel whatever one wants at that time is truly freeing. On my 4th full day I photographed sunrise in Arches National Park and then started my journey across the southern part of the state. Through Cedar Mesa and over toward Escalante. The remoteness and dramatic landscape is not to be underestimated. Truly spectacular country. Amazing spires and rock formations around every corner. Roads winding through canyons, bending around corners to reveal another infinite expanse to explore.
As I came around yet another bend, after crossing the Glen Canyon area I noticed these rocky spires in the distance. Speeding by there was some interesting, undulating rock just off the road that caught my eye and thought to myself there must be a good photograph in there somewhere, so on the the brakes I went, pulling over in to one of the few primitive camping areas that dotted the side of the road. Getting out to explore, then driving down the road back a ways and repeating. Wandering around I found this ravine, with amazing undulating and textured rock pointing right at the spires that had made me pull over in the first place. Looking down the rock suddenly jumped out at me. Light from the other side of the ravine was being reflected back on to the rock below me creating this incredible glow. Taking out my phone I snapped a quick photo to see what was going on. Boom! Next thing I knew I was hurrying back to the car to grab my camera bag. I spent the next 3-4hrs exploring this 100 yard stretch of rock. Studying the textures, lines, nuances. Playing with the light as it changed. As the shadow from the large canyon wall towering over me to the west finally encompassed the scene I had that familiar joyful feeling. The kind one can only get by having that serendipitous, ephemeral experiences that come from pulling off the side of road spontaneously in the middle of nowhere 🙂
Settling in to my Utah adventure I had still yet to have that light that photographer’s chase. And knowing that desert country can be fickle with clouds I knew I would have to be patient. On this particular day I started out by shooting sunrise here, at Arches, under mostly clear skies. A few high cirrus but nothing to write home about. As I met up with a local photog, we palled around for the day talking story and catching up (we had been in contact for a while). After a midday break to kill some time (read: check out local brewpub), it was time to scout for sunset. And looking up the sky had now filled with all sorts of high clouds. A good sign. But then again any clouds are better than nothing!
After driving around for over an hour, checking locations, thinking about light, hiking around, I made the decision for two spots. I thought facing back to the east was a good decision as hopefully the setting sun would illuminate the La Sal Mountains and high clouds. Then we’d try and hurry to another spot to capture Balanced Rock more intimately (that shot at another time).
As the sun dipped, and the last rays of light cast upon the rocky landscape, first exiting the arches and hoodoos, then up the mountainside in the background, then finally the clouds slowly gained color. And of course this is where the little boy comes out and yips of glee start coming out. I never get tired of seeing a great sunrise or sunset and to be able to capture this moment over such an amazing landscape was truly special.
P.S. To see a section of the detail in this photo see sample at bottom!