Much as I love living in Seattle, I also love the days I get to pack up my gear & drive off on a photographic adventure. Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley, Moki Dugway, Mesa Verde – here I come! Pulling out of the driveway I have 1101 miles ahead of me over the next 2 days – and I couldn’t be happier. For me it’s not only about “getting there” – the drive is as awesome as the destination. Wide-eyed & bushy-tailed at 5 am I’m off down the street, steaming mug of peppermint tea in the cup-holder & Sade’s velvet voice filling the air (thanks for the new tunes Geoff, oh Music Maestro!)
The next morning found me pulling out of Kaysville heading south for Monticello, which is slap in the middle of some of the most amazing & ridiculous red rock scenery on earth & my base camp to adventure for the next 3 weeks. Small town America at it’s finest. I was clearly the town’s “Show-and-Tell” the whole time I was there.
Day 2’s drive was only half the distance of Day 1, so I kinda sauntered down the freeway & really soaked up the views. I got a little distracted once I hit Provo Canyon and just had to pull over a couple of times & break open ‘the Gear’. Then, a while later I got to the north end of Canyonlands National Park. The weather was glorious, it was nearly the “magic hour” & being March there were very few folks in the park, so no brightly-colored-anorak-dodging for me to negotiate. The air was clear, visibility went on for ever & the views were simply stunning. OK, so I admit it, I got seriously distracted at this point. Well, wouldn’t you have?
I did finally manage to tear myself away from the red rocks & made it to Monticello, albeit 6 hours late. Ooooops.
The next 3 weeks consisted of 4:30 am wake-up calls, large quantities of red dust in the car & large quantities of red mud on the car, serious daily work-outs for the car’s suspension & some really interesting weather. Snow & storm clouds, hail & high winds, freezing cold & t-shirt hot; and sometimes all in the same day, so the 4-Runner sunroof got a serious work-out too.
I absolutely hate being cold, so it’s amazing to me how 6 am, a camera, some clouds & the sun peeking over the horizon all at the same time can intoxicate me to the point of not even being aware that it’s a very small number on the thermometer. I did thank Swany for inventing “The Toaster” gloves every morning though. Warmth of a mitt; flexibility of a glove. Photography without freezing my digits off. LOVE my Toasters!
I love a good barn to make an image of. Southern Utah & Western Colorado are pretty much barn heaven, although I was lucky to find this rather splendid lesser-spotted red version while driving from Delores to Mancos, CO one beautiful Saturday morning. Most of the barns that dot the landscape down here are “au naturel”. I did, of course, make a fair few images of this barn, but this particular angle is my favorite. Probably something to do with the fence. I have a thing for fences too. And yes, I know it wasn’t taken during the “magic hour”, but sometimes you just gotta make an image because you know you won’t ever be there at the right time & having the image at all is better than not having it, even though it’ll never make the grade with the editors. Sometimes you just gotta please yourself. And although it may not be editor-worthy, I’ve had a bunch of requests from people wanting to hang it on their wall.
A couple of my favorite sunrises were courtesy of the lovely folks at the Dug-Out Ranch adjoining Canyonlands National Park, who very graciously let me wander around their property waiting for the sun to poke it’s head over the horizon & make some images from viewpoints rarely seen by others. They even cooked me a couple of fantastic farm-fresh egg breakfasts to boot! The sun seems to take longer to wake up in Canyonlands, which is great for giving you extra time to be in the right place & get your gear set, but it’s not so good for keeping all those extremities warm on bitingly cold days. But then, before you know it the sun is up & you’re off & shooting, making the most of that sliver of time when the light makes love to the landscape. Magic.
One of the major assignments for my trip was to make images of the Blue Mountains. This definitely developed into a love-hate relationship between those mountains & me. I have lost count of the number of times I drove up to those mountains, from every angle, at every time of day & night, in every weather. Back-side, front-side, east-facing, west-facing, north & south facing. I went all over those darn mountains. Well, OK, I couldn’t actually get over them because the snow was still so deep as to render them impassable pretty much from the bottom…but drive around them I did daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I almost became obsessed with the darn things. So let’s just leave out the almost; I became obsessed with them. And annoying as they were while I was stalking them for the perfect image, I kinda miss getting up to see them now. I am certain that any of the locals who were up early enough to see me must have wondered what on earth I was doing driving (what appeared to be) aimlessly around town at 5:30 am every morning. Probably lucky I didn’t get arrested.
Another of my favorite sunrises on this trip was the day I wandered off the beaten track at Recapture Dam in yet another attempt to make beautiful images of the Blue Mountains. This turned into a seriously muddy escapade, but the results were more than worth it. This shot only shows half of the mountains, but with the light dancing so cheekily on the cloud & the top of the mountain, I just couldn’t resist.
One day it worked out that I would have to do sunrise in Canyonlands & sunset in Monument Valley – along with the 142 miles in-between the two. I had a fun experience as sunset approached in Monument Valley. I had a plan of what I wanted to shoot at sunset & where I needed to be to get it. As sunset approached I was driving up out of Valley Drive in order to get to my pre-planned location. As I came up out of the valley there was a line of tripods set up on the ridge, all facing east & pointing at The Mittens. For a moment I panicked: is this where I should be for the sunset instead of where I had planned on? Eeek! Over the next 15 minutes or so I hemmed & hawed. What was going to happen to The Mittens at sunset? What was I going to miss? Should I set up there instead? What did all these tripod-toting people know that I didn’t? Was I inadvertently going to miss “the shot”? Was I going to waste my only sunset in Monument Valley? And then I remembered – I had my assignment & I had to stay on track & stay focused on MY vision for sunset at Monument Valley. So off I drove. And then as I turned a corner in the road on the way to my pre-chosen location, I saw something that no one up on the ridge could see from their viewpoint. The moon. This wasn’t my plan for sunset either, but I am sure glad I wasn’t up on that ridge amongst the tripods.
I then went on to make the image that I had envisioned of sunset at Monument Valley and I also learnt a great lesson. Never second guess yourself: go with your gut.
Another highlight of my trip was discovering a trail at the top of the Moki Dugway that leads to Muley Point…& the most ridiculous landscape. (Thank you “Doc” for telling me this place existed! A fantastic Chiropractor AND a great Tour Guide). When I stepped to the edge of the cliff to look over it literally took my breath away. So, needless to say I made it my mission to get back there at sunset to attempt to make images that in any small way would reflect what the human eye sees. I didn’t do it justice. I am not sure anyone ever could, but I did make some images & I sure had fun while I was doing it. And I feel like I spent a couple of hours on truly sacred ground.
We live in an incredible world. I am truly blessed to get to do what I do, and I am truly thankful for it.
To see more images from this trip, head on over to the Utah album in the Gallery.