A 13-hour drive from rainy Durango, CO, home to sunny SoCal necessitates a few stops along the way...and none more scenic than this one, just outside of Kayenta, AZ, where the rain was still falling, but not as heavily as it had earlier in our trip.
In the distance, just peaking up over the top of the horizon is the volcanic remains of Agathla, or as the anglos call it, El Capitan -- not to be confused with the more famous one in Yosemite. However, if you're not familar with it, look it up -- it's certainly just as impressive in its own right.
The formation in the foreground is Church Rock. As we came around the curve, and down the hill into Kayenta, we saw several cars parked on the side of the road, and people lined up along the fence line with cameras on tripods shooting this scene. I stood farther back so I could catch this lone photographer in the foreground.
Mile for mile, I think this area has some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet.
Monument Valley is only about 30 miles away -- maybe closer as the crow flies.
I first heard about Sedona over a quarter of a century ago when my great aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there, but my family was unable to attend the festivities because my lovely wife was just days away from giving birth to our youngest child.
Flash forward 27 years later, and we decided to finally see the town in person -- via a quick, last minute out-of-the-way stop on our drive back home to Los Angeles after a week of visiting family in Albuquerque.
In fact, on that very weekend we also found out after being together over 30 years, that my wife has distant family ties (through marriage) to the town.
It seems Sedona was named for the great-grandmother of one of my wife's aunts, yup, Sedona Schnebly herself.
Sunset at Toroweap
We spent so much time waiting to see if the cliffs facing west would get any reflected light, we nearly overlooked (yes, stupid pun) turning around to see what was going on over our shoulders.
This part of the canyon was all in shadow by this time, and as you can see there were just the slightest bit of color in the clouds. We were waiting for the light to blow up, but it just kind of fizzled away.
And it's a majestic sight in any kind of light. I still have trouble believing I actually made it to Toroweap.
Storm Over Painted Desert
From a couple of years ago -- monsoon season in the Four Corners region of the Southwest.
I grew up in New Mexico, and loved the storms that always started around the 4th of July. Natural fireworks beat anything pyros could come up with.
There was a lot of lightning in the sky on this afternoon -- as the storm followed us from the east as we left New Mexico into eastern Arizona and the Painted Desert. I love this loop -- the colors are surreal -- and with an afternoon thunderstorm in the vicinity - the combinations of color get even better!
I still need to get a lightning trigger. There was a lot of it on this afternoon -- but I didn't catch a single bolt.
The storm had chased US from New Mexico. I raced to get to the Painted Desert before it caught us, because I was hoping I'd get some nice contrast between the darkness of the storm clouds and the sun still shining on the landscape from the west.
The wind was blowing and I could see lightning in the distance and I knew it was coming quickly and I didn't know if I'd be able to get anything before I started getting drenched.
Ideally, I wanted to put my 10 stop ND filter over the lens and shoot some long exposures in hopes of catching the lightning. The wind was blowing too hard for that -- and I didn't want the sagebrush in the foreground to blur -- so I just went will the CPL on the lens to darken the clouds.
Just for fun, I did go back and add in a lightning bolt in PS and then posted it on flickr -- with the disclaimer the bolt wasn't real. If I would have not said anything I'm sure not too many casual viewer would have realized the difference as a few visitors commented they had thought it was the real deal.
Early Light On Canyon De Chelly
Left LA to go to Santa Fe for a wedding. It was Memorial Day Weekend, and we wanted to make it a Road Trip -- which was cool for me because I wanted to see Canyon De Chelly for the first time.
We stopped in Winslow to try and eat at the Depot, but it was closed. Did stand on the corner though, and take the obligatory pic with the statue.
Then it was north through the Navajo Nation to Chinle to spend the night.
I got up early with my niece and did a little scouting mission. Typical Southwestern springtime -- it can be 100 degrees one day, and 30 the next. This particular morning it was the latter.
Took a couple of shots at the White House Overlook, and it started spitting snow, so we drove back to the motel to pick up my wife and son, eat breakfast, and drive the roads on either side of the canyon before starting the relatively short hop to Albuquerque where we would stay with my mom, while in the state.
This was one of our last stops -- just west of Spider Rock. Just unbelievable light -- stunning, really. It was actually snowing as I walked to this vantage point.
I've got a great shot of my son and his cousin standing on this rock wearing hoodies and shorts and freezing their buns off.
But this one was worth it -- and they agreed. I sure wanna go back there, and take the time to do it right --
Early Light on Horseshoe Bend
Silly Arizona and it's non-observance of daylight savings time. Especially when you're driving back and forth willy nilly from Utah. It means the sun rises an hour earlier in the Grand Canyon State than it does in Mountain Daylight Time, so a 6:30 sunrise in some place like Kanab, Utah, is a 5:30 sunrise in Page, Arizona -- something you need to remember if you're getting up to shoot sunrise in the latter, and your iPhone refuses to believe it's in the Mountain Standard time zone.
Confused? My phone certainly was.
Anyway, by the time we got to the Horsetail Bend turnoff, the sun was already up, one photographer
was already walking back up the trail calling it a day, even with some wicked cool shadows still climbing the canyon walls.
By the time we made it to the overlook, there were only two photographers there, so I found myself a cozy little alcove where I could sit and get the whole river in my frame, and didn't even freak the
entire time like I had at Toroweap, thinking I was gonna be blown by the wind over the edge at any time.
Surprisingly, the vertigo was almost non-existent as well.
It was really peaceful and quiet.. The only thing I could have asked for was a more interesting sky,
but that wasn't happening so I just framed most of it out of the shot.
Simple, easy shoot. We were back in the car by 6:30 on the way back to the Holiday Inn Express® and its free breakfast -- and some of, if not the best, cinnamon rolls I've ever had at a free hotel breakfast.
That still gave us time to hit Lower Antelope Canyon and take the photographer's tour before a noon checkout at the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS®, and then even for a burger at R.D.'s Drive In, before hitting the road for the long, 523 mile trek home to L.A.
Shooting the Shooter Shooting Toroweap...
..and praying that I wouldn't take ONE...LAST...STEP... that could be my last.
We weren't really as close to the edge as it looks. We had a good extra foot or two before we plunged 3000 feet to the river and certain death. Piece of cake. Nothing to it.
We didn't even know the guy in the red shirt in upper left of the frame and his buddy, (who's not as easy to find) were up there until we heard someone yell, "ARE WE IN YOUR SHOT?"
I yelled back, "NO, STAY THERE," thinking I would have photographic proof that we weren't the craziest ones out here that day.
There was no way I was not going to get this shot -- not after driving on the dirt road from hell -- sixty miles of tolerable washboard, followed by five miles of the the bone-jarringest, back-breakingest, kidney-punchingest dirt road I've ever had the pleasure to drive.
Yes, from the Ranger Station on, where you think, "Yeah, I gotta be almost there," you hit the worst part of the journey and just hope to God there's no one coming the other way. Those babies are BY FAR the hardest, but they make your arrival at Toroweap even sweeter.
Getting these guys in my shot was a little plus I never counted on, but wasn't about to pass up -- especially with wind gusts of thirty miles an hour sand blasting us in the face and threatening to blow us over the edge.
I was worried that leaving after sunset it would be even tougher on the road going out, but I'd be lying if I said it was -- it actually seemed easier to see the lie of the road with just the illumination of the headlights. I even got it up to 65 on some of the straightaways near the end.
American Cars used to have the coolest hood ornaments back in the day.
And in my mind, the coolest of the cool was the Chief or Silver Streak, which was the trademark of GM's Pontiac Division from 1935 - 56 .
This formation at Lower Antelope Canyon, in Page, is also called The Flying Angel, the Eternal Angel, or the Eagle, and I can see all of those. But it looks more like a sandstone hood ornament to me, so that's what I'm going with.
Painted Desert Vista
This is from a couple of years ago from the Loop Drive at the Painted Desert. It was monsoon season, and there was a storm blowing in from the east, so the light was varied because of the partly cloudy conditions...but I loved how it hit the foreground mound.