When I was planning this trip I had an idea of the types of photographs I wanted to make. As the trip neared, I started to feel some pressure, similar to when I'm about to leave on a work assignment. It's the kind of pressure you put on yourself to ensure that you make the photographs that will tell the story and please the client. Pressure to produce better images than the last assignment. And this is the pressure that drives you to get to the location early and stay late, making sure you don't miss anything.
I kept telling myself that this trip was for pleasure. It was about seeing something new and making some photographs that pleased me. Why the pressure? Also since I was traveling solo, what would motivate me to get up early and stay late.
Today I passed the first test, rising at 4:45 a.m. and returning to Horseshoe Bend by 5:30 a.m. It was dark and guided by only my headlamp it felt really good to be out there. In fact it was a little too early to see much, but I did notice that the stars were still out and what better time to see if all the reading I did about shooting the night sky would pay off. I think the first effort came out pretty good and it did give me some starting points for next time.
Returned to hotel and had breakfast, checked out and headed to downtown Page to meet my guide at Antelope Canyon Tours who would take me to Upper Antelope Canyon for two hours of shooting.
What an amazing place with amazing light. In fact it doesn't seem to matter which direction you aim your camera, there is a shot. I rushed a bit at first, just wanting to get something usable, but once I calmed down and realized that there would be enough time, I began to actually get some photos that I am very happy with. As with star photography, I plan a separate blog post with all the details and lessons learned.
After some lunch and a stop at Walmart for canned air (there is lots of sand in the canyon), I made the 137 mile drive to Monument Valley. The scenery in this part of Arizona is just beautiful and the temptation is to pull over and make photos every couple of miles. I only made one quick photo stop, but wanted to reach my destination early and start processing the images from the morning.
I'm staying at the Monument Valley View hotel where every room has a balcony that overlooks the valley. There is also a 17 mile loop road which takes you around the Navajo Tribal Park. Road is being kind and I wouldn't try this without an SUV. In winter it closes at 5 p.m. and I set out around 4 p.m. The sky was overcast and the light was flat, but I wanted to take the loop and at least check out vantage points for tomorrow, especially if we get the snow they are calling for.
It took a little longer to make the loop than I anticipated and it was starting to get dark, however just as I neared the end I was rewarded by a very nice sunset. Goodnight from Monument Valley and if the sky is clear it will be a night spent shooting the stars.