Horseshoe Bend


Stars fill the night sky at Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.

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.

Upper Antelope Canyon outside Page, Arizona.

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.
Sand spills down into Upper Antelope Canyon outside Page, Arizona.

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.

The overcast sky breaks just enough during this sunset in Monument Valley, Arizona.

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.


Photograph of Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.

Day one is over. Technically it was day two, but yesterday was spent traveling from Washington, D.C., and visiting with friends in Phoenix.

Today I traveled 350 miles making my first stop at the North Rim at Glen Canyon, but only made a few images. It was a chance to break out the gear though and also start wrapping my mind around what I wanted to capture on this trip. Everywhere you look around here the colors are spectacular, very warm, yet also subtle. For me the tendacy was to keep the 14-24mm on and just take everything in. I think I will struggle on this trip and have to force myself to use other lenes.

About a mile after you reach the Page city limits there is a turn off for Horseshoe Bend. The parking lot is right there and then after a three quarter mile hike, you arrive and are greeted with a really nice view. I grabbed the wide angle and inched as close to the edge as I dared. Even though it was just after noon, the sun was low enough to provide contrast in the scene, yet high enough to light all the way down to the Colorado River.

Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.

I spent about 2 hours shooting and came away with a few images that I liked, even shooting a few verticals. My plan is to return tomorrow for sunrise before I have to meet my tour guide for Antelope Canyon mid morning.

The Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell in Arizona.

Next I continued north on route 89 and passed through Page to the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell. Spent a little bit of time playing with shadows created by the bridge and transformer towers. I also realized that the sun would cast some nice light on Lake Powell during sunset. The park ranger gave me some advice on a good scenic overlook and that is where I spent the final hours of the day as the sun went down.

Lake Powell at sunset.

The light was very nice, but not much of a sky. And from that vantage point there are some marinas that stick out in the lake making shooting around them tricky. Normally I wouldn't mind included the boats as an element, but in this case I thought it really was a distraction.

Lake Powell in Page, Arizona, at sunset.

It was a decent first day. Shook out all the gear and managed to get a few images that I like and as I suspected I did meet other photographers and even received some good tips on what to look for tomorrow. Time to finish posting, get to bed early, and prepare for tomorrow.