Archive for the ‘Southwest’ Tag

Slot Canyons   Leave a comment

If you travel to the Desert Southwest and like to hike, at some point you will end up hiking to (and into) a slot canyon.  On a previous trip Melanie and I went to highly regarded Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona.  And before that my good friend Rob and I did a strenuous hike in Paria Canyon on the Arizona / Utah border.  This time on our most recent trip to Utah, Melanie and I sought out a couple of more remote and lesser known canyons.

A slot canyon is just what it sounds like — a narrow slot cleaved into the earth and rock.  Not for the claustrophobic, but fascinating for anyone else who does not mind squeezing into narrow spaces.  The photography is fantastic thanks to the red sandstone and muted light from above.  Only one word of caution — check the weather forecast before you go.  Thunderstorms and flash floods can be lethal in a slot canyon.  With a little pre-planning and common sense, a slot canyon hike is likely to be something you will never forget.



(Above)  The first slot canyon we found was as easy as can be.  Fifty yards from the road and only a hundred yards or so in depth.  This is a photo from the roadside showing the entrance.




(Above) You only need to walk 100 feet into a slot canyon to be in a different world.  Outside sounds disappear but spoken word echos off the narrow walls.  The temperature drops and your eyes slowly adjust from bright sunshine to eerie reflected light from the narrow slot above.  The footsteps in the sand show that quite a few people have enjoyed the solitude we found here.



(Above)  The second slot canyon was a lot more difficult.  A 30+ mile drive on dirt road through the desert and a two-mile hike to the entrance.  This photo is from near the trailhead.  The slot canyon is out there somewhere.



(Above)  Near the entrance after we traversed the two miles down to the canyon.  This tumbleweed was too good for any photographer to pass up.



(Above)  Melanie, just inside the entrance.  Nice and wide and level to begin.



(Above)  The slot quickly became more narrow and rocky.  This slot was probably 800 yards or more in length.



(Above)  Solid sandstone walls that have been sculpted by wind and water over thousands of years.



(Above)  Melanie looking ahead at the narrowing slot.  I married a true hiker — keeping up with her can be a challenge.  Every once in a while I can get her to slow down for a photo.  Having a person in the shot lends scale to the image.  (Note the log high up on the wall, above Melanie’s head.  It was likely deposited there during a summer flash flood.)



(Above)  A bit of scrambling is required in some of the slots.  The effort is worth it however, and we took this slot all the way to the end — with about a dozen stops along the way as I set up my tripod and took fifty or so photos.

Maybe I’ll have my ashes scattered in a slot canyon.  They are seriously that cool!

—  End  —


Posted November 14, 2013 by ~ Bruce in Nature and Wildlife, Travel Photography

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Antelope Canyon in Black & White   Leave a comment

Antelope Canyon, located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona is the most visited and photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest, and probably in the world for that matter.  From photography pioneers like Ansel Adams to point-and-shoot vacationers, there is no shortage of photographers who have visited this stunning place.  Not for the claustrophobic, Antelope can be over 100 feet high but narrow enough in places for an adult to touch both walls at the same time.  There is an upper canyon and a lower canyon.  Most tourists visit the upper one as it has easy walk-in access.  The lower canyon requires ladders to descend into the canyon and better footwear than sneakers or sandals.

I visited the upper canyon in 2004 with my tripod and SLR and probably captured two hundred images in the two hours we were there.  I’ve posted some of them in prior blogs but today was the first time that I converted any to black and white.  The result is a new look (for me) at an old subject.  No longer needing to worry about color tone and saturation, the focus becomes form, shadow, and contrast.  Wind and water carved a surreal path through the Arizona landscape, and the interplay of light and shadow shows its beauty better than any man-made light could ever hope to.

I like the results, but you be the judge.

Posted July 25, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Travel Photography

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Yei bi chei, Monument Valley   Leave a comment

Rock formation at sunrise in Monument Valley.  The Navajo people named this formation after traditional yei bi chei dancers.  Early morning warm light makes the sandstone and dunes practically glow.


Posted June 28, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Travel Photography

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Approaching Storm   Leave a comment

One late afternoon at Bryce Canyon National Park, I decided to take a drive out to Sunset Point to scout the location for later that day.  The view from that particular point is at the top of a small hill and is not visible from the parking lot.  As I walked up the hill, a few groups with small children hurried past me and headed toward their cars.  I knew something was up, and when I arrived at the overlook I was greeted by the above sight — a huge thunder head that stretched from the desert floor and disappeared into the sky.  I set up my tripod as quickly as possible and started firing away.

I was able to capture fifteen or twenty shots before the storm reached me.  I covered the camera with a garbage bag that I keep in my camera bag and ran to a nearby shelter, camera still attached to the tripod.  I got pretty wet and I remember that it was some of the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard.  But the camera stayed dry and I got some special shots of the awesome power of nature.

Right place, right time . . . and a lot of luck.

Posted May 25, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Nature and Wildlife

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Negative Vortexes and Great Photography   Leave a comment

When I think of the desert southwest, the scenery in Sedona, Arizona is probably surpassed only by Monument Valley for evoking a feeling of the old cowboy west.  Tourists, photographers, and various other interlopers are drawn to this area by the beauty, outdoor activities, and the climate.  And — for some — by the vortexes.

A vortex is an energy center — a sort of energy whirlpool — emanating from the earth.  Some vortexes emit positive energy.  Others emit negative energy.  I know this because I apparently upset a woman by climbing a negative vortex to take some photos.  She was quite sincere, quite concerned, and a little bit scary.  Fortunately, Melanie played “wing man” and struck up a conversation with her, learning more about negative vortexes than she probably ever wanted to know.  I remained undeterred and unharmed, capturing a handful of nice sunset images that day and the next.  Maybe I canceled out the bad karma by later climbing a positive vortex.

The lesson learned?  Marry a good wingman so you can photograph in peace.  Or put in your ear buds and turn up the iPod.  Those of you possibly inclined toward vortex credibility can learn about them here.  May the harmonic convergence be with you.

Posted May 14, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Travel Photography

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Adobe & Blue Sky   2 comments

Rich reddish-brown adobe buildings against deep blue skies are everywhere you look in Santa Fe.  Even new condos like these make fine photography subjects.

Posted May 12, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Travel Photography

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Santa Fe Courtyard Flowers   2 comments

Previously unpublished photo taken in Santa Fe in 2004.  Adjusted in Topaz Simplify (BuzSim preset).

Posted May 9, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Travel Photography

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Tours and Totem Poles   2 comments

In at least one way, photography in Monument Valley is like photography at the Grand Canyon — there aren’t many original photos to be had.  You simply add yours to the thousands already on the web.  Unlike the Grand Canyon however, at Monument Valley you can’t simply drive or hike wherever you want.  This is Navajo land, and if you only pay the $5.00 entrance fee you are limited to the iconic view from the visitor’s center, and the various views along the loop drive.

To see more of Monument Valley, or to venture into neighboring Mystery Valley, you will need a guide.  Now there is no shortage of willing guides.  Just show up at the visitor’s center and look confused or wave a few twenties in the air.  But if you are a photographer you probably want a guide who understands photography, and you might want avoid the typical plaid-and-polyester group tours too.  Or, like I did, you can book an individual guide for one-on-one service.

There is one guide service in Monument Valley that came highly recommended by other photographers — Keyah Hozhoni Tours — run by Tom Phillips, an amateur photographer himself.  I scheduled with Tom before we ever left home and he set me up with one of his assistants, Roy.  I met Roy around 5 a.m. at the visitor’s center on the day of the tour and deferred to his judgment on where to go for the morning.  Roy took me for a bone-jarring ride in his jeep to photograph Totem Pole — the formation in the photograph above — for sunrise.  I was able to capture images of red sand dunes and a formation called “yei bi chai” at the same location.  Some of these photos will be posted in future blogs.

After covering a good deal of Monument Valley during the morning we took the high-contrast mid-day hours off for lunch and a nap.  Then I brought Melanie, Eric and Hannah with me for the late afternoon / evening hours.  Roy took us to Mystery Valley where we explored ancient petroglyphs, anasazi ruins, and many more sandstone formations.  While I photographed, Roy spent time talking to everyone about the history of the area and the life of the people there.  We even got to walk right up to a thousand year old anasazi stone hut, an extraordinary look at how people lived long before Europeans ever landed on American shores.

The cost of the tour was $220, and I gave Roy a $40 tip.  Expensive?  I don’t think so.  Not when you consider the opportunity to learn the geological and human history from your own personal Navajo guide.  It was even better than the personal photography service, and that was well worth it too!

Posted May 4, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Travel Photography

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Santa Fe Daisies   2 comments

Anyone who has been to Santa Fe knows that it is a colorful place.  The colors that I found on Gallery Row provided a perfect backdrop for these pretty — but otherwise unexceptional — daisies.  Best of all, the flowers were planted at the edge of a retaining wall.  There was no need to get down on the ground for the shot.  I just set up my tripod, opened up the aperture for a shallow depth-of-field, and captured the image.  They should all be this easy.

Posted May 3, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Travel Photography

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Square Butte, Arizona   2 comments

I thought I had researched every mile of our Arizona trip.  The drive along Arizona 98 from Page, where I had photographed in Antelope Canyon, to Monument Valley was supposed to be long, flat and boring.  High plains desert worthy of Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach.  No guide-book or photography website mentioned a geologic feature called Square Butte.  So it was a wonderful surprise to see the butte rising in front of us as we traveled east.  I was able to take a dozen or more photos before the gathering clouds turned into a short cloud burst and chased me back to the car.

To this day a Google image search yields relatively few photos of Square Butte.  I can’t explain why.  It is right off the highway and a worthy subject for any photographer’s lens.

Posted May 2, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes

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Agathla Peak, AZ   Leave a comment

Agathla Peak is on Navajo Land south of Monument Valley and north of the town of Kayenta.  It’s an eroded volcanic plug slightly over 1,500 feet high.

When I took this photo I was exhausted from a full day of photography in Monument Valley.  I kept looking at it as we drove down the US 163.  My wife finally said, “You know you’ll be sorry if you don’t stop.”  I can’t believe I even considered passing up the shot . . .

Posted April 29, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Travel Photography

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Endless   Leave a comment

June sunrises at the Grand Canyon come very early.  I was lucky to catch some very soft morning light filtered through high, dappled clouds.  This view from Lipan Point (south rim) seemed to go on forever.  By 8:00 a.m. the clouds were gone and the sunlight was becoming harsh.  Having arrived at 5:00 a.m., my wife, daughter, and I had three hours of solitude before another person showed up.

Posted April 19, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes

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Back Porch (a three image comparison)   Leave a comment

Okay, so I got some new photo software yesterday.  That would explain the five straight hours at the computer and the blinding headache.  But while playing around I came across this photograph that I took seven years ago in Santa Fe.  It had never seen the light of day before I loaded it into Adobe Lightroom 3 and then modified it first in Topaz Adjust, and then again in Topaz Simplify.  I can’t decide which one I like best, but that could just be the five straight hours and four cups of coffee.  And maybe tomorrow I’ll look at these adjustments and wonder. “What the heck was I thinking?”

In any case, here they are.  The subject is the back porch of an art gallery in Santa Fe:

Above:  Original photo adjusted in Adobe Lightroom 3 for exposure, tone and contrast.  Very mild cropping.

Above:  Same photo with “Simplify” application in Topaz Adjust to remove some detail (note less grain on cupboard doors and smoother surface of pottery).  A bit like using a soft focus lens.

Above:  Same photo now with “Oil Painting” application in Topaz Simplify to further enhance the painterly effect.

Posted April 17, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Travel Photography

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Hummingbird & Agave   Leave a comment

Sedona area, Arizona.  This little guy was darting all over the place, but I managed to capture a few nice shots.  Tripod mounted, remote shutter release, 1/350th sec., f/6.7, 280mm, ISO 100.

Posted April 16, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Nature and Wildlife

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