I have spent most of my summer travels in the cool high altitudes of Colorado or Wyoming. But I kept finding these stunning images of Arizona and Utah and decided we need to go. To sum it up, my first trip to the desert and slot canyons of Arizona was visually overwhelming. I hope you enjoy the photos!
Antelope Canyon was once a rare and quite gem. It has become a tourist magnet drawing heavy visitor crowds from around the world. My trip was in the summer when crowds are worst. In fact, I couldn’t get a tour guide to recommend I go during the day. There would be people all over my photo. So, I went at night.
We drove with our guide into the deep sand of the dry river bed up to a rock cliff wall. The river seemed to end there. A crack from top to bottom allowed water to squeeze through this tiny canyon at high pressure, carving crazy shapes in the soft sandstone walls and ceiling. Our guide brought a car battery and a diffused light bar to help illuminate the canyon at midnight. We were hoping to shoot the milky way and star trails looking up through the crack at the top of the canyon, but clouds were in the way. A few shots from our visit are below.
The next morning, I was up at 5 am to meet the guides by 6. We were headed to Canyon X on private Navajo land. When we got out of the FJ Cruiser, there were lizard tracks everywhere. A short walk led us down in to a tiny dry riverbed of deep sand, surrounded by 50 foot tall steep walls. Canyon X was tiny but stunning, my favorite of the trip.
Later in the afternoon, we took an H2 Hummer deep into the desert with a crazy kid driving our guide, another photographer, and my wife and I. We were headed to Secret Canyon. The H2 was needed for some near vertical walls we had to descend and ascend. To get into the dry riverbed, be were so vertical that we had to hold ourselves in our seats by putting our hands on the front seat backs. The headlights were nearly touching the sandy river bed bottom, and the back rear passenger side wheel was off the ground. We could bounce the H2 back and forth!
After we got onto the deep -deep sand of the river bed, the driver pushed the pedal to the floor and we bounced violently from sandy hole to sandy hill at high speed. As we approached the eventual cliff, he pushed harder and went vertically straight up a high sand wash about 30 feet, until we lost traction and slid backwards down to the river bed. My wife is prone to car sickness and prefers very sedate driving. To her credit, I didn’t hear her say anything until this last stunt. She told the kid, if he didn’t stop showboating, she was going to “hurl” all over him and his H2. Problem solved!
Secret Canyon was very narrow. The afternoon light was my favorite. Less orange and more purple, but also softer shadows.
We later bounced and hopped more sedately over to The Finns. The tilt shift was a great fit for this site. Side lighting at sunset is the perfect time to go…
I was very happy with quality and quantity of photos I was able to capture in this marathon day in the desert. I hope you enjoyed them and get to make the trip yourself. If not, I would be happy to sell you a small or huge print from my trip.
I’ll have more desert trip posts on Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon coming shortly. I already have a post out on Monument Valley. Fantastic few days of photography there. I hope you decide to read it!
Mike Brymer is an American Landscape Photographer from Central Texas. His images of Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California, and Iowa have been in National Juried Art Exhibits, Art and Gallery exhibits, published, collected internationally, and grace the walls of home owners, businesses, and boardrooms. If you are interested in seeing more of his portfolio, see his website (link below)
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Rocky Mountain National Park photographs, prints, stock photographs. This beautiful cascade caught my eye while driving around a sharp S curve. My wife was patient with me as I waited 1 hour for the sun to go behind a cloud and shoot between gusts of wind. The wait was well worth it. Stunning sharpness and a perfect composition of the granite rocks, red soil, white aspen bohls, and greenery. This showpiece is framed in my gallery.
The Totem Polle marks the end of a semi-circle shaped series of thin spires. Yei Bi Chei arethe spires on the left side. They are surrounded by large sand dune fields which change size, shape, and direction daily. The sand ripples provide horizontal texture and rhythm to the verticle, smoothly eroded sandstone spires.
Heading out for an evening shoot, the most intense afternoon light I have ever seen hung over RMNP. I had a vision to find an S Curve in the Big Thompson River, so I spent 2 hours finding my spot. A herd of Elk ran past me, the light went down, and my reward was 3 of my favorite images.
A beautiful Image and print from Lost Maples State Park (AKA Lost Maples State Natural Area). This fine art photograph can be printed to 24×36 inches. I have a number of images of this tree from many different vantage points. This image is called “Happy’s Maple”. My wife and I like to take my 80+ year old mother with us to Lost Maples. She spent her afternoon under this very special tree as I captured photos nearby. Needless to say, this is the image she wanted for Mother’s Day. It is stunning.
Monument Valley fine art prints and photographs. I am often up at 4 am and on my way to a sunrise shoot, and then return for 2-3 hours for sunset shooting. The middle of the day is often spent scouting for more locations. This very windy day, I spent time protected from the wind on the deck of the hotel with my wife enjoying a cold drink and waiting for the clouds to throw shadows precisely where I wanted them to on the Mittens. After a few hours, I was rewarded with this stunning image.
The wearing away of alternating soft and hard layers of sandstone has created the stunning images at Monument Valley. Here, Eye of the Sun is captured with fantastically shaped and textured foreground elements to give you a sence of the overwhelming chaos of the place.
Just an evening pontoon boat ride on Clear Lake. Standing on top of a seat, hanging over the rail, and holding the camera over the water at 10 mph to capture this shot. This shot has a maximum print size of 16×24.
Monument Valley Fine Art Prints and Photographs. Pictures and digital images from Monument Valley. The blue shadow of the earth is visible below the pastels at sunset at Monument Valley. Soft diffused light highlites the foreground rocks, while the Mittens have already succombed to shadow and twilight.
Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in North America. Fantastic views are available from your car
Ansel Adams made this location famous years ago. Today, faithful photographers still flock to this site. The night of this photo, there were 5 photographers from 4 continents virtually touching shoulders to get the perfect viewpoint. When they all suddenly left their cameras on tripods and ran away, I found myself alone with a curious black bear at close quarters. I thought it would be a great test of the “wave your hands and yell” method. It worked! I still pat myself on the back for buying the bear spary as my backup plan.
Cascade Canyon flows diagonally through the image giving it tension to match the power of the water. The S shape draws your eyes deeply into the scene. Cloud cover helps to make a long exposure, creating extremely soft water fowing over course granite boulders.
There is nothing like the Grand Tetons. They have a presence that keeps pulling me back. A peacefull place…as long as you keep your eyes peeled for bears, buffulo on the road at night, wolves….. Rare Alpenglow at dawn combined with fog on the Snake River at Oxbow Bend.
Eating an early dinner at Dornan’s Spur overlooking the Tetons, I saw the makings of a nice sunset photo opportunity. We drove a few miles past Mormon Row on Antelope Flats where I had seen wildflowers growing. I was rewarded for my pre planning with the most spectacular sunset we have ever seen at the Tetons in summer.
Big Thompson River at Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. Heading out for an evening shoot, the most intense afternoon light I have ever seen hung over RMNP. I invested 2 hours trying to find my vision of an S Curve in the Big Thompson River with the bright sky and hazy mountains in the background. A herd of Elk ran past me, the light went down, and my reward was one of my favorite images. The S Curve helps your eye meander toward the hazy layers of the Mountain valley in the background. The clouds further draw attention to that valley. Incredible detail and glow in the grass, the orange toned rocks in the stream, and the purple/blue tones of the mountains make this one of my favorite images.
Mornings following an evening rainfall often have fog in low lowing areas and along the Snake River. We planned this shot as it rained over a late dinner the night before.