Category

Landscape

Beautiful Oaks and Perfect Sunrise at Oak Alley Plantation

Landscape, Panoramas

Oak Alley Plantation, with its remarkable double row of 300-year-old southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana) is, I imagine, a near-ideal vision of what the old South once was. I photographed this amazing tunnel of oaks at both dusk and dawn and, after contemplating the images for a few weeks, have decided the light I had in the morning was perfect, sublime. After the sun rose it side-lit the trees beautifully. Since it had to pass through heavy, wet Louisiana air the light was just diffuse enough that it filled in the shadows of the trees. I was alone the entire morning, enjoying listening to the cicadas and watching the squirrels move about the trees and over the lawn. Perfect.

This image will print 36″ x 60″.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31019
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

If you enjoy this image but want something wider or bigger, this panoramic photo will print 60″ x 150″ long:

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31018
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and Its Famous Tunnel of Old Oak Trees, Vacherie, Louisiana

Landscape, Panoramas

While in New Orleans recently, I made a side-trip to visit Oak Alley Plantation. I love ancient, huge and gnarly trees, and when it comes to oak trees — specifically the southern live oak, Quercus virginiana — Oak Alley Plantation has some of the most photogenic in the South.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31009
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31005
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

My goal was to produce one or two very large prints — 6 to 7 feet long — of the trees that grace this plantation, hopefully for hanging in our dining room. This required waiting for good light with no people around and shooting multi-image high resolution panoramic photographs, a slow process. The plantation’s most captivating view is that of its stately Antebellum mansion framed by the canopied tunnel of enormous trees, and that is where I spent most of my time. The double row of southern live oaks in this view was planted in the early 18th century, well before the house itself was built, and now forms a remarkable path between the house and the Mississippi River. The river itself can no longer be seen due to the the levee at its edge, but the effect is still stunning. Could the person who planted the trees 300 years ago have known what a perfectly balanced and imposing instance of deciduous wonder they would one day become, centuries hence? That would have been foresight indeed.

A tunnel of old southern oak trees stretches off toward the Mississippi River.  Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

A tunnel of old southern oak trees stretches off toward the Mississippi River. Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31021
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31004
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation receives hundreds of visitors each day, so I opted to avoid the crowds and shoot at sunrise and sunset. I lucked out and got both types of light I was hoping for: overcast skies and muted, soft, flat light at dusk, and fairly clear skies and warm side lighting at dawn. I was alone for some hours walking the grounds in peace and quiet, checking out the stately mansion and its varied barns, cottages, gardens and out-buildings in addition to the many huge old oaks spread across the plantation. After sunset the sound of what I am guessing were cicadas buzzed everywhere and continued through the night. Once all hint of color had left the evening sky, I returned to my cottage and enjoyed the meal of gumbo, etouffee and grits that the kitchen staff had left for me in the fridge. I was tempted to walk around again as the moon had risen and I knew the movie Interview with a Vampire had been filmed here so there must be some kind of evening spirits inhabiting the property, but jet lag caught up with me so I set my alarm for 30 minutes before sunrise and crashed for the night. The following morning the overcast skies had lifted so I knew there would be some side lighting on the trees. It is fortunate I rose early, since the first thing that happened when I stepped outside into the heavy, wet, warm morning air was to completely fog every surface of my camera. After many years of diving with cameras in the tropics I should have known better than to take a cold camera out into a warm humid place. After 20-30 minutes the camera fog had cleared and I could shoot properly, and I set about photographing the panorama that I had planned for just as the sun crested the horizon and shed warm, diffuse Louisiana light on the oaks. Around 7:30 I had to leave, needing to be back in downtown New Orleans by 9am. The light and conditions had been just perfect and I lucked out on this one.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Quercus virginiana, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31017
Species: Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Quercus virginiana, Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31020
Species: Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA

I was hoping to be captivated by the place — by the trees especially — and I was not disappointed. If I sound romantic it is with good reason since Oak Alley is indeed a romantic place, evoking the grace, decadence and elegance of the Old South. Will I return? Absolutely. The next time I am in New Orleans it will be the first thing I put on my calendar.

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Panoramic Photographs of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake, Landscape, Oregon, Panoramas

Crater Lake National Park is the most panorama-ready national park I have ever visited. The vistas are sweeping from the rim of the extinct volcano’s caldera, encompassing a six-mile wide lake. I have made two short visits to Crater Lake National Park, and spent most of my time composing panoramic photographs of the lake, the caldera rim and Wizard Island jutting up from the middle of Crater Lake. All of these panoramas will reproduce well to enormous sizes in case you see something you would like to have hanging in your office lobby and in the living room of your home. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Panoramic photo of Crater Lake National Park

Panoramic photo of Crater Lake National Park
Image ID: 28675
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Milky Way and stars over Crater Lake at night. Panorama of Crater Lake and Wizard Island at night, Crater Lake National Park

Milky Way and stars over Crater Lake at night. Panorama of Crater Lake and Wizard Island at night, Crater Lake National Park.
Image ID: 28641
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Self portrait at sunrise, panorama of Crater Lake.  Crater Lake is the six-mile wide lake inside the collapsed caldera of volcanic Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh-deepest in the world. Its maximum recorded depth is 1996 feet (608m). It lies at an altitude of 6178 feet (1880m), Crater Lake National Park

Self portrait at sunrise, panorama of Crater Lake. Crater Lake is the six-mile wide lake inside the collapsed caldera of volcanic Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh-deepest in the world. Its maximum recorded depth is 1996 feet (608m). It lies at an altitude of 6178 feet (1880m).
Image ID: 19130
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Panorama of Crater Lake from Watchman Lookout Station, panoramic picture. The Watchman Lookout Station No. 168 is one of two fire lookout towers in Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. For many years, National Park Service personnel used the lookout to watch for wildfires during the summer months. It is also a popular hiking destination because it offers an excellent view of Crater Lake and the surrounding area

Panorama of Crater Lake from Watchman Lookout Station, panoramic picture. The Watchman Lookout Station No. 168 is one of two fire lookout towers in Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. For many years, National Park Service personnel used the lookout to watch for wildfires during the summer months. It is also a popular hiking destination because it offers an excellent view of Crater Lake and the surrounding area.
Image ID: 28633
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Crater Lake panoramic photograph.  Panorama picture of Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake panoramic photograph. Panorama picture of Crater Lake National Park.
Image ID: 28663
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Torrey Pines State Reserve Panoramic Photo, Sunrise, San Diego

California, Landscape, Panoramas, San Diego

Panorama Picture of Torrey Pines State Reserve at Dawn, San Diego

I know Broken Hill and Torrey Pines State Reserve very well, having run on the trails here at all times of day, throughout the year, since about 1986. There is a certain time of year when both the morning sun is at the perfect position to light the bluff just the way I want and the annual weather patterns make the likelihood of a clear morning high. I woke a few hours before dawn, looked out my window toward the ocean and confirmed the sky was clear, drove down to Del Mar and hiked along the beach and up the Torrey Pines bluffs to be in position at Broken Hill for the first rays of sunrise. A bit of ocean mist was floating over the Pacific, and Mount Soledad looming over La Jolla in the distance had some clouds crowning it. But it was strikingly clear where I was standing. The air was quite still such that I could hear the small birds and animals moving through the sage bushes on the Torrey Pines mesa, and I could hear the ocean waves crashing onto the beach hundreds of feet below. A fine morning indeed, one of those mornings that makes me glad I live in San Diego. If you feel this image would make a fine wall hanging for your home or office, please know that this panorama photo will print as large as 10 feet long by 3 1/2 feet high. Please contact me if you have any questions. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise, San Diego, California

Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise.
Image ID: 28397
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Monument Valley Panoramic Photo

Arizona, Landscape

I just received an inquiry about my Monument Valley panoramic photo. I had forgotten about this image, and when I saw it again I was reminded of the beautiful, warm light that fell on the buttes when I last visited there. I was on my way south from Arches National Park in Utah to Page, Arizona. I had about 45 minutes to stop and admire the sunset, and then had to keep moving on down the road. I got this one image. You can click to see it larger (although the full size image in print spans about 8′). This was taken in January, and there is a slight dusting of snow on the ground:

Monument Valley panorama

Monument Valley panorama.
Image ID: 19531
Location: Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Photo of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

California, Landscape, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Half Dome is the one feature most closely associated with Yosemite National Park. A vast lobe of Mesozoic-era granodiorite magma cooled to rock, Half Dome was gradually uplifted to its present altitude of 8842 ft. As the rock was exposed, weathering and exfoliation of shell-like outer layers of the rock shaped the dome portion of the rock to its current shape. The summit is easily attainable as a day hike in the summer, if you have the stamina to undertake a 17-mile roundtrip hike with 5000 feet of elevation gain from the valley floor. To say that the view from the summit is worth the effort is an understatement. If you like this, please see more of my photos of Yosemite National Park.

Half Dome and storm clouds at sunset, viewed from Sentinel Bridge, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome and storm clouds at sunset, viewed from Sentinel Bridge.
Image ID: 22744
Location: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

More stock photos of Yosemite National Park.

Photo of El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

California, Landscape, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

El Capitan, the massive granite monolith overlooking the western end of Yosemite Valley, is my favorite attraction in the park. It is beautiful and impressive from sunrise to sunset, under moonlight, in rain and when shrouded in mist. El Capitan, the largest known exposed granite block in the world, stands on the north side of the entrance to Yosemite Valley. Its name is Spanish for “the chief”, and this rock is indeed the most prominent feature of the west end of the Yosemite Valley, rivaled in significance only by Half Dome at the valley’s east end. At 3593 feet (1096 m) high, this massive rock is a popular — though difficult — climbing spot, attracting skilled big rock climbers from around the world. Visitors with binoculars can relax in El Capitan meadow to watch the climbers slowly make their way up the epic cliffs. Each year a few climbers are plucked off the sheer sides of El Capitan by a helicopter rescue team when they get in trouble. Ribbon Falls, on El Capitan’s west side, is Yosemite National Park’s highest unbroken waterfall (1612 ft, 492 m) and indeed one of the tallest in the world. Horsetail Falls, which flows off El Capitan for a few months in winter, produces a natural “firefall” for a few weeks in winter, if the conditions are right.

El Capitan eastern face, sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California

El Capitan eastern face, sunrise.
Image ID: 22745
Location: El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

As an alternative to the usual view of El Capitan above, a couple days ago I posted an infrared photo of El Capitan, in which the granite face stood in stark contrast to the tree below it and the cloud-free sky above. If you like this, please see more of my Yosemite National Park stock photos.

Infrared Photo of Yosemite Falls and Leidig Meadow

California, Icons, Infrared, Landscape, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

I used the same digital infrared camera to photograph Leidig Meadow with upper Yosemite Falls. The skies were totally socked in, there was light rain and virtually no color, so normal color photographs were unappealing and immediately deleted. But a black and white conversion of one of the color channels from an infrared photograph gave what I felt was an attractive rendition of this picturesque Yosemite meadow. If you like this be sure to see more photos of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Falls, mist and and storm clouds, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls, mist and and storm clouds.
Image ID: 22767
Location: Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

More infrared photographs.

Kenai Mountains and Kachemak Bay, Alaska

Alaska, Landscape, Panoramas

I was up north in Homer, Alaska to photograph bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but I grabbed a couple landscape shots of the beautiful Kenai Mountains, which lie across Kachemak Bay from the Homer Spit. This was my view one morning, after the clouds and snow had cleared out leaving blue skies and bitterly cold temperatures. It is a panorama, click it to see it larger.

Kenai Mountains at sunrise, viewed across Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

Kenai Mountains at sunrise, viewed across Kachemak Bay.
Image ID: 22739
Location: Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska, USA

Also see our bald eagle photos.

Photographing Antelope Canyon, The Wave, Buckskin Gulch and Horseshoe Bend

Arizona, How To, Landscape, The Wave, Utah, Wisdom

I have been fortunate to visit and photograph a few of the iconic locations around Page, Arizona: The Wave, Antelope Canyon, Buckskin Gulch, Horseshoe Bend and Monument Valley. Recently, I shared some correspondance about these places with UK photographer David Sharp, whom I originally met at Brooks River a few years ago. Since I receive emails from other photographers about the Wave every few weeks, I decided to edit my comments to David and post them here for others to consider. Note that I am not what a true landscape photographer would call a true landscape photographer! I know what I am doing with a camera but do not have the dedication or time that is required to photograph landscapes, and these Southwestern landscapes in particular, properly. However, I do have clear impressions of these places and, not being shy, I am putting them out there. Furthermore, this website currently gets about 5000 visitors a day, so I am reasonably certain at least a few people would read this even if it was composed by a monkey at a typewriter which, in a sense, it is. On all of my trips through the American Southwest, visiting the places mentioned above plus Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Arches, I was pedal to the metal, flying, booking, jamming, screaming, etc. In other words, I had too little time and too far to drive, was all hopped up on caffeine, and tried to see it all. Naturally, that is not the best way to visit such special and serene places but it is how I, and many others, approach such a trip, especially those coming from far away to see the American Southwest for perhaps the only time in their lives. To photograph and experience these locations properly requires a more relaxed, contemplative and deliberate pace, one that I shall be sure to adopt when I turn 80.

Note that virtually all of photos on this website have GPS coordinates as well as links to Google Earth, taking you to the exact spot where they were taken, so there is no mystery where to go.

Rental Car: Assuming you are arriving in Las Vegas (NV) or Salt Lake City (UT), you will probably rent a car. Although none of these destinations requires one, I suggest that you rent a nice cushy SUV (the kind Americans love) when you arrive. It will make the little bit of off-roading you do more comfortable. Since some of the drives are quite long, having room in the back for your kids to spread out is helpful. Yes, you will burn gas — a lot of it. I realize that I am politically incorrect just mentioning the word “SUV”. Note that House Rock Valley Road, which is the dirt road that takes you to the Wave and Buckskin Gulch, can be a bit rough (but should not actually require 4WD) and having a larger SUV-type vehicle, with high clearance, makes the drive more pleasant. If there are long or deep muddy parts on the road, an SUV might actually make it possible to get to the trailhead whereas in a passenger (sedan) vehicle it could be more dicey. It all depends on the road conditions when you get there, there is no predicting those. If the conditions are truly bad, the road may simply be closed. Opting for the satellite radio on your rental SUV is important, since the variety of radio stations in this part of the country is quite slim with country/western and western/country being the only two choices.

Hiker in Buckskin Gulch.  A hiker considers the towering walls and narrow passageway of Buckskin Gulch, a dramatic slot canyon forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone.  Buckskin Gulch is the worlds longest accessible slot canyon, running from the Paria River toward the Colorado River.  Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Hiker in Buckskin Gulch. A hiker considers the towering walls and narrow passageway of Buckskin Gulch, a dramatic slot canyon forged by centuries of erosion through sandstone. Buckskin Gulch is the worlds longest accessible slot canyon, running from the Paria River toward the Colorado River. Flash flooding is a serious danger in the narrows where there is no escape.
Image ID: 20716
Location: Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

Buckskin Gulch: Buckskin Gulch is easily accessed from the same trailhead that one uses to hike to the Wave: the “Wire Pass trailhead”. For this reason, if you are in the area to visit the Wave it makes perfect sense to visit Buckskin the day before or the day after you visit the Wave. Consider staying in Kanab, and just drive out to the Wire Pass trailhead each day for the two hikes. Kanab is quiet, simple and has a few good restaurants and plenty of hotels and motels. Watch your speed driving through Kanab or Officer Dummy may catch you in his speed trap. Camping at the Wire Pass trailhead is an option. However, since I do not like dirt and do not camp, I cannot advise about the camping there from personal experience. The drive from Kanab to Wire Pass trailhead, via Hwy 89 and House Rock Valley Road is, as I recall, about 30-45 minutes or so, quite easy except for perhaps a bit of the dirt House Rock Valley Road which may be muddy or a bit rough in some places. A half day, especially if you get started reasonably early (7am comes to mind) is enough for you to hike into the “upper reaches” of Buckskin Gulch, get into a few deep and really fun sections, and then return back out the way you came. A full day gives you further reach into the gulch. The alternative is to make a one-way trip down through Buckskin and Paria Canyon, but that requires overnights, permits, and arranging a pick up at the far end, and so the time investment is considerably more. Note that flash floods in Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass Narrows are a real danger, and it is good to know where the exits to the gulch are as well as the weather forecast for the wider area (flash floods can be created by rain many miles away). It is possible to visit both Buckskin and the Wave in the same day. I did it last May. It was about a 15-17 mile day and tiring but I was in good shape and able to do it without problems. I even had time to catch a one-hour nap at the Second Wave waiting for sunset light. Do not underestimate the need for hydration on a day such as this. I drank about 10 liters of fluids and sweated out all of it (I think I peed only twice all day). Buckskin Gulch blog posts, Buckskin Gulch stock photos.

The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah.  The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only

The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah. The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only.
Image ID: 20608
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

The Wave: There is no denying the appeal of a sunrise hike to the Wave. At that hour the air is cool with perhaps a hint of dew, the surrounding hills and canyons are quiet and still, and within minutes of setting out one is alone. However, while you may be eager to get to the Wave early in the day, the photography at the Wave formation itself seems to me to be best in mid- to late-morning. By that time the sun has risen enough to fill the deeper parts around the main Wave formation for evenly lit photos. That said, during late spring, summer and fall, the cooler it is walking out to the Wave, the more comfortable you will be. The hike is about 3 miles one way, so plan on two hours at a easy but constant pace. The last part going up a sand hill is the most tiring. There is little shade once you are there, so be prepared for sun! Do not forget the Second Wave, which is only about a 5-10 minute walk from the main wave. You do not actually see the Second Wave until you round a knob of rock at which point you suddenly realize you are are practically on top of it. Although the spot is no secret, the GPS coordinates and Google Earth links alongside my photos will put you right on it. The light on the Second Wave is best just before the sun goes down at the end of the day, so if you stay for that photo it makes for a long day. In that instance you will hike out as the sky is growing dark but that’s ok, there is still plenty of light and, if you feel unsure of how to return, you can use your GPS to revisit your waypoints in reverse on the way back out. I should mention that both times I visited the Wave, I stayed until dark. As the day went on, there were fewer people around so that by 3pm I was alone, which was very nice. Blog posts about The Wave. Stock Photos of the Wave.

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion, Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion.
Image ID: 18009
Location: Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona, USA

Antelope Canyon Slots: These are just outside the town of Page and require virtually no effort to visit. They are on Navaho tribal lands, so accessing these slot canyons requires that you be on a tour or with a guide. The Upper Antelope canyon, which is the most iconic and photogenic, is the one that gets most crowded. If it is crowded when you are there just be patient and wait for the chamber(s) that you are photographing to clear out and then bang out your exposures before someone else walks in front of you. It can help to carry an electric cattle prod or pocket Taser to ensure the area where you are photographing remains clear of New Yorkers and Nikon photographers. OK, my bad on that last part. I highly recommend that you do not change lenses, there is simply too much dust. In fact, do not be surprised if you encounter another photographer tossing dust in the air to better define the light beams in his composition. If his forward technique does not balance harmoniously with your chi, you can rebalance the moment by tossing sand into his eyes to better define your opinion of his method. If I had to choose one lens to use to use at Antelope Canyon, it would be 16-35 (or either of Nikon’s 14-24 or 17-35) on a full-frame camera. On a second body I carry a 24-70 or similar. Those two should cover 95% of my needs in terms of focal lengths at Antelope. The LOWER canyon is, I hear, far less crowded and has very good photography as well. There are two types of “tours” to visit Upper Antelope Canyon: a normal tour (about 30-60 minutes) and “photo” or extended tour, the latter being more suitable for photographers who feel a need for more time in the slot. I went on an “extended” tour and had about 90 minutes at the canyon, with a 15 minute ride in a van from Page (we met the tour at a small storefront in Page). That was in winter. I understand that during much of the year the Navaho Indian tribe offers guide services (for a fee) right at the entrance to the Antelope Canyon area on the main highway, in which case you might save a little money over the tours that are arranged in the town of Page itself. However, all visits require some Navaho guide presence. If you are coming from far away I suggest that you just reserve a photo tour ahead of time to ensure that you have the time you need. It may cost a little more but at least you know you will be in the canyon at the right time of day, with enough time to relax and take photos. The only unknowns are weather and how crowded it will be on the day of your visit. Kids might get bored after half hour, so families might arrange for the shorter tour while the lone photographer in the family goes on a longer tour. I went to the Upper Antelope Canyon with Antelope Canyon Tours when I was there in Jan 2007. At that time we literally had the entire Upper Canyon to ourselves (a group of 5 people) for 90 minutes, with one 20 minute exception when another small group came by for a brief visit. However, in the winter the dramatic light shafts do not reach the floor of the slots. Those appear in summer, principally June and July, coincidental with the crowds. So if you want solitude in Antelope Canyon (or something approaching it), try it winter. If you want the cool beams, battle the crowds.

Horseshoe Bend. The Colorado River makes a 180-degree turn at Horseshoe Bend. Here the river has eroded the Navajo sandstone for eons, digging a canyon 1100-feet deep, Page, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend. The Colorado River makes a 180-degree turn at Horseshoe Bend. Here the river has eroded the Navajo sandstone for eons, digging a canyon 1100-feet deep.
Image ID: 26602
Location: Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona, USA

Horseshoe Bend: If you are in Page, Arizona, you must find a bit of time for Horseshoe Bend. From a pulloff on the side of the highway just a few minutes outside town, an easy 10 minute walk takes one to the edge of the chasm that is Horseshoe Bend. It is so easy it would be a shame to miss it. Just be careful that Fido and the kids are paying attention since there are no rails or anything keeping you from falling in. (Give the personal injury lawyers time, I am sure there will be a fence and a “viewing area” that we are required to use eventually). If you stay in Page for the night, you might want to go photograph Horseshoe Bend at sunset, late morning and/or sunrise to see what you can get. I took this the above shot with a 16-35 at its widest.

Monument Valley panorama, a composite of four individual photographs

Monument Valley panorama, a composite of four individual photographs.
Image ID: 20902
Location: Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Monument Valley: OK, in spite of how little experience I have in Monument Valley, I will add some words about it, since it is likely others travelling to Page will visit Monument Valley the same way that I did. I blew through there one day by myself on my way to Page, spending about 1 hour at one of the main viewpoints (where I think I paid $5 to the Navaho tribe at the gate and then drove my own car about 2-3 miles on an easy dirt road into the area and then back out, looking for view points, until I found the one above). The timing was good, I was there in the final hour of light, although having clouds would have helped. If you want to just make a quick stop in Monument Valley and visit only one of the easily-accessed viewpoints, I suggest you make it sunrise or sunset. (If you want to spend a full day at Monument Valley, you can arrange private guides that will take you deep into the area and show you views that are better and different, but I believe it will require most of a day to accomplish.)

Tech: For any of these locations, my photography equipment is quite simple and light, no need for any heavy stuff. Landscape shooting is simple compared to all the gear needed for underwater and/or wildlife shooting!

  • Two full-frame bodies (currently Canon 1DsII & 1DsIII)
  • Canon 16-35 II f/2.8 lens
  • Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens
  • Canon 70-200 f/4 lens
  • Tripod with ball head, cable release, polarizers

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