Arizona Trip Report
I just returned home a few days ago from an amazing 9 day trip to Arizona. I had the privilege and pleasure to meet up with friend and Arizona Highways Legend George Stocking and spend a few days shooting with George on the Colorado Plateau before heading south and finishing up the trip shooting the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.
After a long day of travel from Baltimore to Phoenix, I arrived in Arizona, picked up my rental and drove to meet up with George. We stocked up on the obvious supplies for a 4 night trip in the back of beyond lands of the Navajo Reservation and the slick rock country around Page, Arizona. After that, we started the long haul north from Phoenix to Tub City where we eventually left the paved highway and headed on dirt roads to the rim of Coal Mine Canyon. We spent the evening shooting the light and camped on the edge of the rim enjoying cerveza’s under the banner of a million glowing lights. In the morning, I was up well before dawn to make the most of the light. There were no clouds under high pressure, so i worked on more intimate takes like the one above of the hoo-doo rock on the rim of the canyon.
After a great start in Coal Mine Canton, we headed to a secret location on the Navajo Reservation. This magical area of badlands, hoodoos and sculpted rock presented us with countless compositions as we worked the surrounding area all of that afternoon. High cirrus clouds moved in and we were granted with amazing skies and great light during the day and into sunset.
After shooting sunset, I went back to a most impressive rock formation and got ready to do some night work and light painting. The image above is the result of two exposures, the first just a half hour after sunset for two minutes at F8 to record the trace of clouds and soft blue light in the sky. I then came back to the camera about two hours later after the clouds had moved out and did a second exposure for 25 minutes at F5.6 to record the star trails and paint the rock with my headlamp.
The next morning we were greeted with dark ominous skies and the threat of rain. There was no light and we decided to haul out before the rains fell and the clay roads turned into an impassible mess. We headed north to Page and crossed the dam over Lake Powell before turning of on Smoky Mountain road and our nights destination on the mesa above Lake Powell and Alstrom Point. When we arrived, the wind was gusting in excess of 30 to 40 mph and we hunkered down for the long wait until sunset. As the day drew closer to evening, the winds also settled down. I hiked a few ridges over and found the best perspective I could to frame Navajo Mountain with Gunsight Butte. Navajo Mountain being the tallest point on the plateau in this region was collecting the clouds and making its own weather which provided a nice bit of drama to the otherwise high pressure skies. I waited until last light when the peak and the top of the butte were glowing in warm soft light.
After the night on Alstrom, it was time to head out into the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. Our destination was not the fabled Wave or Pawnee Buttes, but this time around we were visiting White Pocket. I have to say, after shooting some of the most spectacular slickrock and canyon country of the Southwest over the past 15 years, White Pocket was simply amazing! This is a small area of brain rock and multi colored sandstone with many twists and interesting shapes. It looks almost as if the gods themselves layed there hands down from the heavens above and scraped, swirled and molded the bare and colorful rock into the most surreal formations. Here are a few of my favorites from my time out on White Pocket.
After getting out of White Pocket, I bid farewell and parted ways with George. I only had a couple of days left before my flight back home. I headed over to Zion National Park and spent the night in Springdale getting a shower and hot meal for the first time in 6 days. That evening, I hiked along a small canyon in the park under overcast skies. I was absolutely alone and surrounded by silence. Spring was just beginning to bud in the park and photographed this Cottonwood tree showing off its first blush of renewal and new life.
After my quick visit to Zion, it was time to begin heading south back towards Phoenix. I wanted to spend a night in Lost Dutchman State Park before it closes and have a chance to shoot the desert in spring with the Superstition Mountains in the distance. My wish was granted and I was treated to both great skies at sunset for two nights in a row. The following morning after the second sunset I bid good-bye to Arizona and boarded the plane back home. And what a gift when I arrived to find out that my lovely wife Amber is pregnant with our second child. I have been spending the past week catching up on work and preparing for my next trip out west to Moab where i will be leading a Photo Workshop and spending time shooting personal images in Arches and Canyonlands Parks! Stay tuned for more images from the Desert Southwest in the weeks to come!