I know this is a sort of cop-out, but in lieu of a full-blown blog post (which I am working on regarding flash photography), I wanted to post the link to my latest article in the Photography in the Parks column of the National Parks Traveler website. I have noted before that I share space with another photographer. She generally has her articles posted near the end of the month while my articles are posted at the beginning of each month. Here’s the latest dealing with the use of telephoto lenses for landscapes. Check it out if you are interested.
Tag Archives: NP
The path toward Park Avenue
Ever since returning from my vacation in Arches NP, I’ve been swamped with day-job work as well as updating my Facebook photography page, uploading images to my photo website, working on a contract for a wedding and another one for a possible bellydance portfolio photo shoot, as well as writing a new article for the “Photography In the Parks” column on the National Parks Traveler website (which will show up in early March). So forgive me for such a long absence.
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When I visited Arches National Park in 2012, it was only for about 3 days. Not much time to actually take time to explore the park. So as soon as I returned to Texas, I began planning an early 2013 re-visit to Arches for a longer period of time.
Here are a few thoughts for you photographers:
- February is an awesome time to visit the park, if you can handle the cold temperatures. There are absolutely NO crowds – not even tour buses. That means you can explore popular spots like Balanced Rock, the Windows section, and Delicate Arch without having to clone people out of your images. At times, I was the only person there (Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch) and it was an incredible feeling. Plus, it might snow in February like it did for me when I was there.
Becky and Balanced Rock
Delicate Arch All To Myself!
Snow Day in the Park! Five inches of snow, actually.
- As you are heading into the park, along the main paved road, everything on the left side of the road (the west side) is best photographed during the morning hours.
Salt Valley and the Devil’s Garden during Sunrise
- Everything on the right side of the road (the east side) is best photographed during the afternoon and evening hours.
Balanced Rock and the La Sal Mountains in the Afternoon
This is, of course, a general rule of thumb, not set in stone.
- Visit a particular place more than once, at different times of the day. You will be surprised at how different your images look simply because of the time of day
The La Sal Mountain Viewpoint in the morning
The La Sal Mountain Viewpoint in the afternoon
- When you encounter one of those days during which you simply can’t get the landscape images you want, try concentrating a little more close-in; use your telephoto lens rather than your wide-angle lens.
One Little Tree in Park Avenue in the Afternoon (while everything else is totally in the shade at this time of day)
- February is a bit of a sparse month for wildlife. There are 50 Desert Bighorn Sheep living in this park, but I didn’t see a single one. I did see 3 deer and a few ravens. I did not see any reptiles, tarantulas, or scorpions.
Hello There, My Deers
February is a great month also for discounts on rental vehicles and deals on Moab hotel rooms. It’s the slow time of year for them, so they LOVE having people visit in the winter (the Moab Brewery was practically empty the one time I went there for a yummy lunch of beer cheese soup and a Scorpion Pale Ale). Make sure, though, you make your plane reservations and any other reservations ahead of time (I made my plane reservation to Grand Junction CO and car rental reservation 5 months ahead of time, then, when I arrived in Grand Junction, I actually upgraded to an SUV because Hertz offered me a sweet discount).
If you can’t find a room for a hotel you like on one website, either go to another website, or wait a few weeks and then try again. I originally used Hotels.com to make a room reservation in Moab at a hotel other than the one I really wanted because Hotels.com couldn’t find a vacancy for that time period. About three weeks prior to my departure date, I went onto the website of my original hotel choice (Aarchway Inn) and found a room for a great deal (they actually put me in the very same room I’d stayed in before). Perseverance pays off!
Guess which national park I am at this week?
I had the image for this photo in my head about two weeks prior to my trip to Arches National Park, Utah. After I figured out what I wanted to do, I went into MS Word and chose a heart from Clip Art to print on 11” x 17”. I then folded the paper up and packed it away for my Utah trip. I just *had* to make the hike up to Delicate Arch at some point in time during my stay in Moab, but the question was: when? If the weather remained below freezing and/or snowy during the day, I probably would not have attempted the hike because of any icy conditions on the slick rock. But, that one day that dawned crystal clear and the temps felt like spring, well, I *knew* that was the day. So I hiked to Delicate Arch with the paper heart folded into my camera backpack.
I had only 2 full days (plus a half day and a morning) within Arches National Park, Utah, but during those days, one of my favorite spots was a place near the park entrance called the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint. I’d stop there each day going into and out of the park. It’s the perfect place for sunrise images.
It’s also the perfect place to get an amazing overview of the La Sal Mountains, The Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, Tower of Babel, The Organ, and some amazing views far beyond of such formations as Balanced Rock.
From this viewpoint, you can see interesting things like the hot air balloon that rose above the rocks each morning I was there.
This viewpoint is also a lovely place to stop and say good-bye to the park until the next time you visit it.
I’ve booked my airfaire for a February 2013 trip back to Moab and Arches NP. If anybody thinks they might be out there during that time, give me a shout; it would be fun to meet you and enjoy some photographic quality time together.
I have a couple of degrees in geology, and although I am not a geologist by profession (I graduated with my MS degree at the wrong time), I am still totally enthralled by geology and geologic processes.
Utah is an earth sciences treasure trove. The few photos here that I captured along Hwy 191, at Anticline Overlook, and in Arches National Park are just the tip of the geologic iceberg.
The factoids in this post were taken from the internet as well as three different publications:
Roadside Geology of Utah, by Halka Chronic
Canyonlands Country, by Donald L. Bars
Geology Unfolded, by Thomas H. Morris et al
Travel with me as I depart Monticello, UT and head toward Arches National Park, along Hwy 191.
Sitting by itself, all rounded and monumental, Church Rock, along Hwy 191 heading north from Monticello to Moab, is an erosional remnant (a bedrock formation that remains after extensive erosion).
Anticline Overlook, some 32 miles west-northwest of Hwy 191 along a scenic byway (15 miles of which are well-tended gravel), is so named for the curved, uplifted shape of the Cane Creek Anticline visible across the Colorado river (the left portion of this photo).
Anticline Overlook sits upon a promontory with views of the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Kane Creek Canyon, pictured here (yeah, I don’t get the difference in spellings either, but that’s how they appear on the internet).
One of the first arches one sees along Hwy 191 toward Moab is Wilson Arch, which formed from massive sandstone eroded on both sides by water and wind into a “fin”. Further erosion on both sides of the fin along joints in the rock formed an alcove, then a cave, then ultimately the arch seen here.
Subsurface magma intrusions squeezed in between rock layers to form dome-shaped igneous “laccoliths”. The overlying sediments were eroded away, exposing these laccoliths to become what we call the La Sal Mountains.
I couldn’t quite get the big picture and it took me a bit of puzzling to figure out exactly where the Moab Fault is located (I mean, relative to me. I know the Moab fault is located near Moab, UT). After re-reading the sign at the Moab Fault overlook, right inside the park, I finally got it. Looking at the photo of the area across the highway from where I stood (I was at the “you are here” part of the sign) is the upthrown fault block, while the area on my side of the highway is the downthrown fault block. The fracture line is basically parallel to the highway. The fault displacement (how much it’s gone down/up) is about 2500 feet!
Arches in the making. With continued erosion via water and wind, those holes you see now will eventually become arches….but not in my lifetime….or your lifetime…..or your kids’ lifetimes…..or….well, you get it.
Those squiggly rock layers along the bottom of this big sandstone structure are collectively called the Dewey Bridge Member. A “member” is a distinctive rock within a formation (a formation is a distinctive, mappable rock unit).
The Dewey Bridge Member erodes far more easily than the sandstones sitting atop it. This is called differential erosion. The pinnacle known as Balanced Rock was formed because of differential erosion.
Another example of a pinnacle, the Dewey Bridge Member, and differential erosion.
Salt Valley does indeed consist of salt deposits. Hundreds of millions of years ago, this entire area was a sea. Layers of salt thousands of feet thick were deposited right here. Salt domes were formed, creating uplift in the land. Huge cracks occurred in the uplifted layers, water poured in, salt leached out leaving empty spaces, and collapse ensued, creating this valley. OK, it’s a simplistic explanation, but I’m writing this for mostly non-geologists and this is indeed what happened.
The above photos are looking over Salt Valley toward Devils Garden (consisting of a bunch of those “fins” I described earlier).
These two photos are looking the other way, across Salt Valley toward the La Sal Mountains and the Windows Section of the park.
Here’s a nice example of weathering by water (frost and rain) and erosion.
All arches struggle with the pull of gravity, and Landscape Arch is no exception. This was proved back in 1991 when a 60-foot slab of this arch fell to the ground (that’s 180 tons of rock debris, according to the sign near this arch). There is no longer a path leading to a view beneath the arch. It’s all fenced off now, although I’m pretty sure some photographers still risk it to get that perfect image. The thing is, nobody can predict there won’t be more slabs of rock sloughing off from this arch unexpectedly. Who knows? Maybe in my lifetime, that arch will indeed totally collapse.
Heading out of Moab, UT on toward Grand Junction, CO, I stopped to photograph this view. I later discovered this very same scene had been published in one of the books referenced at the beginning of this post: a real-life stratigraphic column of the Jurassic-age (140 – 200 million years ago) rock found within Arches National Park. I just originally photographed it because I thought it was really cool, with all those differing layers of sandstone….and I figured it would make a great addition to a geology blog post I was thinking of writing
These few photos show just a little bit of the wonderful geology found in Utah. You don’t have to be a geologist or a geology student to totally understand the processes that created all of these wonders. All you really need is an observant eye and an appreciation of the geologic results.
“The most important thing we humans can do is to respect all life. The Hopi believe that to not do this is something akin to a mental illness”.
I think things happen for a reason, no matter how incomprehensible they may be at first glance. I think I was steered away from the Square Tower House tour toward the Mug House tour so I could hear the words of the Adopted Daughter of the Bear Clan and experience the kindness of the people around me.
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Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, offers ranger-led, backcountry hikes to Square Tower House and Mug House during certain times of the year, with a limited number of reservations. I really wanted to reserve a spot for the Square Tower House hike because I think it’s a beautiful dwelling (as seen from the overlook), but the tour was offered aftermy stay in Colorado ended. So, I opted for the Mug House tour instead, having not a clue as to that particular cliff dwelling since there is no view area to these ruins.
The Mug House tour begins at the Wetherill Mesa ranger kiosk and lasts from 10AM to about noon for a 3-mile roundtrip hike on a “goat trail” over uneven terrain with some scrambles up and down rocks and boulders.
Our guide was Ranger Denice, an adopted daughter of the Hopi Bear Clan (which I thought was totally cool). Her (and her adopted families’) perspective on this hike offered thoughtful views that I actually remember (as opposed to other things which tended to go in one ear, swish around gray matter in my skull, and then exit by way of the other ear).
Along the route, Ranger Denice pointed out various plants that the Ancestral Puebloans would have used for food, building materials, medicine, basketwork, and ceremonies.
She also stopped and pointed in the distance to the cliff dwelling Lancaster House, which survived a fire that had swept across the Wetherill Mesa area during the not-so-distant past.
As you readers know by now, if you’ve been following my blogs, I’m not a huge people person; I prefer being as far away from crowds as I possibly can. I have discovered, though, when I am away from work and back out in the West (which doesn’t happen often enough for me), I am relaxed, happy, and more open to people. With that in mind, I write that the people who were on the Mug House Tour with me were friendly and so very helpful when it came to making sure a backpack-laden, slightly overweight, definitely out-of-shape (but eager and energetic) middle-aged lady didn’t fall and hurt herself during those scrambles up and down the boulders (I’m not the most sure-footed of creatures) and I definitely learned a lesson: my subsequent day hikes consisted of NO backpack – whatever I needed (snacks, water, memory cards, spare batteries) was stuffed into the pockets of my Domke photographer’s vest.
Our backcountry hike was a “three fer one”: in addition to visiting the main attraction, we also visited two other interesting little sites.
At first glance, all we really noticed were the soot marks on the rock and this red squiggly line we all assumed were mountains….until our eyes grew accustomed to the shade and we noticed one end of the squiggly line had a sort of face/eye. Ranger Denice also pointed out another, fainter red squiggly line facing the larger red squiggly line: two snakes. Water symbols.
The next small site visited remains essentially unrestored. They know a kiva is beneath the soil, and portions of some rooms have been excavated. For the most part, this site is left as is.
Mug House, itself, is a quiet place with a beautiful view (actually, all cliff dwellings have magnificent views). One feels the spirits of the past dwellers swirling around them. It’s also the place where three beautifully-decorated pottery mugs were discovered, tied together at the handles. Hence the cliff dwelling name.
Valley view from the cliff dwelling
Adopted Daughter of The Bear Clan
Part of the cliff dwelling
A “Mesa Verde”-style keyhole kiva
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If you visit the park and have the opportunity to take this tour, by all means do so. And hopefully you will be led to this silent place by the Adopted Daughter of the Bear Clan.
I’ve heard that Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch were – but for a mistake – actually meant to be named the other way. I can understand that (if the story is true), having seen the long tenuous length of Landscape Arch, versus the “sturdier” and thicker curve of Delicate Arch.
Naming conventions aside, it was Delicate Arch I wished to see on my final day in Arches National Park, Utah. That particular landmark, emblazoning everything from t-shirts to water bottles to post cards to advertising campaigns, has been on my bucket list for years. How can anybody visit this park without going to see for themselves this amazing rock formation? It’s not really a very long hike; 3 miles round trip. It is a bit arduous, but not too bad – certainly not bad enough for an arthritic, overweight, out-of-shape gal like me to avoid. And I will tell you right now that this was an accomplishment that was the highlight of my entire vacation.
I’d saved this hike for my last day in the park, having (I hoped) built up my stamina to hiking and higher elevations (by “higher”, I mean anything higher than the 30 feet elevation of the Texas town in which I live) .
I like taking photos of trips and trails and posting them for others to see, because I like to see photos of places I want to visit, so I have an idea of what to expect. Thus, below is a photo travelogue from start to finish of my hike.
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There is a sign pointing to a turnoff along the main road through the park. The sign says something like “Delicate Arch/ Wolfe Ranch”. It’s a little misleading, that sign. You see, not only does that turnoff lead to the parking lot for the Delicate Arch trailhead, but if you drive on a little further past that first parking lot, you will see another parking lot specifically for the Delicate Arch Overlook. That trail is maybe 1/2 mile (straight up) and it affords the viewer a distant landscape vista of the arch.
Many people get the two places mixed up, thinking they are going to the overlook via the shorter route, when they really are taking the longer trail straight up to the arch itself.
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The prime time for photographing Delicate Arch is generally during the late afternoon/evening, and I’ve seen photos of the hundreds of photographers with their spots staked out by tripods, all ready to catch that evening light on the arch. August is extremely HOT during the afternoon and evening hours, so I instead opted to hike in the morning for a couple of reasons:
- Fewer people; the tourist buses do not disgorge their riders at the main sights until around 10-11 AM.
- Cooler temps. If I’m going to huff and puff my way up the 1.5-mile trail, then I want to do it under less heat-debilitating conditions (and believe me, that intense, dry heat out there literally sucks the moisture from a body). I carried two 32-oz water bottles with me and completely emptied one of them on the way up.
Not only were the temperatures cooler that morning, but it was overcast, with some interesting clouds. Good thing I brought along my Lee 4×6 .9 graduated ND filter and had a polarizing filter on my Canon 16-35mm lens (the only lens I brought with me for this hike). I’ve learned over the years that I don’t do well carrying a backpack loaded with lots of heavy camera equipment. I also learned during this Colorado/Utah vacation that I was primarily using my 16-35mm wide angle lens far more than any of the other two lenses I’d brought along. So that was the lens I took with me for the Delicate Arch hike. Oh, I also brought my tripod, which served a dual purpose as a hiking stick. I’m not a very sure-footed person, and that tripod was a great stabilizer for me.
Along the trail is the Wolfe Ranch homestead (aka Turnbow Cabin). It’s a small building with a protective screen blocking the entrance, prohibiting both man, woman, and beast from entry. It also takes a little creative angles in order to get a lovely photo of it without the screen door or window. I opted to concentrate the lens on the beautiful wood used to construct the cabin out in what was (and sort of still is) the middle of nowhere.
A slight detour from the trail brings the hiker to a set of petroglyphs (carved into the rock, as opposed to pictographs, which are drawn or painted). The detour trail actually loops around and joins back with the main trail to Delicate Arch, so it’s a worthwhile stop to see some ancient artistry.
This little guy was chomping down on some pistachios left on the bridge. It was so busy with the food that it hardly noticed me inching closer and closer to try and get a cute pic (using a wide angle lens).
Who would have thought there would be such an oasis in the middle of this arid landscape?
Onward via the trail, heading toward that area of pink slick rock. In this photo, it looks like it’s gently sloping upwards. In reality, it’s rather steep.
See the couple making their way down from the slick rock?
Pointing the way to Delicate Arch. These artful little rock piles called cairns fascinated me.
On the slick rock, heading up, up, up. That teeny little “blip” near that green dot of shrub is a person way ahead of me.
Looking back toward the parking lot, which is marked by that small swath of blue-green color in the middle of this image, just below the horizon. I’m still trying to find out exactly what mineral created that lovely color. I made the mistake of asking a former geology professor what mineral that might be, and he told me he never saw anything that color out there…..he reminded me he is color blind.
Had I not been fiddling with my water bottle, I should have kept a little closer to those hikers ahead of me in the photo below. If I’d done that, I would not have mistaken a rock pile for a cairn and veered off in the wrong direction. When I looked down a 10-foot drop off to see two real cairns and several other hikers, I knew I’d made a wrong turn somewhere and had to re-trace my steps. It’s easy to re-trace the trail in the daylight, but I shudder to think of how some photographers make it back down at night, after capturing their evening images of the arch.
I saw these little guys and knew I was still heading in the right direction.
Stone steps leading up to a ledge about 3-4 feet wide which wraps around that rock formation for about 200 feet.
Looking back toward some other hikers behind me coming up to the ledge.
The view from the ledge.
Delicate Arch is not visible until rounding the corner of the ledge wall. Then, the destination in sight. Once there, one has to scramble over those rocks you see in this photo in order to gain entrance to the slickrock “bowl” anchored at one end by Delicate Arch.
Delicate Arch is an incredible sight! It’s one thing to look at photos of it, but no photo can convey the feeling of human smallness against the geologic immensity of this rock arch. I gingerly made my way around the sloping slick rock bowl toward the arch and set up my tripod. There were so few people there that morning, and the four guys underneath the arch obligingly moved out of the way to make room for others (like me) who wanted themselves digitally memorialized against that pinky-red sandstone behemoth. I told a couple standing near me that I’d take their photo if they would take mine. My camera was set up on the tripod and all ready for someone to hold down on the shutter button. The cute young couple were thrilled to have someone offering to get their photo under the arch, and I was equally as thrilled that they would do the same for me.
Photographers, take note: I understand that you want people out of the way so you can get your winning image of Delicate Arch, but you must remember that this is a national park – a public place for everybody. Naturally, everybody who makes it up the 1.5-mile trail wants to view in awe (and photograph) this amazing structure. Be nice, be patient, and you should have no issues with your photography. I certainly had no problems being able to photograph the arch from different angles, and if somebody was in the way….well….that’s what the Content Aware menu item on CS5 & CS6 is for.
I met some interesting people while up there, too. A couple from San Antonio, Texas, struck up a conversation with me about my use of the graduated ND filter. As they were leaving, the husband turned to me, remarking that it was a shame it was not a sunny day. I held up my grad ND filter, smiled, and told him that overcast, cloudy days can yield some images every bit as interesting as those taken on a sunny day.
Time to head back down.
Taking a short break resting on Fred Flintstone’s recliner chair.
I made it!!