I came home from work this Friday to find a box sitting on my porch. An unexpected shipment from Mom and Dad. Opening it was “interesting” to say the least. I guess they cleaned out the attic of stuff they’ve been saving since I was a wee lad. Finger-paintings from kindergarden. Maps to the Dickens Fair. And much more. Read more
The annual Steamboat trip with the Lowrimores in late fall/early winter this year was over the Thanksgiving day holiday. Five days of fun with friends, just relaxing, playing in the mountains (not on ski slopes). There’s really not much snow up here yet, but we come up here often enough that we know where to play when the snow’s low. And it gave us a chance to go take some pics up by Steamboat Lake.
Gregg and I have been talking about shooting the Milky Way, and we finally decided to head up to Summit Lake at the base of Mount Evans on a new moon night to try it out. We got up there around 8:30 and stayed until about midnight, when clouds started coming in.
I wasn’t very happy with my results. All I can say is that I need either new glass with a wide open aperture, a faster camera, a newer camera, or all of the above. The sensor in the D200 just doesn’t handle low light very well.
Day 5 of our trip begins with shooting sunrise pictures from the balcony of the hotel and the news that a fairly significant winter storm was coming in and planning to dump 4-8 inches of snow in Flagstaff. I did some preliminary scouting and figured we could drive to the east a little, then head due south to Petrified Forest (Kash REALLY wanted to go back there to take pictures, for reasons that will remain with Kash)
After shooting the sunrise, Kash and Gregg wanted to go back into the valley so that Kash could shoot (since he was sick last night when we did the tour). So Gregg and Kash took off and I thought I’d talk off and walk around the West Mitten Butte on a walking path. But given the time of morning, and the fact that the walk was over 4 miles, I didn’t think I’d get back in time to pack up and have breakfast before we left. So I started the walk, basically wandering around in a staggeringly beautiful place.
Day 4 started poorly. Kash wasn’t feeling to good last night, and today wasn’t feeling good at all. We stopped at Safeway for Starbucks coffee, and Gregg picked up some Oscillococcinum (homeopathic cold/flu medicine) and we started our 2 1/2 hour drive to Monument Valley (Tsé Bii Ndzisgaii) . I’d never heard of Oscillococcinum before, but Gregg and I took our preventative dosages, while Kash went all in. For what it’s worth, after reading more about it on the net, it appears to be a placebo drug, but since we believed it would work at the time, neither Gregg or I came down with whatever he had, and he recovered quickly. It’s amazing what your mind can do to your body…
Anyway, I digress. For our stay at Monument Valley, we had upgraded (i.e., more expensive) rooms reserved on the third floor of “The VIEW Hotel” in Monument Park. They were touted as a better, open sky view balcony for night pictures, but due to the way the balconies are constructed. they’re really no better than 2nd and 1st floor rooms since each floor is offset back a little.
Day 3 of our trip brings us to the part that Gregg was most looking forward to: The Slot Canyons. Most of yesterday, whenever we found something narrow and vertical, he’d shout out “Slot Canyons!”
We started the day with a hearty breakfast at the Courtyard in Page at about 8:30, thinking that the best time of day for Horseshoe Bend and the Slot Canyons would be high noon. The canyon walls on Horseshoe bend are so vertical that we were thinking vertical light would be needed. But, in hindsight, maybe not. I’m thinking the perfect time to be there would just after sunrise, as the sun is just touching the inner lip of the canyon. But thankfully HDR processing (via HDR Efex Pro, not the horrible job that the Photoshop HDR processor does) could render a semi-decent picture of the canyon and get the light to be acceptable. I still don’t like the “look” of HDR pictures, but this is one example where it was HDR or throw away most of the pictures.
After shooting around the canyon for an hour, we headed over to Lower Antelope Canyon, called Hasdestwazi, or “spiral rock arches” by the Navajo. Kash told us that it was MUCH narrower and much “less commercial” than the upper canyon that everybody typically flocks too. And in talking to the people at the entrance booth, only one family runs the lower canyon, while 5 different tour groups fight over the upper canyon, so this is a much more relaxed, enjoyable place to be (except for the Japanese tourists which I’ll discuss later). We got our Photographers Pass (a free “upgrade” which means you’re basically alone, with time to setup and compose your pictures, rather than being walked through as a group).
Day 2 on the photography trip was an improvised trip around the Vermillion Cliffs National Park. Gregg, Kash and I REALLY wanted to get into “The Wave”, but it’s only available by permit, and they only permit 10 people PER DAY into that area. We found out at 10am on Friday that if we could have been at the Ranger Station in Kanab at 9am on Friday, they hold a lottery for open slots on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I wish we would have known that ahead of time, but maybe this will help somebody else out in the future.
We drove north out highway 89, then headed south on House Rock Valley Road. We turned in at Buckskin Gulch and went for a walk. One thing I should mention is that the park maps that they have at the various trailheads are HORRIBLE. No distances, no trails. Nothing. Just a big blob in the middle that says Vermillion Cliffs National Park. I’m not used to finding that poor of maps at National Parks, so you’ve been warned…
Buckskin Gulch was really “unusual”. Strange formations, lots of hidden little canyons, and weird stuff everywhere.
After a year and a half of no photo trips at all, I’ve been talking to my friend Gregg about a new photo excursion for 2012. We discussed going back to Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, and in starting to plan that trip, ended up adding Monument Valley, Grand Canyon and a few other places in northern Arizona. But the logistics of staging that long of a trip from Denver meant a LOT of driving time.
I’ve also been talking with another friend from Santa Barbara (Kash) and have been trying to coordinate meeting for a photo trip for years, but timing has never worked out until now.
So to make it a little less driving and a little more time on the ground, we all flew to Phoenix to start the trip.
Day 1 was at the Grand Canyon. We all got up WAY TOO EARLY in the morning and headed for the airport. We met at Phoenix at 9:30am, grabbed a quick breakfast, and then headed north. We had plans to come in from the eastern entrance and drive to Hopi Point (west of Grand Canyon Village), but never made it past Lipan Point. Based on an app (yes, technology) that shows us sun angles at sunset time, we figured that being on Lipan Point where the river curves to the north would give us the best light on the eastern walls of the canyon.
For the first time in quite a few years, we had the entire family together for Christmas this year. So, right after the traditional eggs benedict breakfast (which is significantly harder to make for this many people), we headed out to take family pictures. 600 of them. WAY too many to post, and way too many to process. but I did. And here’s the top 30 or 40…