A Challenge In Utah

I had a crazy nine days in Utah exploring areas I had not been to before, while trying to capture some fall color. The Weather Gods gave me clouds only on one day so most of the time was spent searching for more intimate scenes that would not have sky in them.

After flying into Las Vegas, I made it up to Snow Canyon State Park for sunset. I hiked out to an area called Petrified Dunes, which seemed like a perfect name, as the mounds of rock looked as though they might have been sand at one point. I was even allowed a few clouds, although that would be the last I would see of that for days.

Utah, Snow Canyon, Sunset, Red Rock
Snow Canyon Sunset : Prints Available

The following was a long day to get up to Hanksville to explore the canyons south of there to Hite, Utah and the area around Lake Powell. On a previous trip there in August, I did not get the chance to photograph the east side of Factory Butte before sunrise during what is known as “blue hour” for the bluish cast that you get before the sun comes up.
Utah, Factory Butte, Desert, Shadows, Blue Hour
Desert Shadows : Prints Available

With that accomplished, it was down to the area of red rock canyons around Hite. This was the one day that I actually had clouds! I did my best to make the most of it. The Cottonwood trees turn yellow that time of year and the ones there did not disappoint.
Utah, Hite, Red Rock
The Beacon : Prints Available

Utah, Hite, Canyon, Red Rock, River
Canyon Explosure : Prints Available

Utah, Hite, Canyons, Cottonwood, Tree, Red Rock, Fall Color
Hidden Away : Prints Available

Utah, Hite, Fall, Color, Canyon, Cottonwood, Scene
Standing Alone : Prints Available

Capitol Reef National Park is west of Hanksville, and while a small national park, it has some neat rock formations and some really nice Cottonwood trees, some very old.
Utah, Capitol Reef, National Park, Fall, Color, Red, Canyon
Cottonwood Contrast : Prints Available

Utah, Capitol Reef, National Park, Red Rock, Canyon
Corner Spire : Prints Available

Utah, Capitol Reef, National Park, Canyon, Fall, Colors
Capitol Colors : Prints Available

After three days there, it was time to head back down to Zion National Park to see what fall color scenes I could get there. On the way there, I wanted to stop at the colorful Paria Canyon, a place that had simply escaped my attention before. I arrived at the perfect time, late in the afternoon. This was just an unexpected bonus and exceeded my expectations.
Utah, Desert, Colors
Desert Flow : Prints Available

Utah, Canyon, Color
Cascading Colors : Prints Available

I finished up with three days in Zion National Park. Photographing the towering rock formations was just not an option as there was not one wisp of a cloud. Plain blue skies just don’t cut it. So, the challenge was on. I have been to Zion before, but always had nice clouds. I was now going to have to work for it, finding good scenes without clouds.
Utah, Zion, National Park, Canyon, Shadows,  Red Rock
Vertical : Prints Available

Morning Warmth : Prints Available

Utah, Zion, National Park, Kolob, Canyon, Fall, Shadows
Zion Shadows : Prints Available

Utah, Zion, National Park, Temple, Sinawava, Red Rock, Canyon
Sinawava Colors : Prints Available

Utah, Zion, National Park, Canyon, Fall, Color, Red, Yellow, Orange
Zion Red : Prints Available

Utah, Zion, National Park, Fall, Color, Canyon, Surprise
Canyon Surprise : Prints Available

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Arizona and Utah

I managed two expeditions to the American Southwest this summer in July and August. There are so many photographic subjects there, and with unpredictable weather, it simply takes a lot of time to cover it all.

East of Phoenix are the Superstition Mountains. I was targeting some mountains to the north, but the clouds and lights really weren’t happening there. Fortunately, there was this wonderful scene to the south and the setting sun lit up the mountains and clouds perfectly.

Arizona, Gold, Canyon, Sunset, Desert, Mountains
Golden Sunset : Prints Available

Heading north from Phoenix, it is hard not stop in Sedona, Arizona. These were just a couple of the great images we captured of the beautiful red rocks there.
Arizona, Sedona, Sunrise, Red, Rock
Northern Steps : Prints Available

Arizona, Sedona, Sunrise, Cathedral, Peaks
Stormy Sedona : Prints Available

Continuing north from Sedona, there is the Grand Canyon. The clouds didn’t show up for sunset, so I got some nice images of the shadows deep in the canyon from the South Rim. Moving on to the North Rim of the canyon, I was there for the moon setting over the canyon as the sun rose to the left lighting up the canyon walls. The moon beams were just spectacular.
Arizona, Grand Canyon, National Park, Sunrise, Moonset, Moon, Smoke, Fires
Canyon Moon : Prints Available

Arizona, Grand Canyon, National Park, Sunset, Shadows
Canyon Shadows : Prints Available

East of the Grand Canyon in New Mexico is a very striking mountain known as Ship Rock. I’ve wanted to photograph this for years, but never had good clouds in the forecast. On this trip, there was a thunderstorm forecast to be there on only one afternoon, so the schedule was changed to be there for it. This is exactly the image I was hoping to capture.
New Mexico, Shiprock, Storms, Arizona
Shiprock : Prints Available

Heading back to the west and north up into Utah brought us to Monument Valley. I had been there before, but just never had good clouds at sunrise. It’s one of those places you could shoot every day as it’s always going to be different.
Utah, Monument, Valley, Sunrise, Glow
Mitten Glow : Prints Available

Continuing even further north took us to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. I was able to climb all the way up into the top of Double Arch and get a great shot looking south and was rewarded with a rainbow over the mountains. In Canyonlands, I had been after a good image at Dead Horse State Park for years, and finally got the sky that was going to make it work.
Utah, Arches, National  Park, Double, Arch, Rainbow
Doubletake : Prints Available

Utah, Dead Horse, State Park, Red, Rock, Sunrise
Deadhorse Point : Prints Available

Utah has such a diverse landscape from deserts to mountains, but I may be most impressed by some of the desert landscapes. Once again, there wasn’t much weather in the forecast, but we had high hopes for one of the mornings we were in the area near Factory Butte. It’s a bunch of miles out some dirt roads, but this view of the desert at sunrise was just surreal with the mountains and storm in the background. I am going to remember this experience for a very long time.
Utah, Hanksville, Desert, Sunrise, Butte
Desert Buttes : Prints Available

Utah, Hanksville, Sunrise, Desert, Storm, Clouds
Ultimate Sunrise : Prints Available

Back down into northern Arizona, is an area known as White Pocket. It’s about 2.5 hours on dirt roads from the closest town so you have to camp overnight there. It’s been a long time since I have slept on the ground, but it was worth it. These are just a few of the possible compositions that are possible in White Pocket. I can easily see a return trip there.
Arizona, White Pocket, Red Rock, Formation
The View : Prints Available

Arizona, White Pocket, Rock, Formations
Red Swirl : Prints Available
Arizona, White, Pocket, Red, Rock
Bursting : Prints Available

Arizona, White, Pocket, Rock, Formation, Sunrise
The X-Factor : Prints Available

This post is a little long, but covers about 18 days out there shooting during July and August. Stay tuned for more!

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South Dakota and Wyoming

South Dakota is home to Badlands National Park, which contains some of the most unique rock formations that I have ever seen. Also nearby are areas like Custer State Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Wyoming is home to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. I had previously been unsuccessful in getting the image of the Tetons in the Spring that I wanted, so a return trip was warranted.

We drive 3000 miles on this trip, beginning our expedition in South Dakota. The Needles Highway runs through this amazing section of rock formations known as The Needles. We were on the move on this expedition and were only going to have one sunrise there. They were covered in heavy fog the day before and we couldn’t find them before it got dark. The next morning we had to scurry around to find them and then figure out the best location to shoot from. I found the spot just as the clouds were lighting up, got several shots and then the clouds came down and covered them up for the rest of the day. I am rarely this lucky, but you won’t hear me complaining.

South Dakota, Custer, Sunrise, Needles, Needles Highway, Rock, Formations
The Needles : Prints Available

Before heading to Wyoming, we couldn’t resist going over to Devil’s Tower. Ever since Close Encounters of the Third Kind many years ago, I wanted to go by there. We had the good fortune of some dark stormy clouds, which really set the scene. I could just imagine an alien spacecraft coming through them and landing. It was really fun to have had the opportunity. Now I just need to go back when there is a lightning storm!
Wyoming, Devils Tower, Badlands, National Park, Stormy, Clouds
Pending Encounter : Prints Available

We crossed Wyoming to get to Grand Teton National Park. My previous efforts here did not result in some nice clouds over the mountains in the morning. We only had three days there, but on the second day, we got the clouds we had hoped for. After that we got some really stormy looking clouds that made for some nice images of the peaks.
Wyoming, Teton, Grand Teton, Mountains, Sunlight, Schwabachers, Landing
Magnifiicent Mountains : Prints Available

Wyoming, Grand Teton, National Park, Mountains, Sunrise
Morning Storm : Prints Available

Wyoming, Grand Teton, National Park, Mountain, Storm, Clouds
Storm Coming : Prints Available

We were leaving Grand Teton National Park and headed back to South Dakota and had to go through Togwotee Pass on our way there. To our surprise, there was a late season snowstorm resulting in some beautiful winter scenes near the Pass. It wasn’t really winter, but it sure felt and looked like it.
Wyoming, Winter, Grand Teton, Togwotee, Pass, Snowstorm, Spring
Surprise Snow : Prints Available

I had photographed in Badlands National Park some years ago, but were mostly chasing wildlife at the time and not doing much Landscape work. I had always thought there were some real nice opportunities there. It always seems to be a challenge to get some good clouds, especially in the morning. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
South Dakota, Badlands, National Park, Sunrise, Rock, Formations
The Badlands : Prints Available

South Dakota, Badlands, National Park, Sunrise, Rock, Formation, Norbeck, Pass, Light
Soft Rock : Prints Available
South Dakota, Badlands, National Park, Rock, Formations, Sunrise
Planet Badlands : Prints Available
South Dakota, Badlands, National Park, Sunrise, Norbeck, Pass, Rock, Formation
Twin Peaks : Prints Available
South Dakota, Badlands, Sunrise, Norbeck, Pass, Rock, Formation
Points Of The Pass : Prints Available

Next up is a return trip to Oregon in June. We will be working a large area from the coast to inland areas including the Columbia River Gorge.

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Arizona & Utah at Night

When the skies are clear and you can’t get the sunrise and sunset images you want, there is the option of going out and doing some night photography. The Milky Way core is above the horizon from late March through October, so it isn’t a year round opportunity.

It has to be truly dark, which is from 2 hours after sunset to 2 hours before sunrise. For general safety reasons, you probably don’t want to be doing this alone. In this case, I was with another photographer, but it was still creepy at times.

Monument Valley in Utah is famous for its large rock formations known as The Mittens. We thought this would be a nice place to begin our night efforts. Night photography is totally different from the daytime. All the camera settings and concepts are changed. So, you get a nap from 10pm to 1am, get up and shoot until 4am and then back to bed. We joked that it was like we were going back to the kindergarten school of photography.

The first night was a learning experience, to say the least. We learned quickly though, and the second night’s efforts resulted in a nice shot of the Milky Way over Monument Valley.

Utah, Monument Valley, Milky Way
Monumental : Prints Available

About 20 miles south of Monument Valley, just into Arizona, is this incredible rock mountain known as Agathla Peak. The light from the nearby town of Kayenta lit up edges of the peak providing some great highlights. This location is really in the middle of nowhere, so the creepy factor at 2am was pretty high. Again, it was our second attempt there, but I am super pleased with the result.

Arizona, Utah, Milky Way, Agathla Peak
Kayenta Lights : Prints Available

While at Monument Valley, we took a morning to drive up to an old Indian ruin known as House On Fire. The unusual way the colors streak in the rocks over the ruins has the look of flames, which resulted in the name. I had been wanting to shoot this scene for years and I was finally able to check it off the list!

Flames : Prints Available

We left Monument Valley and headed to Zion National Park for our last couple of days of this expedition. The good news is that there were a few other people out there in the middle of the night, so it wasn’t quite as creepy. Plus, being in a National Park just felt better. The iconic mountain, known as The Watchman, is just slightly illuminated by the light of Springdale. With the long exposure needed for the sky, the mountain appears to light up quite well. There is more to do in this location, so a return trip there could be called for.

Utah, Milky Way, Zion National Park, The Watchman
Night Watchman : Prints Available

During our first morning in Zion, there were some storm clouds that we waited 2 hours for to clear enough to show the peaks. It truly lasted about 30 seconds and they were gone again. The contrast of the bright green spring colors of the Cottonwood trees against the red rock was marvelous.

Utah, Zion National Park, Mountains
Breakthrough : Prints Available

I’ll be heading to the southern Oregon coast and the northern California redwoods next week. The hope is for the rhododendrons to be in bloom and for the fog to roll in among the redwoods. If all goes right, some really nice images are possible.

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Eastern Sierra and Death Valley

The eastern side of the Sierra Mountains near Bishop, California provide many opportunities for great landscape photographs. I have been there before, but I had some unfinished business there. It had been a slow year for snow in the mountains, but to my delight, there were some pretty good snowstorms in the mountains for several weeks before we arrived in mid-March. The photographs of the mountains just aren’t the same without it.

A primary target was the view of the mountains with the Owens River in the foreground. Yes, it’s been shot a million times, but it was still on my to do list. There were no clouds in the morning, so the usual image at sunrise just wasn’t working, so I waited a few hours for them to appear. The rising sun also provided light, and color, for the vegetation surrounding the river. Sunrise is not always the only option.

California, Eastern Sierra, Owens River
River Reflection : Prints Available

During the day, I’m always out looking for something different to come back to at the right time. I was north of Bishop heading north on a small ridge road looking for mountain views not realizing a snowstorm was crossing the valley behind me. Luckily, I turned around and saw the storm. I quickly headed back to where there was a small canyon, ran out to a good view and captured this wonderful image of the storm crossing the valley.

California, Storm, Eastern Sierra, Mountains
Sierra Storm : Prints Available

After shooting the storm from the north, I headed immediately to a spot to the south of the storm I had picked out where the late sun would light up a group of trees. Knowing they would have the dark clouds behind them, I knew I had to get there.

California, Trees, Eastern Sierra
Storm Colors : Prints Available

Next up was Death Valley. Having been there before, I had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish. The last time I was there, I was not able to get up to Aguereberry Point due to road conditions. The roads were better this time and I wasn’t going to be denied. One afternoon trip to scout the shot followed by two sunrise trips to get a decent sky. Check this one off the list!

California, Death Valley, Aguereberry Point, Sunrise
Aguereberry Sunrise : Prints Available

The Mesquite Sand Dunes were a place I definitely wanted to return to and capture some better images. Last time I wasn’t prepared to shoot during high winds and sandstorms, but this time I was, equipped with ski goggles to cover my eyes. The winds clean the dunes of all previous footprints and provide wind streaks in the sand. There is also a softer look as a result of the blowing sand.

California, Death Valley, Sand, Dunes
Sand Shadows : Prints Available
California, Death Valley, Sand, Dunes
layers : Prints Available
California, Death Valley, Sand, Dunes
Sandplosion : Prints Available
California, Death Valley, Sand, Dunes
Soft Desert : Prints Available
California, Death Valley, Sand, Dunes
Wind Streaks : Prints Available

It was a very successful expedition. Next up is an April trip to some unusual places in Arizona and Utah red rock country.

Thanks for looking and feel free to share. You can also follow the journey on Facebook for more current photographs that may not be on the blog. https://www.facebook.com/JosephFilerPhotography