Finding Arizona Fine Art in Hidden Places
Arizona is a favorite of landscape photographers due to its dramatic landscapes and highly-recognizable locations such as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Sedona. But there are other lesser-known areas of Arizona that create stunning fine art photography. As I discuss in my article, The Hunt For Unique Landscape Locations, it is wonderful to take pictures of well-known iconic sites but it is equally rewarding to find lesser-known landscape photography sites as they can also make a wonderful and unique fine art print.
A case in point is my landscape picture of Gold Canyon, south of Phoenix, Arizona, which showcases dark green cacti and red rock sand formations which light up at sunset. If you are near the Grand Canyon, then a trip to photograph Horseshoe Bend is a must. The Colorado River makes an amazing U-shaped bend as it takes a 180-degree change in direction and thus the name—Horseshoe Bend. My photograph of Horseshoe Bend captures clearly the bend and twist of the Colorado River…. It is truly fascinating.
As I note in my article, Best Locations for Nature Photography, areas such as the desert southwest provide the photographer with an abundance of photographic possibilities and you always feel there is something new to find. For example, located in northern Arizona is the remote Vermilion Cliffs National Monument which contains many diverse desert landscapes including White Pocket where swirling layers of white and grey minerals contrast with the red sandstone. Pictures of the Vermillion Cliffs are unique in many ways. One area is known as the X-factor as the lines from the rocks create an "X" shape.
Arizona provides the photographer with many interesting landscape photography opportunities – from deserts to buttes to swirling sandstone formations. The photographs in my Arizona Fine Art Landscape Gallery showcase the beauty and uniqueness of the Arizona landscape.
Visiting and Photographing Arizona Landscapes
If someone says the word “Arizona” ….. you may immediately think of its most famous landmark, the Grand Canyon, which is certainly on both the visitor’s and photographer’s bucket list as evidenced by the 2,897,098 recreation visitors who toured the Grand Canyon Park in 2020. There are countless fascinating rock formations in the park and during sunrise and sunset, the vertical walls light up and the deep crevices stay dark with their shadows.
One of my favorite sites is Pima Point along the South Rim, where you can see the Colorado River down deep at the bottom of the canyon. Grandview Point is another must-stop location where the peaks look very different from sunset versus sunrise as the sun casts its light and the canyon responds by reflecting the light ….. creating warm red and orange tones.
For those that enjoy the beauty of night-time photography, the areas around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon lend themselves to spectacular photos of the Milky Way. The lack of city lights at many of Arizona’s travel destinations allows the stars to stand out at night. Standing there, in the darkness, you become intensely aware of how infinite space is and how small we are.
Another wonderful destination for your Arizona vacation is Sedona which is located between Flagstaff and Phoenix. Sedona has some of the most well-known formations in all of Red Rock County. Cathedral Rock, a natural sandstone butte, is one of the most photographed sights in Arizona. If you like hiking, then try the Secret Slickrock Trail (not so secret) and you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of Cathedral Rock …… or try to photograph its reflection from Red Rock Crossing.
Another one of my favorite locations near Sedona is Sugarloaf Mountain, a majestic red rock formation. The site just begs for a sunset shot which means you can sleep late that day. The alpine trees in the forefront contrast beautifully with the reds and oranges of the rocks as the sunsets.
When done touring Sedona, you should travel north to see Antelope Canyon, a picturesque slot canyon just east of Page and near Lake Powell. Photographers and tourists enjoy walking through the winding tunnels while capturing pictures of the canyon’s wave-like wall formations.
The erosion of the sandstone in the slot canyons results in an endless number of shapes and shadows as the holes and crevices in the roof of the canyon allow light to come through in narrow beams. The trick is being in the right place at the right time as the beam may last for only a minute while the sun passes over that particular hole or crack in the canyon ceiling.
Right down the road from Antelope Canyon is Horseshoe Bend which attracts 2 million visitors every year. Horseshoe Bend was created when the Colorado River looped around an impassable sandstone ridge forming an amazing U-shaped bend as the river makes a 180-degree change in direction. It is one of the most photographed sites in northern Arizona.
Still, looking for other travel inspiration? Try taking a road trip on the historic Route 66 that goes past old towns, deserts, and remnants of past roadside attractions that will transport you into another time in American history. (Please note: Route 66 which is a straight fast ride along I-40 also makes for a fun road trip for those who prefer to travel via motorcycle.)
Both the photographer and the vacationer will enjoy visiting various stops along Route 66 including the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park; Meteor Crater; and Walnut Canyon National Monument, and Sunset Crater. These famous landmarks provide the photographer with landscape opportunities that are very different from the red rocks of Sedona and the dramatic rock formations of the Grand Canyon.
There are other great desert locations that offer amazing photographic potential. These locations include but are not limited to, Organ Pipe National Monument, Saguaro National Park, Superstition Mountains, Gold Canyon, Watson Lake, White Pocket, and Monument Valley.
As I hope you can tell, Arizona is more than the home to a very big and famous canyon. It is a state filled with many “must-sees” that include canyons, buttes, rivers, red rock formations … the list keeps going on and on. So, perhaps it is time to make your “Arizona Must-See” list and experience the beauty this state has to offer.
Fun Facts About Arizona
Arizona was the last of the states excluding Alaska and Hawaii to be granted statehood, which occurred on February 14, 1912. Happy Valentine's Day to state number 48! It's called The Grand Canyon State, but there is so much more to love about Arizona than just its most famous landmark.
For starters, its history is a rich one that brings to mind images of the American Old West. There is probably no better example of this than what is referred to as “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral". It occurred on October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona, which is very close to the border with Mexico.
The gunfight only lasted 30 seconds. It was the culmination of a feud between Billy Claiborne and his gang and Wyatt Earp, Virgil and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holiday. The O.K. Corral got credit for the location, but it actually happened next to C.S. Fly’s Photography Studio. It's too bad Mr. Fly didn’t have a current-day high-speed camera to photograph the action.
Arizona is home to over 20 Native American reservations. The largest is the Navajo Nation, which encompasses Monument Valley, Other notable ones are the Hopi Reservation and the Havasupai Reservation, which has the beautiful Havasu Falls. The aqua-blue/turquoise waters make for a stunning contrast with the deep orange cliffs.
Indian history runs deep in Arizona. With the end of the Mexican- American War in 1848, land was ceded to the United States by Mexico including land inhabited by the Apache. Settlers and miners began streaming into the area looking for gold. The Apache, trying to defend their lands, began attacking the settlers.
Their most famous leader was Geronimo (1829-1909) who was known for his fearlessness as he led his people in defending them from the United States military. Today the phrase “Geronimo” is often heard when someone is jumping from a great height.
There are various stories about the origination of this phrase but throughout history, men have often begun battles by shouting battle cries, and the phrase “Geronimo” is used by the U.S. Airborne paratroopers. Regardless of the origin, many of us have yelled “Geronimo” as we were dealing with the thrill of jumping off something high…. such as from a rock ledge into a pool of water.
As noted above, the search for gold in “them thar hills” has been an important part of Arizona’s history. To get a glimpse of that era, you can visit the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town near Jerome and wander through the old buildings…. many filled with antiques….. and envision what it was like for the prospectors who mined gold here from 1890 to 1914.
Perhaps one of Arizona’s most famous gold mining legends is “The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” supposedly located in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. It is named after a German immigrant, Jakob Waltz, who supposedly discovered a hidden rich source of gold. He and his partner worked the mine and may have hidden caches of gold. Jacob died in 1891.
Legend has it he did describe the location to a neighbor but she nor others were never able to find the mine. Some searches have even met with foul play or death whin only adds to the superstitions and legends about “The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine”.
Yes, Arizona is known for its famous landmark—the Grand Canyon—and for its red rock formations and the hidden beauty found in the deserts. But its history is filled with legends and stories that inspire you to marvel at the bravery of those early settlers and to appreciate the legacy they left for us today.