Woo hoo, folks! Check it out. You already know I write a monthly column for the National Parks Traveler website. Well, their 2013 National Parks Traveler Essential Friends + Gateways web magazine is out and my photos feature prominwently. Check out pg 10 (the Grand Canyon pic), pages 22 – 24 (those photos for the Glacier Park spread are mine!), and that full pg 26 photo of the Grand Canyon is mine! Ok, and aside from my photographic pride, this is a very cool magazine with lots of neat items and articles. Just click on the hyperlink to the magazine then click the “Expand” button to get a full-screen view of the magazine.
Tag Archives: travel
Due to extenuating circumstances, the photographer with whom I share a monthly photography column on the National Parks Traveler website had to switch publication dates. So, here is the link to my latest photography column on the Traveler site. It deals with scale, perspective, and the connection these make with the viewer. The Traveler also has a Facebook page, so if you like what you see, then go on over to their FB Page and Like them!
For those of you who may not know, I am a monthly contributor to a photography column hosted by the National Parks Traveler website. I share this monthly space with another photographer. My April column talks about getting intimate with your photography (I deliberately wanted it to be a little bit provocative). Check it out if you are interested. And, while you are at it, go over to the National Parks Traveler facebook page and Like them.
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!
I’ve been remiss about “feeding the beast” and making regular weekly contributions to my site (and don’t even ask me about the reading catch-up I need to do with my favorite blogs). It’s the holiday season and I’ve been involved with other photo business, which has kept me occupied with non-blog issues. I now have enough vacation to take every Friday off for the remainder of the year, so hopefully these 3-day weekends will give me more time to catch up on the blogosphere.
As previously promised, this article is not about any camera/lens comparisons. Instead, I want to tell you about an interesting, somewhat out-of-the-way viewing area I visited en route to Moab, Utah.
During the planning stages of my Mesa Verde NP / Arches NP trip this past August 2012, I was looking at Google Maps and noticed a side road off of Hwy 191 (the road to Moab), with the title “Needles / Anticline Overlooks”. An anticline! Yeah! I like geology. I have a couple of degrees in geology, as a matter of fact. I’d LOVE to see an anticline. So I added that to my itinerary.
The route to Anticline Overlook is a 31-mile, 2-lane (more or less) road – 16 miles of which is on gravel . It’s a well-tended gravel so I didn’t worry too much about driving the rental car along the road (I should have taken a photo of how dusty the car looked upon my return to the main highway).
Where the paved portion ends and the gravel begins, you have the choice of turning left to the Needles Overlook or continuing on to Anticline Overlook. I decided to save Needles for another time.
This prong horn antelope was standing in the middle of the road, but by the time I stopped the car and grabbed the camera, it had sauntered off, totally ignoring me and my pleas to look my way for a portrait shot.
The ultimate destination ends in a loop, with plenty of room for parking and a nice little pit toilet. A short trail leads to the overlook, with views northwest, north, and northeast. The view is expansive and the air fresh and clear.
Some thorny bushes along the path. Wouldn’t want to get tangled in this stuff!
Solar evaporation potash ponds near the Colorado River.
Looking north toward Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands NP. The Kane Creek Anticline is to your left. The Colorado River meanders its way from the left of the photo over to the right of the photo.
A dirt road winding through the canyon landscape.
Kane Creek Canyon, to the northeast.
A view within the canyon.
Heading back to the main highway and then on to Moab.
Prong horn antelope in the distance as I leave Anticline Overlook.
If you are traveling Hwy 191 Utah - north to or south from Moab – and your vehicle can handle the gravel, this is a neat side trip for a great view of Utah’s canyon lands and geology.
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 alllife. 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.
My last full day inside Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, began with a spectacular sunrise and continued with a lesson learned.
Because vacations for people like me (a technical support person who has managed to work at the same place long enough to earn 4 weeks of vacation….out of 52 weeks of the year) usually aren’t more than maybe 10-11 days at a stretch (the company would have heart failure if I wanted to take a full two weeks or more off at one time), I generally cram as much activity into each day as I possibly can. Now, I have learned through the years not to push myself – I’m a little overweight, a lot out of shape, and currently reside in a part of Texas with an elevation of 30 feet. Mesa Verde NP has a general elevation of 7000 feet. On one of the cliff dwelling tours I took, the ranger mentioned that it takes about 3 weeks for a body to acclimate itself to a much higher elevation. I’d been there what? Three days?
So, I planned a single tour every day I was in the park (4 full days plus the half day upon my arrival). Ok, one day I had two tours, but who’s counting? It worked well. I’d be pleasantly tired, with the good feeling of having gotten my exercise and accomplishing what I wanted to do and see for that day.
On this last day, my goal was to take the Petroglyph Rock hike. I really wanted to see those ancient Puebloan rock carvings. It’s just 2.8-miles round trip…..2.8 miles of narrow, primitive, rocky, STEEP, rocky (did I mention that already?) trail. Had I not pulled a calf muscle a couple of days prior, and had I not been a dumb ass and brought along my backpack with extra camera, and extra water (in addition to the heavy camera around my neck, and the water bottle in one of my camera vest pockets), I might have made it through the hike. Maybe…..
When I started out, I met a worker who was thinning the brush alongside the trail. He warned me of a black bear sighting between markers 20-22 (there are 34 trail markers along that particular hike).
Ok folks, pretty much every single photographer I have ever met would sell their soul to photograph a bear in the wild.
I have seen first hand just what a bear’s claws can do to human flesh; one of my bosses in a previous life had been attacked by a grizzly and I not only heard his story, but also read the news clippings (and saw the photos) of his injuries. Bears make me verrrry nervous. Especially if I am hiking alone. I know several photographers who hike solo who have no problems with bears, and maybe they won’t ever have any problems. All I know is that I don’t want to meet up with one by myself.
There I was, talking loudly to myself, huffing and puffing and slowly taking all those steep areas and squeezing through those tight passages (you know the kind: sheer cliff face on one side and volkswagon-sized boulder on the other). Then, my calf muscle twinged and I felt a short, sharp stab of pain. Uh oh. I was already nervous about the bear, and now this.
After negotiating a particularly steep, narrow climb, at marker 17, I decided enough was enough. I still have Arches National Park to visit during this vacation, and more than anything, I want to see Delicate Arch for myself. Hmmm. Such a choice. Continue on that effing trail to see rock carvings, or rest up in order to manage the hike to see Delicate Arch?
I turned back.
During my initial hike up there, my gut feeling was not good – I have learned to trust my gut feeling more as I get older, and the more I hiked toward the carvings, the worse I began to feel – and this was not just a physical issue , but a psychic issue as well . The moment I turned back, I felt a great relief wash over me. No, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed that I hadn’t made it through the hike, and no, I didn’t feel like I’d failed at anything. It was just one of those days. They happen.
This feeling was reinforced when I met who I can only describe as an angel sent to help me understand the lesson at hand, in the form of a little German lady about my age or so, wearing shorts, hiking boots, hat, and carrying walking poles.
“Did you manage to crawl over the boulder?” she cheerfully asked. Hmmm. Which one? I’d seen, hiked past, and squeezed between a lot of large boulders, but I had not yet needed to climb over one.
I explained to her my decision to turn back because of my calf muscle. She smiled and nodded. “Yah, I do this hike every year, and every year, I begin to have more and more problems. I may not be able to do this hike next year.” She went on to explain to me that she comes out to the park and does a number of hikes during which she measures how she is feeling this time compared to the previous years. I told her I was recognizing my own limits and she nodded vigorously. We both laughed about at least getting some exercise on this day, and then went on our separate ways. I just can’t imagine our meeting to have been a mere coincidence.
I do understand now that I have limits and I am learning what they are. No matter how much I would like to be able to hike and scramble hither and yonder over multitudes of primitive trails like others my age can do, I simply cannot achieve that without some measure of pain, and at what cost? It’s a Petroglyph Trail vs. Delicate Arch choice.
So, this vacation of mine is not only a photographic paradise, but now also a good learning lesson. As a photographer, I find I am actually able to live within these limits and still capture awesome images without having to hike to the hinterlands if I cannot physically do so. For those of you photographers out there who may have the same issues as I do, well, there ya go. Know your limits, abide by them, and have fun taking pictures within those limits. It can be done.
I once wrote that I would try to post every weekend (or closely thereafter); I’d read that to keep and increase readership, one needs to blog and blog (relatively) often.
I’m on vacation right now (Aug 24 – Sep 2, 2012). I packed up one of my Canon 5D Mk II bodies, two rented Canon 5D Mark III bodies, my 70-200mm + 1.4x teleconverter, my 16-35mm lens, 40mm pancake lens, and 24-105mm lens (in addition to the circular polarizers and Lee 4×6 .9 soft graduated ND filters) for this trip. I arrived in Denver, then flew to Durango, Colorado and am now staying at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park. Now you know which cameras and lenses I used to take all of the photos you will see in my future posts. FYI, I’ve used my 16-35mm more than any of the other lenses so far, with the 24-105mm coming in second.
Since I’m saving my photos (so far I’ve taken over 2000 which I need to cull through and edit) and commentary for the numerous travelogues I will post upon my return to Texas, I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here, except to talk about a few things.
As a fellow blogger put it, water is the most important thing to mankind. It’s one of those required staples, without which one cannot live for maybe more than 3 days. Water creates the landscape, nourishes plant- and animal-life, and in many cultures living in arid lands, is worshipped. The longer I stay in Mesa Verde NP, and the more cliff dwelling tours I take in the hot sun and dry air, the more I understand the importance of water. Yes, I’ve heard others go on about the importance of water, but when I get my water from a faucet with a few twists of the tap, I guess I’ve just taken it’s availability for granted. Out here, I don’t.
Something else that I am trying to accomplish is to become more observant during my hikes. Oh, I look around a lot in search of a grand photo op, but there are times when I’m just putting one foot in front of the other to get from Point A to Point B. With this trip, I’m actually looking, observing, listening, and smelling. I’m taking my eye away from the viewfinder to just soak in the atmosphere around me.
I can smell the Utah juniper and pinyon pine. I can smell (and see) the brilliant yellow rabbitbrush that covers the land here. I can hear the songbirds hidden in the Utah serviceberry, I can hear the night wind whipping around my lodge room balcony. I stand on said balcony (with a Buffalo Gold Ale in my hand) and watch the clouds rolling across the mesas, casting blobby shadows hither and yonder.
I did not observe the little grass snake crossing my path as I tiredly trudged back to my car, until I looked down, saw it, and jumped sky high, scaring myself and the poor little snake. I did observe the black widow spider crawling up my lodge room’s bathroom wall (no, I did not take a photo of it – I hate those things – snakes and tarantulas I can deal with, but not black widow spiders).
I am also reflecting more on each thing I learn from the rangers guiding the tours I have taken (Ranger Pete, Ranger Pamela, “Willa Cather” – aka Ranger Paula, Ranger Denice. My backcountry tour to Mug House was lead by a ranger who is an adopted daughter of the Hopi Bear Clan. Of the many interesting and thoughtful things she said, the one that really stands out is that people must respect the land, and respect all life, for everything has a spirit. To disrespect life is akin to a mental illness.
An interesting thing to reflect upon, since I don’t much care for people, although I notice that I am much more loquacious during this trip, because I am happy. When I am in my element, then I am happy and I actually like people more (most of the time, anyway, until some moron tries to tailgate me because he wants to drive faster than the posted speed limit within the park).
So, stay tuned for more thoughts, travel tidbits, and of course, lots of photos. I’ve got 2 more days here in Mesa Verde NP before heading up to Arches NP in Utah.