Arizona

Face Rock & Honeymoon Arch

It seems that every rock formation in the Monument Valley area has a name.  Now, a few weeks later, it's difficult to remember them all.  Harry, our guide, for the tour, could rattle them off easily, having long ago committed each one to memory.  The passage of time, and the forces of wind, water, and ice, have left their mark on this grand landscape.  I felt it a privilege the opportunity to experience it first-hand, taking in these iconic views and making a few images, both in the synapses in my brain as well as the card in my camera.    

There's certainly no shortage of interesting shapes that have been carved into the Shinarump and Moenkopi Formations, the de Chelly Sandstone, and the underlying Organ Rock Shale.  Oh yeah, the rock formations have a unique nomenclature as well.  Those crazy geologists...!  Enjoy some images of a few here, and don't forget to click on the image to see it full size.  All of these were taken on our tour of Mystery Valley.  Glad to have you along for the ride...

Face Rock

As soon as you see Face Rock, there's no doubt why it is named as such.  Whether from a distance or up close, the unique shape of this rock is quite telling, having been carved by the hands of a great Sculptor.  The mid-afternoon sun was harsh, but a few nice puffy clouds in the deep blue sky made a nice backdrop for these images.  As I hiked up close to the base of the rock formation, I noticed a particularly wispy cloud taking shape right overhead.  From this angle, the cloud gives the appearance of smoke coming from the top of the rock.

Face Rock Smoking

Being a sucker for lots of vivid color, I don't do a lot of black and white conversions of my images.  However, I thought this one might be a good candidate.  The blues have been toned down in this one to provide a more dramatic scene and make the rock and 'smoke' seem to pop off the page.

From the images above, you can see that vegetation is sparse in this arid climate.  Believe it or not, the image of this colorful leaf was taken near the base of Face Rock.

Touch of Color

There are several natural arches in this area and we got to visit a couple of them.  I'm sure there is a story behind the names for these, but I'm not sure how that story goes.  Both of these are known as pothole arches, formed by chemical weathering from water that accumulates in depressions on top of the formation and gradually eats through the underlying layers of sandstone.  

Stout Arch

Honeymoon Arch

As the day drew to a close, we were sure to set up on a bluff overlooking Mystery Valley to capture a sunset scene of this vast open space.  From the petrified dunes capped with saucer-shaped rocks in the foreground to the buttes and mesas in the distance, there is little doubt that we were in the backcountry.  

Mystery Valley Sunset

And another black and white of this great landscape...

The sun had long settled down for the night, but the high clouds were still showing some nice color that just begged to be captured in this image.  

More to come...

Monument Valley Adventures - Day 1

Monument Valley is a magical place.  Who would think you could say that about a place in the middle of the desert, far away from any sizeable city?  But it is.  Maybe it's the scenic vistas and vastness of the land or perhaps it's the majestic sandstone formations that tower above the desert floor, seemingly standing guard over the landscape.  Whatever it is, millions of people flock to this place each year.  It has become one of the most photographed locations on the planet.   

Driving into Monument Valley from the south on U.S. Route 163, a peculiar formation will quickly come into view that rises over 1,500 feet above the surrounding terrain.  This is El Capitan, or Agathla Peak, and one can't help but wonder how this huge monolith got here and what forces were at work to create it.  This is just one of many geologic wonders dotting this region, which is more broadly a part of the Colorado Plateau.  This mountain, considered sacred by the Navajo, is a volcanic feature formed by a breach of the earth's surface by magma and the resulting gaseous explosions.  

El Capitan

Arriving in Monument Valley, we proceeded to check in to The View Hotel, which would be our home base for the next couple of days.  It is a beautiful hotel, and situated at the entrance into the valley, certainly lives up to it's name.  The view from this place is spectacular.

Room With A View

By the time we arrived and got unpacked, it was getting close to sunset.  We decided this would be a great time to capture some images from one of the most iconic settings in the park. This is a scene that has been photographed countless times and seen in magazines, books, on television, and in several movies.  Regardless, it was awesome to experience it in person.

East Mitten & Merrick Butte

Monument Valley Sunset

The familiar scene in the image above shows the West Mitten (on the left), the East Mitten (center), and Merrick's Butte (on the right).  This scene and the surrounding area has served as a backdrop for a number of movies that have been filmed here, beginning in 1939 with John Ford's Stagecoach, starring a young John Wayne in his breakout role.  Over the years, John Ford returned nine times to film westerns in Monument Valley.  Other more recent movies filmed at least partially in Monument Valley include National Lampoon's Vacation, Thelma & Louise, Back to the Future Part III, Forrest Gump, Mission: Impossible II, The Lone Ranger, and Transformers: Age of Extinction.  The exposure provided by the many films, television, and commercials really put this place on the map and people from all over the world come to see for themselves this amazing location.

Having a room with a balcony overlooking this iconic landscape, as well as clear skies and a meteor shower means that night time is an opportunity to make some star images.  Lots of photos, not much sleep.  The Orionid meteor shower was peaking early the next morning, so I set up the camera on a tripod on the balcony to see if one would pass through my frame.  It's not very prominent, but it's there in the bottom left of the image below.

Monument Valley Meteor

That's all for now...more to come.