Mystery Valley

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...

Mystery Valley

Our second day in Monument Valley was spent on an all day tour of the area.  The first part of the day, we visited some of the well-known areas in Monument Valley by way of our excellent guide (Harry).  In the afternoon, we left Monument Valley and entered into Mystery Valley to continue our tour.  There is no public access to Mystery Valley, so a guide is a must, and Harry was up to the task as he expertly navigated the deep sand and rough roads to take us deep into the backcountry.  Mystery Valley is known as a former dwelling place for the Anasazi, or "Ancient Ones", as there are some remains of their homes as well as centuries-old rock art.  As with Monument Valley, the desert landscape is a vast and harsh, but beautiful place.  Sandstone rock formations abound, and we got the chance to explore a few of them.

Our first stop was at this skull along the 'road', which makes one wonder what is in store for the day...  

Harry referred to this tree as the 'broccoli tree', indicating that vegetables do grow in the desert...

Vegetation in this region is sparse, and what little there is has to adapt to extreme conditions and have a deep root system to reach moisture.  Notice in the image below that the grass has formed concentric circles as it blows in the wind.  

I like looking for opportunities to capture a starburst in my images, and the broccoli tree was the perfect subject.  Just place the sun so that it just peaks around the edge of something, stop down the aperture to f/22, and give it a try sometime.  Of course, care should be taken to not look directly at the sun through the viewfinder. 

Another skull!

Hope you enjoy the images.  Don't forget to click on them to see them full size.  Come back later as I continue on the journey...