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...

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.