Recently my friend Dia and I spent a few days in a cute airBNB near Abiquiu Lake. The place we stayed was in the middle of the high desert up on a rocky mesa. The views from the home were so beautiful. We had wonderful first evening enjoying a glass of wine and exploring the views from the mesa.
I had wanted to do some sunset and/or night photography that first night, but thunderstorms moved in preventing any photography. So we stayed in and enjoyed the kiva fireplace and a yummy dinner.
The next day we decided to explore the Ghost Ranch. I have long wanted to hike the trails at this ranch. You may be familiar with Ghost Ranch as this was the place the famous painter Georgia O’Keefe loved to visit and paint.
We decided to hike the Chimney Rock trail as it wasn’t too long and offered the best views of the area. After a short, steep climb, we quickly came upon the main attraction of the hike, Chimney Rock.
Dia and her dog Buddy decided to hang out here and enjoy the view.
Scarlett and I decided to go further up the steep trail. The views from up high were just stunning.
While exploring Ghost Ranch, the clouds continued to build. By the time we left, the clouds had formed beautifully over the grand vista of the Ranch.
We returned to our airBNB and enjoyed another wonderful dinner by the fireplace. That evening the weather cooperated much better. So Dia and I went out to take some more photos of our gorgeous views.
Not long after the sun set, a bright full moon rose into the sky. We both had great fun photographing the moon and the lovely light of the blue hour.
The next day we headed home. The day was overcast and rainy. We knew the Aspen at the Santa Fe Ski Area were in full color, so we decided to brave the weather and drive to the ski area to get some fall photos.
I’ve often said photographers love bad weather. And this day showed just why. The low clouds on the moutains made my photos more dramatic. Plus the soft light and wet leaves, made the gold color just glow!
We had a fabulous time while visiting the Abiquiu area. It was such a peaceful, relaxing trip. I would gladly go again to this area to escape the stresses of life.
I recently went on a photography trip of a lifetime. I traveled over 2000 miles in 10 days. I drove from Albuquerque to Northern Arizona and then up into Southern Utah. I drove the entire circle around the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and saw several National Parks and took many beautiful hikes.
As I drove into Northern Arizona, I came across a gorgeous field of yellow flowers. It was so beautiful that I just had to stop for photos.
My next stop was to let Scarlett stretch her legs. I stopped at the top of a sandstone mesa. There have been a lot of monsoon rains and they have filled up all the low spots on the mesa. Scarlett had a great time running through the pools.
I thought I saw some movement in one of the pools. When I looked more closely, I saw these creepy creatures swimming around. They were around 2 inches long and were very fast! I had to look them up to find out what they were. They are a unique creature that can lay eggs that can stay dormant for a long time until the rains fill their pools. Then they live for 90 days which is just enough to breed. It’s a fresh water crustacean with three eyes!
Coming down from the mesa, I came into the big valley near Monument Valley. The view is just so “Arizona”!
I eventually made it to Kanab, Utah. There I met up with Seth Hamel of Enlighten Photography Excursions. Seth was an awesome tour guide. I signed up for his Utah Milky Way Photography Workshop. I recently upgraded all of my camera equipment so I could start learning astrophotography.
Before meeting up with the tour group, I had time to do a couple of hikes. My first hike was in Zion National Park. I hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail. I started at sunrise. The trail was fun to hike. You climbed along the edge of the canyon with a long drop off.
At the end of the trail, the view of the deep canyon was spectacular! You hike up a steep rock incline and then you look down and say “wow”!
My second hike was Kannarra Creek Falls. I had wanted to do this hike for some time after seeing photos online. It didn’t disappoint! You actually hike in the creek through a slot canyon to several waterfalls.
The entire hike was so wonderful. Every bend was more beautiful than the last.
I made it to the first waterfall. So beautiful!
I wanted to climb the ladder and go further upstream, but Scarlett was too scared of the loud waterfall and open stairs. They were pretty steep and I was afraid that if she made it up the stairs, she wouldn’t be able to go back down. So we turned around at this point.
That evening I met up with the tour group. Our first stop was a sunset shoot on a mesa west of Zion. The geology of this area was very unique.
Once the sun set, we went into Zion and took some night photos. I was so pleased with how my new camera equipment performed. It did way better than my old setup.
Seth had fun light painting “Zion” for us to photograph. He had to write backwards and had to do it within 20 seconds because that was our length of exposure. He did a great job!
The next day I drove up to Bryce Canyon National Park. One of the highlights of the drive was through a cool tunnel in the red canyon area.
I’d never been to Bryce Canyon before so I was really excited to see it. It did not disappoint! I stayed at the lodge right inside Bryce Canyon. It was great to step outside my room and see the spectacular view!
We hiked down one of the many trails at Bryce. Then we stopped several times on our way back up the trail to take photos. My favorite location was at a pine tree with really cool roots.
Seth was nice enough to take photos of each of us with our camera. It was fun getting a selfie of me.
I got up before sunrise to set up my camera for sunrise photos at Bryce Canyon. I went to Sunrise Point to take my photos. I thought it was strange that I didn’t see anyone else from my group or any other professional photographers setting up at this location. I found out later that everyone goes to Inspiration Point. I visited Inspiration Point later in the day and I didn’t care for the formations there. I am glad I messed up and went to Sunrise Point instead!
Our last outing with the tour was to White Pocket in Northern Arizona. This location has been top on my bucket list of places to visit for some time!
The drive to White Pocket is several hours long on a very rough 4WD road. But it was worth the bouncy ride! I wish we had had more time to explore there. I want to go back!
We got there about 2 hours before sunset. I had a blast walking around this unique landscape.
After sunset, we set up a couple different places for our milky way photos. I loved photographing this location!
The next day I drove to Escalante, Utah. I stayed at a fantastic place! It’s called Yonder Escalante. You stay in your own private cabin. They have a common area with couches and firepits. I met so many wonderful people hanging out there. They also have a drive in theater and you sit in old classic cars. So cool! I also enjoyed their wonderful pool and hot tub!
They even come to your cabin to light your own personal firepit to make s’mores!
While staying at Escalante I got to hike another trail on my bucket list: Lower Calf Creek Falls. It was a nice little hike along Calf Creek.
The falls were fabulous!
On my last couple of days, I finished driving the loop. Part of the drive was through Capitol Reef National Park. What a beautiful place! I wish I had time to do a hike in this area, but my trip was coming to a close. Plus, it was just the wrong time of year to hike this area. It was really warm and there isn’t any shade on these trails.
I did stop at a roadside trail that had a boardwalk along a tall rock wall with petroglyphs.
The last part of the drive was from Escalante to Bluff, Utah (right in the southeast corner of Utah). I had no idea that this drive was the prettiest scenery of the whole trip!
First you drive through some badlands with unique rock colors.
Then you enter a deep canyon of gorgeous red walls, with a running creek next to the road and a very steep downhill grade of 14%. I loved it!
You eventually come out at the eastern end of Lake Powell where the Colorado River feeds into it. An amazing drive!
After crossing this bridge, I came to an area of the river that had large goosenecks. Stunning!
I hope you enjoyed hearing about my epic photography tour of Southern Utah!
We’ve been getting a lot of nice monsoon rains in Albuquerque. Things have gotten really green for the desert. And it makes the morning temperatures really cool for hiking. I normally don’t hike any of the Petroglyph trails in the summer because they are just too hot even in the early morning.
Since it had really rained good Monday evening, I got up at 5:30 yesterday to drive out to the west mesa. I managed to hit the trail just before sunrise and just before moonset.
With the cool morning temps, several hot air balloons were flying over the mesa. At first they were off in the distance. But soon they were right over the Petroglyph trail above me. It’s always fun to see the balloons flying over Albuquerque.
To add to the flying balloons, the sky was full of beautiful clouds.
Soon the sun was starting to peek over the Sandia Mountains. I love how the clouds cause the rays of the sun to fan out. It just warms my soul.
I don’t usually like to have sun flares in my photos. But sometimes they are difficult to avoid. But for some reason I really liked the colorful flares in this photo.
Scarlett was having fun running up and down the trail. There were loads of bunny rabbits out in the desert scrub.
I have posted in the past about this trail and have shown many photos of the petroglyphs. This time I tried to find some I have posted before. But I don’t think I succeeded in that endeavor too well.
My favorite parts of the hike are when you get to the areas where there are loads of petroglyphs. It’s so much fun trying to find them on the many faces of the basalt rocks.
Another favorite area is at the end of the hike. You come upon a few rocks that are covered in hand prints. It’s amazing to see a hand print from someone over a 2,500 years ago!
I wonder if the people that had 6 fingers were considered special and were made shamans. I’ve noticed in many of the sites I’ve been to all over the southwest, that a lot of the handprints had 6 fingers.
A came across several millipedes in one area. I had never seen them before. It was so much fun trying to capture some images. I even touched one to get it to curl up.
I was surprised to find there were very few birds around. The morning was eerily bereft of birdsong. I had to search to find a few birds.
I came across a pretty white flower. When I looked inside, I saw a tiny green spider. It was a real challenge getting a photo of him!
Scarlett and I had a great morning walk. The trail was beautiful and the air was fresh. Nature was really showing off her best!
It’s been a few years since I hiked the Hondo Canyon trail. It’s one of the few places you can see water year round in the Sandia Mountains.
I got up early to beat the summer heat. Scarlett was thrilled to be out during the cool morning. I was enjoying the morning as well.
The first part of the hike is fairly easy and I think pretty with the rock wall and trees.
After a short while I could see the caves next to the waterfall.
Soon we arrived at the small travertine waterfall. This time of year the spring flow is very low. This created just a trickle for the falls.
I was surprised to see dozens of hummingbirds swarming around the falls. They were drinking and bathing. I was fascinated that they would actually cling to the wall of the waterfall to bathe. I stayed here at the waterfall for a good 30 minutes watching and photographing all the beautiful hummingbirds.
Sometimes I was lucky enough to have one perch nearby for a few moments.
People often ask me how I bird with Scarlett. Doesn’t she scare the birds away??? She’s so good. She just lays down and sits quietly. And sometimes she point out birds to me by staring at them.
After an enjoyable 30 minutes, I climbed above the waterfall to where the spring starts. It’s a beautiful, lush area.
After the spring, the trail really starts to climb. I had forgotten how steep this trail is. Scarlett didn’t seem to notice. She would run ahead and then wait, wondering what was taking me so long.
After the short but steep climb, the views start to open up. But difficult to see with all the vegetation.
One of the parts of the trail I like is climbing up to a small Ponderosa Pine grove. Ponderosa Pine forests are my favorite because of the openness below the canopy. This area is always good for sighting the pygmy nuthatch. I love their piping voices. I heard lots of them today, but sadly couldn’t get a photo.
After reaching this point, I decided to turn around. The morning was really starting to warm up fast. When we reached the spring on the way back, Scarlett stretched out in it to cool off. Smart girl! Of course, she loves water and looks for any excuse to get in it.
Back at the waterfall, the hummingbirds had gone quiet but other birds were out and about.
It was interesting to see a Lesser Goldfinch land on the wall of the falls and peck a the surface. I figured she must be getting important minerals from the travertine wall.
Before leaving the trail, I made Scarlett pose for me on the pretty rock wall. She loves to climb on things and pose for me. I guess she knows it makes me happy.
It was fun to get out again and seeing nature’s beauty and forget about all the stressful things in my life right now.
After getting all rested up after hiking The Wave the day before, I was ready for my next tour. I hired a tour company to take me to a remote slot canyon that required true 4WD to get there. The road there must have had 2 feet of very soft sand that I would have definitely not felt comfortable to drive.
We finally arrived at Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon. Right off the bat it was just beautiful!
Scarlett loved it because it was shady and cool and she liked running up ahead and racing back through the narrow slot. I got her to slow down enough for a photo op.
The tour guide was amazing. He was very patient and knowledgeable in photographing slot canyons. The best part was that he would help me frame up a shot and then help me with the manual settings to capture the moment with the best possible light.
Sometimes the canyon was very narrow and sometimes it would widen up. I loved how it changed with each curve.
One of my favorite spots of the canyon was photographing this big log. I loved having this focal point in the photo.
Here’s some other photos I took during the tour.
Too soon we reached the end of the slot canyon. A Western Whiptail had fallen into the canyon and was in deep shade. It was so cool in the shade that he was very still. This enabled me to take a few fun photos. Afterwards I picked him up and carried him to a sunny area. He woke up then!!!
After the tour I realized I had plenty of time to drive to Zion National Park and do a hike for evening photos. I had picked out a hike that is not well known. I wanted to hike a trail that wasn’t crowded by loads of tourists. The trail is called Lower Pine Creek Waterfall Trail. It isn’t listed on any of the park maps so most tourists don’t know it exists.
To get there I had to drive the famous park highway. It’s a very scenic drive with lots of places that make you want to stop for photos.
At one stop there were loads of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, but they were so close it didn’t matter!
The trail was short but beautiful. It headed into a narrow canyon along Lower Pine Creek. I arrived at the trailhead just before sunset. I was hoping to get some nice golden hour/blue hour photos.
Scarlett was thrilled to have water to play in. We had to cross the creek several times. We also had to scramble over large boulders.
There were several nice spots to take photos.
The trail was supposed to end with a beautiful waterfall. I had seen photos of this waterfall and was really looking forward to photographing it. However, this past winter was a very wet winter and all the creeks in the park were way up.
I got to this huge pond in the creek just before the waterfall. It was at least 6 feet deep. Too deep to cross and keep my camera gear dry! Sadly I had to turn around without seeing the waterfall (which was literally just around the corner from this pond).
As I was heading out I heard all of the Bighorn Sheep coming down to the creek for a drink. They were bleating loudly to each other. I looked and looked but never saw a one even though I could hear they were very close.
In early June I took a trip of a lifetime for a photographer. I have dreamed for years of hiking to and photographing “The Wave” formation in the desert of Utah/Arizona.
In order to hike to “The Wave” formation you have apply to a lottery and hope to win one of 20 tickets available for each day. Based on an average of how many people apply for each day, I calculated that I had a .001% chance of winning a ticket. AND I WON!!!
My hiking date was for Tuesday, June 4. I figured I was pushing it pretty close to the “too” warm weather to hike it comfortably. But based on average temperatures for the area, the high of the day was to be 84 degrees. Not too bad, but hiking on red sandstone was definitely going to be warm.
So I set out for southern Utah on Monday, June 3, and was going to stay for 5 days and see the sights around Kanab, Utah. This town is a cute, quaint town and central to so much desert beauty.
I try to see as many of our country’s National Parks as possible. I believe we should support the preservation of these sites that are so unique to our country. So I planned on stopping at the Hubbell Trading Post National Monument. This is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The trading post was built in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell.
I couldn’t stay long but had a little time to see the store and the barn next door. The inside of the post had the original wood floors and glass cabinets. Sadly no one was available to show me the Hubbell home. This was a shame because it’s an 11,500 square foot home full of Hubbell Family heirlooms.
I was quickly back on the road. My goal was to get to Kanab before sunset so I could visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sunset photos.
The sand of the dunes is a beautiful color and the texture is like powder. It was very difficult to walk in. Scarlett was so happy to finally get out of the car and stretch her legs.
We hiked around for a while to find a good place for sunset photos. Tough climbing up the steep dunes.
We finally found us a good spot to wait for the sun to reach a nice level for photos. While sitting and enjoying the beautiful evening, Scarlett kept running around and exploring. Getting rid of the pent up energy after sleeping in the car all day.
Finally the sun started setting and the air began to cool. Once this happened all kinds of critters started coming out from the sand. I really liked this translucent grasshopper that popped up right beside me. He was only about 1/4 inch long.
At last the lighting was perfect to start taking pictures. This one was my favorite.
I had thought I could get nice blue hour photos, but the sand just turned dark and didn’t look nice. It would have been nice to stay for milky way photos but I was just too tired to stay up late for that. Plus! My big hike to the Wave was going to start early the next day.
I decided to hire a tour guide to take me to The Wave. There is no formal trail to take you there which made me nervous to hike by myself. I’m glad I did because I know I would have made a few wrong turns adding a few miles to my overall hike. As it was, I hiked 7 miles that took 5 hours.
I knew it was going to be hot so I got Scarlett a vest that held water and cooled her as it dried. It worked great! I also had her carry a lot of water to keep hydrating it.
We started the hike at 7:30 am. First we followed along the bottom of an arroyo. There were birds singing everywhere but I never saw a one. This was to be the case for my entire trip!
We eventually left the arroyo and started walking along a sandy trail. This led to a large area of sandstone that we had to walk across. This is when the views got so pretty.
The red sandstone was so beautiful. And the formations formed by the wind were stunning.
We climbed and skirted along the sandstone formations for a couple of miles.
I really enjoyed this part of the hike. Walking on sandstone is nice because of the firm footing. But eventually the sandstone really started to have an incline to it. It was tough hiking for a good mile.
Then we came to another arroyo. We had to climb down the steep sandstone and then back up another steep section. But at this point I could see we were only about 1/4 mile from the wave. That was enough to motivate me!
Finally I was at The Wave!!!!! You enter from the back of the Wave to the north and the Wave faces south. When I got to the back of the Wave I was happy to see a small puddle of water left from the recent rains in the area. Scarlett was happy too and wanted to jump in and cool off.
I made her wait until I took a few photos. She waited but you could tell she really wanted to play in that water.
I finally let Scarlett get in the water. Happy girl!
At first I thought this was the Wave and was thinking, “it sure looked bigger in photos I saw on the Internet…”
My guide must have seen my expression because he laughed and said, ‘This is just the entrance to the Wave!” Yay!
So I walked through that opening to the left behind me. And all I can say is WOW!!! It was stunning! So worth the hike there.
We stayed about an hour there at the Wave exploring all the nooks and crannies. I couldn’t believe no one else showed up while I was there. It was great having the place to myself for all that time.
There was a cool mini slot canyon next to it. The lighting was perfect when I got there.
I hiked above the Wave to get a bigger view. It was so beautiful. The swirling rock was just stunning!
The views from this area were so pretty. Even though my guide has been here many times, you can tell he still enjoys the views.
I climbed even higher and found a very deep water pool. Scarlett was ecstatic to have so much water to play in.
Sadly it was time to head back. The day was growing warmer by the minute. My guide offered to take me to another formation but that would have added another 2 hours to my hike. I felt Scarlett and I would do better to just head back now.
On the way back we finally started running into the other hikers that won permits. I couldn’t believe they were just starting their hike at the beginning of the hottest part of the day. I hope they all made it there ok.
Scarlett and I had a wonderful day hiking. We took a 2-hour nap when we got back to the hotel. Then I went out and had a fabulous steak dinner to celebrate. A wonderful way to end the day.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – slot canyons and a river hike in Zion.
It’s been awhile since I last posted on my blog. I apologize for that. I have had terrible internet connection for months now. No fun writing and uploading photos when it takes you hours to do anything.
But I finally have fast internet at home so it’s time to start blogging again.
In March I celebrated my blog’s 4th anniversary and Scarlett’s 4th birthday!
To celebrate I decided to take the 4-hour drive to Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area. I have seen photos of this place for years and have always wanted to see it.
I left the house at 5 am so I could get there close to sunrise. On my way I had to stop and take a photo of the moon setting over Cabezon Peak. The blue hour light was beautiful.
It took me quite a while to find the right place to park to see a particular hoodoo in the vast wilderness area. Try as I might there’s really not much information on the internet about this area. So it took turning up and down a few faint dirt roads to find the right spot.
Finally I was positive I was in the right spot. I was searching for the Alien Throne rock formation. It is very unique and difficult to find. Which is probably a good thing because it seems very fragile.
Scarlett and I started walking out into the middle of nowhere heading toward some hoodoos about 3 miles away. The first cluster of hoodoos we came across wasn’t very large but were unique.
We then wandered to the next cluster. It was a little larger. I especially liked one formation that looked like an angel with its wings spread.
I realized we still had further to go. Scarlett ran ahead enjoying the morning hike.
I finally made it to the main hoodoo area. It was quite large. I enjoyed walking around all the crevices and ravines looking at all the uniquely shaped rocks.
After about a hour of searching I finally found the Alien Throne. You can see it is quite unique. It’s about 12 feet high and very fragile. It might stand for another 100 years or it might topple in the next 100 days. Sadly by the time I located this rock formation it was almost high noon. So I didn’t get very good photos of this area.
I wandered around here for about another hour then headed back to the car. On the way back the sun had finally lowered some in the sky and the clouds were becoming more interesting.
By now I had been hiking for about 4 hours. All of a sudden I see Scarlett crazily digging in the sand and barking. I was wondering what the heck was going on.
I soon realized that she sensed cool wet sand just under the surface. I guess she had gotten pretty warm hiking all that time.
After she exposed a big enough area, she lay down on that cool wet sand. She was happy as could be even with a nose full of sand. Silly Scarlett!
I finally talked her into continuing on to the car. Next thing I now she’s all barking happily and playing with something pretty big. When I got closer I saw she had a big cow bone. Silly Scarlett indeed!!!
Once back at the car I decided to check out another area of hoodoos nearby. When I first came upon the hoodoos it was breathtaking. Hoodoos as far as the eye can see. Even Scarlett had to stop and take in the view.
I made by way down into the arroyo to explore all the side canyons. By now the sun had lowered in the sky and some clouds had rolled in. It made for some better photography conditions.
With the better lighting the side canyons photographed beautifully!
After hiking a couple of hours, Scarlett and I were tired. I had planned to stay until sunset to get some pretty photos of sunset and blue hour. But by this time I had hiked 12 miles. I was tired and it was still 1.5 hours until sunset. I realized I shouldn’t have gotten up early to go out there. I would have been much better off leaving mid-day.
While sitting in my car deciding if I wanted to stay until sunset, I saw a herd of horses coming towards me. Of course, I just had to get out and take photos of them! I love photographing horses. These guys were pretty wild so weren’t too cooperative for photos. But I still enjoyed seeing them.
I finally decided I wasn’t willing to stay for sunset. The sky just didn’t look like it was going to be worth staying. The clouds seems to be getting too overcast.
About an hour into my drive home, I noticed the sun setting and decided to pull off and take a photo.
As I stood there watching the sun set, I realized it was actually going to be a spectacular shot.
Believe me, by the time the sun set I was was crying about all the wonderful photos I could have gotten at the hoodoos with that beautiful sky in the background. 🙁
But overall Scarlett and I had a fun day exploring. She definitely enjoyed her birthday outing. And she got to sleep the whole way home!
Recently I decided to explore Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico. If any of you have seen the movie Cowboys and Aliens, then you may remember the white rock formation that was in the scenes of the final battle of the movie.
I have always wanted to explore this place, but never seemed to find the time to do so. We’ve gotten some small snows this winter, so I headed out on a day that I thought there might be some snow on the trail to enhance my photos.
It was a beautiful day and there indeed was some snow left on the ground.
When I arrived at the parking area, I had a wonderful view of the southwest landscape showing the many beautiful layers of color. I just love New Mexico landscapes.
I hiked down the trail and just started exploring. There’s not a lot of information about this area or the hike on the internet. At first you see the large, white rock formation that is the namesake of the hike. It is quite large and impressive.
Next to the white formation is a large brown one. I love how it stands alone. Looks like something from the set of a Star Trek show.