Antelope Canyon Photo Tour

Sunbeams. Antelope Canyon

On July 3 I found myself touring Antelope Canyon with camera and tripod in hand.

The slot canyons of the Southwest provide some remarkable photo opportunities. These canyons are often deep and narrow with red sandstone walls eroded into fantastic shapes by wind and water. Antelope Canyon is one of the more famous canyons and you need to book a tour with one of the tour operators that provide Navajo guides. We booked our tour several months ago through Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tour. The cost for the tour was $195 for a tour of two canyons; well worth the money. You can book a regular tour in which case you are limited to a hand-held camera or you can book a photo tour which requires a camera and tripod. Joann booked a regular tour for herself and a photo tour for me.

My photo tour started at 9:00 AM, and we were instructed to be at the tour headquarters 45 minutes early. For the regular tour no bags or backpacks are allowed, likewise for the photo tour you can take a camera and tripod, again no bags or backpacks. Some of the canyons are quite narrow and having a backpack would hinder movement. There is also a concern of scratching the canyon walls and leaving marks if you are carrying a backpack with a tripod. I arrived at the headquarters with my backpack, Nikon D800, and two lenses, a 14-24 and a 28-300, and a water bottle. I opted to shoot with the 14-24 on the advice that wider is better. I also had my little Sony RX100 in a holster on my belt. At 8:45 we climbed into an Hummer for a 15 minute ride up a sandy wash. A rather bumpy ride. Our first stop was Rattlesnake Canyon. I left my pack and water bottle in the car and grabbed my camera and tripod. Even if I had taken my second lens, changing lenses in the canyon is not advisable. There is a tremendous amount of dust, and the risk of getting dust on the sensor is quite high.

In the canyon the guides were very efficient at helping us get into position, a challenge with multiple photographers in the tight confines of the canyon. They broke us into groups and placed us in different rooms, while making sure we had time to capture a few images while they controlled the visitors on other tours.

It wasn’t far into the first canyon when I dropped my remote cable in the sand, and at that point it stopped working properly. I was able to get it to work off and on, but it was a bit frustrating. With the tour operating as it does, you have a limited time to capture images. Be advised to make sure you know your camera well and that your equipment is in good order with fully charged batteries. You will have little time to fiddle with camera once you are in the canyon.

Once we had traversed Rattlesnake Canyon we hiked over the canyon rim back to the Hummer and headed for Upper Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a very busy place with many tourists traversing the canyon with their guides. Even so, the tour operators all seem to cooperate to give the photo tour access to some of the more interesting rooms. They will put the photographers in position, halt traffic through a room and give you a couple of minutes to shoot. As noon approached the shafts of light beaming down into the canyon became the focus of the tour. The guides would throw sand in the air to help accentuate the shafts of light. A very dusty experience. Several of the photographers had wrapped their cameras in plastic bags to protect them from dusk. Probably a good idea. Next time I might take my camera raincoat for that purpose. This tour is best done close to the summer solstice when the sun is high in the sky, creating vertical shafts of light deep in the canyon.

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Taliesin West

Our travels took us to Taliesin West today. We had purchased tickets ahead of time since we were planning on being in Phoenix today for a family reunion. We booked the “Details Tour,” which was a two hour tour covering some of the details of the architecture. Photos are permitted on this tour, so it as a treat to capture photos with my little Sony RX100.

Frank Lloyd Wright established Taliesin West in 1937 as his winter home and school in the desert. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. I was surprised to find that the buildings seem to be a bit rough hewn, which seems appropriate since the location was a laboratory for design and experimentation and much of the facilities were built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s students. The location was very remote at the time it was built and the design reflects Wright’s love of nature and philosophy about how design should interact with nature.

For anybody interested in architecture, design and nature this tour is a must.

 

 

Road to Nowhere

White Road. El Malpais National Monument

We were driving down this dirt road on El Malpais National Monument, I was struck by the contrast of the bright white road catching the sun, with the dark clouds overhead. I just had to stop the car, step out into the middle of the road and snap a picture. I saw this in my minds eye as a black and white. Here’s the color version above and the black and white version below. Which to you prefer?

White Road. El Malpais National Monument

 

Island in the Sky

Juniper and sky at Island in the Sky. Canyon Lands National Park.

I captured this image a couple of days ago, close to sunset at the Green River Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park.

“All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”– T. K. Wipple, Study Out the Land

Family Outing to Historic Columbia

The Memorial Day weekend provided us with an opportunity to go explore the historic town of Columbia in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. About 140 miles east of San Francisco. This is gold country, or at least it was gold country after James W. Marshall discovered gold on January 24, 1848. The news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California. The gold rush was rather short lived, though, and by 1855, the rush was essentially over. Columbia was one of the boom towns that arose from the gold rush and the historic park can give you a sense of the history of the region.

 

We were in town for a family get together, a shower to celebrate the anticipated birth of our first grand child.  The old part of town is now a State Historic Park, with shops that sell everything from candy to leather goods and boots. You can also ride a stage coach or pan for gold.

 

 

There were about a dozen of us that explored the town, touring the old school, built in 1860, and exploring the shops and curiosities of the state historic park.

Columbia State Historic Park

Weekend Trip to the Eastern Sierra

On Saturday morning, May 11 we threw our sleeping bags in the back of the camper and pointed our rig south. Our destination was Big Pine in the Eastern Sierra. Our favorite route over the mountains is closed.  That route takes us through Yosemite and over Tioga Pass on Highway 120. With 120 closed we picked an alternate route going over Walker Pass near the south end of the Sierra. We made camp at Walker Pass Campground just before sunset.

 

We discovered that the camp only has two sites for RVs, and both of those sites were occupied. There were a few open sites for tents. A number of sites are walk-in and serve  through hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. We found a flat spot on a turn-out between the established RV sites and the highway and popped the top to spend the night. A quiet location with a view looking west across the mountains. I was able to set up my camera and capture a few photos just as the sun was setting. The campground has an “iron ranger” to collect donations for overnight camping and no established fee. There were pit toilets. Be advised to take your own toilet paper. On Sunday morning we broke camp and continued our journey.

After scouring wildflower reports we decided to drive up Nine Mile Canyon to see what we could find. It seems we were on the tail end of the wildflowers, although we did find a few penstamon, coreposis and many tiny little flowers close to the ground.

 

Following our wildflower detour we went back down the canyon to pick up highway 395 heading north to Big Pine. In Big Pine we spent the day with family celebrating mother’s day. On Monday we finished our loop by driving north on 395.

Passing through Bridgeport I was fascinated with the clouds and when we passed the abandoned Busters Market I decided it was time for a photo op. I’m fascinated with abandoned buildings and I’ve passed this old abandoned market a number of times without stopping. This time with the clouds passing by we stopped and I took a few quick snapshots with my Sony RX100 thinking I might get a nice black and white composition. We used to stop at this store for supplies when backpacking out of the Twin Lakes trail head.

 

After crossing over the pass and heading down the west side of the Sierra we stopped at , a roadside stop with a short walk to an overlook looking down on Donnel Reservoir. Dinner time found us passing through Oakdale, so we found a picnic spot at Woodward Reservoir Park and had a very pleasant picnic dinner by the lake. On arriving home we logged 876 miles for our three day adventure.

 

Back on the Water

On Thursday April 12, I manged to get back on the water to go paddling.  We were off to Africa in late February and upon returning home in mid-March I developed bronchitis which kept me off the water for a couple of weeks. Almost two months without a padding “fix!”

In any event,  my schedule permitted me to join my BASK friends for the Thursday Lunch paddle on April 12. Our journey took us from Ferry Point to Point Molate.  We paddled past the tanker pier at the Chevron facility in Richmond. Note the words on the superstructure of one of the tankers “Protect the Environment.” Seems a bit ironic. We had blue sky with puffy cumulus clouds and calm water. There were four of us and our paddle covered eight miles. You can view a track of the paddle here.  As we approached the San Rafael Bridge, I was struck by the graphic element of the bridge with the clouds and I thought it might make an interesting black and white image. What do you think?