Archive for the ‘red rocks’ Tag

Single-image Sunday: Morning at Colorado National Monument   14 comments

The early morning sun streams into Ute Canyon in Colorado National Monument.

This is an image from earlier in the summer that I reprocessed.  I wanted to bring out some of the drama of that June morning in Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction.  It was the proverbial ‘dark and stormy night’ when I camped near the monument boundary, high up to escape the heat of the valley floor.  It’s been a very hot summer in the American West.  I woke up a bit too late, assuming it would be a grey, cloudy sunrise.  But after examining the slowly brightening sky, I realized there was promise of clearing.  I didn’t waste any more time.

The monument occupies a spectacular place at the northern edge of the Colorado Plateau, where canyons cut deeply into the colorful sandstone, creating fascinating erosional forms.  I’d camped only 10 minutes or so from the canyon rim, so despite the late start I arrived before sunup.  I searched, somewhat frantically, for a good spot to shoot from.  This is the problem with sunrise.  If you don’t already have something scoped out from the day before, it’s difficult to find a spot in time for the good light.

Ever since my first trip here, I’d been wanting an image of Ute Canyon.  It’s sort of off the radar, mostly because it lacks the soaring rock pinnacles that the monument is known for.  But the canyon has a sort of magnetic draw for me, and it’s aligned toward the rising sun in summertime.  By the way you can hike up the canyon from below.  It makes a great overnight backpack.

I parked and worked my way along the canyon rim.  The sun rose and light was good, but I just got images that included the road.  I didn’t stop there because I know the presence of dramatic clouds like this can mean good shooting even well after sunrise.  I kept looking for a good spot, being careful around the cliff edge.   Just in time for the last of the warm light I found this natural viewpoint, a flat rock perched high above the canyon.


As the sun peeked through and light streamed into the canyon, I got a couple shots.  For this image, I used my 21 mm. lens. I wanted to get very close to the foreground rock to show the interesting lichen and impart a feeling of standing there.  So in order to get as much depth of field as possible, I had to focus stack.  So I shot one frame for the foreground and a couple more for the background and sky.

There was a lot of contrast in the scene, shooting toward a sun that had already risen.  So in addition to the focus stack I did a basic exposure stack as well.  In other words the shot for the sky was a shorter exposure so as not to blow it out.  Using Photoshop I merged the separate exposures for a final image that represents a single moment, despite the shots being some seconds apart.

I hope your weekend was a fun one.  Happy shooting!

Single-image Sunday: Vermilion Cliffs   2 comments

The Vermilion Cliffs, which straddle the Utah-Arizona border, are part of the Grand Staircase.  This is a huge feature on the Colorado Plateau, a series of long, east-west trending cliff bands separated by plateaus.  The “staircase” steps down to the south, ending on a very large step – the Grand Canyon.

Much of the Grand Staircase is covered by a National Monument of the same name.  This means it is largely protected.  Not as much protection as a national park, but off-limits to activities like oil drilling and mining.  Cattle ranching still takes place.

By the way I did a 4-part series on the Grand Staircase last year.  Check out Part I (overview), Part II (geology), Part III (travel tips), and Part IV (highlights, including tips for slot canyon hiking).

The Grand Staircase occupies geographic center of some of the American southwest’s most beautiful and famous scenery.  For example, the topmost step is made up of the Pink Cliffs.  These form the colorful rocks of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.  Zion National Park is on the west side of the Staircase and Capital Reef National Park is on the east.  Lake Powell toward the SE occupies Glen Canyon.  As the Vermilion Cliffs drop down toward Page, Arizona, the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs National Monument covers a fairyland of strange rock formations and slot canyons.

The picture below captures a scene found along the western end of the Vermilion Cliffs, well away from the more popular parks.  The snow-covered pasture in the foreground is part of the ranch land surrounding Colorado City, Arizona.  The temperature was quickly dropping as the sun went down here. It was clear and cold!

Colorado City is one of America’s last havens for polygamy (multiple wives).  Many hard-core Mormons live here in the so-called Arizona Strip (the land between Grand Canyon and the Utah border).  It’s a quiet community.  They like to be left alone with their lovely view of the Vermilion Cliffs.

The Vermilion Cliffs near Colorado City, Arizona take on a russet color at sunset.

The Vermilion Cliffs near Colorado City, Arizona take on a russet color at sunset.

Wordless Wednesday: Winter hike in Zion   2 comments


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