Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Visit To Northern Arizona

Ever since I saw the White Pocket in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area for the first time last winter, I knew I wanted to return during the summer months during the monsoon season. While I was impressed with what I saw last February, I knew it would only get better with the stormy skies that accompany this time of year. Let's just say that I wasn't disappointed.

This trip began when a friend and Minnesota based photographer Rene Herteux began emailing me with questions on what places he should visit on his upcoming 4 day trip to Arizona. After giving him a long list of possibilities...many which require tricky passage and come with dire consequences should something go wrong...I got the question I was waiting for "Would you be interested in coming along?". Since I'd been shooting in Colorado for most of the spring/summer months, a trip to the desert seemed like a nice change of pace so I quickly agreed. Besides, it would give me the chance to return to White Pocket at precisely the time of year I figured would be best.

After a few more email exchanges we put together the following list of places we were interested in shooting and decided we'd let the weather dictate where we'd go each day.

- The White Pocket
- South Coyote Buttes
- The Toroweap Overlook of the Grand Canyon
- Alstrom Point Overlooking Lake Powell

When we met up in Page, a monsoonal weather pattern was firmly in place so we headed straight out to the White Pocket. Once we got there, we began to worry that the storms which can yield such great light might actually shut us out of any light whatsoever! It wasn't until 15 minutes before sunset that the sun finally peeked out through a hole in the cloud cover along the western horizon. It was a long time coming but that 15 minutes of hectic shooting made the wait worth the while.

Late Day Light at the White Pocket

Our morning shoot was plagued by similar conditions as cloud cover obscured the first light of the day. So we patiently waited and eventually received the light we were craving for. We shot for another hour until the sky cleared entirely and decided it was time to move on.

Morning Light at the White Pocket

To us, the clearing sky was a bad omen as it signalled the end of the stormy pattern for the remainder of our trip. To make matters worse, the winds were beginning to whip up filling the air with dust and creating very hazy conditions. Yuck! We had a permit for the South Coyote Buttes' Cottonwood Cove area for the remainder of the day so we spent part of the late morning, early afternoon hours scouting there. While the area is beautiful, we decided (for a number of reasons) to not shoot there in the evening. Toroweap and Alstrom Point were our alternatives and we settled on Alstrom Point (Toroweap was just too long of a drive). As it turned out, it really didn't matter as the extremely hazy conditions pretty much killed any shooting opportunities anyway.

When we awoke to the identical conditions in the morning we didn't even bother to shoot the sunrise. Weighing our options, we decided upon a midday shoot at Lower Antelope Canyon. That's the beauty of the Page area...there's always something that can be shot, even when the conditions aren't considered optimal photographically speaking. You just have to have some light. Lower Antelope was a good option for me as I'd never shot it during the summer months when its signature sunbeam shoots through a rock arch suspended well above the canyon floor. It's truly an amazing sight.

Lower Antelope Light Beam

That evening was spent shooting the canyon walls along Water Holes canyon before heading out to Stud Horse Point with the idea of experimenting with night photography, something we both really wanted to do. It was a beautiful, warm evening and we really enjoyed our time basking in the star light.

Hoodoos under the stars at Stud Horse Point

Our final morning was clear as well, but at least the haze was gone. Rene was dying to photograph the Wahweap Hoodoos so I chauffered him out there. After a rough trip (flash floods a few days earlier had wreaked havoc on all the wash crossings) we arrived at the hoodoos just 5 minutes before the sun's first rays were cast upon them. Perfect! We finished our trip with another quick stop at Lower Antelope before parting ways. Another stellar adventure in the desert was in the books!

One of the smaller Wahweap Hoodoos

To see more of my imagery from this trip, click on the link below...

Summer in the Northern Arizona Desert


  1. This looks like a fantastic trip! I also just returned from the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, only further north, near Escalante.

    Have enjoyed your images on this site, as well as on NSN. Looking forward to seeing more!

    Greg Russell

  2. Thanks Greg! The Escalante area is beautiful as well (I was there last spring) so I hope you post some shots from there over on NSN.