Four Years. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve added any photos to this site. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been shooting — just not uploading. So here are my favorite shots from a vacation my wife and I took in Arizona and Utah two weeks ago. Our stops included Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and Sedona. We flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove a roughly 1200 mile “circle” back to the Phoenix airport.
You can click each image to see a larger version of the photo.
The first stop was Petrified Forest National Park which was much better than I expected. What look like logs lying in the desert are the petrified remains of tropical trees except that the wood cells have been replaced by minerals. To see this log lying there, you expect it to be a redwood tree.
As you drive thru the Petrified Forest from south to north, you come to the Painted Desert. At this overlook, I saw a woman walking her little dog along a trail.
Canyon de Chelly is an important and sacred site to the Navajo. One of the most famous features, Spider Rock, was the home of the Spider Grandmother who their tradition says taught their people how to weave. The spire is more than 700 feet tall.
We hired a Navajo guide, T.J., to take us into the canyon. He has a deep spiritual connection to the place. His grandparents lived in the canyon and his family still owns and farms a plot of land deep inside of it. He helped us gain an understanding of the spiritual connection the place has for his people. The canyon is famous for its cliff dwellings.
If you look to the right of the lower structure, about half way up to the structures on the ledge, you will see two large petroglyphs etched into the cliff wall. Here’s a telephoto shot of those:
The one at the top is a spirit or a person, perhaps climbing the wall. The lower one, a bird, makes me think of a roadrunner.
From Canyon de Chelly, we drove to Monument Valley. It’s as spectacular as it seems in those classic John Ford westerns. This spot gives you an idea. There happened to be a yucca plant growing there. I included it in the photo because of the spiritual connection of that plant to the Navajo. The roots can be made into a soap that is used in personal cleansing ceremonies. It also makes a good foreground element. Note the woman standing on the point. She and her guide were the only other people at that spot besides us and our guide.
Our guide took us from here into the back country that you can only get to with a certified Navajo guide. Most of the time, because of getting an early start, we were the only ones at the various stops. He was great, stopping whenever I asked to get out for a photo. I saw this bush growing at the top of a small sand dune. Notice the dark clouds. A storm was moving in.
One of the stops was a large dome/semi cave called the “big hogan.” Our guide, Felix, suggested we lie back against the sloping walls and close our eyes while he played a traditional Navajo melody on his wood flute. It was spiritual and magical.
One of the “structures” in Monument Valley is called the “three sisters.” I was able to get a back country view with these desert daisies in the foreground. From this angle, I saw the letter W and thought of it as three brothers.
Our hotel room had a beautiful view of some of the signature monuments in the Valley. At night, during a brief gap in the cloud cover, I took this time exposure from the balcony. The orange glow in the background is from the town of Bluff, Utah, about 45 air miles away.
This is my favorite image from Monument Valley. I shot it from inside the “trading post” souvenir shop. Lined up on the window sill were spirit dancer dolls. This shot, to me, symbolizes the spiritual feeling and the effect Monument Valley had on me.
From there, it was on to the Grand Canyon, south rim. On the first evening, we were at an overlook about an hour before sunset. A woman had climbed down to a rock point and I realized she was there to take a selfie on her phone.
Of course, I shouldn’t talk. I wasn’t averse to taking a sort of selfie myself. This one was a little less risky, but Jan was still nervous.
It’s hard to resist landscape photos at the Grand Canyon. I’ve been participating in an online photo community called 52 Frames. There is a different subject/theme challenge each week and the images have to be shot the week of the challenge. The theme for the week we were traveling was architecture. This is the image I submitted and here is what I wrote for the context of the theme:
The Desert View Watchtower at the Grand Canyon is impressive because of the architect’s sensitivity to place. Mary Colter modeled it after ancient Puebloan watchtowers found in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. She even included what looks like rubble and broken walls in the construction to give it the feel of an ancient ruin. Inside, it may be packed with visitors, but when viewing it at the Canyon’s edge, it fits.
We were at the Grand Canyon for two nights. Our last night there, I captured this scene just before sunset.