After LA, we made the drive out to Zion National Park in Utah. While we passed through Las Vagas (a key stop on most road trips through the area), the city didn't appeal to us on this trip and so we merely stopped for fuel before hitting the highway again out to Zion.
Zion Nation Park
What a beauty. Zion National Park is simply stunning.
We arrived in early March as the deciduous trees were beginning to display new vibrant green growth, contrasting against the deep red rock running through the park.
Unfortunately we only allowed for an overnight stop in Zion and so didn't get the time to fully take in all that the park had to offer. However the time I did experience there left me wanting more (my return to the park is a matter of when, not if).
We were there in time for sunset and woke early for sunrise the next day, before making a leisurely exit from the park. The drive out was just as photogenic as the valley itself. We found ourselves slowly driving its winding panoramic roads, as new photo opportunities awaited us around each corner.
Upon my (someday) return to the park I'll definitely allow more time to experience all that Zion has to offer. I'm keen to make the hike up to the panoramic Angel's Landing and along the valley river of The Narrows.
After a scenic drive east out through Zion, we made our way to Page, Arizona. I'd seen many a classic landscape picture of Horseshoe Bend (a 5 minute drive from Page) and was eager to capture one of my own, although that proved more challenging than I originally thought.
First, the wind. The evening we arrived at the bend it was blowing an absolute gale. The wind was moderate on the walk down to the canyon, however on our approach to the edge, it increased in ferocity significantly. The strong winds harshly picked up the loose sand and pelted it at anyone who dared too close to the edge, and relentlessly threatened to free hats off heads. I even saw a jacket hitch a ride in the wind as it made its way over the canyon.
Second, the angle of the shot. To see the complete bend and the river below, you must venture out and over the edge of the canyon. And due to the sheer drop of the cliff, a wide-angle lens is needed to capture the entire grand scene. However, a wide-angle I was lacking.
And so to capture the shot above, I set my camera up on my tripod, and carefully made my way out the cliff edge, sitting down and slithering along the rock so I too didn't catch a ride in the wind the way of the aforementioned jacket. Without a wide-angle lens, I took 4 vertical images from left to right (careful to keep the settings constant in each), and then later stitched them together as a Panorama in Lightroom. I'm quite pleased to have achieved the end result of the sun-star image above.
Growing up watching Looney Tunes cartoons, my favourite segments were the never ending chase scenes of Wile E Coyote in hot pursuit of Road Runner racing through the dessert. As a child, those scenes defined the American West for me, and still do. And when I saw images of the real-life monument valley I knew I had to pay it a visit myself.
Upon the drive into the valley I was mesmerised by the sandstone buttes, standing watch over the valley. It was just as I had pictured all those years ago. Although I was somewhat disappointed to leave the valley without catching a glimpse of the dynamic duo :)
Be sure to experience sunrise from the visitor centre's lookout. There's a small entry fee to the local Navajo but it's well worth it to access the vantage point and witness the sun rising over the iconic three mittens.
And if you're not in a hurry, continue to head north on road 163 for about 20 minutes. Then pull over on the side of the road and look back to get the classic 'road to Monument Valley' picture. Just be wary of other tourists playing the same game of dodge the speeding cars flying down the highway.
We returned back to Page, Arizona, to attend a guided tour through Arizona's Upper Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is comprised of a Lower and an Upper, shaped like a 'V' and an upside down 'V' respectively. We chose to visit the Upper section this trip, although I'm told each are equally beautiful.
This marvel of nature had been on my dream locations list ever since I was mesmerised by the slot canyon's appearance in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Walking through the narrow canyon (barely a foot wide in some passages), the beauty of the weathered walls certainly lived up to my expectations. And with the highly variable lighting conditions, new photographic opportunities awaited me around every twist and turn.
Although there were plenty of like minded tourists walking the trail with me, the canyon's ancient beauty still remained. I was thrilled to have experienced it for myself. As we went on the midday tour, I was also lucky enough to witness the iconic light beams shining down to illuminate the canyon floor below.
The final stop of the 'Wild West' part of our road trip were the crimson coloured hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.
While we only spent one evening at the Canyon we still had time to appreciate this other worldly landscape. The distinct hoodoos were primarily formed through a process known as frost wedging, where melted snow seeps into the minute crevices between the rocks. At night, the water freezes and expands to gradually pry open the cracks bit by bit, leaving behind the hoodoo columns.
We arrived at the canyon in mid March to still see remnant snow still scattered amongst the hoodoos, contrasting against the red rock.
Next stop, Oregon! :)