Friday, December 14, 2012

ARIZONA - DAY THREE

Star photography over Monument Valley, Ariz.

Started today early, waking at 2 a.m. to begin taking star photographs. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm staying at the Monument Valley View hotel, so I only had to go as far as my balcony to begin shooting. I struggled for about an hour, mostly with focus. I would shoot a half dozen photos and then look at the photos on my laptop. A couple are usable, but far from what I'm hoping to do tonight.

Ended up laying back down and woke again 5:45 a.m. Tried a few more photos from the balcony, but again it just wasn't working out, so I gathered all my gear, bundled up and headed out in search of the hiking trail which starts about a quarter mile from the hotel.

West and East Mittens at sunrise.
West and East Mittens at sunrise.
As the sun began to rise, I found a nice vantage point to photograph the East and West Mittens. As the morning light began to fill the sky, I started feeling better about the photos I was taking. Around 8 a.m. when the sun was a bit higher, I took advantage of the golden light and photographed Mitchell Butte, including some nice sand patterns in the foreground, accentuated by the low light skimming across.

Gray Whiskers, left, and Mitchell Butte in early morning light.
Gray Whiskers, left, and Mitchell Butte in early morning light.
Ate some breakfast and then drove 22 miles to Mexican Hat, Utah, to photograph a sombrero-shaped rock outcropping that gave the town its name. Wasn't quite what I expected, but since the sun was having trouble breaking out all day and the light was very flat, it provided a distraction. I also decided to take a break and check out the Goulding's Trading Post Museum located at Goulding's Lodge.  Director John Ford and actor John Wayne were frequent visitors when filming westerns, such as 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' in Monument Valley.

Horses pass in front of the Totem Pole, right, and Yei Bi Chei.
Horses pass in front of the Totem Pole, right, and Yei Bi Chei.
When I finally figured I better get back to taking pictures, I drove the 17 mile loop again, only this time I stopped often and tried my best to make some photos despite the light not cooperating. Horses are left to graze throughout the valley and as I was photographing the Totem Pole I just happened to see some  approaching from the distance. I had tried to photograph horses yesterday and earlier today, but this time it worked out.

West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte in afternoon light.
West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte in afternoon light.
Finally around 3:30 p.m. the sky began to clear and the sun started to light up the valley. It was then that I started shooting like crazy, but also knew I still had to drive about six miles to get to a point where I could capture the sun hitting the West Mitten Butte. Stopped a few times and captured both the West and East Mittens as they just lit up. Ended the day at about the same location I was in when shooting the sunrise.

Old tree oversees Monument Valley.
Old tree overlooking Monument Valley.
Finally around 5 p.m., I made my way back to my room and quickly set up to shoot a time lapse with the D700 and a 24-70mm pointed at the West Mitten which still had some light on it. Set the interval timer to take a shot every five seconds and stopped it when the sun went down.



Another good day. More star photography, only tonight I'm going to head out very early in the morning to hike down into the valley and away from the hotel. Should be darker and maybe easier to focus if I'm closer.
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