One of the largest yet least explored parks in the country, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a vast desert landscape of mesas, slot canyons, petrified sand dunes, archaeological treasures and American history. Divided by a single long ridge called the Kaiparowits Plateau, this remote region was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped and is a wonderful destination to find that desert solitude that Edward Abbey so passionately wrote about.
From the south, the Vermilion, White, Gray, and Pink cliffs rise to form the giant multi-hued terraces of the Grand Staircase. And to the east the Escalante Canyons are a labyrinth of geologic wonders slowly winding their way down to Lake Powell. Together these escarpments expose 200 million years of the earth’s history in a visual feast for the eyes, and contain the most continuous record of Late Cretaceous terrestrial life in the world.
For the photographer, the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument is a sublime location where the possibilities are endless and the light, which seems to glow from within, is worthy most anytime of day. I’ve often said you could spend your whole life in southern Utah and not see it all, but that might just be true of this very special park. The temptation to try is always present.
In today’s modern world of fast-paced digital photography it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of new technology. Cameras, software and accessories are being released at an alarming rate, and it’s easy to get caught up in the race to stay ahead of the curve. But it’s important to remember that first and foremost we are artists, and that technology serves the art and not the other way around.
You can be sure Rembrandt didn’t lust over the latest brushes or Ansel Adams the latest developer or papers whenever their interpretation of light and shadow faced a challenge. Instead, they trusted their familiar tools even more to allow their hand and eye (the only lasting tools of the trade) to record the scene faithfully.
When you do upgrade your equipment (and we all do at some point) you owe it to yourself to thoroughly understand its features and functions. No one likes reading manuals, but it’s time well spent that you’ll appreciate the next time the light is fleeting and you’re focused on capturing the moment, not fumbling with dials or menu settings.
So purchase when you must, but don’t lose sight of the forest through the trees. Put your energy into developing your vision and spend less time worrying about the march of progress. Art is about the seeing and no one will ever look at your images and say “that was made with a Nikon or Canon”. More likely, they will say “what was s/he feeling”! The more comfortable you are with your equipment the more it becomes an extension of your mind’s eye and allows you the freedom to truly see the world around you. And that’s when your vision outshines all the other tools in your bag.
It’s the first of September – the days are getting shorter, and there is a crispness in the air that definitely signals the close of summer. This is my favorite time of year when the crowds give way to the colors of fall, and the natural world seems to come alive once again with a riot of color.
It’s always hard to predict just when and where the peak of autumn color will occur, and sudden temperature changes play a large part in the timing from year to year. As a general rule the higher elevations in the western mountains tend to peak late September to early October, the eastern hardwoods around mid-October, while desert canyons such as Zion and Capitol Reef typically show their full colors in early November.
If the last two big winters are any indication of what’s to come it’s possible the season may be cut short as early snows cause the leaves to turn brown or drop prematurely. But if your timing is right, you can have the best of both worlds with one season visually ushering in the next.