As I sit in my car after sunset in one of Utah's amazing state parks I find myself reflecting on the day's photography. It's rare I get to spend a day in Utah photographing completely new locations, but last minute changes facilitated exploration. After getting a late start on Tuesday, I arrived in Moab hoping to grab a quick sunset before moving on. I reached out to a friend for suggestions on spots with all the recent rain, and one in particular grabbed my attention. The location isn't popular, but I had seen photos of it before and was excited to visit it.
Thinking I could just grab quick directions online I scoured Google to no avail. Now before you belittle my Googling skills, I'll have you know I'm a State Science Olympiad champion for using the web, oh yeah, that's right. Anyways, I attempted to get more info without luck and started looking at landmarks in sample images and searching Apple Maps in 3D. After lots of pinching and zooming I thought I had finally located the spot and a way to get to it, but unfortunately sunset was rapidly disappearing in the distance.
I decided I really wanted a shot at the new location and changed plans to search it out at sunrise. After wasting time online and reading, I finally grabbed some sleep in the 4runner awaiting tomorrow's adventure. I awoke early enough to the usual bleat of my iPhone's alarm but discovered temps hovering above freezing. Cold usually isn't a deterrent for me, but many a camper know the allure of a toasty sleeping bag and warm dog. I finally roused myself out of the car and threw on my gear, just as color was starting to touch the sky over an hour before sunrise.
When I teach photo workshops I can be overly zealous at times in ensuring my participants are at a location early enough, something I wished I forced more on myself. Thankfully the hike wasn't far and I made it just in time for epic morning light, the full story of which I'll share another time. With a new amazing location in the books and hour of well spent time, I prepared to head to my next location, Escalante. In a moment of rare initiative overcoming my dislike of cold-calling, I decided to phone the visitor center first and check conditions. After a few disappointing minutes I discovered my next days plans were out the window due to roads closed for the foreseeable future and more impending thunderstorms.
Not all was lost and I now had the choice of heading to a familiar spot, Capitol Reef, or to yet unvisited Monument Valley. I prepared to hit the road towards southeast Utah and pulled out guide books for location research. I optimistically planned multiple new spots along my route with sunset at MV, not the most realistic looking back. I find myself spending more time at locations enjoying the intimate details and atmosphere, and while I may hike fast, I still take as much time as most. I changed and revised plans as the weather started to settle in and finally visited a location I've been eyeing for years. The amazing House on Fire featured in this post was not only along my way, it was only a 1 mile hike up a fairly level canyon.
I spent the next hour taking a few photos but mostly enjoying the area, finally persuaded by my kelpie, Koda, to start moving again. When I reached the trailhead the sky was continuing to darken and the dull grey discouraged my further plans to Monument Valley. I instead decided to stop at the little known Utah state park, The Goosenecks, on the hopes of possible cloud break and sunset. Sunset was lackluster but the view wasn't, a win in my book. After a few night images I retired to the 4runner with Koda to write and listen to smooth acoustical guitar, another win in my book.