Info. for trip to 4 corners : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am planning a vacation to the 4 corners section of the country(Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico) the last week or so in April (20-28). Since I am unfamiliar with the area and it is a long flight (east coast)I don't want to find myself without the right film. I normally use T-Max 100 & 400 (4 x 5) and assume that will be fine. Should I also be packing color film, and if so, what? I don't normally shoot color on 4 x 5. I will also bring either a Pentax 67 system or a Nikon system for more flexibility and speed if I need it. Some preliminary research indicates some good locations to shoot (Monument Valley, Moab, UT area, etc.) I'd appreciate any suggestions for locations from those familiar with the area. Love those great rock formations and mountain scenes, but I equally love old deserted buildings and such. Any suggestions for film, equipment and locations would be greatly appreciated. My wife and I are not into backpacking, but short hikes from the rented 4wd would be ok. Thanks for the help. Rob Rielly

-- Rob Rielly (, January 17, 2000


Hi Rob,

I just spent Christmas week in this area and have been out there a few times before. My one big piece of advice is to avoid the temptation to see it all in one week. You will spend the whole time in the car and be too tired to shoot effectively when you arrive whereever. I often joke that they should make the maps of these states at least twice the size so that you can use your intuition in guessing driving times. Do some thorough research and go at least with a tentative itinerary. Winging it can really lead to disappointment in my experience. If you are in to Anasazi ruins, I suggest you look into Hovenweep which is between Moab and Monument Valley, and is much less visited and more intimate than Mesa Verde which you might call the Metropolitan Museum of Anasazi sites. I only shoot color so I won't comment except to say that Velvia is marvelous for this part of the world.

Enjoy your trip!

-- Richard Ross (, January 17, 2000.


I only shoot color film, and when I shoot here in my hometown... the southwest... I use Velvia and Provia F. If you are in that area, I do strongly suggest a trip to monument valley. If you have never been there before, beware, you can only shoot on a few of the main roads, all other roads are off limits to civilians, only indian Navajos vehicles will take you in those areas. Prices are about $90 for a 2.5 hr sunset shoot. Shop the guides well, some know exactly where the good shots are, and what time the sun is just right to get them. Be sure to view their photo album and point out all the shots you want, then they will quote you price accordingly. There is nothing like MV, an odditity that will rejeuventate you! Most of the really intriguing shots are had being a few feet from the riplling sand and shooting up into the mittens (fancy word for strange mountains formations?) so your 4x5 with lenses that can handle tilt will produce the best images! Be sure your tripod does not mind getting sand in the threads... took me hours to clean it all out. And one last point, some shots still require some hiking, even with the Navajo guide, the vehicles can only go so far, then you have to trek in the sand with all your gear to set up... some of the hikes are 30 minutes or so.... and most of the guides do not tell you that up front! Best of luck...

-- Bill Glickman (, January 17, 2000.

Was there last summer and used both Velvia and Ektachrome 100VS - preferred the latter.

Echo the sentiment not to do too much (I did). I particularly liked Zion canyon (especially in the river at the narrow end), Canyon de Chelly for the Cottonwoods and the Anasazi remains, and would have liked to get into at least one slot canyon (but there were storms around when we were there). The most accessible are the upper and lower Antelope Canyons near Page (? is that the right town - it's the one near the Glen canyon dam at the downstream end of the Lake Powell sewage lagoon.)


-- Ken Munn (, January 18, 2000.

There are so many spectacular things to photograph and see in that part of the world, it is difficult to come up with specifics. Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, the Escalante.......its endless and all beautiful. I'm not going to give you a recomendation on a place to go, but I am going to give you a recomendation on sheet film. Coming from the more humid east coast, I'm guessing that dust is a pretty minimal problem (pinholes in your negatives causing black spots on your prints). This is a serious problem in the dry and dusty southwest. I recomend you use readyloads and avoid the problem.

-- Paul Mongillo (, January 18, 2000.

I live in the 4-corners region and, for what it's worth, can suggest the following. Take the Nikon and the Pentax and leave the 4x5 at home. If you have never been to this area before think of this as a reconaissance trip. The 4x5 will slow you down too much and lead to frustration. You can get excellent results, experiment more and see more of the region with the smaller formats. I suspect that after this first trip you will want to come back again to work a few of your favorite areas with the 4x5.

Beware that the previous posts warning against trying to do and see too much are very true. If you are not careful you could spend the majority of your vacation driving between photo spots. I suggest that you pick one or two towns as "base camps" and concentrate on taking short day trips from there. Flagstaff or Moab might be good choices. If you chose Flagstaff, for instance, day trips could include: Grand Canyon NP; Sedona; Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments;the San Fransisco Peaks; Petrified Forest NP; the many attractions within the City of Flagstaff; and numerous other great photo sites within a few hours drive. (You can also purchase medium and large format film here and have your film processed the same day with good results.) You could also spend several nights in the Canyon DeChelley area and drive up to Monument Valley as a day trip.

The base camp approach has worked well for me. I spent a week last summer in Zion NP using my 4x5 and infrared film. I got much better pictures than I would of if I had tried to drive all over Utah and photograph in 20 different spots.

Finally, be sure to bring both color and B&W film. The color is, of course, great for the early morning and evening, and the B&W allows you to keep shooting during the middle of the day, when the harsh sunlight washes out much of the color in the landscape.

Have fun whatever you decide to do!

-- Tom Hieb (, January 18, 2000.

living out here, i have been going to the desert since 1970 on a regular basis. The territory is so vast, one can not cover it in a lifetime. so i suggest limiting your initial visit to a specific area--say Moab. From Moab you can do Arches and Canyonlands and that's plenty right there. if your camping on top of 4wheeling and shooting, you need a fair amt. of equipment--gas and water--if your moteling it out of Moab, you need gas and water. the desert will be crawling with not only interesting "things", but the rest of colorado and californians will be backpacking, 4wheeling, atving, etc as it is the time to explore the desert--it will be hot during the day and cool in the evenings. whether you take 35, 2 1/4 or 4x5, or b&w or color, LESS IS MORE! Explore the territory, take your shots, LEAVE ONLY YOUR FOOTPRINTS (they remain in certain areas for a lifetime), and learn what the desert has to offer from a unique environment(and it can kill you if you are careless). And i suggest you read Edward Abby's book Desert Solitaire--or look at Elliott Porter's book, "down the colorado". raymond a. bleesz educator/histographer--vail, colorado

-- raymond a. bleesz (, January 20, 2000.

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