Trip to Utah & Arizona in May : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Greetings to all.

My wife and I will be moving from California back to Texas this coming June, and I am planning on taking the entire month of May off and traveling to Utah and Arizona for photo heaven.

I was planning on traveling there this past May, but never made it (look at prior post in this forum). If you had the better part of 3 weeks to photograph, where would you spend the bulk of your time? Since I have only driven through the area in a day or so, I am a newbie to that area of the country.

I know this is a huge request, and I will get varied replies, I just want to brainstorm a bit, since there are so many places to see and photograph. I am planning on shooting color *and* b&w on this trip, if this makes any difference.

Here is my short list:

Grand Canyon Canyon de Chelly Zion Monument Valley

-Andy Biggs

-- Andy Biggs (, February 07, 2002


I just had a trip there (Zion, Bryce, Page, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon) in the last week of December. Altough I didn't take a lot of LF images (it was a family trip with kids) I know where I want to go back. From California you can aim directly to Zion, and then Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon's North Rim if it's open, Page for the Anteloppe slot canyons, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest, Saguaro Nat'l Monument, White Sands Nat'l Monument, and finish in the colorful Hill Country in Texas at the LBJ State Park just in time for the flower bloom. That sounds a nice trip and 3 weeks should be perfect for it.

-- Georges Pelpel (, February 07, 2002.

Andy, if I were you this would be my travel plan. Zion, then East to Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley State Park, Arches Nat'l Park, then South to Monument Valley, and Canyon de Chelly. On the Home Page for this site is a travel section with a review of some areas I visited back in November 2000, take a look at it for some ideas. I wish I were going, have a good trip. Happy shooting. Pat.

-- Pat Kearns (, February 07, 2002.

While you are doing Zion and Bryce, you should plan on an afternoon (by far the best time) to stop by Coral Pink Sand Dunes National Park. It is just north of Kanab, UT. If you are willing to do a little bit of hiking to get away from the 4WD vehicle tracks, you can get some incredible images of the dunes. Sounds like a great trip.

-- Randy Redford (, February 07, 2002.

My favorites were Antelope Canyon and Arches. I think I would have liked Bryce as much as Arches if I hadn't gotten bad weather for that part. Sadly my trip was much shorter than yours will be (only one week).

I spent a day and a half in Antelope (upper and lower... definitely do both) with 35mm, and I thought that was adequate. With LF, I would suggest doing a day of scouting (perhaps with 35mm and get it developed at the one hour place to see what works). Once you know what compositions you really like, go back with the big camera. I want to go back one day and reshoot one particular shot with 4x5 (if I can find the spot again).

Arches would probably be good for several days as long as they aren't overcast. I spent two there.

Be willing to modify your itinerary based on weather. Some places need blue skies and some need cloudy.

Shameless web page plug:

-- Noshir Patel (, February 07, 2002.


You don't say if you like shooting big landscapes or small, or if you like shooting structures. Also which part of California your from. If your crossing Northern Nevada to get to Utah you may want to think about Great Basin National Park. In addition to Zion I highly recommend Capitol Reef. Otherwise I would suggest staying at the Parry Lodge in Kanab as a base of operations.

Its a pretty cool place and not too far from some of the sights. You may also want to purchase some resources from the following site

Take lots of film.

-- kevin (, February 07, 2002.

Andy- Definetly the Coral Pink Sand Dunes are worth a visit.

-- Merg Ross (, February 07, 2002.

every place mentioned so far is great, and highly name I didn't see, though:

Kodachorme Basin, in Utah.

If you like to shoot color, plan to spend twice as much time in Bryce Cyn as you think you need. The place is photo heaven.


-- Douglas Gould (, February 07, 2002.

I've always wanted to visit White Sands National Monument (mentioned above). I'd suggest going there at sunset to see the dunes reflect the colors, although you may need special permission to be there late.

-- Matthew Runde (, February 07, 2002.

To all the posters to Andy's requests: Do you people ever shoot outside of a National Park/Monument, or other area officially decared as scenic by the government? Do you ever explore and shoot something that hasn't been done? I can see not doing so if you live out east where it's mostly private land, but in the west? Unbeleivable!

It's a free country, and if you are happy going where you go, party on! But don't you get tired of the crowds, the regulations, the well- trodden appearence of everything (like a good-looking woman who has lost her charms by being too easy with her virtue - she's everybody's girl), and having the best shot you can take bested by something Muench, Dykinga, Carr Clifton, L. Ulrich, J. Gnass, et. al. has already done? More power to you if your happy doing this, but I just don't get it.

Andy - You might want to consider swinging south thru west Texas and New Mexico and exlporing that area the most, since it will be the closest "western" landscape to you once you are relocated, more in your backyard then Utah or AZ.


-- Hyperfocal (, February 07, 2002.

Start at arches and shoot delicate arch right at sunrise, facing east, 90mm lens, 1/4th at f/32; then head out because there's nothing else at arches worth shooting; go to canyonlands and shoot the needles overlook with a 65mm, f/22 at a 30th, put the big needle on the left side of the frame with that twisty old tree in the foreground; then on to bryce (unless it's cloudy, in which case don't bother, there's nothing there worth shooting on a cloudy day); a day in zion (you can shoot all of Zion on a day, easy), then hit kodachrome basin for the shot of the big rock structure on the right; shoot it from the parking lot with your 210, f/16 at a 60th, make sure the parking sign is cropped out of the picture so it looks pristine and natural, and then head for california, stopping along the highway to photograph abandoned gas stations and arty-looking 50's-style diners.

-- chris jordan (, February 07, 2002.

Ok, Chris. Good joke.

Maybe I didn't clarify my request enough. I am definitely *not* looking for the golden Kodak feet and tripod holes in the ground for this trip. Since I have not spent more than a drive-thru day in Utah, I want to take advantage of my time spent there this May.

I think I can figure out where to put my tripod legs, but I am not sure....



-- Andy Biggs (, February 07, 2002.

ha! hi Andy, glad to see you have a sense of humor. my REAL advice (which may or may not be worth two cents, definitely not three) would be to leave your camera at home, go to those gorgeous national parks and connect with the silence within yourself, return home with a deeper knowledge of what you love and care about, and photograph THAT, whatever it is.

good luck in your travels,

~chris jordan (Seattle)

-- chris jordan (, February 07, 2002.

My wife and I did the same trip in May, 2000. We did a Four Corners circuit type of thing, and I learned that Arches and Canyonlands can be the windiest places on Earth in May. Take several cans of compressed air with you to blow out your film holders every time you change film. If you don't, you will regret it. Count on EXTREME weather. We hit a low of 8 degrees in early May in Bryce Canyon and 117 in Roswell, NM (had to!) at the end of May. We hit snow several times during the drive and experienced three seasons in a matter of days.

The highlight of the trip for me was Arches (under-utilized, which makes it nice). The lowlight was Grand Canyon (overhyped and over- utilized). We also hit Zion (the Desert Pearl Inn is an outstanding Hotel in Springdale), Bryce Canyon (stay at Ruby's; it's the only place worthwhile within 30 minutes), Capitol Reef (this is a drive- thru, but very under-untilized), Mesa Verde (half the place was burnt to a cinder when I was there), Escalante Grand Staircase (not to be missed), Lake Powell/Glen Canyon Rec Area, Monument Valley (mind- blowing), Coral Pink Sand Dunes (very cool - take color film for this), White Sands (very hot) and Taos/Santa Fe (kinda touristy, but getting that classic shot of San Francisco de Assis made it worthwhile for me).

-- Chad Jarvis (, February 07, 2002.

Chad--- Arches - UNDER-utilized!!?? My God, man! Please stay in California (or whatever mega-lopolis you call home!)

-- Matt O. (, February 08, 2002.

Matt: East coast, man - Maryland, specifically. When I was in Arches, it was desolate. There was no one there. Maybe seeing three cars in an hour is a lot in whatever podunk town you call home (sorry, you started it). Compared to Zion, which was bumper-to- bumper, a la Yosemite, Arches was a ghost town. Maybe it was the time of year, maybe the time of week, but I found it to be delightfully quiet. I guess I got lucky.

-- Chad Jarvis (, February 08, 2002.

Andy, if your going to be anywhere near the four-corners area,I would greatly suggest hitting the San Juan mountains just northeast of Mesa Verde NP.It's a beautiful area with snow-capped mountains, wild flowers,etc. It'll give you a chance to get a little "green" color too. However, the other suggestions are also great too.

-- Dennis Gazso (, February 08, 2002.

Re: David Muench, national parks, etc...

There's a reason most of the great nature photos by great nature photographers come from government protected grounds. That's where the cool stuff is and that's where the man made clutter isn't. Plus, for the non-professional photographer, spending the entire trip looking for some hidden back roads gem just isn't practical.

-- Noshir Patel (, February 08, 2002.

Will you have a 4x4 to drive? That will make a real difference on where you can go.

-- Dan Smith (, February 08, 2002.

Chad -
Yes, man - you got VERY lucky!
Yer rite, Dude - I live in a podunk (that's only an insult to people who DON't live in one, BTW) in the Idaho panhandle.
I hate the crowds in most Nat. Parks. - there's just too much country out here to photograph where you can do it quietly and in solitude -

-- Matt O. (, February 08, 2002.

You might try Arizona Hwy 60 between Globe and Show Low. The Apache knew what they were doing when they kept ahold of the Salt Canyon!

Also, Hanksville has a nice German lady that calls her 3br 2ba house a B&B. And Hwy 95 from there South to Mexican Hat is often overshadowed by the Zion/Capital Reef/Grand Escalante/Bryce road but is great nonetheless.

And, if you decide to do a bit of NW New Mexico, take the northern route HWY 96 from 550 to Santa Fe and stop at Lake Abiquiu.

Finally, if you have a real 4wd, more towards Rover than CRV, Clinton designated a big portion of the Arizona Strip as the Parashant NM.

3-4 weeks?? not enough! Have fun, pack water, tread lightly.

PS. Don't miss the striated rocks of the Corkscrew Canyon area around Page AZ either.

-- Joe Nagy (, February 09, 2002.

Thanks to everyone who posted their ideas. Very much appreciated. I look forward to spending time out on the Colorado plateau, hopefully being there before the summer crowds rush in. My 4x4 will be ready to go, and our backpacking and camping gear cleaned up and packed up.

I guess the next step is to buy enough film to last the whole trip. And to do some film testing with the new color filters I purchased a few weeks ago.

Thanks again, everybody. Without the incredible forum, I might have given up on large format altogether a while back. And special thanks to Tuan.


-- Andy Biggs (, February 09, 2002.

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