I was one of the hundreds of “leaf peepers” who descended on Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona at the end of October when the fall colors were at its peak. At popular trails like West Fork, the car park was full by 9am and many had to park 1-2 miles along the scenic Oak Creek Road.
There was much to stop for and stare, and shoot while walking along the 3 mile marked trail. Here are some of the highlights:
The best photo spot of the day was by the creek. It was a perfect day with overcast sky and still air to shoot the reflection of the canyon wall and trees. You can stay put at this one spot and shoot different compositions, try out different focal lengths and angles. The only challenge is that you have to wait patiently for people to boulder hop across the creek at the far end, and on crowded weekends, it can be quite a wait.
Photographing fall foliage can be a challenge as one has to find good compositions with a pleasing bokeh. If there is a breeze, the fluttering leaves can be an issue for shutter speeds and exposures. On hindsight, a day trip was too short to cover all of West Fork’s fall colors. With the shorter daylight in the canyon, I never made it to the end of the 3 mile trail. But then, there is always next year… 🙂
Final fall impressions.
Will there still be color? The weather forecast for the day was not promising, 25-30 mph winds and a 30% chance of precipitation. After two years of not-so-successful attempts to capture the elusive Fall in Arizona, I decided to take the gamble and hit the road.
By mid-morning, as the San Francisco Peaks appeared on the horizon, I excitedly looked for any hint of yellow on the slopes. The weather was clear with patches of white clouds in the blue sky. As the car made its way winding towards Lockett Meadow, I was greeted with more than just a splash of gold. The aspen trees were shimmering in the sun, cloaked in their full Autumn splendor!
In the middle of the shoot, it turned dark and chilly and snow flurries began to fall. Fortunately, it was short lived. In the late afternoon, I took the back road to Hart Prairie to catch the last rays of the day.
Unlike Lockett Meadow which was busy with campers and visitors, Fall in the Prairie was quieter and more introspective.
By dusk, the mist blanketed Autumn’s display and it’s time to pack and head home. Fall seldom stays for long in Arizona, and her visit is often short and fickle. Will this be the last of my search for Fall and her colors? Or is it just the beginning?
This is the best time of the year to be in Arizona when the temperature is about 60 degrees in the mornings. No more dry heat and three-digit temperatures! Summer has sizzled away! Cool mornings and evenings are great to be out shooting photos or just hiking along the trails.
Photographing fall colors in Arizona requires some planning and lots of luck. I usually call the National Parks and talk to the rangers a day or two before making the trip up north. It is often difficult to estimate when the colors peak. It may peak during the week and by the weekend the autumn leaves have fallen onto the ground. In the past two years, I went to Lockett Meadow at Flagstaff and West Fork at Sedona intending to catch the colors but was a little late by about a week.
This weekend, I am heading to Lockett Meadow and Hart Prairie. Hopefully, this year will be better as it seems that the colors are changing a little later. One never knows what surprises Mother Nature will reveal, so just be there!
Hurrah! Fall is in the air!