Winter

Blue Moon at Monument Valley

A once in a blue moon event! A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month, and it is doubly rare that this December it falls on New Year’s eve. I was at Monument Valley to shoot this rare occasion. I was out at sunset and waited for the moon to rise over the horizon. As this was the first time I tried shooting a moonrise, it was quite an experience. I had to shoot at one place, and then every minute or so I had to move about 3 feet down to follow the moon’s path over the Mittens. I had to do this shoot-move-shoot sequence many times over the course of an hour or so. You can call it “chasing for the moon”!:-) Yes, it was cold to be out shooting with temperatures in the 20s (deg F), but what a way to end the old year and welcome the new.

Peace, happiness to all in 2010!

Back in the Valley of the Sun

After traveling 9,160 miles, 23+ hours in 3 planes and 4 airports, I finally arrived in Phoenix – the Valley of the Sun. But there was no sun when I landed. Well, how often does it rain in the desert? Rarely! I guess I brought along the equatorial showers with me. 🙂

Since it was a Tuesday, I had to have Rubio’s tacos for my dinner.

It will be busy busy for the next couple of days meeting up with old friends before I head up north for photography. It is really great to be back! 🙂

Arizona Perspective III – Paria Plateau

It was a cold early December start at 4 a.m. for a 2-hour drive into the back country to the Paria Wilderness. It snowed the night before so the wilderness was layered with fresh snow. I was thrilled even though it meant braving the cold freezing temperature. I had seen photos of the Paria Plateau but nothing prepared me for what I was going to see at first hand.

The access road to South Coyote Buttes area is known for its deep sand and many vehicles have been stuck especially during the summer season. Since it was winter and the ground was frozen, we had no problems. Even then, driving the road (if you can call it a road) in the dark can be quite challenging. But Charly, from Overland Canyon Tours, knew the area like the back of his hand. We made it to South Coyote Buttes without any mishaps although there was a harrowing moment when Charly had to skilfully negotiate the SUV between huge boulders that had fallen on the narrow House Rock Valley Road and the cliff edge.

Nevertheless, we made it to South Coyote Buttes with plenty of time to spare to catch the first light on the Cottonwood Tepees.

I hiked into the Paria Wilderness, braving almost zero degree temperatures and wind chill. I was awe-struck with the swirling, twisted red sandstone that contrasted with the white snow. At times, it seemed eerie with the blowing wind and snow flurries dancing across the deserted bizarre landscape. No words can adequately describe this wild land. This is raw nature at its best!

Later at midday, Charly drove to another breathtaking location – White Pocket. Carved by wind and water, the whole area is a mosaic of colorful swirling sandstone, checkered board rocks, hexagonal bedrock that is almost brainlike – an amazing cacophony of rock shapes, patterns and colors! Photographer Gary Ladd aptly described the area as preposterously photogenic. For me, it is simply out of this world!

Charly Moore, the guide of the day, is quite a character. A tattoo artist and owner of the outfitter company, Charly has an intimate knowledge of and is passionate about the area. For the day trip, Charly did not provide just a brown bag lunch. He prepared a delicious spread of tuna salad, pumpernickel bread, cheese, lunch meat, green apples, and piping hot chocolate. Quite a gourmet meal for dinning in the outback! I can’t wait to sample Charly’s fillet mignon which is on his menu for an overnight camping trip.:-)

The only thing that spoiled an otherwise perfect day in the Paria Wilderness was seeing the pristine area dotted with black lumps. Can you guess what they were?

Yes, there were dung…cow dung all over! It seems that the authorities have allowed free range cattle to roam the area. Ironically, the area is protected and restricted to limited visits by people (read about the permits here) which I feel is the right thing to do as the area is very fragile should be kept in its pristine condition for many generations to enjoy its beauty. But who is going to pick up after the cattle? Some cow sense!

We stayed until the earth shadow appeared on the horizon and the low winter sun cast its last light. I was reluctant to leave this extraordinary place.

In his book, Arizona, photographer David Muench noted that “we need wild places where we will not see houses, cars, fences, signs, bullet casings, or even trails. We need places where there is no trace of human interference, because these places will then serve as a standard. We need these places because they cleanse us. Whatever pressures and frustrations we have in our lives in the cities, we can lose them out there. When we walk in beauty, all the garbage in our lives disappears.”

This was exactly how I felt after spending a day walking the Paria Plateau. I was so absorbed in its immense beauty that time stood still and all my cares of the moment went away. What a wild, timeless and spiritual place!

Sedona in Snow

A year ago, I was lucky to be in Sedona when it snowed. Surprisingly, it rarely snows in Sedona although it is an hour drive from Flagstaff which receives snow often enough.

Sedona on any day is beautiful, but when it snows, it is just spectacular to see the red rocks layered with streaks of white. The locals themselves will tell you how lucky you are to be there to see the sight. Here are some photos of Snow in Sedona shot in March 2006 and January 2007. Yes, I was twice lucky!