I am too much of a nature person and I just love going to places with lots of greenery, mountains, waterfalls, beaches, rivers etc. So when we planned a trip to the desert landscapes of Arizona, Utah and Nevada, I was never excited. For me it meant lots of heat, dry barren lands, just rocks rocks all around..you get the picture..
But as it turns out, I visited these ‘dry barren lands’ thrice in the last 4 years, each time a different place and the pictures are across all these trips.
FLYING OVER THE GRAND CANYONS
My first time to the desert lands was in 2011 when we flew to the Grand Canyons from Las Vegas. It was also my first time in a chopper and it was an awesome experience. Since helicopters are not as sturdy or stable as planes, I was so sure we are going to crash somewhere or that the chopper would fly off the grid because it felt so clumsy :-) Thank god no such thing happened. The duration of the journey was about 1 hour . We flew over some very scenic landscapes before entering the canyons itself.
RED ROCK CANYONS, NEVADA
The next time we traveled this side was in 2013, when we visited the Red Rock Canyons in Nevada. That was another bizarre landscape, which is not less than at least 200 million years old! The place consists of a set of large red rock formations: a set of sandstone peaks and walls. Needless to say it was super hot!
Our latest visit to the desert land was in 2014. I was dreading this trip the most because we had planned 3 days here. The other 2 trips were just day trips. Traveling to the deserts and that too in the peak of summer made me fret. I was actually feeling sad that I am not going to be seeing any beautiful mountains or beaches , only plain and rocky landscapes. However the only thing that got me going was knowing that there is abundance of photography opportunities. After seeing thousands of gorgeous pictures of the Antelope canyons and Horseshoe bend, these were the main things I wanted to see. The small city of Page is central to all these wonderful spots hence we decided to stay there and cover each spot a day. We started our road trip from Vegas. Though I thought there would not be any interesting sights too see on the drive, I was wrong. The whole route was through complete rocky mountains having bizarre formations. And I ended up clicking the scenery outside almost continuously throughout the drive till Page!
LOWER ANTELOPE CANYONS, ARIZONA
The next day we planned to go to the most awaited Lower Antelope Canyons! There are 2 sections of the Antelope Canyons that tourist usually go to - Upper and Lower. From the reviews I had read, lower is less crowded because it is a little more difficult to walk through as there are some very narrow s
ections in the canyons and many people find it difficult to walk through them so most people throng to the upper antelope canyons. I took the 2 (or 3 ? )hour photographer’s pass while my husband took the regular 1 hour guided tour, as he did not have a tripod and each individual should have a tripod and a camera while taking the photographer’s pass. They actually check your gear at the entrance.
So I set off. It felt a little weird to go in alone, scary even. These canyons are below the ground level so you’ve got to descend into these canyons by a set of narrow and steep stairs. But once inside, I saw a lot of other tourists and it felt better. After a while I was actually thinking why are there so many people?! Can’t I get a single minute without any people around! It is literally impossible to take eye level shots since it is constantly covered with people. Especially it being a long weekend. So i stuck to shooting the ceiling of the canyons. It did not matter what and where I shot because each direction was something unique. These canyons are again formed after millions of years of erosion due to rain and flood waters and what was so unique about these canyons is that you can actually see the ‘flowing’ shapes of water engraved on to these rocks. It is just mesmerizing. Probably the only time I can combine the words ‘canyons’ and ‘graceful’ together. The walking path takes us through the path of the water itself. In some places it goes further down or rises up and we have to flex our bodies to squeeze through those slots. As long as the sun is at an angle with the opening above the canyons, the sun rays cause some beautiful reflections on the walls of the canyons and you see multiple shades of orange/red on the walls.
MONUMENT VALLEY, UTAH
Same day after the antelope canyons, we drove to the Monument Valley. Had seen a lot of photos of its famous twin buttes and they have made an appearance in multiple Hollywood movies. It was a 2 hour drive through barren lands again, and as we neared Monument Valley, there were weird rock formations almost everywhere. It seemed like they were carved by man, except that they were not !
Once inside the monument valley, we took a guided tour lead by Navajo Indian tribe as they are the oly ones that can take visitors off the beaten path. Also, the terrain is rough and I had heard of normal sedans getting stuck on the muddy path. We saw lots of huge rock formations and it felt like a completely different world than what I have seen ever before.
LAKE POWELL, ARIZONA
On the last day we decided to cool off by taking a boat ride in lake Powell. This was unlike any other boar ride I have ever been on . The landscape was just so unusual. in some places the channel gets so narrow that it is sometimes difficult for the boat to go through. Totally loved it.
We finally left from Page to Vegas and once again, I was left marveling at the work of Mother Nature. It just made me realize Nature is not just about the greenery and water bodies. These bizarre landscapes just carved themselves out over millions of years with just water and erosion and absolutely no interference by man and just look what a perfectly looking beautiful landscape they have formed as on today, and still continue to form. I am always dumbfounded whenever I look at such beautiful places and wonder about the power of Nature to make and break. It’s the astounding things like these that make me wanna travel more and see the beauty our Earth has to offer and share it with others :-) !
TIPS FOR TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPHY
For people in North America, going to any of these places is good from Vegas or Salt Lake city. The city of Page is central not only to the places listed here but many others that I did not get a chance to go to. We stayed at a very cute Bed & Breakfast called the Rose Walk Inn. It is a warm and a friendly place , managed by an old couple and they serve the best pancakes for breakfast. They were very helpful in providing local information that you may not find in public websites. A lot of people come from other parts and stay there. It was a great way to meet others and exchange travel & photography tips over breakfast. Definitely plan to stay here if it is available :-)
Antelope Canyons is best seen as early as possible so as to see beautiful reflected lights on the canyon walls. So plan to be here as soon as the ticket counter opens. There are no advance reservations for Lower antelope canyons so it is first come first serve basis. As it nears noon, the sun light gets stronger inside the canyons and it creates harsh lighting inside.
Also if getting good pictures is a priority, then a wide angle lens (10-15 mm) is a must especially for antelope canyons and horse shoe bend.
GPS does not work well for some places here so it is best to take the GPS coordinates well before hand or take a map.
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