Canyon De Chelly

These photograph were taken on a visit toCanyon de Chellyin April, 1999. It was part of a photographic trip that includedMonument Valley.

Canyon de Chelly is located about 75 miles Southeast of Monument Valley and is classified as a National Monument (a sort-of junior National Park).  There’s nothing junior though about it.  It uniquely offers one the convenient ability to shoot this thousand foot deep canyon from both rims as well as from the valley floor.

To our surprise and delight, the valley floor is drivable so long as you have a guide. Ours was arranged through the Park Ranger station.  She was a local Navaho high school student; quite knowledgeable, and the charge was a reasonable $10 / hour.  Our drive half-way up the valley and back took 3 hours, though we could have taken all day.

The drive must be done in a four wheel drive vehicle.  My rented Ford Explorer managed quite well and frankly the drive itself was a ball, not to mention the great photography that was available at every turn. 

We were there in the early spring and the water in the river bed was deep but not impassable.  The centre-piece of the valley is the White House Ruins, the most impressive of several ancient Indian ruins along the valley walls.

White House Ruins White House Ruins — Canyon de Chelly, 1999

Photographed with a CanonEOS3and Canon L 17~28mm zoom on Provia 100, de-colourized inPhotoShop

There are public roads on either side of the canyon, each with numerous pull-outs providing wonderful vistas. Because the valley is so deep, early and late day shooting can be problematic, but is very worthwhile.  I found that searching for detail on the valley floor and along the valley walls with my Canon L 100~400mm IS zoom very enjoyable and rewarding.

Sheep from Above Sheep From Above — Canyon de Chelly, 1999

Taken with a CanonEOS3and Canon L IS 100~400 zoom (at 400mm) on Kodak VS

Shooting details on the valley floor below from the rim provides a perspective that is very appealing.  But, be warned.  Once you leave the parking areas there are unprotected vertical drops of many hundreds of feet.  I usually don’t suffer from vertigo but standing at the shear edge of a 1000 foot precipice, looking through a 400mm lens, is a scary proposition.  Be careful!

We stayed at the Thunderbird Lodge in Chinle, 602/674-5841.  As always in popular but out-of-the-way spots, be sure to book rooms as early as possible.

Watercolor Trees, Canyon De Chelly, 1999 (D)

Another view from the south rim of the canyon at sunrise. Looking downward more than 1,000 feet to the valley floor, these trees and their long shadows captured my eye. Through a 400mm lens they took on a highly abstract quality, but the transparency was disappointing. I have subsequently found that Photoshop’s "watercolor" effect created the mood most reminiscent of what I saw that morning. 

Taken with a CanonEOS3and Canon L IS 100~400 zoom (at 400mm) on Kodak VS.