The Utah and Arizona Wilderness
I made my home in the American Southwest over 20 years ago and as a landscape photographer I have been spoilt for choice of locations to shoot. As we all know this region of the USA provides endless world class photographic opportunities. But from all of these I am constantly drawn back to the wilderness areas of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona where there is a wealth of subjects to capture and many new locations to explore in detail. These never ending subjects could easily keep me occupied for the rest of my life. Unlike many of the National Parks that are normally always very busy, the locations I visit here are much less travelled, mainly due to their remoteness.
I spend at least six weeks of the year in this region basing myself between the small towns of Kanab, UT and Page, AZ where I keep a 5 th wheel travel trailer year round at the Paria Guest Ranch which is just about the most perfect location from which to explore the region. It is very central for all the locations that I visit and Page, AZ is about 36 miles to the east, making it very easy to stock up on provisions for a few days. Page is also home to the world famous Antelope Canyon, a wonderful twisted slot canyon with easy access.
The areas I visit have become more popular recently and visitation has slowly began to climb. The most people I have ever witnessed at any location at one time has never exceeded eight, but there are also times when you can have these wonderful locations all to yourself, especially if you camp out overnight at the trailheads, which surprisingly very few other photographers seem to do. The benefits of overnight camping are huge and far out weigh any discomfort that some may feel due to spending the night out. As landscape photographers we should expect some minor discomfort in our pursuit of glorious light and the opportunities that Mother Nature can provide. The best light always occurs around dawn and at the opposite end of the day so why not make sure you are there for it. I can almost guarantee that you will need more than just a few hours in these locations to get the best from them. The night sky is also fantastic should you wish to do some long exposure star trails etc, but the most striking aspect of overnight camping is the sheer silence that you find yourselves surrounded by. Occasionally you may hear the Coyotes howling their familiar chorus as the night begins to give way to dawn.
Probably the largest obstacle standing in most photographers way is the sheer difficulty in reaching many of these locations. Firstly they are all extremely remote and the road conditions, even if you were to consider them roads in the first place are extremely sandy and a 4×4 High Clearance vehicle is an absolute necessity. Route finding capabilities and a GPS unit should also be on your list of must haves, along with plenty of spare water, food and an emergency locator beacon should the worst happen and you find yourself stranded. These locations should never be underestimated, but that shouldn’t put you off visiting and putting your own stamp on them as you won’t be disappointed.
I always prefer to shoot in the height of summer when the conditions can change on a dime due to the electrical storms and the monsoon. These can provide superb conditions and almost once in a lifetime opportunities. The pure nature of these twisted red rock formations cry out for dramatic skies and lighting, and with these conditions the ordinary can easily become the extraordinary. Using the strong lead in lines that are bountiful gives one a real focal point of interest and powerful images.
But it is not only the dramatic landscape that you should seek out. Sandstone abstracts open up a whole new world where direct light is your enemy and the soft, more diffused light will provide numerous subjects that are just a joy to seek out. The shapes, patterns and textures provide wonderful studies of composition and subject which showcase shape and form, are a delight to photograph and will enhance any portfolio. The choice of subjects knows no bounds.
Just to be able to spend some quality time in these locations is to behold the underlying belief that landscape photographers everywhere should relish. It has taken millions of years for these formations to arrange themselves into what we are presented with today, unparalleled beauty, which begs us to spend just a short time out of our lives to appreciate what we see before us.
Not long ago someone asked me “what would you do if you only had six hours to spend at the White Pocket”? I answered the only way I could, “ I would sit down on the Brain Rocks and cry my eyes out”.
The locations that are shown here include the White Pocket, South Coyote Buttes, the Rimrocks, Stud Horse Point and last but not least the Wahweap Hoodoos.
Nigel has been capturing the landscapes of the American West and exhibiting in galleries in both the USA and UK since 1988.
His work has appeared in many leading photography magazines, including theBritish Journal of Photographyand thePhotographic Journal of the Royal Photographic Societyplus many of the consumer photography magazines.
He has been conducting his workshop and tour programme continually since 1994, which has had over 1,500 attendees during that time with many repeat clients over the years. He feels extremely lucky to be making his living from what he loves to does, making landscape photographs.