Sunday, September 12, 2010


Yesterday I spent the entire day exploring Red Rock Country which surrounds Sedona, AZ. To say the views were awe inspiring is an understatement. You just can't put it into words.. you have to actually go there and see it yourself.

After stopping at the ranger station to purchase a park parking permit (allowing me to park at any of the trail heads etc), and get some information, I headed out to my first stop: Bell Rock. I parked at a trail head which seemed to be quite popular with the bus-tour crowd. I took some pictures of the surrounding rock formations and then had the urge to do the actual 2 mile hike to the actual rock face.. So I went.. "Why not?" i figured. The hike was wonderful and easy. I took with me my Camera and used the 24-105 lens. The black rapid strap was fantastic..

On the way I found some neat trees to shoot... I have a thing for wacky looking trees shot against a blue sky.

One thing I knew I was going to have to deal with was the position of the sun as it changed throughout the day. The changing angle of light lit up the rock formations differently depending on the time of day. Worst case the formation would be back lit.. or unfavorable shadows cast across it. Optimally one would do some kind of analysis that would tell you what time of day was best for shooting particular formations from various locations.. maybe next time I will do that. This time I just started from the south and worked my way upward around the area. Whatever it was it was.

After the bell rock hike I made my way to one side of Castle Rock where there was another trail head. The trail description said the hike was "strenuous"... Again I said "why not.." and set out again. Let me say that I now understand what the park service means by the word strenuous. It wasn't so much of a hike rather a climb over impassible terrain. Most of the time there was little to indicate where the trail actually was. I found myself looking for periodic foot prints (which I did find). Eventually I hit a point where the way was blocked by multiple downed trees. I believe the expectation was to climb over it.. but i was not prepared for that kind of maneuvering given the clothes I wore for the day (jeans short and a light weight shirt). I turned around, partially got lost on the way back, but still managed to get some shots somewhat up close.

After that I wanted something a little easier.. so I headed to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It is another touristy spot but still a good place to get some key shots. The chapel itself has been shot to death (For good reason, it is a marvel). However once you get there and climb up to the actual church you are also rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding rock formations. So I again took some time there to do some work.

So after that it was mid day and I was getting a bit hungry. So I went into the actual town of Sedona. It is nothing more then an upscale tourist trap (in my opinion). I skipped all the shops and other garbage and found a BBQ place. It was ok.. nothing worth writing home about.

The next actual photographic stop was another trail which was near Sedona airport. This is apparently one of the most used spots for photography in the area. I can see why. The hike took me to two different locations. Both of which were very high up and slightly dangerous (at least it seemed to me). At one point I was on a maybe three foot wide uneven trail which circled round the mountain that the airport was on... nothing preventing me from slipping and falling about 4000 feet to the bottom. But one does what one has to do to get that shot I suppose.. LOL. I again did a whole mess of work here, and made plans that I would return later in the day for sunset.

At this point it was around 2pm and I figured i would kill some time by going to Red Rock Crossing. It is a "day park" which has a stream and some well shot views of the other side of Castle Rock. However on the way I caught sight of another trail head and again figured a stop was warranted (Why not?). There was no marking, just a marker for the start of the trail (with no info on it). So I went on for a while and found myself literally in the middle of nowhere on a flat desert type area surrounded by the rock formations. I have never been to a location which was so "still" and "quiet". The lack of human noise was shocking.. no airplanes.. no cars... nothing. No wind noise... nothing. If one could visit mars on a calm day this is likely what it would be like.

So a bit later on I made it to the park.. and decided to hike up to the other side of Castle Rock (since my first attempt went wonderfully.. not). This time I brought my new backpack loaded with my tripod and all my other lenses. I am not sure how long the hike was.. but it was pretty long. I found one great spot slightly off the beaten path and set up my camera on the tripod for a variety of shots. I even did some HDR exposure bracketing.

At this point I was pretty tired so I took it easy for a bit to kill some more time. Eventually I left and headed back to the airport area. People were already gathering for the sunset. I packed up my stuff in the backpack and hiked up to the highest point. This was a high bluff which had a clear view There already were two photographers there. One was, like me, setting up for some sunset action. The other was doing some work with two models dressed in wedding dresses. He had them on the edge and was using a portable strobe.

So I setup and did some work while the sun was still up. More people gathered.. The show started... and maybe a hour later it was over and time to go. Packed up and found out how difficult it would be to hike down in the dark (wasn't that bad actually).

All in all it was an amazing experience. I have looked at the material on my netbook and I think I've got some things worthy of my portfolio.. I just need to put them through the developing process. I had the urge to go there again today but my body just can't take it (can you say sore? LOL).

Equipment wise.. I managed to use all three of the lenses I brought with me.. especially during the sunset light show. The 24-105 continues to be my lens of choice for most situations. I am surprised how rare i need to get down to 17mm. The black rapid strap continues to be one of the best purchases I have made of late. I was also impressed how easy it was to hike with the Tamrac Expedition x6 pack on my back.. fully loaded with about 25lbs of gear and a tripod.. weight was nicely distributed to my legs and off my lower back..

Anyway.. so that about sums up Sedona...

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