As an aspiring landscape photographer, I have the opportunity to explore less traveled parks and remote wilderness areas. This blog shares of my "notes from the field," including photography techniques, hiking tips and lessons learned the hard way ... like the time I fell through the ice in the Merced River, Yosemite National Park. I welcome your comments and thank you for visiting our site. Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer, Field Photographer
"The wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit." - Joseph Wood Krutch Writer, critic and naturalist
Our Coyote Gulch hike was an incredible experience, exposing us to vast sand dunes, a winding streambed, waterfalls and an enormous shelter arch. The hike was more strenuous than we anticipated, mainly due to the steep incline of our return hike up a massive sand dune (total elevation gain of approximately 1,500 feet).
NIKON D800E,f/18 @ 17 mm, 1/60, ISO 200
Our movement through Coyote Gulch was also slow, as we traversed a number of massive boulders, strewn logs and water pools. Waterfalls and dry falls also required us to ascend to the upper ridgeways. Despite an early morning start, we were always aware of the time and the early sundown in February. We concluded that it would be best to be well out of gulch area before nightfall, even though we were equipped with headlamps and rations.
My adventurous son-in-law, Todd Severson, did a terrific job of mapping out the hike, considering a number of options for safe (meaning “non-technical” for this photographer’s sake) entry in Coyote Gulch. Ultimately, we opted to enter the Coyote Gulch via the Crack-in-the-Wall, a narrow slit rock parallel to the cliff wall. The name of this entry point was interesting enough, not to mention the extremely tight passageway (21 inches wide) and trailhead access by aptly named Hole-in-the-Rock road (leading to Forty Mile Ridge Road).
NIKON D800E,f/16 @ 20 mm, 1/60, ISO 640
A handheld GPS and Google Earth maps helped us navigate the plateau of slick rock and drifting sand, leading us directly to the Crack-in-the-Wall formation. Once we cleared this passageway, we found ourselves on a steep sand dune with a remarkable bird’s eye view of enormous rock monoliths, Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River. Hiking down the dunes, we encountered another party of two overnight hikers – the first people we had seen since entering the park the day before.
NIKON D800E,f/16 @ 30 mm, 1/500, ISO 400
Continuing our descent on the dunes, we were thrilled to see the spectacular Steven’s Arch. With an opening of some 220 feet across and varnished rock walls, this formation is truly a sight to behold. Escalante is home to other arches, including Jacob Hamlin Arch in Coyote Gulch and Broken Bow Arch in Willow Gulch.
Despite rather harsh mid-day light, we also managed to capture some images of Steven’s Arch and the amazing geology of Coyote Gulch.
We returned to our SUV sore and tired, with sand in our eyes and ears. That said, it was all so “worth it” and we’re talking about a return trip to this amazing stretch of the Grand Stair Case, Escalante, Utah.
<<< Video of Todd at Crack In the Wall
Related postings: Grand Staircase – Escalante Part 1: Trip Itinerary, Grand Staircase - Escalante Part 2: Zebra Canyon and Red Breaks, White Pockets at Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs, Glen Canyon Recreation Area (Alstrom Point at Lake Powell), Arizona-Utah Border and Utah Landscape Photography.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.” - John F. Kennedy, President of the United States
During our first morning at Grand Staircase – Escalante, we had the pleasure of hiking and photographing Zebra Canyon. This relatively small slot canyon is aptly named, given the bold horizontal stripes in the pale Navajo Sandstone.
Zebra Canyon, NIKON D800E,f/20 @ 70 mm, 1.3s, ISO 200
Our two mile hike to Zebra Canyon was delightful, as we got our first view of some domes and other fascinating geology along the way. We were especially intrigued by the entryway to Zebra Canyon, where distinct sand ripples converge with the gold-brown sandstone walls. This whole area seemed so pristine, with a wind sculpted sand floor and water worn rock walls. The photos of the entryway are some of my favorites from the trip. Then again, it was also great shooting the intersecting rock formations in warm reflected light.
Zebra Canyon, NIKON D800E,f/16 @ 26 mm, 1.3s, ISO 200
Once in Zebra Canyon, we encountered some water and ended up making the hike barefooted. This being a shaded area, the water was extremely cold at the time of February hike. Of course, our water sandals were safely packed in our SUV. Our numb feet were gently warmed on the hike back through an extended wash area of fine white sand.
Time constraints did not allow us to hike the nearby Peek A Boo slot canyon – another location for our next visit.
Our afternoon was spent hiking Red Breaks, a rugged area of dry streambeds and open sky slot canyons strewn with massive boulders. We approached this area from the sandy Harris Wash, ascending into the red rock slot canyon area through a winding series of dry falls and rock beds.
With all of the grandeur of this area, I found only a few shadowed areas of narrow canyon walls for slot canyon photography. In part, my limited shooting was due to the bright overhead sunlight. We also encountered an enormous fallen rock which blocked part of the slot canyon from safe passage.
Red Breaks is another area we hope to revisit, allowing more time for side hikes and exploration. I would also like to photograph this area in the aftermath of heavy rains, as it would be such a visual delight with some reflecting pools.
Entrance to Zebra Canyon, NIKON D800E,f/18 @ 35 mm, 1/20, ISO 200
Having struggled with crowds and limited tour hours at the Antelope Canyon, Arizona slot canyons, it was exhilarating to have the Escalante slot canyons all to ourselves. For a photographer, this kind of setting is just too good to be true and ideal for a photo study series.
Red Breaks, NIKON D800E,f/22 @ 17 mm, 1.3s, ISO 100
Related postings: Grand Staircase – Escalante Part 1: Trip Itinerary, White Pockets at Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs, Grand Staircase Escalante Part 2: Zebra Canyon and Red Breaks, Glen Canyon Recreation Area (Alstrom Point at Lake Powell), Arizona-Utah Border and Utah Landscape Photography and Antelope Canyon.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
"In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia." - Charles A. Lindberg , Aviator
Our recent trip to Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah, was both exhilarating and exhausting. This being our first visit to Escalante, we had a long list of destination sites, but only two days for hiking and photography. Still, through excellent planning on the part of my son-in-law, Todd Severson, we managed to get an excellent overview of this extraordinary geological wonderland.
NIKON D800E,f/8 @ 200 mm, 1/60, ISO 200
Grand Staircase is a landscape photographer's dream come true: miles of exposed geology, no manmade distractions, very few people and no required hiking permits or passes. In fact, while we saw a few vehicles, we did not encounter a single hiker during the first day of our stay at Escalante.
Coyote Gulch, NIKON D800E,f/20 @ 17 mm, 1/80, ISO 400
Located on the rugged Kiaparowits Plateau, the vast Grand Staircase - Escalante is home to several slot canyons, arches, vast mountain ranges, Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River. Encompassing nearly 1.9 million acres, the park has approximately 100 miles of roads along with extensive hiking trails.
In our next few postings, I’ll share our trip itinerary, field notes and photographs from our hikes.
Zebra Canyon, NIKON D800E,f/16 @ 25 mm, 1.3s, ISO 200
With the help of Google Earth maps and two handheld Garmin GPS units, we hiked approximately 24.5 miles over our two day stay. We were grateful to have a high clearance SUV, as many of the secondary roads traverse rugged exposed rock, while others are covered in deep drifting sand. Our trip itinerary:
<<< Video from Coyote Gulch
Having spent considerable time in nearby Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, I am so grateful that we finally made it to this remote expanse of the Colorado Plateau. We are already brainstorming plans for a return trip, saving our vacation days for a longer visit this next time. More to follow …
Related postings: Grand Staircase - Escalante Part 2: Zebra Canyon and Red Breaks, Grand Staircase - Escalante Part 3: Coyote Gulch, White Pockets at Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs, Glen Canyon Recreation Area (Alstrom Point at Lake Powell), Arizona-Utah Border, Utah Landscape Photography and Antelope Canyon.
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ― George Eliot (pen name for Mary Ann Marian Evans)
In relocating from the mid-west to Arizona, I lamented that our family would sorely miss the change of seasons. Some 22 years later, it’s good to realize how entirely mistaken I was in my limited thinking. In my mind’s eye, the Southwest landscape was one of unchanging arid deserts and relentless heat. Sunny, hot and dry - all year long.
Aspen Grove, Capture My Arizona Photo of the Day
Little did we know of Arizona’s glorious mountain ranges, rich foliage and dramatic weather in the higher elevations. Just a few hours from the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix), we find ourselves in scenic locations like the iconic Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley, the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains.
Abineau Canyon and San Francisco Peaks, Capture My Arizona Photo of the Day
This Fall, my son David and I found the most dramatic change of season and autumn colors in Flagstaff, Arizona (elevation, 6,910 feet). Fall was really “in the air” on that mid-October day, given an earlier snow, gusting winds and vivid autumn colors.
The first part of our day involved some adventure, but not much in the way of photography. After a bouncy drive on a craggy rock strewn forest road (F 418), we enjoyed a rigorous hike on Bear Jaw Trail, about mid-way up San Francisco Peaks (elevation, 12,623 feet). Due to the earlier freeze, the Aspen branches were entirely barren. Their fallen leaves created a lush, golden carpet at our feet.
Autumn Reflections with Moonrise
Driving out of this area – not far from the trailhead, we came across a spectacular view of rugged Abineau Canyon. In the aftermath of an avalanche back in 2005, the canyon was laden with enormous boulders and topped trees. Resting majestically in the background, impervious to the wind, were the snow capped San Francisco Peaks and our first glimpse of golden Aspen groves along the mountainside.
Time really does fly, when you’re in an area of such natural beauty, especially with a digital camera in hand. We spent the rest of the day driving and quickly hiking along the Hart Prairie Road area.
Autumn Glow, Flagstaff, Arizona
We were so pleased to come across thick Aspen groves, a quiet reflecting pond and vistas of new plant life in the aftermath of the Mount Eldon fire.
So, Northern Arizona once again graces us with a true change of seasons, from delicate wildflowers to pristine snow and golden leaves in the wind. Such a memorable day, witnessing the glorious cycle of life and the regenerative powers of nature.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Arizona Autumn Collage: Leave Afloat
Related posts: West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona: Part 2 – Autumn, Autumn Colors: Hart Prairie Road: Flagstaff, Arizona, Mountains in the Wake of the Gladiator Fire and Autumn Brook, Cotton Wood, Arizona.
Crisp Autumn Day
“Fall colors are funny. They’re so bright and intense and beautiful. It’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary.”
― Siobhan Vivian, Same Difference
Autumn Brook, NIKON D800E,f/18 @ 17 mm, 0.5s, ISO 160
My sincere thanks to my fellow photographers and the editors at Capture My Arizona, for the Challenge Editors' Choice Award in the Northern Arizona's Autumn contest. It's truly an honor to have my images shown and recognized on this photo exchange website, along with the work of so many talented photographers.
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Landscape photography techniques, photo expedition travel planning and hiking tips.