The final major leg of our Whirlwind Photography Trek was a half day excursion to Alstrom Point, a dramatic overlook on the north shore of Lake Powell located in Southern Utah. Departing from Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona, mid-afternoon, we arrived at Alstrom Point around 4:30 PM.
NIKON D300,f/20 @ 170 mm, 1/6, ISO 200
Alstrom Point is only 40 – 50 miles north of Page, but the driving time is nearly 2.5 hours due to a 25 mile “off road” segment requiring passage of a wash area and a high clearance vehicle. Detailed road maps and information on road conditions are available at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center (Glen Canyon Dam) in Page.
The first portion of the off road drive, Road 230 via the small town of Big Water, passes through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument into Glen Canyon National Monument. Passing just below Nipple Bench, this is one of the most dramatic areas of badlands and surreal geological formations I have ever seen. Parts of this drive look like the surface of the moon or another planet, comprised of odd pastel colors, strewn rocks and virtually no plant life.
NIKON D300,f/20 @ 12 mm, 1/25, ISO 200
Regrettably, our pressing schedule allowed very little photography time in this other worldly area - one we plan to revisit for an extended period in the future.
The evening at Alstrom Point turned out to be our best photo shoot yet at this particular location, mainly due to heavy cloud cover and dramatic storm formations on the distant horizon.
Gazing across Lake Powell from Alstrom Point, it is hard to comprehend the enormous scale of the mountains and waterways. From a photographer’s standpoint, the wide array of shooting options at this location can seem a bit overwhelming. With the sun rapidly setting, all kinds of questions race through my head. Is it necessary to include foreground in these kinds of photographs, what’s the best way to deal with the extensive black shadows areas and is there sufficient time to create “stitched” panoramic scenes?
My strongest images from this photo shoot were captured with a Nikor 70 – 200m zoom lens, equipped with a circular polarizer filter set at full strength. I opted to concentrate on one or two distinctive mountain formations (e.g., Gunsight Butte) seemingly afloat in the lake water, attempting to use the ominous black foreground shadows and dark sky areas to “frame” the mountains.
NIKON D300,f/22 @ 86 mm, 1/5, ISO 200
After shooting a large series of these lake photos, I turned my attention to the stormy sky on the distant horizon and finished off the session with a few moon shoots.
NIKON D300,f/22 @ 86 mm, 1/5, ISO 200
A hand held .9 graduated neutral density filter was used to darken the sky in most of the images. Unable to use a lens hood due to the graduated filter, I cupped my hand near the upper right side of the lens to block sun rays and prevent lens flare.
We headed out of Alstrom Point just after dusk, around 7:00 PM, full of excitement but a bit nervous about the rain showers clearly present a few miles to the Northeast.
NIKON D300,f/3.2 @ 110 mm, 1/160, ISO 200
We made one wrong turn on a dirt road, but quickly made a course correction when none of us remembered crossing what turned out to be an almost impassable steep gulley on our drive into the area. We arrived back in Page, around 9:30 PM for a late Mexican dinner and endless conversation about our three prime photography locations - all visited in one long day: the Grand Canyon, Lower Antelope Canyon (slot canyon) and Lake Powell.
The next morning, on our return trip to Phoenix, we stopped briefly at Horseshoe Bend. Located about 4 miles south of Page, just off US 89, this is the scenic location with the Colorado River bending around steep rock formations, backed by the picturesque Vermilion Cliffs. Although we did not have the optimum lighting for this location at the time of our stop, we managed to capture a few photos of people and some rock details.
We arrived back in Phoenix mid-afternoon on day four of our trip, with a load of photographs and wonderful memories of time spent together in nature. Our only question: When can return to Northern Arizona to spend a bit more time exploring and photographing the iconic Southwest Landscape?
The rest of the photo excursion recap:
Landscape photography techniques, photo expedition travel planning and hiking tips.