Tag Archives: nature photography

Capitol Reef

I made a short trip to Capitol Reef National Park this past weekend.  The cottonwoods were just leafing out so it was a great time to be there.  I explored some new places and went to an old standby.  Overall, it was a fun trip but I wish the weather had been better so I could have explored Escalante National Monument.  Coyote Gulch will have to wait.    

Sheets Canyon

This is a short hike to a pretty slot canyon on the east side of the park.  Sheets Canyon is located off the Notom Road.  The trailhead is located just before the pavement ends, about 12 miles down the road.  The hike wanders through the Sheets Canyon wash for about a mile before the walls narrow.  There are some very interesting rock formation in the canyon.  The narrows stretches for about 1/2 mile and then the canyon widens.  The walls are quite high in this area so it is still an interesting through this part of the canyon.  There are a few chokcsotnes you have to scramble over in the narrows section but nothing too difficult.  

Cohab Canyon

The trail to Cohab Canyon is located near the Fruita barn just before the main campground in Capitol Reef.  It climbs steeply up a series of switchbacks before leveling off at the entrance to Cohab Canyon.  Just before the entrance there are some interesting rock formations and trees that make great photography subjects.  The canyon itself, has pink or orange walls, and is quite pretty.  The walls are pockmarked with holes, alcoves, and other cool features. In about 1/2 mile, the trail veers to the left and ascends to a view of Fruita and the campground below.  The one way total is just under 2 miles.     

Navajo Knobs Trail

The Navajo Knobs trail leads to a panoramic overlook after a hard 4.7 mile hike.  Luckily, the views are pretty spectacular most of the way so making the top isn’t a requirement to get a great view.  The trail starts about a mile from the visitor’s center along the main park road.  It climbs steeply and intersects with the Hickman Bridge trail in about half a mile.  Veer right at the junction and continue to climb up to a great view of Pectol’s Pyramid across the valley.  At mile 2.5, the trail comes to a view of the Fremont River and you are looking back across at the visitor’s center.  From here, the trail descends for about 3/4 of a mile which of course leaves a steep ascent back up a long ramp.   At this point, the views are amazing.  One last side canyon has to be routed around before reaching the top.  This is a steep and long hike but the effort is worth it.  Views can be had in any direction from here.   

Sulfur Creek

Sulfur Creek features a neat waterfall after a short 1 mile hike.  Take the trail to the right of the visitor’s center and veer around to the back of it.  When you come to the creek, head toward a power line straight across the creek.  You can also head left down stream but the walk is much longer and wetter this way.  After climbing a short rise you will come to a lime kiln on the right and then the trail cuts back down to Sulfur Creek.  The waterfall is about .75 of a mile from the visitor’s center.  It isn’t particularly large but the scene is pretty with the read rock of Sulfur Canyon framing the shot.  

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Valley of the Fire State Park

Valley of the Fire State Park in northern Nevada is a photographer’s dream.  It contains countless rock formations of eroded sandstone such as arches, rock fins, and multi-colored rock.  The park consists of four main areas: the Main Park Drive, the Loop Road, the Silica Dome Road, and Highway 169.

Loop Drive

The loop drive contains a number of small rock formations and arches that make for some very cool photography.  While the area has a handful of iconic formations such as Arch Rock, Piano Rock, and Windstone Arch, a creative photographer can come up with countless images due to the interesting geology of the area.  The are hundreds of little pockets carved into the rocks here and reflected light into them makes for orange-colored rock.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock is a small arch located at the top of a rock as the name implies.  It is found just past Arch Rock campground.  It is best photographed an hour or so before sunset so the arch has some light on it.

Piano Rock

Piano Rock is a rock shaped like a grand piano and is found on the left side of the road just as the road makes a turn toward Arch Rock campground.

Windstone Arch

Winston Arch is a little arch or rock leg found inside a small alcove.  It is best photographed in mid morning when reflected light makes the interior glow orange.  There is a small turnout about 200 yards from the junction with Highway 169.  Park here and go around the back of the first large rock formation. The alcove is straight ahead in a second set of small rock formations.  This whole area is very photogenic so don’t just focus on Windstone Arch.

Main Park Drive

Petroglyph Trail

This 3/4 mile long trail contains several large panels of petroglyphs carved into the rock face on the left side of the canyon as you descend.  It is an easy walk through a sandy canyon.  Mid afternoon works best for photos.

Rainbow Vista/Fire Canyon

This trail leads to two overlooks: one of Fire Canyon and its brown-colored chunks of volcanic rock and Rainbow Vista, an amazing, colorful plateau with a commanding view of the park.  If you take the main trail straight form the parking lot and then veer right upon arriving at a steep rock face, you will arrive at Fire Canyon overlook in about 1 mile.  A small arch can be found near the end of the trail.  As you walk back toward the parking lot, stop at the area of pink and yellow sandstone where the trail veered steeply to the right.  If you ascend 100 feet or so above this area, you will find views opening up.  Proceed to the left and then out onto to the rocks.  This is Rainbow Vista. Here is where you will find amazing small arches and an incredible view of Silica Dome.  This may be the most photogenic spot in the park.

Parking Lot #2

Pink Canyon

Pink Canyon is a short slot canyon just off the main park road.  It lies directly between parking lot #2 and #3.  There is one parking spot on either side of the road at the canyon entrance that seems to be an informal parking area for the canyon.  If these spaces are full, it is about a .6 mile hike back to one of the parking areas up a steep hill so be prepared.  The hike itself is quite short through the slot canyon.  The sculpted walls make for some interesting photography.  Be prepared to use HDR or a graduated neutral density filter to keep the sky from blowing out.  Don’t forget to scramble up one of the rock faces and do a little exploring.  This is possible where the canyon makes a sharp left turn.  The area up top contains some beautiful rock fins.

Swoosh Rock

Swoosh Rock is named for the streak of red rock that adorns the base of the formation, and looks like the symbol of a famous shoe company.  The rock itself is mainly pink and yellow sandstone.  This rock is located just across from the mouth of Pink Canyon.  As you cross the road from the canyon, veer to the right and stay close to the road. You will find it in about 100-200 feet.

Rock Fins

If you head out on a route at about 2 o’clock form parking lot #2, you will come to some incredible rock fins.  There is no trail so you have to pick your way across the sandstone.  Be careful as the area is criss-crossed by large canyons so route-finding skills are required.  This is not an area to blindly wander in the dark for sure.  My favorite spot was an area of sandstone that looked like it had been melted like candy and then curled under.  The rock fins make for great leading lines in a photograph as well.

Parking Lot #3

Crazy Hill

Crazy Hill is a name that does;t do the formation justice.  Painter’s Palette might be a better name as it looks as though a painter spilled several paint buckets on the rock and let the colors run down the side of the rock.  It is found by walking straight out of the parking lot #3 a couple hundred yards.  You follow the mouth of a small canyon and continue heading straight down the hill.  You will see a couple of small arches along the way in the sides of the rock.

Fire Wave

The Fire Wave is the park’s iconic formation. The name comes from its resemblance to the more famous Wave formation in North Coyote Buttes, AZ.  A better name for it might be Ribbon Candy Rock as it consists of stripes of red and white rock swirled into a bizarre ribbon-like shape.   A new trail leading out to Fire Wave has been built by the park in recent years that leads from parking lot #3.  It is about 1/2 mile to the Fire Wave.  This trail is popular so park here well before sunset if you want a parking spot.  Like all popular photo stops these days, be prepared for large crowds during the golden hour.

White Domes Loop

Silica Dome

Getting There

Take Exit 75 on I-15 heading north from Las Vegas onto Highway 169 heading east.  The entrance to the park will be about 13 miles ahead.  The first thing of note will be the Loop Drive and the campgrounds.  If you are coming from the north, you can also access the park from exit 93, as Highway 169 loops back to I-15.  This way takes a little longer as the road goes through two small towns.

Camping and Accommodations

The two campgrounds are first come/first serve.  Get there by 10 am to ensure a spot.  The park campgrounds usually fill during the temperate moths of fall and spring.



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Herman Gulch in Fall

Herman Gulch in fall is a great hike.  It is short and rewards the hiker with great views and some brilliant fall color.  I even saw the last vestiges of summer wildflowers.  To see columbine blooming in September was quite a shock.  Some high clouds were also racing past high above giving some definition to the scene.

The hike ascends through willows which had turned yellow.  The ground cover was also brilliant orange and red in spots.  There were even a few aspen that had started to turn.  It looks like it will be an early fall but one with good color this year in the high country of Colorado.

Herman Gulch is located at mile marker 218 off of I-70 near the Loveland ski area.  It is 3.3 miles to the lake but only a couple of miles to hike through most of the meadow areas.

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Fern Lake

I hiked up to Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend.  I saw some beautiful waterfalls along the way and enjoyed fishing in the lake. The underbrush and ferns had started to turn so I saw some fall color as well. Unfortunately, I also dropped a neutral density filter into Fern Falls and watched it drop over a small cliff.  Luckily, I found a game trail down to the bottom and retrieved my filter from where it had lodged the rocks.  Thankfully, I had dropped the filter in its case so it was no worse for wear.  Whew!  Breakthrough filters are not cheap.

Fern Lake Trail

The trail starts at the end of the Moraine Park Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Parking is scarce so get there early.  The trail climbs gradually for the first two miles before it reaches the pool along the Big Thompson River.  This is the first of a couple of nice waterfalls.  Then the fun begins.  The trial climbs steeply above the Pool for the next mile before reaching beautiful Fern Falls.  This is one of the best falls in the park.  I can’t wait to go back next spring when it is fuller.  If it’s possible, the trail gets even steeper on its way to Fern Lake.  After about a mile, it finally level off and leads to a trail divide.  Take the short spur to Fern Lake and you will be rewarded with a beautiful spot for a picnic or fishing adventure.


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Lost Man Lake

I backpacked to Lost Man Lake in the Hunter-Frying Wilderness this past weekend near Independence Pass.  The weather was overcast for most of the trip, but the sun came out for two minutes at sunset.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some wildflowers still blooming in the area.  I also got some cool pictures of the area in the moonlight.  If I only had a fishing rod with me I could’ve caught some of the trout swimming in the lake.

Trail Description to Lost Man Lake

Lost Man Lake is reached by hiking 2.5 on a well-marked trail.  The trail begins near the summit of Independence Pass at 11,200 feet.  Views are constant as you while the trail.  The trail ascends gradually for about the first 1.25 as it follows a stream through willow.  As you climb out of the willow, the trail then steeply ascends towards the pass.  The trail passes Independence Lake just before reaching the summit.  The lake is a pretty spot to grab lunch or just take in the view.  The trail then makes a short but steep climb to the top of the pass.  The pass lies just past the two mile mark on the trail.  After taking in a panoramic view of the mountains around you, descend a series of steep switchbacks to Lost Man Lake just on the other side of the pass.  There are a few camp spots near the far end of the lake and camping is plentiful as the trail descends into the valley below the lake.  Some hikes do a shuttle hike connecting back with the highway after 7 more miles of hiking. Or hikers can return the same way they came.


Take Independence Pass road (Hwy 82) from Twin Lakes, CO to the summit of Independence Pass (about 1/2 an hour).  Then drive about 1 mile west of the summit and park at the large lot on the right side of the road at the bend in the road.

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