Evening Snow Squall, Canyonlands

Evening snow squall clouds over the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah.

Evening snow squall clouds over the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah.

It was the afternoon before the January Full Moon, and the weather wasn’t looking good for my favorite time of the month: Moonrise over a wild landscape. Especially mountains.

Since I live only an hour away from the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah, I always think of them for moonrise shots, especially since there are some great viewpoints on public land in which to position oneself.

But on this particular afternoon, January 11, another snow storm was headed our way. The clouds were wrapped tight around the upper peaks of the La Sals. And they didn’t look like they would dissipate around sunset time, either.

Still, I headed out toward the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, because the clouds were mixed with areas of blue sky and everything was in flux. Unpredictable light, often the best kind.

Wintry snow squall clouds over the Colorado River near Canyonlands National Park.

Wintry snow squall clouds over the Colorado River near Canyonlands National Park.

A viewpoint down toward the Colorado River and the distant Island In The Sky district of Canyonlands was a mix of shadow, sunlight, and snow squall clouds.

The clouds never did part over the La Sal Mountains, but I was out there. I was ready. And I enjoyed some spectacular views anyway.

Photo location: northern San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

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Above Canyonlands, Part 3

Mt. Tukunikivatz and Mount Peale, La Sal Mountains, from Canyon Rims.

Mount Tukunikivatz and Mount Peale, from Canyon Rims.

In the morning after my camp at Canyon Rims, there was a new coating of snow on the ground. The La Sal Mountains were mostly visible amid the clouds still breaking up as the storm front continued its way into western Colorado.

Canyonlands National Park from Needles Overlook, Canyon Rims.

Canyonlands National Park, from Needles Overlook in Canyon Rims.

La Sal Mountains from Hatch Point, after fresh snowfall.

Red, blue and white: the La Sal Mountains from the Hatch Point area.

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New snow on the red rocks.

 

Snow on red sandstone, along Highway 191, southeast Utah.

Fresh snow on the red rocks, Highway 191 south of Moab.

I spent several hours photographing the scenery with its new coat of white. Then it was time to head down into Moab for a nice hot restaurant breakfast.

La Sal Mountains with fresh snow, from Highway 191, southea

La Sal Mountains and red cliffs, Highway 191 south of Moab.

Photo Location: Canyon Rims Recreation Area, northern San Juan County, Utah.

Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Canyonlands Moonset

Church Rock, at Highway 191 north of Monticello, Utah.

Church Rock, at Highway 191 north of Monticello, Utah.

I was at the Canyonlands overlook in southeast Utah for this month’s Full Moon rise. The evening before Full Moon, that is. To strive for landscape photographs with the almost full moon rising before dark.

Yes, one could merge separate images of a landscape and a closeup of the moon in Photoshop into a single composition. It’s incredibly easy these days, and will continue to get even more brain-dead simple. Which is one reason why I’m not interested in doing that. I use Photoshop and Lightroom for all my image processing, but not in that way.

The reason isn’t ethics or creativity or whatever label you care to assign. It’s about being out there. Outside, in nature, to see what you can experience this time. It’s a treasure hunt–and the treasure might be hunting you. Your attention, your realization.

The evening started with the afternoon. I veered off the known road for one of the side roads. To see what sights it might display. I had lots of hours to spare, and the weather and sweet high desert air were both soothing and stimulating.

Cruising the red sand roads amongst the sagebrush and high desert skies.

Cruising the red sand roads amongst the sagebrush and high desert skies.

It was time to decide on a campsite. One with a great view of the La Sal Mountains to the east, over which the moon would rise somewhat before sunset. I arrived plenty early, unusually so. I set up my folding camp chair in the shade of a Utah Juniper tree near the edge of the cliff, and resumed reading a book. Waiting.

La Sal Mountains moonrise panorama.

La Sal Mountains moonrise panorama.

Eventually the moon appeared, faintly, above the mountain horizon. Haze on the eastern skyline made it harder to notice until it was well above the slopes. By that time it was so far southeast of the main peaks of the La Sals that I decided to make a series of overlapping images to merge into high resolution panorama image in Photoshop later.

It was the best I could do under the circumstances. The tail end of a lovely day in the high desert springtime. I settled in to sleep.

At dawn, I peered up at the bright moon as it silently continued its arc to the southwest horizon. I roused myself.

Most people don’t consider moonset. Heck, most don’t consider moonrise, until it slaps them in the face one night, once in a while.

With moonset, the opportunities for landscape photography are greatly expanded. Most importantly, it’s already up in the sky, you don’t have to calculate or guess where it will appear. And, emotionally, it looks much like moonrise. It’s just the other end of the arc. The full moon above the landscape at one end of the day.

You merely have to get up really early. A deal breaker for many people. That’s where I come in. Well, most of the time. Enough of the time. Usually.

I threw my outside the-camp-belongings into the vehicle and headed toward the west rim of the peninsula. Overlooking Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River. I approached a viewpoint I’d made note of on the drive north but hadn’t actually visited in the few times I’d been here. The time to visit seemed to be now.

Moonset pancake, Anticline Overlook road, Utah.

Moonset pancake, Anticline Overlook road, Utah.

It was like a flat cake of sandstone layers sitting above the plateau. A road was built out to it, and around it, for a circular viewpoint. It occurred to me that, had I been engineering roads there, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to build one around that piece of rock. Maybe out to the edge of it, yes. But around it? Though lots of things don’t occur to me that probably should.

Whatever. The moon was setting over Canyonlands, and the sun was soon rising onto them. I would have been quite satisfied with the day, given such a gorgeous beginning.

Moonset over Colorado River canyon lands south of Moab, Utah.

Moonset over Colorado River canyon lands south of Moab, Utah.

As it turned out, the day was far from done. But that’s another story.

Photo location: San Juan County, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

The Sun Poured Through

One of my personal philosophies is to keep revisiting favorite places, especially in different seasons. Thus it was time to return to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.

Though this post is not about my time inside the park. Oh, no. Because I feel like writing about what came afterward. It was that kind of day.

Beef Basin rain shower.

Beef Basin rain shower.

So I left the park and returned east on highway 211. A rain shower was falling up ahead and the afternoon sunlight was pouring through it. Naturally I had to pull over and do something about it. Photograph it, I mean.

It had been a rainy spring day, and so driving on the dirt roads branching off from the highway was nothing to be trifled with. On the way in I had tested out the lower portion of the Beef Basin road, and had quickly been sliding around, even with All Wheel Drive. But after a few hours things had firmed up. I found a nice camping spot and prepared to settle in for the night. Nobody around. Peacefully perfect.

Balanced rock at campsite.

Balanced rock at campsite.

And a very expansive view of the valley and red rock cliffs towering all around. I didn’t choose this spot for nothing.

The rare wet spring in the high desert had things blooming. Plus the wet earth and vegetation made the colors more saturated. I had water, food, music, and of course photo gear. I wouldn’t play any music until after dark, preferring the sound of the wind and birds.

Barrel cactus and grass.

Barrel cactus and grass.

The campsite was well used. And hadn’t been cleaned up that well, so I did. Leave a place better than you found it. A desert cottontail rabbit was comfortable sharing the spot with me. See what I mean?

Desert cottontail rabbit, guardian of the campsite.

Desert cottontail rabbit, guardian of the campsite.

At sunset time, the sun poured through a single hole in the clouds, lighting up the cliff across the valley. That was so awesome that if nothing more had occurred I would have been elated enough.

Sunset spotlight on the cliff base.

Sunset spotlight on the cliff base.

But no. More yellow-orange sunset light splayed across the cliffs, changing with the lowering sun and the shifting of the clouds. Incredible. And mine, all mine. For one special evening.

Blazing cliffs at sunset.

Blazing cliffs at sunset.

Photo location: Beef Basin, San Juan County, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg