High Country Sunbeam Highway


Sunset gold sunbeams over the La Sal Mountains, Highway 145.

Ah, Colorado Highway 145. To me it’s perhaps the gem of the Western Slope.

In this photo I was driving west from Norwood (elevation 7,000 feet) toward the curves down off the San Miguel Basin and into Naturita (“little nature”).

A cloud bank was hovering over the distant La Sal Mountains in Utah. Perfect for breaking the sun’s rays into sunbeams across the eastern slopes of the mountains.

An impossibly high contrast scene, so I switched my Olympus to HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode, merging several versions in camera to try to tame the extremes. To make the image appear much more like the eye/mind could see in real life.

And even with that, further editing in Adobe Lightroom. It worked out.

Photo location: western Montrose County, western slope Colorado.

See more of my best photography on my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg


Paradox Evening Light

Sunset sunbeams, Hwy. 90, Bedrock, Colorado.

I was driving on Highway 90 toward the hamlet of Bedrock, Colorado on an overcast afternoon. The closer I got the more interesting the light did, too.

Bedrock lies near the head of the Paradox Valley  in western Montrose County, near the Utah state line. The “West End” as the locals call it.

Sunbeam sunset, Paradox Valley and La Sal Mountains, Colorado and Utah.

The sun dipped below the cloud bank at just the right time. Intense white sunbeams streamed across the valley.

Sunset light on sandstone cliffs, Bedrock, Colorado, Paradox Valley.

Then the sunset light lit up the far cliffs. Warm light on red sandstone, a great combination. And fleeting, which is what makes it special.

See more of my photography at my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

Comb Ridge, Winter Sunset

It was late January and I was on Utah Highway 95 between Blanding and Natural Bridges. The approximate halfway point of that drive is the cut through Comb Ridge, and on this trip I was approaching it just as the sunset was only a few minutes away.

Comb Ridge’s western face is a sheer wall of Wingate sandstone that is about 90 miles long, running north to south from southern San Juan County, Utah across the San Juan River into the Navajo Nation lands in northern Arizona.

As with almost everywhere in southern Utah’s canyon country, you don’t have to care one bit about geology to be impressed by the endless variety of shapes and colors of the canyons, mesa, buttes and mountains. Especially at sunset time.

After crossing Comb Ridge from west to east, the last rays of sunset lit up the snowy peaks of the Abajo Mountains near Blanding.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Photo location: San Juan County, southeast Utah.

Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Evening Rain, Cedar Mesa

Cedar Mesa sunset shower panorama.

Cedar Mesa sunset shower panorama.

Sunset colors–good ones–had been sorely lacking in these parts this spring. I’m not used to that. Not in the high desert, with all the clear air and clouds of an uncommonly wet springtime.

So when some rain showers approached in the evening, I thought it was worth another try. You never know what might happen. Never bet against sunset, that’s my motto. One of them.

So out at Maverick Point, with its splendid unobstructed view to the west, I once again set up the camera on tripod. A lovely rain curtain was falling toward distant Monument Valley, lit slightly golden by the low angle of the setting sun. A good start to the session.

Moss Back Butte and evening rain shower.

Moss Back Butte and evening rain shower.

Then another light gray rain curtain in between me and Moss Back Butte. I love to watch rain curtains in the distance. After a little while there was thunder, which meant I was in the danger zone for lightning. Me and my aluminum tripod. So after several more shots I retreated to the truck to watch the evening progress. Rain drops streaked down the passenger side window and the wind came up. See, I didn’t want to get my camera wet anyway. So much safer inside a vehicle when lightning might be about.

I drove up onto Maverick Point itself for a higher view. The sunset colors near the distant Henry Mountains was interesting. Not killer, but nice.

Henry Mountains sunset colors, from Cedar Mesa.

Henry Mountains sunset colors, from Cedar Mesa.

On the point was a new fire ring. Not the usual crude thing, but a work of art. Flat sandstone slivers made into a circular hearth. Another oblong rock across the top made it into a grill to cook a pot of stew on. It was new; I’d been back to this spot very recently. A very nice place to camp with a tent, not far from a parked vehicle.

Fire ring artwork on Photographer's Point.

Fire ring artwork on Photographer’s Point.

And I’ve dubbed this particular viewpoint on Maverick Point as Photographer’s Point. This is just between you and me, right?

Photo location: Cedar Mesa, 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

Sunset Radial Panorama

Arizona sunset panorama

Last night as I was approaching home, and the sunset hour, I could tell it had the makings of a spectacular one. The clouds were crazy patterned against the blue sky north of Prescott. Sometimes good looking sunset clouds move on or dissipate before the sun sets, but it didn’t look like that would happen this time. It pays to observe and be ready.

After stopping for several shots and some video, including “Grassland Skies”, I still had time to shower and wait for the sun to do its thing. Because I have a wide open western horizon in my back yard.

The clouds were not far above the horizon, rather than shutting off the sunset. So they would do their job as reflectors just after the sun had slipped below the landscape. But in this case, they also radiated out to the south, east, and north. What a killer combination of conditions. All I had to do next was watch and photograph.

As the recently departed sun’s fire lit up the clouds from below, I made a panorama series of four overlapping shots. That allowed me to merge them in Photoshop for one extremely high resolution final image, rather than taking a single super wide angle shot and cropping it heavily.

Photo Location: Chino Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.