“Adventure is a path. Real adventure is self determined, self motivated, often risky and forces you to have first hand encounters with the world…” -Mark Jenkins
This quote is a perfect representation of how my life has shaped itself out the past few months. I made the decision to let my inhibitions down lately and force myself into uncomfortable situations. From this I have had more life changing experiences lately than I could have ever imagined. Most recently I set out on a week long road trip to Moab, Utah with one of my good friends. We had no plan other than leave Denver on Sunday and be back by Friday. Where we were staying, what we were doing and any other plans were left to the imagination. We both agreed that the main goal was to enjoy the experience and take as many photos as we possibly could. Check and Check.
We set out from Denver around 8pm. The drive to Moab is about 5 hours from the city. Along the way we encountered a bit of snow, lots of rain and some pretty random music choices. At about 1:30 am we arrived in Moab, tired and a little loopy but determined to stay up all night and capture some Milky Way photos. We made our decision to head to Arches National Park to shoot under the famous Delicate Arch. There was no moon the whole time we were there so navigating the path on the rocks got a little dicey. After a bit of navigating we finally ended at our destination. Once there, there was another photographer shooting a time lapse of the evening sky until sunrise. The good and the bad with this is he had a flood light set up to light the arch. Good being it made a perfect fill light to balance with the Milky Way, bad being there was no chance of getting a silhouette and we had to work around his gear. Spot jack.
Delicate Arch. 14mm 30 seconds, iso 4000 f2.8
We some how made it through the whole night, minus the hour nap I took while shooting a time lapse. Watching a sunrise is probably one of my favorite things in this world. The calming feeling of watching the world transition from night to day is a perfect way to clear your mind.
LaSalle Mountains. 14mm, 1/40, f4 iso 100
After breakfast we decided to post up somewhere along the river and get in a few hours of sleep. This photo sums it up perfectly:
Apparently I was doing my best Walter White impersonation.
Few hours of sleep in the sun=perfect way to get recharged for the day. One problem with Utah and being in the desert is it gets hot during the day. Now even though its only April, the days were still in the mid 80s. So we indulged with a couple afternoon beers waiting for the temps to cool. We set out to explore Canyonlands National Park. We had heard and seen photos of a spot called False Kiva. It’s an unmarked trail, so finding it and navigating it without good directions can be tough. Sadly we didn’t come across good directions on short notice. After wandering the desert for a couple hours we ended up at a cliff side (which turned out to be right on top of where we wanted to be) overlooking the whole valley. Perfect opportunity to accept our defeat and take in the view.
With the sun going down we wandered back to the car and decided to make our way over to the heavily photographed Mesa Arch for sunset. It turned out to be a great view but honestly not exactly what I expected. Every photo I have ever seen of it made it out to be a very big open rock formation. This wasn’t the case. Damn you fisheye lenses!
Mesa Arch. 14mm, 1/20, f4, iso 100
A local from the bar earlier helped us with a low key, back country camp spot and we decided to setup camp to get a full nights sleep. After sleeping past an alarm, we missed sunset and knew it was going to be tough to shoot during mid day. We agreed to head back to Arches to check out some new parts of the park. Dereck taught me a little trick about shooting black and white in camera. Boom! Ansel Adams day was born. We wandered around Arches and shot in the mid day sun. The angle that both of us wanted to capture on this trip was utilizing the human element in images. Specifically tiny humans in the big world.
The day ended with minimal sunburn and a lot of photos. So overall a win win in my opinion. It was time for sunset so we wandered around the park and found a spot to set up and watch sunset. This spot was called The Great Wall. There was a very hilariously shaped rock that I just had to have in my photo. I’ll let you guess which one…
White boy’s got hops.
As we were entering the park earlier in the day, Dereck and I both noticed a potential shot with the winding road. We set back to check it out on how it would look with light streaks going down the curves. I was pretty happy with the end result to say the least.
28mm, 75 seconds, f6.3, iso 100
The day and sun had taken a toll on us but we were determined to shoot the Milky Way again. We stayed in the park and headed back over to the Windows to hopefully capture some star trails. All nighter number two of the trip was in motion. I ended up sleeping underneath the North Window and it was one of the most relaxing evenings ever.
North Window. 14mm, 60mins, f2.8, iso 100
14mm, 30seconds, f2.8, iso 5000
14mm, 30seconds, f2.8, iso 5000
I did learn on this trip that my car is actually really comfortable to sleep in. A couple hour power nap was good enough to get me set and ready for the next day. I woke up to the sun coming up and ran into the middle of the road to snap a picture of sunrise.
It took us a couple hours and lots of coffee to get our bearings/motivation for the day.
Back to Canyonlands it is.
False Kiva was next on the list. After being defeated a couple days before we were determined to find it. A few different blogs on the internet had very good and detailed directions. So I decided to screen shot at least 10 pages and we set out. About an hour later we finally ended up at our destination. Let me say this, the view and vibe from this place is unbelievable. We hung out for a couple hours, signed the guest book and ended up meeting another photographer from Atlanta that was on vacation.
14mm, 1/400, f7.1 iso 100
4 shot panoramic to show the whole area.
The hike is isn’t that tough at all, it is however a bit of a climb out of the area. It definitely put my fitness level to the test.
Next stop on the tour was over to Dead Horse Point. I had a buddy that I shoot with in Denver that was also in town so we decided to all meet up and catch the sunset. The view from this spot can really make you feel small. With the wide open skies, the jagged canyon formations and the winding river below, I think this became my favorite spot from the whole trip.
Our final morning was spent back in Arches again to capture sunrise at Double Arch. We were unsure of how it would look at sunrise and if there would be a first light that hits it or not. Unfortunately we got a clear sky and no first light with this sunrise. I did however come away with a shot that I do really like.
14mm, f7.1, 3 shot bracket, iso 100
With the trip coming to an end it was obvious before we made the trek back to Denver we needed to relax down by the river a bit and have a beer.
Cheers to Polygamy Porter. So Utah.
This was my first road trip of the year and I must say its only sparked the Wanderlust that dwells inside me. If there’s any advice I can offer it’s that take advantage of any opportunities that may arise in your life. Take that moment not to think and sit about the consequences of what could happen, but say yes and savor in the moment. You’ll make memories.