Gibraltar Rock: Valley of Fire

Gibraltar Rock
Gibraltar rock is one of those things that makes you tilt your head.  When I look at it, I'll just feel like I'm a little bit off balance or that the earth is slanting one way.  That is because Gibraltar rock does not go straight up and down.  In the photo above, you can see that the left face has a significant overhang.  As you get closer to it, this becomes more exaggerated.  It looks like it is about to fall over any second.

Visiting Gibraltar rock is easy.  It is on the trail to the "fire wave".  You walk right by it.  The photo above was taken about half way between the fire wave and Gibraltar.  Lots of small rocks strewn over the textured sandstone make for a fantastic view.  This is best at sunset when the shadows are long and the light is golden-orange!

Portal Arch: tallest arch in Valley of Fire

Portal Arch  -- The biggest in Valley of Fire

Another post from photogenic Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

 I hope nobody is tired of this beautiful location.  There are still some wonderful spots that I have not written about or posted pictures from.

In planning my trip to Valley of Fire, I wanted to find Portal Arch. I'd seen some other photos of it and tried to figure out where it was and when to visit. Sometimes information is lacking. . . . A wonderful resource that I discovered was from Steffen Synnatschke.  He has created a PDF specifically about Valley of Fire and good photographic locations.  It is available for a very small cost and I found it extremely worthwhile.  I would highly recommend it.

He documents portal arch in his writing.  It sounded very intriguing to me.  I studied several pictures of it.  I was trying to discover whether it would be best at sunrise or sunset.  Taking a picture of an arch in the middle of the day is usually unsatisfying. Taking a guess that this site would be best in the morning light, I hiked in before dawn. Luck was with me this morning!

Not only did I find the arch in the morning, but I was blessed with something that typically happens only in dreams: beautiful clouds across the sky.  I took several pictures of this beautiful arch and the window across the desert that it created.  This particular location was a bit squeezed and tight because there was a rock at my back.  I took pictures with a 17 mm tilt shift lens and also my 16mm zoom lens to cope with the confined space.  

Please enjoy!

Fire Wave: Valley of Fire

Fire Wave at the very moment of Sunset
One of the newer icons in southwest photography is the so-called "Fire Wave" of Valley of Fire.  This is a remarkable striped sandstone formation with curves.  It faces the west and takes on fantastic colors at sunset.

Capturing this photo proved to be a little more challenging than I anticipated because of the popularity.  The state park has made an easy trail, well marked (if not a bit circuitous) leading to this formation.  Plenty of people traveled here on the same day of my visit.  Most of the people I saw were leaving as I came.  I was heading down the trail with only about 45 minutes before sunset.

Fortunately the distance passed quickly.  I reached the fire wave with time to spare and set up my equipment.  I had been taking pictures for about 3 minutes when 2 other visitors arrived: a man and woman couple.  With my wide-angle lens taking in the landscape, I could not avoid taking them in also, making them part of the picture.  They were doing absolutely NOTHING to get out of my way.  In fact they were wandering all over the place.  It was rare and difficult to time a shot when they stepped out of the view of the camera.

Personally I truly do not mind.  This land is for everyone to share.  I knew that the clone tool in photoshop could be used if necessary to erase a person from the landscape as long as they were not too close, too big or in a critical area.  For this particular shot, they walked out of the frame and I was able to take a picture without having to do any photoshop adjustments later.  Hurray!

Trail Report: Sandstone Mountain

Sandstone Mountain Arch
Drink lots of water
The big arch
This is the trail report about the area around sandstone mountain.  Sometimes there are nearby locations that have never been explored or are relatively undiscovered.  The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, an area set aside to protect the special environment of the desert tortoise, has some wonderful hiking trails.  These don't really get a lot of traffic.  I decided to explore one area this spring: the hike around sandstone mountain.

Although this was not a very hot day, the exposure here to the sun shine is extreme and I would never recommend this in the summertime.  There is a trail that is very well-established going from the parking lot down to the Virgin River.  It goes through some sandstone fins and towers.  Then it leads to a very large arch that you can actually hike under.
Rough country

After it reaches the river, the trail basically disappears.  It turns to the east and is supposed to go next to the river but some flooding has basically washed the trail away.  However it's easy to go cross country and find your way back to sandstone mountain.

Back in sandstone mountain, we hiked around the east side to reach the North face.  Initially we did not follow a trail but eventually came across a path that led through this rugged country.

It was in the midst of this hiking that I discovered a most beautiful arch.  It is very small, easy to pass but it has so many stripes on the wall and within the arch itself that it caught my eye.  I dropped everything that I was doing and started taking pictures of this little beauty.

After satisfying myself with a lot of photographs, we continued to hike north until we found another trail that arched around the north side of sandstone mountain and then returned us to the parking lot on the west.

This is a wonderful trail, an easy way to spend a half-day in southern Utah!
More pictures below:
at the Virgin River
On west side of Sandstone Mountain
Mountain Detail
Sandstone Mountain

From a distance as we were leaving

Seven Sisters of the Moon

Seven Sisters of Valley of Fire State Park
On a recent trip to Valley of Fire State Park, I arrived early.  I was hoping to be present for the sunrise and even consider doing some night photography.

Night photography requires a few elements in the subject for it to be successful.  Typically there needs to be something that extends vertically into the sky, there needs to be some movement either in the clouds or the stars.  If the stars are the subject, everything else can be dark.  If the stars are not the subject, there needs to be enough light to show some of the land.

On this particular evening, I had a full moon.  There were some clouds that were moving by relatively quickly.  I decided to stop next to the road at the rock formations known as the "Seven Sisters."  In what is the controversial subject, the state park has put a lot picnic tables between these beautiful rock formations.  That's very nice for picnics but it kind of spoils the view for a photographer.  At nighttime, I pulled off to the side of the road and composed the rock formations in such a way as the picnic tables could not be seen.  I did not have to clone anything out with shop.  I simply moved around the landscape until I had a viewpoint which showed what I wanted to show and hid what I wanted to hide.

This is a longer exposure.  The moon was actually very bright and illuminated the rocks beautifully.  Because the moonlight and the 7 sisters combined in such a nice way, I have titled this photograph "Seven Sisters of the Moon."