Paria Sundial (West Clark Bench)

sandstone beautiful west clark bench utah
Paria Sundial on a beautiful day
I know there is a lot of potential to discover new amazing rock formations in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  Much of this land is relatively undiscovered and difficult to reach.  The West Clark bench sits north of the famous Coyote Buttes of Arizona.  The Arizona-Utah border and the Buckskin slot canyon separate these 2 formations.  Brain rocks and amazing colors are present in both locations.

On my first visit to the West Clark bench, I was exploring randomly.  There is no trail.  Wandering around the sandstone cliffs and formations is the only way to go from one place to another.  I came across this unique formation which reminded me of a sundial.  The curve in the capstone as well as the curve rock gathered at the base caught my attention.  I took several photographs of this formation but I could not be satisfied.  Landscape orientation did not include the beautiful sky for the rocks on the ground.  Portrait orientation cut off the bush and brain rock on either side.  I ended up taking several photographs with my 17 mm tilt shift lens and these were later stitched together to create this photograph.  This is my favorite photograph from that day of photography.

Gordon Smith, Utah Photographer

Gordon Smith self portrait
Gordon Smith, Utah Photographer -- hiking in the desert and sandstone
While wandering around the West Clark bench, I found a unique rock formation.  The skies were not particularly good for a dramatic shot but I thought this formation was interesting nonetheless.  I decided it might make a good environmental self-portrait.  The self-portrait is something most artists do at one point or another.  Some people are very famous for doing several self-portraits.  It is a way to experiment artistically.  In this case, there was not much to experiment with.  My legs were tired after hiking about 10 miles.  I set up my camera and stood next to this wonderful formation and a Gordon Smith self-portrait was born.

Everglades National Park (in one day)

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Pine Glade Lake at Sunset (wonderful scene from the Everglades National Park)
Everglades National Park is unlike any place I have ever visited before.  Much of this national park is a wide slow moving river.  It goes so slowly, it is imperceptible.  Miles and miles of soggy land never dry out.  It is like a continual flood.  I had great desires to visit this national park during my recent trip to Florida.  It is well known for amazing birdlife as well as unique scenery.  I did not have extensive time to see everything.  Instead I was hoping enjoy one full day.

I started at Pineland for sunrise.  I heard this was a good location.  After driving around the entire day, I saw that there were many places that would be good for sunrise, several of them better than Pineland.  Wisdom comes with experience.  Skies were cloudless at sunrise which made this disappointing.

Immediately after sunrise, I drove to Anhinga trail.  This is a well known location for bird photography and also has alligators.  I was not disappointed.  I arrived fairly early and the birds were not very afraid of people.  I had my 300 mm lens and was able to get very close to some of these birds without them running away (or flying).  The alligators were hiding at first but as the day warmed up, several of them came out.  I saw at least a dozen up close.

I spent the afternoon visiting Mahogany hammock and some other stops along the road.  None were particularly interesting.  Some of the pine groups just off the side of the road were actually very scenic and gathering clouds improved the photography.

I ended my day at Pine Glade Lake.  Supposedly this is a great location for sunset and I was hoping to have a better experience than my sunrise.  This lake was entirely devoid of human activity.  I was here for 3 hours alone.  Sunset slowly developed into a gorgeous scene.

Leaving the national park, I felt like I had a good taste of what was here.  A longer visit in the future would be welcome.

Sunrise at Pineland
pine and clouds in everglades florida
Afternoon Pine and Clouds in the Everglades
everglades sunset florida
Golden Sunset at Pine Glade Lake
Great blue heron dark form
Great Blue Heron on Anhinga Trail
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Amazing Everglades national park