Bridal Photo Shoot: Mark+Missy

Southern Utah Bride portrait
Bridal Shoot in southern Utah
Here's is Part Two of my fun and fast photo-fest with Mark and Missy.  We shot their bridal portraits the afternoon after their engagement shots.  We chose an empty world outside of the city for these shots.  The true nothing-ness surrounding them gives an exotic feel.  

Engagement Session with Mark+Missy

Groom and Bride at their engagement session
I had a great time shooting an engagement session with two wonderful people:  Mark and Missy.  We shot here in downtown St. George.  Although Mark had a broken foot at the time, he was a great sport and happily tried anything asked of him.  Aren't they beautiful?

Dungeon Canyon, Lake Powell

Sunset at Lake Powell's Dungeon Canyon
Alien Planet:  Dramatic skies with orange and purple reflected light shone
over Lake Powell's Dungeon Canyon
I've done some posts on Lake Powell before and this year I'll add to this growing category.  Each year Lake Powell gives me a surprise.  The changing water level reveals or conceals different things year to year.  A great beach one year is gone the next.  A picturesque promontory can disappear in a season.

Dungeon Canyon is near Rainbow Bridge.  It's pretty small and cannot give anchorage to more than a handful of boaters.  This year I found a good beach to anchor a boat and enjoyed some family time.  Storms threatened but did not truly strike until the final day.  With these storms came some dramatic skies.  One evening the sky shone bright orange long before the last light of sunset.  I grabbed my camera with its' 16-35mm wide angle lens and began searching for a good photography subject to match the dramatic skies.  Half-submerged rocky islands seemed most interesting and so I shot multiple compositions until I felt I'd found something I liked, which ended up being balanced from left to right.

Salton Sea Ruins at Sunset

Salton Sea tower ruins with rocket on top
Rocket Tower:  ruins of some unknown structure now left standing along the train tracks
on the east side of the Salton Sea.
The Mojave Desert is my kind-of place:  hot, vast, unpopulated.  I explored the area around the Salton Sea for a few days.  The attractions here are the kinds of things that would be condemned in a city:  broken and rotten shacks, buildings in ruin and being overtaken by the sand.

The biggest drawback is the stench of rotting fish which grows quite strong as you near the water.  I can only describe the smell this way:  imagine dumping 1,000 cans of tuna fish into 100 porta-potties and then sticking your nose into the worst-smelling part.  That's the Salton Sea smell!

But if you can bear the smell, there is much to discover.  Bombay Beach community has lots of ruined buildings and some that are inhabited (by those with no sense of smell).  I found it pretty busy with people, kids, photographers and other gawkers.  Further on down the line I liked my roadside rocket and Niland Marina beach park.  These were totally deserted, abandoned and more photogenic.  I lingered at the Roadside Rocket for a sunset which didn't disappoint.  This was my favorite discovery at the Salton Sea.
Desert ruin near Salton Sea
Another view of Rocket Tower ruins.  The desert is perfect for this crazy stuff.
Niland Marina Salton Sea
Niland Marina ruins along the Salton Sea

Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty:                   ★ Easy
Trail Condition:                   ★★★ Good
Trail Hazards:                      ★★ Mild:  Old buildings, Horrible Stench of Salton Sea
Trailhead:                              Roadside attractions
Time Required:                     1-2 hours
Distance round trip:              n/a
Off the Beaten Path:             ★★★ Mostly, 3 Stars
Scenery:                                ★★ Fair, 2 Stars
Photographic Potential:        ★★★ Good, 3 Stars

Black Canyon + Arizona Hot Spring

Morning view over Black Canyon of Colorado River
Black Canyon of the Colorado River:  Adventure Report:
Cactus and the Colorado River:  The morning photography here was awesome with so much contrast in light, dark, texture and time.
The Colorado River must be one of the most amazing natural creations.  I saw a new face of this complicated river when I visited Black Canyon of the Colorado, the section of the river immediately downstream from the Hoover Dam.  The requirements for such a journey are:
1.  Permit from US Government
2.  Canoe or kayak
3.  Transportation to the launching and pickup points
4.  Camping gear and food
5.  Waterproof bags for hydrophobic gear (camera)

Transportation to the launch site is limited to a few outfitters who have clearance from the US Government to visit the river just below the Hoover Dam.  Keeping the dam safe is the major concern of the government here.  Photo ID is required at check in with the outfitter.  If you have all that, then you can move forward with the fun part.
Kayak or canoe put in below Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam as seen from the launching point.
This begins your adventure down Black Canyon.
The drive down to the river from the top of the dam involves many hairpin turns and steep grades.  Then you must hurry to load and launch your vessel because the Hoover Dam officials only allow a few minutes.  No loitering.  Once you are on the water everything changes to lazy, easy, smooth and relaxed!
a hot spring in Arizona's Black Canyon
Palm Spring Waterfall:  the water is
hot like a shower!
A steady current made our canoe glide across the water and before we knew it were reached the first notable natural wonder:  Palm Spring Waterfall.  This wonder is a flowing hot spring that starts somewhere above the river level.  It forms a hot-water waterfall into the river on the Arizona side.  I stood in 6-inch deep cold river water while 100-degree hot spring water fell over my head.  It's just like a shower . . . only better.

Other hot springs are located on the Nevada side of the river but I didn't visit them.  Instead my next stop was the premier attraction of this canyon:  Arizona Hot Spring.  Arizona Hot Spring is so awesome it's hard to believe in its' existence:  three hot soaking pools . . . in a slot canyon . . . a short hike up from the Colorado River . . . where you can camp . . . and visit the pools day or night . . . in the middle of the desert . . . and you just might have it all to yourself!  Do you see what I mean?  It's too good to be true yet it is true.

Arizona Hot Spring located in a slot canyon
Arizona Hot Spring:  This panorama shot takes in about 160-degree angle.  The hot spring and hottest water comes from
the left pool, straight out of the rock.  Sandbags in 4 narrow points create 4 different soaking pools with different
depths and temperatures.  In this photo, I had the whole 4 pools to myself.  In mid-day it can be more crowded.

I camped here with my group.  There is a bathroom/outhouse here.  Otherwise there are no camping services.  Two groups were camping here on the gravel and small river rocks away from the Colorado River.  Bring a pad for comfort.  We visited the springs that afternoon and shared them with some hikers who came down from the road (a long hike).  Later that night and the next morning the springs were completely empty and serene.  The hike up to the springs includes one very fun metal ladder that is bolted into the sandstone.
hiking up the slot canyon to Arizona Hot spring
The warm water in the trail gets your feet wet and
warm before you reach the ladder.
Arizona Hot Spring in Black Canyon ladder
Ladder in the slot canyon leading up to
the first soaking pool.
ladder up to Arizona hot spring
The ladder will wobble and shake a little when you
climb it.  The hot springs are on top.
Tent camping at Arizona hot spring black canyon
Camping at Arizona Hot Springs in the Black Canyon is on gravel.
Camping overnight afforded me a chance to shoot sunset and sunrise.  The black soil is volcanic, brutal and sharp.  The placid green river and vegetation make great contrasting colors and textures.  I hiked high above the river and then down to the water for different compositions.  In my weird travels I've never seen any place like this.

Black Canyon morning
Black Canyon high view over the Colorado River
Colorado River below Hoover Dam
Morning Views over the River
The next day I also explored the canyon above Arizona Hot Spring.  This canyon continues to show volcanic rock, sandstone, river rocks and desert plants in a mixed up presentation.  This hike is well worth the small effort to explore and see.
Canyon above Arizona Hot Springs
I hiked up above Arizona Hot Springs.  The sandstone colors and curves
somehow blend with sharp lava rock and creates a desert weird
Back in our canoes, my group continued downstream.  The current flows slower here and paddling is needed to move along if you're doing this trip in 2 days.  If you choose 3 days, you can take your time.  The whole canyon is spectacular.
Colorado River Canoe Trip
Back on the River in our canoe:  Floating Black Canyon of Colorado River.

Green Emerald Cave of Colorado River
Emerald Pool, also known as Emerald Cave, is a photography dream to
visit but also is very challenging to shoot.  The glowing green color is REAL!
The next major natural formation is the Emerald Pool.  Sediment in the Colorado River generally makes it brown or red in color.  The Hoover Dam catches all that sediment, making the water crystal clear and green.  I was amazing at the water visibility and the gorgeous green color.  A water cave is on the Arizona side.  We paddled inside marveled at the green light in the water!  This is one beautiful and special place!  To get my picture I was dropped off on a slippery ledge, had my canoe leave me in the cave all alone and then snapped this picture.  See why it's called the Emerald Pool?
Colorado River Black Canyon Storm
Storm Clouds gathering at the exit of Black Canyon
While I lingered in the cave, a desert rainstorm happened to fall.  This gave me some ominous clouds in my pictures at the end of the trip.  And the end is near.  From the Emerald Pool to the takeout site at Willow Beach is only a couple of miles and paddling got us there within about 90 minutes.  Good thing because it then rained some more.

My adventure took place in the month of April and the weather was pretty ideal.  I've heard the summer trips can be too hot to really enjoy the hot springs.

Exploring Mountain Palm Springs Canyon in the Anza Borrego Desert

mountain palm springs canyon landscape photography
Palms, Ocotillo and Barrel Cacti are primarily seen in Mountain Palm Springs Canyon
In the heart of Anza Borrego Desert Reserve are the oases giving palm trees a life in the midst of harsh surroundings.  Mountain Palm Springs is one such oasis.  In my digital explorations using Google satellite images, it appeared that several small oases are interspersed throughout these canyons.  I came for sunrise and early morning photography (they face the east) and found small paths leading over the hills of one canyon into another adjacent canyon.  These hills are not very high so climbing to the top and then discovering another oasis in the desert was kind-of fun.  This is a delightful and easy place to explore.  (It made me feel like a Victorian-era explorer.)  I could have stayed a lot longer but had some other adventures planned this day.

There is a small BLM-style campground with plenty of room here.  You'll be totally alone with nature.  When I visited in early February, the temperatures were perfect for hiking.  Enjoy some photograph from this wonderful landscape.  
southwest america palm tree oasis
Boulder and Oasis
barrel cactus with palm trees
Cactus Trio
ocotillo cactus at mountian palm springs canyon
Wiry Ocotillo branches stretch up
towards the morning sky

Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty:                   ★★★ Moderate
Trail Condition:                   ★★★ Good
Trail Hazards:                      ★★ Moderate:  cacti
Trailhead:                             Mountain Palm Springs campground
Time Required:                     2 hours
Distance round trip:              2 - 3 miles
Off the Beaten Path:             ★★★★★ Yes, 5 Stars
Scenery:                                ★★★ Great, 3 Stars
Photographic Potential:        ★★★ Great, 3 Stars

Fonts Point: Sunset over Anza Borrego Badlands

sunset view over anza borrego fonts point
Spectacular Sunset at Font's Point
Fonts Point at Anza Borrego Desert is the must visit location in this region.  The views stretch all the way into Mexico and the Borrego Badlands form hundreds if not thousands of canyons that are woven together in the most beautiful natural landscape.  It is easy to drive here on the dirt road.  Step out of your car and Boom! you are there.

The great thing about fonts point is that it is just not one location.  You can walk along the edge for miles in every direction.  I spent quite a bit of time walking in one direction and then I would come all the way back and go in the other direction because the views are amazing everywhere.

Remember to stay after the sun goes down because the light becomes a dark glow on the land.  This is one of the better sunset locations I have visited in my life!  It should not be missed.
Fonts point canyon
Looking down a Canyon
Fonts point Badlands
Twisted Ridges descend hundreds of feet
HDR sunset at fonts point
Great Sunset view from Fonts Point
Anza Borrego Dusk from Fonts Point
Dark Glow over the Anza Borrego Badlands

Ocotillo Plants at Fonts Point

ocotillo at anza borrego desert
Ocotillo in Fading Light
Ocotillo are my favorite plant and I found a few perched over Fonts Point when I made my sunset visit.  The star of this location is the badland formations extending out far into the distance.  I used the ocotillo plants as foreground subjects with the obvious background being the badlands.

Some shots are from sunset and others from dusk.  I even found a fallen plant nearly ready to drop into the canyon.  I shot its' photo very close to the canyon edge.

As things became darker, my shutter speed went from 1/60 second to 1/4 second.  To prevent even slower shutter speeds, I increased my ISO to 400 for the above shot and opened aperture to f/8.  I had to do this avoid blurred ocotillos as the wind made them sway back and forth.

My last is the same plant as my first shot, just about 60 minutes earlier.

ocotillo plant at dusk
Ocotillo silhouette in Anza Borrego
fonts point with ocotillo clinging to the edge
Clinging to the Edge at Fonts Point
dead ocotillo at fonts point
Fonts point with Dead Ocotillo
ocotillo at fonts point scenery
Fonts Point Badlands with Ocotillo

Ocotillo Sunrise at Mountain Palm Spring Canyon

Ocotillo Sunrise
Ocotillo have become my favorite plant!  Who knew they could grow 15 feet tall, covered in red flowers and vibrant green buds?  These beauties cover the hills in the Sonoran desert, sometimes very thick.  The more photogenic ones stand alone which allow photographic isolation.  On this morning in the Anza Borrego desert, the morning clouds went pink and red with powerful effect.  I combined the silhouette of the Ocotillo with the amazing sky to catch the moment.