Road-Tripping 2014: Arches National Park

Road-Tripping 2014: Arches National Park

Taking a trip through Arches National Park has been on my bucket list for years.  Finally, I had a chance to see for myself what the fuss has been all about.  Set up high above the Colorado River, Arches contains over 2,000 natural arches which have been formed through thousands of years of weathering and erosion.  Over 3 million years ago, inland seas, which covered the area evaporated and refilled dozens of times leaving behind the salt beds, sandstone and red canyons that created the spectacular rock sculptures that are visible today.

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The hike up to Delicate Arch is rough 3 mile roundtrip with a 480 foot elevation change.  The path is only marked by rock cairns that lead the way.  

 

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The best times to check out the view are early morning and twilight as this is one of the most photographed arches in the park and the trails do become crowded not to mention there is little or no shade and the temperature can easily swell to over 100 degrees.

 

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From Park Avenue, there is a trail that descends steeply into a spectacular canyon and continues down the wash to Courthouse Towers.  One of my favorite views. 

 

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The drive alone is pretty incredible as you can look out into the La Sal Mountain Range while making your way deeper into the canyons.

 

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The view from the Primitive Trail at Turret Arch and Sunrise at Pine Tree Arch. 

 

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Storms approaching as we came up to the North Window on the primitive trail.

 

I also wanted to experiment with light painting and night photography as Arches is the perfect playground with so many awesome opportunities for amazing captures under the dark skies.  In order to do this, all that we needed was the tripod, a few LED flashlights, a remote shutter release so as to prevent camera shake and plenty of time.

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Here we are at the Cove Arch in the Windows section in the park.  In order to create these star trails, we captured over 25 30-second exposures and in post-production, layered the files to create the trails. 

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At the Turret Arch, we combined the star trails technique with light painting using a mix of white-balanced and red LED flashlights which paint the color during the long exposure.

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And my favorite…this is the South Window again using the red LED. 

As our trip was close to 3 weeks long and consisted of horse-back riding, rafting, hiking and plenty of photo excursions through Utah’s canyonlands and forests, admittedly Arches National Park  proved to be the pinnacle of the trip for me.  There really is no other landscape like it, with its’ archways, sandstone fins, balanced rocks and mountain range, this incredible landscape offers so many opportunities, it’s no wonder it’s on every photographers’ bucket list!

 

Road-Tripping: From the Peaks to the Canyonlands

Road-Tripping: From the Peaks to the Canyonlands

Over the last few weeks I took a break from photographing corporate head shots and environmental portraits for a much needed breather with Monica.  Traveling from Chicago to Colorado, through much of Utah and some of Arizona,  we made our way through the North Plains then drove from peak to peak in the Rocky Mountains and throughout the Canyonlands.

The concentration of our travels focused on Estes Park and The Rocky Mountain National Forest where we visited Monica’s family then to Moab in Utah where we hung out with my niece Chloe and checked out Arches National Park and onto Zion near the southwest border of Utah and Arizona.

Along the way, we managed to pen a potentially grammy worthy song regarding the prevalence of cattle in Nebraska.  Then we swung through the completely off-the-grid towns of Colorado City and Hilldale which boast a fundamentalist polygamist community of over 10,000 members of the Warren Jeffs persuasion and we also managed to avoid being swept up in a flash flood while hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park.  Here are a few more prevalent stats from the trip:

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  • Deers spotted: 24
  • FLDS Polygamist sightings: 6
  • Rainbows: 2
  • Selfies taken: 15

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  • Cracked windshields: 1
  • Local craft beers tasted: 3 (including Polygamy Porter whose tagline reads “Why just have one?”)
  • Bug-bites: Innumerable
  • Snake bites: Nada-Hurray!
  • Plays of Wilson Phillips “Hold On”: 5
  • Total miles: 4,739

And for your viewing pleasure, here are just a few of my favorites from the trip……

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Rocky Mountain National Park | Estes Park, Colorado

 

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Hiking to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park | Moab, Utah

 

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His Name was Harley – Red Cliffs Canyon Lodge | Moab, Utah

 

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Juniper Tree in Arches National Park | Moab, Utah

 

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“You’ve always been crazy, this is just the first chance you’ve had to express yourself.” | Thelma & Louise

 

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Monument Valley | Navajo Nation, Utah

 

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Big Bend | Zion National Park, Utah

 

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Hiking the Narows of the Virgin River | Zion National Park, Utah

 

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Grotto Trails | Zion National Park, Utah 

 

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 Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park | Between Kanab and Mount Carmel Junction, Utah

 

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 Rough Mule’s Ear Flowers | Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

 

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Hoodoos in the Amphitheater | Bryce Canyon National Park

 

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The North Rim of the Grand Canyon | Arizona

 

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Cathedral Valley | Capitol Reef National Park 

And don’t miss another special treat: my fave pics from Arches in Moab, Utah.  You can check them out here.  A definite highlight as we experimented with night photography and light painting and this is probably one of my favorite places I have visited west of the Mississippi.  Gotta love hippies and hitchhikers.

Shoot, Shoot and Shoot Some More

Shoot, Shoot and Shoot Some More

So, last weekend, my gal pal and I decided to take a very unplanned, impromptu, we have no idea what we are doing, road trip down along the Mississippi River.   This is very unlike me.  Not the road-tripping part but the lack of any idea as to what we will be doing as I am orderly, perhaps to a fault.

We took of on Friday, after filling up the cooler with one peach, 3 bags of ice, a 12-pack (priorities) and a PDF map on the i-Phone.    We did have a few ideas as to where we might like to stop.  First on the list was lovely Davenport, Iowa which is close to the Quad Cities on the Illinois side.  The plan was to find a super cool bar/pub/brewery near the river and relax.  As we had not done any research on this, we ended up driving for over an hour until we landed at the Rhythm City Casino where it was free beer Friday, an all-you-can-eat buffet and needless to say, it was on the river.

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On the plus side, I was carded, which being middle-aged, was a compliment as I am somewhat proud of my baby face made possible by an excess of fudgesicles and too little time on the treadmill.  But the pluses ended there as the sneeze guard over the buffet led my mind to wander and the smoke-filled slot rooms were testing my lung capacity.  Next option.  T.G.I.F. Friday’s.  Oh, so excited.  One can never have enough spinach-artichoke dip in their lives and what a view.

The next morning, after checking out our route online, Monica noticed that we would be passing through Nauvoo, Illinois.  Being a big fan of American History, this place was a goldmine.  Way back in 1839, the Mormons, led by Joseph Smith, bought the small town and set up their own community.  They hung out there for quite awhile until Smith was murdered while serving a jail sentence and Brigham Young took over, leading the refugees to Salt Lake City.

Now, there are over 40 historic sites from that period, including the cemetery where Smith, his wife and brother Alvin are laid to rest.  What was even more fascinating was that the whole town resembled a Mecca for Mormons, their place for pilgrimage.  With all of the slacks, ties, button-downs and dresses, I was feeling a little disrespectful in shorts and a t-shirt, so we made our visit short.  But on our way out,we see the best tribute to Alvin Smith ever:

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Moving along through sleepy river towns, abandoned farm houses, roadside vegetable stands and a lack of bathroom facilities, we would occasionally step out of the car for a breather and stretch our legs.  And luckily, one of our stops was perfectly timed, as speeding is the norm for me, we may have passed it.  A sunflower farm in bloom.

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We were there for close to an hour.  The wind was pretty strong and I wanted to be sure to stop the motion, expose for the highlights but capture the shadows and get as many variations as possible.  Just because.  You see, one of the things that makes professional photographers different than someone with a camera, is that we shoot, shoot and shoot some more.  Every angle and each setting is modified so we get to see the same person, place or thing in as many ways as possible.  It was just a random stop, along an unplanned trip but it managed to serve as a good reminder for me.  Tori,  keep shooting.

The rest of our trip went off without a hitch.  I have spent several thousand dollars in my mind on a motorcycle as even these tiny, rarely travelled backroads were crowded with weekend warriors on their Harleys.  I was jealous.  I have also decided to do these unplanned trips a little more frequently and the key is not to anticipate much but be ready when something does happen.  A little visual inspiration, maybe.  Because after you get to where you didn’t know you were going, it can be pretty beautiful.

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Anne Murray, The 8-Track and The Master Whistler

Anne Murray, The 8-Track and The Master Whistler

My family was so authentic 1970’s. We had the GMC camper in varying shades of green, successfully raised a collection of hermit crabs and were fond of all things Anne Murray on 8-track.

As much of my musical upbringing was monitored by my Baptist mother’s attempt to leave me unblemished and my father’s ability to choose his battles wisely, I admitted defeat and became a big fan of whatever it was that they were listening to at the time. ABBA, of course, was huge in our house as I believe the sexual innuendo was mild enough so as not to pose a threat to my chastity. Christopher Cross, Sailing? Press repeat, please. And one could never get enough of Roger Whittaker, master whistler extraordinaire, whom I have officially invited to my 40th birthday party.

Once the vinyl records and 8-tracks were replaced with tapes and cd’s with digital downloads, I lost track of my roots and started listening to music that was a little less supper club and a little more age appropriate. I would occasionally browse on Ebay, thinking I might find a used copy of Juice Newtons’ Greatest Hits as “Playing With The Queen of Hearts” was my personal anthem throughout third grade. But hearing it once would be enough and so the respite continued until…..

One day, while looking for some books at The Brown Elephant, I walk by their shelves of records, and  I spot this:

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I could recognize that smile, those glasses anywhere. Oh, what delight. We had this same record growing up and now I could claim this as my own for the incredibly, guilt-free, low price of 50 cents. Once I got home and listened to both sides, I had to go from Side A to B, again and again. It was incredible in a Kevin Costner, can’t stop watching Waterworld every time it’s on TNT, kind of way.

So, to feed my new new obsession, I immediately returned to the thrift store in search of more records that would help me recuperate my musical past. And for this, I have to thank bad album cover art.

I cannot lie, I have searched for my favorites and am now the proud owner of “The Original Songs of Burt Bacharach” on vinyl but I have also done a bit of expanding as well. The key is that all purchases must meet a certain level of cover art entertainment value and thus far I have pretty much nailed it.

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Oh, ABBA. Jazz hands were not acceptable back then nor are they now. However, you are all forgiven as you have gifted us with “Dancing Queen” which can make even the least coordinated of dancers feel as though there might be hope.

I was under the impression that the late Lou Rawls’ talents were limited to hosting telethons and a steady stream of top 40 hits through the late 70’s. Wrong again. This dude can sing with so much class that when he tells me “You’ll never find another love like mine,” I believe him though I’d never even met the man.

Dionne Warwick? A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Yes, the pre “That’s What Friends Are For” Dionne is now a personal favorite. Her version of “Hey Jude” can tear you up and have you doing Bridget Jones style air drums in a matter of 2 minutes and 34 seconds. Note, the first of the three photos of Ms. Dionne. Is this not the same pose we see displayed by all teenage girls on the Facebook machine? Umm, move over Paris Hilton, you are no innovator.

But really, it all comes back to Anne Murray. My parents were fond of her because she sang about the familiar in a gentle way and unlike some of the present pop music, never sprinkled in the f-bomb for shock value. Personally, I am a big fan of mixing feathered hair and acoustic harmonies since you simply can’t go wrong with this combination. But mostly, I think that like my parents, I am fond of the familiar and have a pretty good eye for music.