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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Southwest Road Trip

A pro’s guide to the lesser-known vantage points in the dramatic landscapes of Arizona, Nevada and Utah

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Zion National Park from Hurricane, Utah
Nikon D3X, AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm ƒ/4G IF-ED, Gitzo tripod, Arca-Swiss ballhead, stitched panorama using three images and Adobe Photoshop CS4
You can drive the 15-mile, graded dirt road in a passenger car except during major rainstorms when the road turns to slick clay. The main area of sandstone formations, including Metate Arch and the Trolls, is a few hundred feet from the parking area. You easily can explore Devil’s Garden in a day, but take your time.

You can use every lens in your arsenal since it’s easy to hike around and carry your gear with you, especially your tripod. For the best, sharpest images, use a tripod, mirror lockup and a cable release to stabilize your camera and eliminate mirror slap. The road to Devil’s Garden follows the Straight Cliffs to the west, and if the summer has been wet, you may have spectacular landscapes of wildflower displays with the mountains in the background.

From Escalante, travel north on Highway 12 to Torrey and Highway 24. Highway 12 has spectacular vistas, high-altitude aspen forests and side roads to mountain lakes and streams. At Torrey, turn east through Capitol Reef National Park where you can photograph great vistas from pullouts along the road. Continue on to Hanksville, Utah, your stopover for your visit to Goblin Valley State Park, an easy-to-reach pocket of spectacular mushroom-shaped hoodoos. It’s about 35 miles on a paved road to the visitor’s center. The road into the visitor’s center is framed to the west by Wild Horse Butte, a magnificent eroded sandstone formation that turns red and gold in the morning. Summer sunrise storm clouds really set off this butte. Stop along the road and use a medium telephoto lens to isolate the butte.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Nikon D3X, AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm ƒ/4G IF-ED, Gitzo tripod, Arca-Swiss ballhead
From the parking lot, look northeast for a solitary red sandstone formation with three hoodoos. Try photographing this subject at dusk in the low-angled reddish light. Desert pronghorn often graze near the formation, adding an interesting element. Landscape vistas and intimate scenic opportunities abound here even though it’s only a few acres in size. You can photograph the main hoodoo section from the parking lot overlooks or hike into the valley with wide-angle lenses for vistas and medium telephotos to isolate formations for more intimate perspectives to bring your viewer into the scene. You’ll pass side roads to Temple Mountain and the San Rafael Swell on your way into Goblin Valley.

Devil’s Garden To Fantasy Canyon
The next leg of your trip is long, but worth it. Head north on Highway 24 45 miles to Interstate 70, then east on 70 to Highway 6/191. Turn north through Price and Helper. North of Helper, bear northeast on 191 about 45 miles to Duchesne, then east on 191/40 to the town of Vernal, your base for Fantasy Canyon. There are motels, campgrounds, restaurants and a major BLM office in Vernal. Fantasy Canyon is located on BLM lands about 40 miles from Vernal, and BLM personnel can provide a map and tell you about road conditions.


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