Wild West Adventure (3 of 4): Arizona

Even before embarking on the Wild West Adventure, I suspected that Arches National Park was going to be a tough act for the remaining places on our itinerary to follow. However, I had no idea that every subsequent stop in Utah was going to set the bar progressively higher. After spending an amazing day in the canyon lands and experiencing the majestic beauty of Monument Valley at sunset, I was pretty sure that Utah had ruined my chances of ever being truly awestruck by anything in nature again.

The next stop on our trip, Arizona, quickly disproved that notion. The state, I discovered, has this little known geological feature called The Grand Canyon. It’s kind of a big deal.

70mm @ 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 400

Unfortunately, as the sun set behind Arizona’s sandstone buttes, the vibrant pastels of dusk quickly turned to inky blackness, and the desert night shrouded the State’s famous natural wonder in complete darkness as we drove to a lodge along the rim of the canyon. Before crashing out for the evening, I stopped to grab a shot of the brilliant night sky, which I so rarely see in its full glory back in light-polluted D.C.

24mm @ 15s, f/3.2, ISO 2200

Though we had been blessed with glorious sunlight throughout the first half of our trip, we awoke to a gray, overcast sky on the morning of our visit to the Grand Canyon. Not to be deterred by the less than ideal shooting conditions, I busted out my trusty tripod and set about the crude task of trying to capture one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular vistas in a highly dynamic photographic form. Even in the best light, this would have been a monumental challenge, but with clouds blotting out the sun’s much needed illumination, I had to get creative.

16mm @ 1/160, f/10, ISO 100
7 shot HDR – 24mm @ f/10, ISO 100
7 shot HDR – 16mm @ 1/320, ISO 100

As the light improved throughout the morning, I was able to capture more depth and color in the landscape.

7 shot HDR – 82mm @ 1/320, ISO 100
24mm @ 1/320, f/10, ISO 100
7 shot HDR – 48mm @ 1/160, ISO 100

These shots do an injustice to the Grand Canyon’s immensity, and they certainly fail to convey the sense of awe I felt as I leaned precariously over the edge to capture them. But seriously, how does one capture perfection? All I can hope to do with these pictures is encourage you to go there and see it for yourself. It does not suck.

In other news, after leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove across Hoover Dam on our way to our terminal destination: Las Vegas. It was hard to get too excited about this man-made structure after spending a day staring into an eons old natural chasm (that’s what she said!). However, the colossal concrete blockade, and the men who built it, earned my respect after I later toured the city of lights that it powers with the help of the same river that carved the Grand Canyon.

14mm @ 1/200, f/5, ISO 400
14mm @ 1/200, f/5, ISO 400

Check out more high-res shots from the trip in my set on Flickr.


  1. As I began reading this, I thought to myself, “Ya know, this fella has kind of a knack for writing. And his pictures are pretty good. Wonder if he’s ever thought about being a real photographer or working for a magazine. I bet there is one out there that would be able to use his talent, somewhere.” Just an idea. Good luck.

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