Southwest Sunsets

Hello everyone, 

What makes up your dream sunrise or sunset venue? Is it being at the edge of the ocean, watching the colors change as the sun passes over the horizon? Perhaps at the top of a mountain where you can see for miles on end or maybe a good stretch of farm land riddled with trees and crops? For me, it is anywhere really. As an avid chaser of the light, I often find myself exploring my location for sunrise or sunset opportunities. Recently I spent some time in Arizona where you have wide expanses or flat land that go beyond your imagination. The landscape also has its share of mountains that literally jump out of the plains forming some extremely adverse terrain. One location that I visited while in Arizona was the Saguaro National Park, located just outside of Tucson. This is a unique area of the U.S. which has the distinct pleasure of being one of the sole places on this planet where the Saguaro Cactus grows and thrives. The Saguaro is an amazing plant that towers 20-30 feet up and is able to suck water out of some of the driest soil around. I was truly in awe looking at these marvels of nature. 

The park offers a wide expanse of areas to explore on foot and setup your camera and tripod to witness the light show. When shooting scenes like this, I prefer to shoot a silhouette of the scene rather than blow out the sky. With colors like this, you just can’t go wrong. The only thing that is difficult about getting a shot like this is not running into other Cacti or any of the dozens of reptiles or other occupants of the area. Wear some good hiking shoes, preferably that protect your ankles and take a flashlight to help you find your way in the dark.  There are plenty of places in the park to pull off and explore and in many cases, you have a well traveled trail to follow out into the cactus fields. During my time in the area, I made several trips to the park for sunset. During these visits, I was lucky enough to witness some amazing colors with or without clouds. Hope you enjoy…

Twilight - Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Twilight – Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Light show over the Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Light show over the Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey

Natures color palette - Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Natures color palette – Saguaro National Park, AZ © Rob Loughrey

Eastern Arizona – a hidden gem

During my trip to the southwest, I decided to take a weekend and see a National Monument in the Eastern part of Arizona. The park isn’t very well known but looked intriguing nonetheless. The Chiricahua National Monument is about 120 miles SE of Tucson and fairly close to the border of New Mexico. The park is referred to as a wonderland of rocks and is very similar to Bryce Canyon. The park encompasses 12,000 acres of rugged terrain within a mountain range that is twenty miles wide and forty miles long. The heart of the park has amazing pinnacle rock formations called hoodoos that are formed by millions of years of weathering. The entire process is too long to explain here, but in short, the constant freeze / thaw periods in a year are a major factor in the hoodoos forming. 

When entering the park, there is a visitor station a few miles up the road which has great information, maps and displays. There is an 8 mile scenic road that takes you to the top of the mountain where you can access hiking trails. During the drive, you will see hoodoos and balanced rocks all along your drive. The best way to view them is to go to one of the trail heads and walk down into the canyon.  There are several trails to choose from depending on your hiking ability. I took a 3 mile hike into the canyon about an hour before sunset. The hoodoos are huge and full of color. Most of them were over 20′ tall with many more than 30′.  The warm side lighting on the rocks made the colors pop and provided plenty of dimension to the scene. I didn’t stay overnight, but based on the remote area of the country and desolate surroundings, I would imagine that this area has some amazing dark skies on a clear moonless night. Next time I am in the area, I plan to make stay in the park and get some moonlit hoodoo images. I’m sure it will be amazing. Still trying to get caught up on postings. More to follow on a recent trip to Great Falls National Park. Hope you enjoy…

Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey

Hoodoos and the rugged wilderness - Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Hoodoos and the rugged wilderness – Chiricahua National Monument, AZ © Rob Loughrey
Chiricahua National Monument , AZ © Rob Loughrey
Chiricahua National Monument , AZ © Rob Loughrey

Grand canyon shots

A few shots from the trip to the Grand Canyon. We pre planned a trip that included a bus ride, helicopter ride, the famous skywalk and visits to a few local points along the West rim of the canyon. At first I was a little apprehensive about whether or not the $ spent was going to be worth it. I can tell you, I thought it was. The bus ride was good, the driver had a good personality and gave a good history lesson along the way. After a short detour at the Hoover Dam, we continued onto the canyon. Once we arrived at the site, we went straight to get weighed in for the helicopter ride. I have to admit, I was pretty pumped to do this, even tho the helo’s looked like they had some age on them. I figured, if this was it, at least I would have a good view on the way down. We flew down to the bottom of the canyon, boarded a party boat and took a 30 min ride down the Colorado River. The guide on this portion of the trip was also a great source of info. You could tell they enjoyed the job. After we finished the boat ride, we took the helicopters back to the top of the canyon. The view from the helo was absolutely unbelievable. It is something you just have to do when visiting the area. We then took some buses to the local points  where the skywalk was installed at Eagle Point and then onto Guano Point which offered a 360 degree view of the area. The skywalk is an engineering marvel. It is a glass floored horseshoe bridge that is cantilevered out over the canyon. When you are walking on it, you can see straight down 4000 feet to the bottom. The walls are also thick glass, giving you an uneasy feeling that you are going to take a plunge. Some people were laying on the glass, others were hanging onto the rails. Unfortunately, they do not allow personal cameras (even cell phones) on the skywalk. They give you this liability issue that they don’t want anyone dropping their camera on the glass and breaking it, watching people plummet to the bottom. In reality it is just to make sure if you want a picture, you pay them $30 for it. They have a bunch of high school kids carrying cameras that are somehow safer than yours around getting pictures for a fee. A total scam. Otherwise, it was an amazing day. Already looking forward to going back and visiting another portion of the canyon. Here are a couple pano’s to start.
 

Grand Canyon from Guano Point © Rob Loughrey

 

Eagle Point - Grand Canyon West Rim © Rob Loughrey

 

Skywalk over Grand Canyon © Rob Loughrey