Desert Op A winter trip into the utah/arizona desert country

I've always wanted to travel into canyon country during winter. Something about the contrast between the red rocks, and the white snow creates such dramatic and interesting landscapes. This past December I saw an approaching storm and went for it. My agenda was to travel six short hours from Boulder to the desert playground of Moab, Utah - home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. After shooting a sunset and sunrise, I would then travel another 4 hours to Page, Arizona - home to Antelope Canyon. Things could not have worked out any better. With temperatures plunging into the single digits, it scared all but the most committed away. On a Friday night, I was one of only 4 campers in all of Arches National Park, just outside of Moab. A notoriously overcrowded Antelope Canyon was very calm and allowed me to shoot for several hours. This area of the country holds some incredible treasures. I hope you have this on your travel bucket list someday.

The incredible colors and textures of Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a small area along the Arizona | Utah border. For years this area was a hidden gem, however recently it has become increasingly popular. Now it is only accessible with guides from the local Navajo Indian reservation. Known for it's rays of sun that penetrate the canyon most of the year, the photo opportunities within these tight canyons are extraordinary. I chose a trip in mid-December in an effort to avoid most of the crowds. I succeeded. The high temperature was 36 degrees, which for Arizona is rather chilly. It scared most folks away and our tour was just 6 people. According to our guide, this rarely happens. This is a place I hope to return time and time again. The canyon is another world, with light reflecting off the walls to create incredible scenes.

Turret Arch, framed within the northern most Windows Arch. I arrived at the park just in time for this sunset. After hiking in and setting up at this spot behind the arch, I waited for the rapidly dropping temperatures to scare away the few people that were here on this cold evening. I enjoyed this magical sunset all by myself for well over an hour. This spot in the warmer months can have hundreds of people swarming the rock formations.

The upper photograph is from upper Antelope Canyon - Page, Arizona.

Red Rocks in the area knows as "The Windows" during sunset | Arches National Park
Mesa Arch, deep within Canyonlands National Park at sunrise. For any of you who have been here, you know how truly special this spot is. For those who have not, put this on your bucket list. Watching this scene unfold across the vastness of the Utah desert is truly something special.

It was 9 degrees when I awoke in the back of my truck. The ice buildup on the inside of the windows made me think twice about actually crawling out of my sleeping bag. Just over an hour from my campsite, I arrived here and waited for the sun to rise. There was a low cloud bank hanging along the horizon and I was afraid this sunrise mission was going to be a bust. As you can see, it was quite the opposite. The clouds moved away to reveal one of the most spectacular hours I've witnessed in over 20 years of wilderness travel. Luck is often a huge part of a successful shot, this was indeed a lucky moment. On top of it all, I shared this with just 3 other people. At a location like this, notorious for beauty but also crowds, it indeed was a magical morning.

Created By
tom kingsford
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