Last spring I had a chance to take the VW bus to Monument Valley with hopes of getting some night photography. Of course some sunset photos would be in store, but they seem pretty cliche. Pretty, but cliche. I have a theory about cliche photos. Although everybody has taken the same (or similar) photograph, or tried to emulate a famous photograph (a la Ansel Adams), the image may be considered cliche. I only consider it cliche if I have taken the same photo, without adding any additional element personality or processing. The drive there was long, and although the weather called for clear skys, we were having a particularly windy spring. 50 -60 mph winds seemed the norm around there, and as far as Flagstaff. It lasted for a month and a half, and we were not spared from the wrath during this trip. The first night we checked in to the primitive campground, and found a spot down and along the edge of the rim. We were so close to the edge there was no way any campers would be parking in front of us. We poped the top and a couple of beers, and settled down with a perfect view of the Mittens.
This was, of course happening while I was shooting. I guess karma got me back for parking in front of all the big motorhomes, detracting from thier view. Each frame had headlamp trails streaking through them. I kept shooting, knowing that photoshop might be able to save me. The next day we drove through the park, on our self guided tour, scoping out possible additional star trail photo ops. There was the three sisters, Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei , The Thumb, and of course the Valley floor. I decided to start with Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei, and see what I can fit in from there.The sun went down and the wind kicked up.
It was blowing at a pretty good clip, stirring up dust into huge clouds. I set up on the leeward side of the van, and threw caution to the wind. I took ten 5 minute shots, not worring about the dust getting in my weather sealed Pentax (just don't try to change lenses). I didn't know that the end result would be a capture of dust clouds, and intermittent star trails. It was an effect that I couldn't have re-created if I wanted. It just goes to show that any kind of weather can help make an interesting image. It probably wouldn't have been as cool without the dust clouds. It reminds me of the Tv series "Land of the Lost". The cable relase got kind of gritty, but a session with the rocket blower seemed to fix it. With that session 'in the tin' I moved on looking for my next subject. Then the wind started to blow. And blow. The wind was blowing so fast that the dust from my tires was passing me. I decided to bunker down for the night. We slept in the van, being shaken all night by the gusts. After a few hours of disturbed sleep I got up and moved to get a better view of the valley for sunrise.
I found a nice vantage point, and shot a number of different comps. My favorite was a large red rock that sort of mimmicked the contour of the valley monuments. The day broke and the wind never let up. We pulled up stakes and made our way to Page, as we had a tour booked for Antelope Canyon. That drive was interesting. It was more like floating a boat, than driving. That is a story for a different day .