Something About Mittens

As we discussed in last week’s article, Milepost 13, Monument Valley Arizona/Utah is an incredibly beautiful natural wonder of sandstone that Hollywood just can’t resist when making westerns, and tonight we’re going to camp right in the middle of it!

After shooting the famous Milepost 13 image that morning at what is commonly known as Forrest Gump Point, we headed to the campground in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and were told to go pick out a campsite. Well, there are no bad campsites here, but we chose one that was as far down the hill toward “The Mittens” as possible, putting all other campsites behind us. This gave us the maximum flexibility for shooting star trails or whatever we felt like shooting, should we get the urge for some nighttime photography.

Totem Pole Trail Ride, Monument Valley, Arizona

A guided tour on horseback passes beneath the Totem Pole sandstone structure in Monument Valley, Arizona.

That afternoon we drove through the park, photographing the various sandstone structures that make this place so compelling. At a location know as the Totem Pole, a pillar or rock spire that is the highly eroded remains of a butte, we spotted a group on horseback making their way through the backcountry.

About that time a nasty thunderstorm moved in, and we hopped back in the car to take cover from the lightning strikes going on around us. The storm would continue on and off throughout the evening, finally heading out just after nightfall so we could play around with some night photography from our campsite. I don’t mind backpacking for miles into the backcountry to get that shot of an amazing location, but if I can drive up to the campground and throw my tent up within a few feet of the car and shoot amazing scenery from there, well, I’m not going to complain too much! Hey, Ansel Adams did a lot of his best work from parking lots, so if it was good enough for Ansel…!

The Mittens from the Campground, Monument Valley, Arizona

The Mittens of Monument Valley dominate the nighttime landscape near the campground at Monument Valley, Arizona.

After the storm headed out and we got our night shots from the campground, we all got a good rest that night in our tents. If you get to have your pick of surfaces to pitch your tent on, sand is at the top of my list for comfort!

The next morning, we got up at dawn and got our camera gear ready, wondering if the sun would be able to peek through the clouds to give us the sunrise images we were hoping for. As it turns out, the morning light was pretty amazing. We had endured a bit of disappointing overcast skies on the trip up to this point, so we were pretty happy to have a couple of days in a row of spectacular sunrises. After all, we wouldn’t be back to these locations again for quite some time, so it was now or never – kind of.

The sun played a game of cat and mouse with us, so to speak, pretending to come out from behind clouds, and then, staying hidden. So we just kept adjusting out positions, my friend Jeremy going one way, and I going another, hoping the sun and clouds would eventually cooperate. I kept moving to try to keep the sun near the base of the “thumb” of the left mitten, hoping the sun would come out and let me get a sunburst image. It eventually did, and I could finally relax, feeling like the morning shoot had been a success.

The Mittens at Sunrise, Monument Valley, Arizona

The Mittens appear in silhouette as the sun rises behind them in Monument Valley, Arizona.

Of course, the day had just begun. We were in the middle of some of the most interesting landscape the U.S. has to offer, and we were just getting warmed up. That afternoon we had reservations for a photography tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, an amazing slot canyon near Page, Arizona. But – you guessed it – you’ll have to wait until next week for those images! Until then, stay safe!

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5 Responses to “Something About Mittens”

  1. Eugene says:

    [[If you get to have your pick of surfaces to pitch your tent on, sand is at the top of my list for comfort!]]

    I agree – after I sift the scorpions out, I sleep on sand like I’m in a mattress shop!

    • Ed Leckert says:

      I never see snakes, scorpions, or anything interesting on these trips to the desert.

      • Eugene says:

        Then in Chinese proverb terms, “you do not live in interesting times.”
        Lucky you!

        I bet you see the Milky Way lots. I need to make me a trip for that purpose alone.

  2. Max says:

    We were at many of the same locations at nearly the same time as you on our recent road trip.
    We got some great pictures too, but nothing like your’s. What an amazing place to go nuts
    with a camera. Lighting is everything. I really took advantage of that during our visit
    to Bryce Canyon two years ago when we had storm clouds and sun breaks rolling
    through with just enough snow between the hoodoos to make things even more interesting.

    Thanks for sharing your excellent photos.

    • Ed Leckert says:

      Thanks, Max! Yes, the Southwest has a seemingly endless supply of photo opportunities. There are so many places on my list that I haven’t made it to yet, for example, the Grand Canyon!