Frozen eggs in the desert
After almost 30 degrees Celsius in Los Angeles, I was ready to get my board shorts out and enjoy the hot and dry climate you would expect from the desert. We were on our way into the Mojave Desert, which spreads along bigger parts of our upcoming trip. But the same night I was proven wrong, when our wet towels froze inside the camper…
It’s no news for us that it gets very cold in the desert during the night, but we are still surprised to wake up and see snow outside. The windows of the camper are covered with a thin layer of ice on both sides and moisture from our breath has formed little ice drops on the roof. The furnace had stopped working a few days ago… Tomorrow is Christmas Day, and we have decided to skip the classical celebration this year. Even though we are getting a white Christmas now as it seems.
We have driven almost 800 kilometers last night to get as close as possible to the Grand Canyon and to start our round trip of canyons and deserts around California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada! Now we’re standing on the first lookout, amazed about the size of this giant crack in the earth’s surface. It’s obviously called the Grand Canyon for a good reason!
I try to think of good photographs taken here while we go on a hike inside the canyon. It is definitely really hard to get them. If you try to capture the whole thing (which is of coarse impossible if you’re not Felix Baumgartner shooting from a balloon in the stratosphere), everything tends to look very small. If you take close-ups, you’re also missing the point of visualizing its size. What I need is something in the foreground that I can use as a scale.
The day goes by and I still haven’t found “my spot”. Hoping for a good sunset, we head back to one of the viewpoints and walk along the canyons edge. But grey clouds have covered the horizon and now they swallow the sun without even releasing any of the glorious light I was imagining for my picture. This time I’ll have to leave without it…
The next morning we wake up very early to see the sunrise in Monument Valley, which is known for its vast sandstone buttes. But we find ourselves in front of locked gates. Of coarse…it’s Christmas Day! We had pretty much forgotten about that. There are still indigenous tribal tours driving into the park however. After a while we decide to sneak in with our absolutely inconspicuous camper. And there we are, almost alone in Monument Valley! I don’t want to imagine how a nice summer day would look like in here, crowded by tourists in their rental cars…
Tip: Be cheeky while traveling,
you will get away with it most of the time!
On our way towards the next Highlight, Bryce Canyon, we drive through vast desert areas in Utah. Then abruptly we find ourselves in snow-covered canyons. The changes from desert to winter landscapes come quick and unexpected. It is probably absolutely normal for this area in the winter, but for us it seems truly surreal.
Then suddenly there is a giant snow-covered mountain on our left. I believe it is Mount Pennell, which is almost 3500 meters high! In the middle of the desert…
We take a scenic backcountry road and find a nice camp spot along the way. With -20 degrees Celsius it will be our coldest night. Our sink is completely frozen when we wake up, we have icicles around the car and when I try to break some eggs into the pan in the morning, I realize even our eggs from inside the fridge are completely frozen!
As you can see, after peeling the frozen eggs, it’s quite possible to fry them. It just takes a little longer… ;)
After breakfast we drive a bit further up into the mountains until we get to an elevation where it starts to snow quit heavily. Before I have to put snow chains on, we turn around and continue our drive towards Bryce Canyon.
In my opinion, Bryce Canyon is much more nice to walk around then Grand Canyon. Way better for taking photographs also. It is allegedly one of the darkest places on earth and therefore a good spot for astrophotography. I can imagine really nice images with those little pinnacles, called Hoodoos, as silhouettes in front of the stars. But our time is running short and we can’t afford to stay over night unfortunately.
On our hike through the park, we have some amazing views over this nice canyon with its thousands of Hoodoos. These rock pillars are built by subtraction, starting out as giant plateaus they we’re formed by erosion over eons.
Next stop on the list is the fabulous Antelope Canyon, a true dream for every photographer. But at the same time a real nightmare… We stay on a campground for once, to defrost the whole camper. What a blessing after all those days of freezing!
The Antelope Canyon is a Slot Canyon, which means that it is much deeper then it is wide. It has formed primarily due to flash flooding, which can be very dangerous when it happens. Therefore tourists can only go inside with tours. (no it’s absolutely not because of the money!) And that is exactly the nightmare for photographers, as these tours are packed with people and you don’t have the time to take photographs in peace or use a tripod even. Also there are always people in your picture if you don’t shoot upwards.
That said, the canyon is still an absolute must see! The colors and forms in which the corrosion has taken place here is absolutely astonishing! It is probably the most photogenic spot I have ever seen and so it’s no wonder to find it jammed with people…
I used the bracketing option of my Fujifilm XT-1 to shoot three different exposures at a time. (all shot without a tripod) Later I used my RAW files to produce even more darker and brighter exposures and combined them using some HDR techniques.
Recently Peter Lik sold the most expensive photograph ever with his piece “Phantom”, which sold for $6.5 Million! It was taken inside the Antelope Canyon. I wonder if he was also on a public tour while taking it.
By the way: My pictures are available for sale too.
Feel free to contact me! ;)
In the afternoon we make one last stop at the so-called Horseshoe Bend (for obvious reasons), where the Colorado River makes an amazing 270° bend.
The last stop on our tour is fabulous Las Vegas, where we stay over New Year’s Eve. For such a crazy and extremely wasteful city we are a bit disappointed about the fireworks presented. Apart from that, Vegas is definitely worth a visit. Even if you are not into gambling!