Where dead horses once roamed…


Is it just me, or does the title of this post read funny? It probably should have read “Where horses once roamed…” but that didn’t let me weave in the “dead ” part ­čÖé

This is the third in my little mini-series of posts about the southwest. It shows not a national park this time but a state park, although there is no shortage of beauty in this particular vista. The desert southwest of the United States is a vast area, though the three locations I have recently shared photographs of – Arches, Canyonlands, and now Deadhorse State Park – are surprisingly all within about 45-50 minutes of each other.

On the edge of Canyonlands National Park, Deadhorse State Park is a huge mesa overlooking the Colorado River as it snakes its way 2,000 feet below toward the Grand Canyon and beyond. Mustangs used to run wild on the mesa, and cowboys would drive the horses out onto what was a natural corral. Legend has it that a herd of not particularly market-worthy horses were left behind to find their way back onto the open range, but for some reason they chose to stay on the mesa where they unfortunately died of thirst… hence the name of the park.

Finding this photograph immediately brought back memories of dreams I had while on this trip in which I was always falling… considering the incredible vistas and the potential precipitous drops I encountered, not really all that surprising, eh?


A picture postcard from out west


Continuing my theme from traveling in the southwestern United States, this is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park… another postcard icon that you will find on the bucket list of many photographers. There’s a reason why this is considered an icon…. it is absolutely breathtaking to stand here and gaze through the arch to the landscape below. It isn’t hard to understand why people want to experience this place for themselves and make a photograph of it, myself included.

Back when I visited Canyonlands, I was on a panoramic kick. I often didn’t feel as though I could capture the magnificence of such an awe-inspiring scene within the constraints of the camera’s rectangular viewfinder, so I would shoot a series of overlapping frames, with the intention of stitching them together when I got back to the computer. This process can mean a lot of work, and the two panos in this post kind of got passed over at the time. I used to do this all by hand, though technology has come a long way, even in a couple of years, so I dusted them off and let the computer have a go at putting them together… not a bad result, and certainly a lot less hassle then stitching them by hand.

Hopefully the images in this post give a sense of how the spectacular morning light evolved from the blues and shadows of the pre-dawn, all the way through until the famous conditions developed where the early sun gets reflected on the underside of the arch, lighting it up like it was on fire. When I visited this area it was the summertime, and the sun was rising off to the left of the scene so I wasn’t able to capture any kind of starburst effect using the underside of the arch. Still pretty though…

A delicate and beautiful arch


As winter’s grip tightens here in Maine, I’m sure like many cold-hatin’ photographers do, I recently went mining in the archives for memories of warmer times and photographs that had not yet been processed.┬áDelicate Arch is one of 2,000 naturally preserved sandstone arches that can be found in the small, but incredibly interesting and aptly named “Arches” National Park. Located just outside the funky little town of Moab in Utah, I had the good fortune of exploring and enjoying this little gem of a place a few years back when I was attending a work-related conference out west with my buddy Steve.

I remember making the 1.5 mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch on a warm summer evening, huffing and puffing as we tried to reach the 52 ft tall icon before the sun had set. I also recall being absolutely mesmerized by the red sandstone landscape, and even though this is one of those picture postcards that many other people have photographed, I still got quite a buzz from being there in person and seeing it for myself – hiking back down the trail in the dark was also a pretty neat experience. Those are the La Sal Mountains in the background, rising higher than 12,000 feet along the eastern edge of the Utah state line and above the Colorado Plateau, and it never ceases to amaze me how “open” and “big” this landscape is.

The third photograph in this post was made on a different day… actually in late morning light, and from another trail and angle across a deep canyon. If you look closely, you can see a person standing under the arch, perhaps giving you a sense of just how big this structure actually is. It’s always good to explore new places, and I have to admit, the slickrock and surrounding landscape of this unique area made a huge impression on me.