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Sedona and the Grand Canyon

It's been a hell of a month - holidays, drama, life changes. To be honest, I can't wait for 2010 to be over. But that's neither here nor there. I'm simply trying to justify the ridiculous 3-week delay on getting these pictures up from my trip to Sedona, AZ last month. At least there's a lot of them...

It was a rare family vacation jam-packed with hiking, sight-seeing, mountain biking, photography, shopping, hanging out and a whole lot of driving. Good quality time with the brothers, parents and sister-in-law - my favorite people in the world. I had a lot of fun and I even got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time!

One of my brothers and I went to Oak Creek on our first day to enjoy the scenery and get some pictures. There was some great fall color to work with, fantastic reflections and the temperature was mild. I could have stayed down there all day. Here are the pics from that first day:

The second day was with my two brothers and sister-in-law for a full day of sight-seeing and hiking. We checked out Slide Rock in the morning where it was just us 4 out there for quite awhile until a Japanese tour bus unloaded. No pictures from Slide Rock because the light was ugly, but we did some exploring and even found a tarantula, which, I must say, was both disturbing and fascinating.

For sunset, we headed out to Red Rock Crossing for stunning views of Cathedral Rock. I originally intended to get pictures of Cathedral Rock at sunset with Oak Creek in the foreground - real picturesque stuff. I ran into a problem with that plan when I couldn't find a single composition that fit the order. The water level was too high, making it impossible to get the angle I needed without crossing the creek to the other side, which wasn't going to happen.

Sometimes you just have to play the hand you're dealt. Luckily I've made enough mistakes in my years of shooting to know that making a plan B should be step 1 when you arrive. So I moved to a meadow I'd scouted earlier and had deemed my "in case things don't work out" spot. I'm actually glad things didn't work out with shooting the creek because I really enjoyed shooting in this meadow and I think I got some great, unique shots of Cathedral Rock - even some panoramas.

Here are the results (click the panos for larger versions):

The following day's agenda would consist of a sunrise shoot in Sedona and the Grand Canyon at sunset. The Grand Canyon is about a 2 and a half hour drive from Sedona - one way. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I guess that's why only my sister-in-law was game for the sunrise. But in the end, it worked out great anyway. The sunrise was stunning, the Grand Canyon was worth every minute of driving and we'd still have a couple more days of vacation to catch up on sleep.

For the sunrise, we went to a high spot overlooking Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte in the distance. There weren't too many clouds and, thus, not much color in the sky, but the sun illuminated the air in a beautiful golden glow. The layers were amazing. The following 3 shots are practically the same (subject-matter at least), but I was just diggin' the vibe and color too much to not share each composition. Click the pano for a larger version.

Once that color faded away, I turned my attention to a beautiful Utah Juniper and played with the shapes of the branches and trunk.

Then it was off to the Grand Canyon. Thank God it wasn't peak season for the Grand Canyon, because it still got a little *ahem* cozy where I'd set up for my shots once sunset rolled around. For the most part, though, the whole place felt pretty empty (uh...no pun intended).

To put it succinctly, I was blown away by the Grand Canyon. Its size is hard to grasp even when it's right in front of you. My eyes were seeing it, but it somehow felt like I was just looking at a painting, like nothing could actually be that vast. Absolutely amazing. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Loved the way the light hit the very tip of this tree

And last but not least, my favorite panorama from the trip - one compiled from 5 separate vertically-framed compositions. You'll wanna click this one for the bigger view...

Thank you so much for stopping by, everyone. It brings me so much joy to share these with you and know other people are lookin' at 'em.

Back to Thousand Steps Yet Again

I returned yet again to Thousand Steps beach in Laguna last night. This time, it was with a private student for an on-location lesson. We went to the cave that I mentioned in my previous post and made our way through. The tide was low, but still higher than last time, which made getting through quite a bit more difficult. Compounded with the sharp, slippery rocks and the darkness later on, we had a hell of a time getting there.

The shot below is the one I really wanted to get last time, but wasn't able to pull it off. This time went a little better. I learned from my previous experience, knew where to put myself and figured out how to get decent exposure in both the foreground and background.

Thousand Steps Cave

I wanted to include a bit of the ceiling of the cave off to the right of the frame in order to show that I was in a cave and not just on the open shore. The reflections in the tide pools helped bring some light to the dark foreground and some split NDs allowed me to get the sky in range for the exposure. Lucky for me, the moon drifted in to the perfect spot just in time.

I also snapped a silhouette of my student getting her pictures of the sunset. Extra points to her for not giving up despite the extraordinarily tough trek into the cave.

Thousand Steps Cave

No doubt I'll be returning several times to come in order to master this location. It's one of the toughest I've shot in for awhile!

Cave Exploration

I went down to Thousand Steps in Laguna Beach again this past Saturday to check out a really awesome cave that you can only get into at low tide. I'd seen it from the outside before, but had never been through it. Luckily the tide was low enough to permit entrance this time and, I must say, it was really awesome. Nothing like your typical So Cal scenery. The only photo I came home with was the following mediocre shot from outside the cave. Words won't do this place justice, so I intend to return several times in the future to better document it.

Laguna Beach