photography from the ground up

Monument Valley

From the north, you can see it coming from a long way off. The spires and monoliths peek above the horizon to give you a preview of the awe inspiring landscape you are about to encounter. Monument Valley: the quintessential western landscape.


Approaching Monument Valley from the north

From the campground located near the entrance to the valley, the well known Mittens and Merrick Butte are front and center. As we made camp, my attention was continuously drawn to the expansive landscape; I felt like I had fallen into an old TV western.


Our campsite in Monument Valley

One hundred and ninety million years ago this area was covered by sand dunes much the same as the Great Sand Dunes in south-eastern Colorado. Over the intervening time, the dunes were compressed, hardened, and finally eroded until they formed the sandstone buttes, mesas, and pinnacles we see today.


A Navajo rider under a stormy sky

The landscape here is unique. Perhaps not geologically, but visually it is different from any where else on earth. And, it is recognizable due to its connection to the movie industry. So, making images of the valley that are fresh can be a challenge.


The Totem Poles

The atmospheric conditions that prevailed throughout our trip ensured some dramatic, and at times forboding, skies. The low hanging clouds shrouded the monoliths and helped lend a bit of mystery to an already awe inspiring landscape.


The North Window view of the East Mitten

One of the best ways to assure that your images are different is to move away from the proscribed “scenic views”. For this image I made of the North Window, I walked away from the area where all the photographers were and found this weather beaten, dead juniper by the side of the road.


A lone Navajo rider in an iconic view from John Ford’s Point

But sometimes, you just need to go with the flow and make a photograph that’s been made a thousand times before. This is one of several photographs I made at John Ford’s Point. The first one showing a horse and rider moving away from the point under low clouds is more spontaneous.


A view of the West Mitten with Big Chief, and Stagecoach Butte in the distance

It seems that everywhere you look there is a photograph to be made. The expansive views, the weathered junipers, and the unique rock formations are an image maker’s dream come true. It is no wonder this place has become a mecca for film makers and photographers.


A view of the Mittens and Merrick Butte from “Ansel’s Rock”

Ansel Adams was one of my very early inspirations to become a photographer. In 1957 he made an image in Monument Valley and I could not resist the chance to pay homage to the man by making my own version. Standing there and seeing this same view that he recorded all those years ago was a moving experience for me.


My favorite image from Monument Valley

There are times when everything just seems to come together; serendipity is a beautiful thing. When I noticed the raven perched in the juniper with the West Mitten as a backdrop, I rushed to get into position to capture the moment. Luckily, the bird seemed to be in no hurry to leave his perch and I was able to work the scene until I found the right composition.

This trip is now a fond memory, but I know I will be returning soon to this magical place where time (and the birds) stand still.

22 responses

  1. Sue

    What an atmospheric place, and your images are marvellous – I, too, like that last one!


    January 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

  2. Very nice. Not that far from me but I haven’t been there. I was recently at Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly but ran out of time. What time of year is this?


    January 6, 2016 at 12:13 pm

  3. Beautiful images! The rider on John Ford’s point is just a classic.


    January 6, 2016 at 12:39 pm

  4. Ray Sanders

    Thanks again for the beautiful images Jim. much appreciated.


    January 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm

  5. What a fantastic photo’s of an exciting place.


    January 6, 2016 at 2:43 pm

  6. Wow!


    January 6, 2016 at 7:14 pm

  7. Just stunning pictures, excellent


    January 7, 2016 at 8:48 am

  8. These are fantastic photographs, Jim, and really a pleasure to behold. I enjoy your narrative too. The raven photo is my favorite, but I really like each one for its story, including the Ansel Adams tribute and your accommodations.


    January 7, 2016 at 11:31 am

  9. Beautiful pictures! I didn’t know you can camp in Monument Valley.


    January 7, 2016 at 11:58 am

  10. Fantastic images Jim of a magical place. I really must visit one day! The North Window view of the East Mitten is my favourite image!


    January 12, 2016 at 3:16 am

    • Thanks Adrian. I plan to return sometime this year. The possibilities seem endless.


      January 12, 2016 at 11:24 am

  11. What a spectacular scenery! Almost a bit out of this world. And your images are stunning. Love how you have captured something in addition in the photos, like trees and the lone rider. Helps tell the story of the size of these monuments. Glad I popped by your blog:)


    January 14, 2016 at 6:34 pm

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