Arizona & Utah, Day Three / by Josh Trudell

This is kind of a Dr. Seuss/JRR Tolkien photo - it's a dangerous thing going  out your front door... My photography bucket list took a beating the first two days of our trip – Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon had been on it from the first scrawl.

One shot that I’ve been wanting to get for a long time is a star trail show – those nifty pictures of stars swirling around the North Star.

Since I live in the light-polluted environs of San Antonio, I don’t often get out to areas where the skies are dark enough for such a shot.

Waking up at three a.m. on the top of a mesa, I thought I’d have the perfect chance. Groggily, I unzipped my tent and took a look outside.

It was dark, all right. Black. 100C, 100Y, 100M, 100K, for any print folks out there. Which meant that it was too dark for any chance of a starlight shot.

Foiled, I tried to get back to sleep, but ended up reading a new Harry Dresden novel until the rest of the crew rolled out. Sadly, no magic could make the sun burst through the filmy gray clouds.

Headed off the mesa, we stopped at Spider Arch, the first of the big arches we see. Chris and I carefully climbed up the rock face to a closer spot, while Bob and Arnold stayed closer (and probably safer) to the ground.

Chris and I climbed up to Spider Arch, but our photos were largely defeated by the flat gray sky. Bah.

Down the mesa we went in the truck, nearly nose first at times, but Ray pulled us through. We transferred our gear to Ian’s truck and headed north to Moab, a three-hour trek.

Arriving in town, our first stop was lunch. A bar and grill filled with the neon and carbon fiber of exuberant mountain sports yuppies was a jarring contrast to the poverty we saw in the Navajo town of Kayenta.

After lunch, we dropped off most of our gear at the hotel and headed out to Canyonlands National Park and the Green River Overlook. The clouds stayed and darkened through the afternoon – not giving us any dynamic frames, but gave us a chance to look at some of these viewpoints as people, and not just photographers. (Yes, there is a difference.)

Equipment-related digression: For this trip, I rented two lenses to go with my Sony A99 body – a Zeiss f2.8 16-35mm lens, and a Sony f4-5.6 70-400mm zoom. Since this was my first trip into the area, I wasn’t sure what I was going to need.

I was hoping for a rattlesnake sighting that would give me reason to pull out the big zoom, but it was close to a waste of money. I only took it out once or twice, instead relying heavily on the 16-35, which I was very happy with.

My Sony tripod was iffy for a lot of the trip – I had to spend too much time tweaking it and making sure it didn’t slide on me. The Gorillapod was useful, but I think next time I’ll invest in a Manfrotto tripod and ball head. The images were processed using Photoshop 6 and Nik software.

Day Four: Drip, drip, drip…