Archive for the ‘Dead Horse Point SP’ Category

Tips for Night Photography Friday, October 2nd, 2015

With my annual Moab to Cedar Mesa to Monument Valley night photography workshop coming up, here are some tips for my attendees (sold out).



  1. Camera: Not all cameras are great for night photography. I’ve had particular problems with the Canon Rebel T3i. If you have this camera you might want to consider renter a better, more recent model.
  2. Lens: You will want what is considered an ultra wide lens for most shots, something in the range of a 14-14. You may also want the next step up, something in the 24-70 range. What’s more important is the F rating of the lens. A lens in the f-1.4 – 2.8 range is best. Anything above a f4 is not suitable for night photography.
  3. Tripod: A rock-solid tripod is a necessity. If you’re using a tripod with a plastic head you may want to consider renting a better unit. If you are attending one of my workshops and think you may need a better tripod, check with me to see if I have a loaner available.
  4. Cable release or remote: A cable release or remote can help alleviate the issue of a not-so-rock-solid tripod.
  5. Filters: Remove and filters from you lens.


In night photography it’s fairly important to set a composition you like and stick with it throughout the shooting sequence of that particular location. This is because the biggest challenge in night photography is getting the focus properly set. Once the focus is set you can switch, say, from horizontal to vertical with no problem IF you can do so without touching/changing the zoom setting, but if you change the zoom setting you will need to reset the focus. If you are in the habit of frequently moving your tripod rather than adjusting the camera on the tripod head you will also have problems.

Setting the Focus: There are 2 methods of setting the focus:

  1. I will light a piece of the land-form that we are shooting. You will need to know how to move your camera’s focus point to focus on what I am lighting. With your camera on auto-focus, hold the shutter button half way down and let the camera auto-focus. Then, turn of the auto-focus. You are now ready to shoot.
  2. I often find it easier to manually focus. This is particularly easy on most Canon cameras because of their superior clarity of the LCD in low light situations.
  3. It’s important to check your focus after the first shot. Do this by using the LCD magnification button on the back of your camera. Blow the image up 2 to 4 clicks and make certain everything is in focus. If not, SPEAK UP and I’ll re-light the formation.


Rule of 500: I will explain the Rule of 500 in the cause of general information so you will be knowledgeable about it, but please understand that I rarely use it.

This equation is used to determine the length of time of your exposure. It’s pretty simple:

500 divided by the Focal Length you are shooting at = Max exposure time.

If you’re shooting at 14mm, 500 divided by 14 = 36 seconds exposure

There are many if, ands and buts about this equation:

  1. It assumes an f2.8 lens at an ISO of 1600
  2. The results vary camera by camera, sensor by sensor.
  3. It’s widely stated, “Your camera may work better using 400, 450 or 600”.
  4. If your camera has a cropped sensor you will need to multiply the focal length that the lens is reading by your camera’s crop factor, either 1.5 or 1.6. So, a Nikon with a cropped sensor with an f2.8 lens set at 14mm, 14 x 1.5 = 19.6   500 divided by 19.6 = 25 seconds rather than 36 seconds.
  5. Even the quality/glass/brand of your lens can matter.

Still with me?

Now, let me tell you how I actually do it in the field. No matter what camera and lens you are using, start with these settings;

ISO 1600*     Manual Mode     30 seconds     Lens wide open (lowest f-stop number)

*Unless you have one of the very high-end cameras, say a Nikon D4s, you will need to become comfortable with a higher than normal level of noise and grain. You can correct for this with de-noise software, but at the expense of lost detail.

Start shooting at these settings and check your results. If the image is too dark you will need to go to a higher ISO. If it’s too bright you can go to a lower ISO to reduce noise/grain, or shorten the exposure to get more pin-point stars. It’s not practical to go to a longer exposure than 30 seconds. Thirty seconds is the longest you can go without getting noticeably ovaled stars.

A Caution: During the day we often have problems seeing the image on the LCD screen because the sun is so bright. The opposite problem happens with night shooting. The image on the LCD may look great, but when you load it into your computer it’s very dark, maybe even black. You will want the image on your screen at night to be very bright.




Scheduled Photo Tours and Photography Workshop for the Remainder of the Year, including Moab, Canyonlands, Arches, Cedar Mesa, Monument Valley, Crested Butte Wildflower Festival and Colorado Fall Colors Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Scheduled events that still have openings:

August 1 – 2   Colorado Wildflower workshop.  I usually hold this to coincide with the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, but I’m holding it later than usual this year because of the cool, wet spring, AND I’m holding it in Ouray.  I discovered high altitude fields above Ouray last year that are far better than anything I’ve found in Crested Butte.
August 1 – 8   Colorful Colorado.  The first 2 days of this 8 day workshop are the Ouray wildflower workshop, then we do a whirlwind tour of the state, including Hovenweep/Mesa Verde/Canyon of the Ancients, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain National Park, Maroon Bells, Crystal Mill, etc.
September 26 – 27  Colorado Fall Colors  We will base this workshop out of Ridgway.  Field work will include Ouray and Telluride
October 9 – 12  4 Day Moab to Monument Valley Night Photography     We’ll do night photography in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks before moving on to Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley.
My Yellowstone/Tetons and Grand Canyon workshops are full.Scheduled
Doing Photography in the Desert Southwest Thursday, May 7th, 2015

It’s All About the Search

Recollections about fieldwork in Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Cedar Mesa and Colorado National Monument

I’ve retired twice. Photography is my 3rd career. I began the business side of this by conducting photo tours in Rocky Mountain National Park, a 45 minute drive from my home. That was in 2008. I think I had 4 clients in that first year. By 2014/2015 I was licensed and conducting private photo tours and group photography workshops in Colorado, Florida, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. I work in the Everglades, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain National Park, Canyonlands, Arches, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Cedar Mesa. With all these spectacular places to call my office, my passion is the desert southwest. To quote Steve McQueen, “I’d rather be in the middle of nowhere than any place on earth”.

It’s not even conducting the photo tours and workshops that motivate me. Those are simply the means to the end. They provide the funds and the excuse for what really drives me, the search and sense of discovery. I have no recollection of my first visit to Mesa Arch, Delicate Arch or House on Fire Ruin, even though I have images of those places now considered iconic by some people. I do remember the 5 trips on 5 consecutive monthly new moons to Delicate Arch it took to get the lighting right for my night shot with the Milky Way.

Delicate Arch 2

I remember the 4 trips to House on Fire Ruin that it took to experiment with different lumen powers and light bulb Kelvin temperatures to get the look I wanted in this shot. I remember the 18 months of conversations with the powers that be at the Monticello office of the BLM over my rights to take and present this image to the public. Their first call to me was a 15 minute demand that I stop taking the picture and remove it from my website and all my promotional literature. It reached a point where they said “By reaching your hand inside the ruin to set a battery-powered lantern, you are, technically, entering the ruin” (which is illegal). Me: “What about the hundreds of people who stick their heads in to look around?” Them: “We can’t control them, but we can control you because you have a commercial permit”. This resolved itself in my favor when a scheduled meeting between us fell 3 days into the 2013 government shutdown.

House Fire Ruin Night20x41

My absolute favorite part of the business, though, is doing the field research in my never-ending hunt for new places to take clients. I began searching for Doll House Ruin in 2011. It was rumored to be in the age range of 750+ years old, in pristine condition and with a completely intact wood roof. There was no information available on the internet in 2011 about where it was located. I began by inquiring with the volunteers at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station on Cedar Mesa. After quite a bit of searching they came up with a set of GPS coordinates they translated from the government system to the public Degrees-MMss format. My wife and I spend 7 hours that day driving and searching, to no avail. I checked with the Edge of Cedars Museum and noted desert southwest archaeologist Winston Hurst. Later, I called the BLM office in Monticello. I expected them to deny knowing anything about it since the site was known to still have artifacts in situ. To my surprise, the ranger gave me another set of coordinates. Another search, another dead end. And so it went until early 2013 when I found a set of directions on a desert southwest site. I managed to find Doll House, even though the directions contained 2 errors! This is the image I got on that first visit. The next day I had a vision of shooting it a night with lighting. I went back in 2 weeks, carried in my lighting and came home with this.


Doll-House-Night-2 - Copy

 My wife and I have just released our first book, A Photographer’s Guide to Colorado’s National Parks and Monuments. Before the printed versions even landed on my driveway I had a vision of doing another book, this one about night photography in the desert southwest. Who knows how many changes the concept for that book will undergo before it becomes a reality, but for now that is giving me the drive and focus to pursue new, uncommon images in that genre. A few weeks ago I spent parts of 3 days looking for The Big Crane petroglyph in Butler Wash. Even with GPS coordinates I just couldn’t rein it in. The third time was a charm (with the help of Jim from the Recapture Lodge in Bluff).


The Crane is in the upper left of this image

Like any other job with deadlines (even if self-imposed), everything isn’t always fun and games. I just returned from a 2 week scouting trip to Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley where the goal was to find new sites suitable for night photography. It rained, snowed or blew walls of dust all but one day of the trip. In 2014 I went into False Kiva, in Canyonlands National Park, for night photography. When I arrived there was a group of 3 young Asian tourists and an older man. They were in a conversation that I wasn’t really paying attention to, but struck me a bit strange. The man intended to stay for night photography. The Asians were leaving and said over their shoulders “Well, if the sky clears we may come back for night photography and if we do we’ll bring you some water.” Clearly, he had no water. What I didn’t know until later, after we struck up a conversation with him, was that the Asians had found him lying unconscious in the trail at the bottom of the alcove. They had managed to get him and his camera gear up into the alcove… and then left him. He had driven 15 hours straight from California to the False Kiva trailhead, then hiked in with no water or food. After our night shooting session it fell to me to guide him back to his car. About 5 minutes into the climb out he began screaming and vomiting violently. My friend and I ended up carrying all our gear out plus his gear. It took us 2 hours to get him back to his car.

False kiva night 9

One of my more interesting experiences happened while I was researching Colorado National Monument for our book. My plan was to hike the Independence Monument Trail to get a sunrise shot of the Monument and the Kissing Couple. Because it would be a 1 to 1.5 hour hike in the dark on an unfamiliar trail I hiked it the evening before and got this shot of the moonrise over Grand Mesa.





I started hiking the next morning about 4 AM. About two weeks prior, there had been reports of mountain lion encounters in the Boulder area, so mountain lions were a bit on my mind. In all my night hiking I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a critter of any kind, but I admit that on this day I stopped twice to scan around me with my headlamp for any eyes shining back at me. About one hour into the hike I rounded a bend and saw 21 pair of eyes reflecting back at me. With my heart racing, I quickly set up my tripod and camera and ripped off one shot while having no idea what my settings were. After about a minute I had the presence of mind to shoot again with a very high ISO (6400), which allowed me to see that they were big horn sheep. I continued along the trail and got the sunrise shot I was looking for. When I returned down the trail about an hour later the sheep were up, moving, and standing in the trail. As I approached, they parted, leaving me at a 30 foot path between them for me to pass through.




There is a big difference between “taking pictures” and “doing photography”. Photography is hard work. I wouldn’t trade the experiences it provides for anything!


Bob Maynard operates Colorado Plateau Photo Tours ( and has just published his co-authored book, A Photographer’s Guide to Colorado’s National Parks and Monuments. He lives in Boulder, Colorado and loves photographing the desert southwest.

Ancient Skies Through Ancient Eyes Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

I stopped at Sego Canyon on my way to Moab and Monument Valley to do this night shot.


Next Workshop and Photo Tour: Canyonlands, Arches, Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley Night Photography Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

The 4 day Canyon Country night photography workshop will be March 26 – 29.  We’ll start in Moab with Delicate Arch and Double Arch, then head to Cedar Mesa to replicate my night shot of House on Fire Ruin.  Nights 3 and 4 we’ll be in Monument Valley doing sunrise and night photography.  Fun! Fun! Fun!

_DSC4875 Double-Arch-Inside-Out---Bob Double-Arch-Nigh---Bob Totem-Pole-Silhouette House Fire Ruin Night20x41

2015 Starts With Night Photography in Moab, Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Here is the schedule for my 2015 workshops:

March:  The Everglades:  The Everglades is one of my favorite places to shoot.  When you know where to go and what time to be there the Everglades is non-stop shooting.

March:  Night Photography in the Desert Southwest:  Moab, Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley with Possible add-on of Arizona slot canyons.

April:  Moab, Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley:  Choose buffet style from the parts of this trip that interest you.

May:  Rock Art and Ruins of the Desert Southwest.  A Journey Through Colorado and Utah’s Desert and Canyon Country.

July:  Colorful Colorado:  Circumnavigate Colorado in a whirlwind tour that begins in NE Colorado at Rocky Mountain National Park and then takes in Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde National Park,  Hovenweep National Park, the Maroon Bells and Crystal Mill near Aspen, and two days in the incredibly dense wildflowers of the high alpine basins above Ouray, Colorado.

July:  Colorado Wildflowers:  Previously marketed as my Crested Butte Wildflower Workshop, I’ve moved this to Ouray, Colorado after discovering the high altitude basins above Ouray that are much more dense in flowers.

August:  The Grand Canyon:  Photograph this amazing wonder of Nature in a 5 day workshop that will encompass both the North and South Rims and end with a helicopter flight into the trailhead for Havasu Falls.  Havasu Falls is possibly the most stunning waterfall in the United States for photographers.

September:  Colorado Fall Colors:  Centered around Ridway, Ouray and Telluride and the splendor of the San Juan Mountain in SW Colorado.

September:  Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons:  Capture the wildlife and grand landscapes of America’s oldest national park and it’s sister to the south on this 5 day workshop.

October:  Night Photography in the Desert Southwest:  Moab, Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley with Possible add-on of Arizona slot canyons.

October: Moab, Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley:  Choose buffet style from the parts of this trip that interest you.

November:  Rock Art and Ruins of the Desert Southwest.  A Journey Through Colorado and Utah’s Desert and Canyon Country.

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lupines-and-columbine  Bob-Vixie-Shooting  Roseate-Spoonbill-7

Big-Horn-Sheep-7    Telluride-River-Walk-Painting-2  TheTurret19_12.79Print FINAL Crystal Mill

Delicate Arch 2

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

I finally finished loading my complete 2015 photography workshop schedule into my website. It needs to be cleaned up a bit, but all the info is correct. Next up: March 26-29 Desert Southwest Night Photography, including 2 nights in Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation. This will include sessions with females modeling traditional Navajo clothing, staged horse sessions with the Navajo horsed out among the formations. As a BONUS, this trip is scheduled to coincide with the shadows of the Mittens aligning!  As always, our schedule is heavily based around Moab, Canyonlands, Arches and Rocky Mountain National Parks, but I’ve also added the Everglades, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, the Grand Canyon and a new tour of Colorad, “Colorful Colorado” that circumnavigates the state to cover Rocky Mountain National Park, Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Park and Canyon of the Ancients, the Maroon Bells and Crystal Mill.



Merry Christmas, and to All a Good Night! Saturday, December 27th, 2014

I’m hitting the road again tomorrow, headed back to Cortez trying to photograph solstice archaeoastronomy events on the Ute Reservation. I’ll be back just in time for Christmas, so I’m taking this opportunity to send best wishes to everyone for Christmas and the New Year.  From Cortez I go to Blanding to take down my photography exhibit, “The Magic of the Desert Southwest”, a 31 piece exhibit that’s been hanging at the Edge of Cedars Museum throughout 2014.


Mallard Farm 2009

New Space Available for Yellowstone-Tetons, Moab – Canyonlands and Arches, and Fall Colors Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

I had a client coming from Bangladesh for all these photo tours from September 15 to September 31.  He found out 2 days ago that his cancer has returned… it had been in remission for 3 years.  So, there is 1 space available as follows:

1.  Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park, September 16-22

2.  Moab, including Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Cedar Mesa.  September 23, 24 and 25th.

3.  Colorado Fall Colors, September 27 and 28, with possible add-ons for Maroon Bells and Crystal Mill on September 29 and 30.

Email me at if you’re interested!

Night Photography Near Moab: Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park and Cedar Mesa Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Here is my photography workshop schedule for the rest of the year:
August 9-10 RMNP Night Photography: FULL
September 16-22 Yellowstone-Tetons: FULL
September 27-28 SW Colorado Fall Colors: 2 spaces left
October 4-5 Utah Cedar Mesa/Moab: 3 spaces left
October 21-22 Utah Cedar Mesa: 3 spaces left
October 23-24 Utah Cedar Mesa: 3 spaces left
October 25-26 Utah Monument Valley: 3 spaces left
November 1-7 Ultimate Desert SW Tour: FULL

Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are becoming my favorite places for night photography.  While the iconic images from Canyonlands and Arches are becoming a dime a dozen while the place is being over-run by photographers, far fewer people are willing or able to go to the trouble of carrying in the gear to do night photography.  Here are some images from my recent Moab, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks Night Photography Tour and Workshop:


The above is Double Arch in Arches National Park.


This is the inside-out shot in Double Arch, Arches National Park.  I use 9 lights to create this scene, shot at 14mm from high up the inside wall.


This is Doll House Ruin north of Cedar Mesa in central Utah.  It took me 3 years to find this ruin.  It’s between 750 and 1200 years old.  The wood roof is completely intact.  It’s believed to be the only free-standing rectangular ruin in the region.