Archive for the ‘Grand Gulch’ Category

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.


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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Delicate Arch 2

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Join me tonight at the Muse Gallery in Longmont for my talk: 
What’s the Camera Got To Do With It?
Perfect 90% of the Time
356 Main Street, Longmont!
I’ll be displaying images shot from cameras that cost between a few hundred and several thousand dollars…. see if you can tell which came from which camera!

Big Horn Sheep 2

Back from Moab and Cedar Mesa Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Just returned from giving a night photography workshop with a client from Houston.  It was cold and rainy the entire time but we still managed to capture some good images.  One of the things we did was a re-shoot of my now well known House on Fire Ruin at night where I light the inside of the ruin and then light paint the exterior,  We tried several new approaches to the light painting, including painting with red light.  When I process I’ll desaturate the reds to see the results.  Can’t wait to post them.  One night we shot in Canyonlands and Arches on the same night.  LONG night!

Openings in the Crested Butte Wildflower Photography Workshop, the Moab, Canyonlands and Arches Night Photography Workshop and summer private Rocky Mountain National Park Photo Tours Sunday, May 5th, 2013

I have 2 openings for the June Crested Butte Wildflower Photography Workshop, 2 openings for the July Moab, Canyonlands and Arches Night Photography Workshop and many available dates for private workshops in Rocky Mountain National Park.  See the website for details or contact me at 303-547-0807.

House Fire Ruin Night20x41

Night Photography In Arches and Canyonlands Sunday, May 5th, 2013

I’m heading out early in the morning to Moab to guide some people into destinations in Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park for night photography.  This photography workshop will focus (no pun intended) on calculating settings and establishing the correct light painting techniques for capturing the Milky Way behind iconic image sites.  We will be working at Double Arch, Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, the Three Gossips in Arches National Park as well as sites within Canyonlands National Park.  After my clients have left I’m going to do a run down to Cedar Mesa to seek out a few ruins sites that are new to me.  Cedar Mesa is rapidly becoming my favorite destination.

Delicate Arch 2

SPRING HAS SPRUNG! Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

After several postponements spring is finally playing it’s opening game today.  In Rocky Mountain National Park that means highs in the 40s, lows in the 20s.  Around Moab, in Canyonlands National Park, Cedar Mesa and Arches National Park spring means highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s.  The high plateaus of Cedar Mesa will still be vulnerable to snow for the next month.  SW Colorado, including Crested Butte has missed most of the April storm and hence the wildflower forecast has still not improved much.  Time to grab the cameras and get out there!!!

Let’s Wander Through the Desert Together! Sunday, April 14th, 2013

If you look closely just under the rock rim in this images you’ll see that there are ruins all the way around under the overhang.  This is very close to Blanding, Utah on Cedar Mesa.  The name of this place is Spirit Cave.  Love that name.  I’m heading to Moab the first week of May for 2 days of shooting in Canyonlands and Arches, then down to Cedar Mesa where I’ll spend a day working with a client, then 2 days on my own just doing more desert wandering looking for ruins.

Jenny Canyon Ruin 12

A Word of Caution on the Sublimated Metal Printing Process Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

There are about 6 pieces currently hanging at the Boulder Dairy Center for the Arts as part of the Land Through the Lens show that were printed using a somewhat new process called sublimated metal.  The images are sharp and appear to be high detail and a high gloss finish.  As part of winning the Commissioners’ Award for the show I received a $300 certificate to Mike’s Camera and I decided to use it on some test pieces to see if I liked it.

Before ordering I spoke with Tim Emerson of DuraPlaq about it.  He told me he experimented with it 5 years ago and gave up on it because the colors weren’t true and it was susceptible to scratching.  He was right.

I gave them digital files on 3 pieces, one from Rocky Mountain National Park, one from Canyonlands National Park and one from Arches National Park.  The first one I opened was the owl shot from Rocky Mountain National Park.  It looked a bit brighter than normal and the blues were a bit strong, but everything was in the acceptable range.  Then I opened the ones from Canyonlands and Arches.  I was shocked.  To say the colors aren’t true would be an understatement.  The blue skies were gray, green pine trees were black and orange fall color aspen leaves were yellow.  I returned to Mike’s with the piece thinking they would surely re-do it.  No such thing.  The basically said that’s what happens with the process and they couldn’t do anything about it.  BEWARE!