Desert

Reach for the Sky

Reach for the Sky

Reach for the Sky

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I shot this image within twenty minutes of arriving in the area, having just missed a lightning bolt I came back day after day but never got anymore storm activity. The shot reminds me of the Vietnam war movie platoon where, having been shot a soldier falls backwards with arms outstretched.

From the movie Platoon

From the movie Platoon


Studhorse Point

Studhorse Point

Studhorse Point

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I always car camp when I visit the States, there’s no other way I could afford to stay for six months a time. Some people have questioned how I can spend so long sleeping in the back of a car, I’d say I love doing it. When in the general vicinity of Page Arizona Studhorse Point is one of my favourite places places to camp.

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Coal Mine Canyon

Coal Mine Canyon

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Little known Coal Mine Canyon is one of the most incredible areas of the American southwest.  The colored Dakota sandstone layers around the rim are soft and crumbly Dakota sandstone lying on top of thicker bands of the Entrada Formation, with red, white, black and gray the main colors. The top strata have wildly contrasting tints in quick succession – red then white then orange then black, over a vertical distance of just a few feet. The bright red layers are the result of coloration of shale due to partial burning of the underlying coal. The erosional forms are generally similar to many other Southwest parks (such as Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Cathedral Gorge and Red Rock Canyon), but none of these can match the variety of both color and form on show at Coal Mine Canyon.

Choosing to shooting Coal Mine Canyon during the monsoon gave me a far better chance of capturing a dramatic sky.


The Three Amigos

Monekopi Sandstone

The Three Amigos

This image was taken at one of the most remote areas of the American southwest; the rock is an example of Moenkopi sandstone.  The night before I’d been caught up in a very heavy storm; it appeared extremely unlikely I’d get a shot in the morning. The sun had to rise above a line of cliffs before there’d be any light on the formation. I knew the time of sunrise, but could only estimate the time it would take to rise over the cliffs. I was unsure of the precise angle and convinced myself it had already risen, I was close to packing up when for the briefest moment the sun popped out from behind the clouds. I captured the fleeting moments of light before the sun went back behind the clouds.


Mittens Shadow

Mittens Shadow

Mittens Shadow

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At Monument Valley the setting sun lines up twice a year to create a shadow across these rock formations known as the Mittens. In recent years it’s turned into a big event for landscape photographers. The shadow occurs twice a year, once in the spring and once in the early fall.


Pepperjack Rock

PepperJack Rock

PepperJack Rock

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I saw pictures of this rock online and I was really keen to try to shoot it myself. I’ve said it before, it’s a talentless way to photograph but at the time I was fascinated with rock formations. The rock can be found in Valley of Fire State Park just north of Las Vegas. Entrance to the park costs $10 a day or about $70 for an annual pass, believing I would need at least seven days to get an interesting sky I bought the annual pass. As luck would have it I got the shot the day I bought the pass. I used an eight stop ND filter to allow me to shoot the sky for around 2 minutes, this created the streaky effect.

Here’s one from a little earlier:

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The Hopi Clown

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Rock spires or hoodoos at they are better known have long held a fascination for me. This rock, which resembles a Pueblo Hopi clown is perhaps the least visited in the American Southwest.  Indian Reservation roads, particularly obscure rarely travelled ones are not featured on paper maps so my approach was planned on Google Earth. I use GE extensively in my planning, through the program it’s possible to create a route anywhere on the planet and load it onto a handheld GPS, without doing this I’d never have found the rock. It took three attempts to get here, on one attempt the roads were impassible, myself and a friend got caught up in this flash flood.


Shiprock New Mexico

Shiprock New Mexico

Shiprock New Mexico

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I’d been shooting at another location about 30 miles away when a winter storm blew in. With little time to spare I made the decision to leave and drive out to this spectacular mountain situated in northwest New Mexico. I’d only ever seen the rock from a distance and had no idea where I’d find a composition. As I approached from the south the storm worsened and visibility reduced to less than a half mile. It was fast approaching sunset so I had little time to waste, I used my handheld GPS to get in a position roughly southwest of the rock. I parked the car at the side of the highway but could see nothing of the mountain. Incredibly right at sunset the clouds cleared and I realised I’d parked at a great spot and was able to capture this scene. Some telegraph poles were removed in Photoshop


Look back Rock

Look Back Rock

Look Back Rock

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My sole intention was to shoot a subject in the opposite direction but when the sun rose I glanced over my   shoulder and saw the light was really nice.   I was able to shoot these hoodoos without moving my tripod, I literally turned the camera 180º and fired the shutter.


Toroweep Point

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Toroweep Point

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A visit to the more touristy areas of the Grand Canyon can be a frustrating affair, parking lots are often crowded with over sized American vehicles. Viewpoints may be crammed with hundreds of foreign tourists all clamouring to take the all important selfie. Fortunately there’s Toroweep Point, it’s not unusual, particularly on weekdays to have the entire place to yourself. Toroweep is one of the narrowest parts of the canyon and with a vertical 3000′ drop to the Colorado River the view is nothing short of spectacular.  The best time to visit is during the summer monsoons, however, the 60 mile dirt access road becomes impassible when wet so visitors need to be prepared.

Here’s a couple:

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Eggshell Arch

Eggshell Arch

Eggshell Arch

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I first saw a picture of this arch in a photographer’s guide to the southwest, the book written by Laurent Matres showed a picture but gave no indication of the location because the arch is deep within the Navajo Reservation. I come from England where there’s no such thing as trespassing, so I use this as something of an excuse to explain my decision to trespass on Navajo lands. Finding the arch proved easier than expected, my Garmin handheld GPS has a feature whereby you can ask it to ‘find points of interest’.

In order to reach the arch you have to drive through a small Navajo settlement, undoubtedly there’s a good chance you’ll come across someone who doesn’t appreciate strangers on their land. I decided the best approach was to drive in the dark when people were sleeping. My plan seemed to be going well until my Jeep became bogged down in deep sand. As I rocked the vehicle back and forth in an attempt to free myself I woke up a local Navajo who came out to see what I was doing.

I tried a feeble and pre-planned excuse “I’ve been driving all day and needed to pull in to sleep” I said. The game was up when it was pointed out that I was 4 miles down a dirt track! I expected to be turned around and forced to leave but instead I made a friend. Jeff was about 30, he’d just got out of jail that day – I never asked! – instead of turning me back he invited me into the family hogan. The following morning he took me to the arch on the back of a powerful quad bike, it was obvious that the shot would be best at sunset so we agreed that I could return unhindered, “just say Jeff said it was ok” apparently everyone knew Jeff – again I never asked!

I returned weeks later, unfortunately Jeff was back in jail and I never got to meet him again.


Desert Cathedral

Desert Cathedral

Desert Cathedral

Only when you get close to this cave do you realize its potential for photography. It’s then that you come to understand that there are many places within the American Southwest that have yet to be discovered. Huge thanks must go to the guy who not only shared this location with me but was also kind enough to bring me fresh espresso when I’d camp out here.


Salt Mine Bolivia

Salt Mine Salar de Uyuni Bolivia

Salt Mine Salar de Uyuni Bolivia

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The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world and one of the top tourist destinations in Bolivia. I took a 4WD trip onto the salt but I had to return on my own to visit this area. The locals from the town of Colchani use natural spring water to soften the salt before raking it into these small pyramids where they dry in the sun. Working at high altitude with blinding glare reflected from the salt must be torturous work.


Tibetan Plains

Tibetan Plains

Tibetan Plains

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Back in 2007 I rode my bicycle from Liverpool in England to Lhasa in Tibet, the near 10,000 route took me through England, France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and finally into Tibet. This is a shot taken on the high Tibetan plateau, I add a few more below.

Dirt road began in Germany!

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One of the main roads in Turkey

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Difficult terrain!

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Tajikistan was amazing

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Low Tajik’ valley

Tanks from the Soviet invasion

Tanks from the Soviet invasion

Endless scenery

Mountain roads

First tarmac in weeks

First tarmac in weeks

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Nothing but junk food on sale

Bizarre choco' wrappers!

Bizarre choco’ wrappers!

Rest stop

Rest stop

Stealth camping was not without risk

Stealth camping was not without risk

Inquisitive Tibetan children

Inquisitive Tibetan children

Tough direction finding

Tough direction finding

 


Tongue and Groove

Tongue and Groove

Tongue and Groove

Antelope Canyon near Page Arizona is so well known that people automatically assume any slot canyon shot must have been taken in that one canyon. There area actually hundreds of slot canyons in the American Southwest, even the Grand Canyon is in effect a slot canyon. Antelope Canyon is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful slot canyons; the best time to photograph Antelope is in June when the sun is high overhead, unfortunately this is also one of the busiest times for tourists. For that reason I have always preferred to scout lesser known canyons. This particular feature can be found in a remote canyon about 3 miles hike from the road. I would hazard a guess and say it receives only one or two visitors a year, compare that to Antelope which probably gets a couple of hundred thousand visitors per year!

Here’s two more:

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