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Nature’s Collection: Desert Terrain

Purple Prickly Pear
before seeing this, if someone were to tell me that there were purple cactus, i would have certainly thought they were seeing how gullible i might be. pleasantly surprised, i discovered these in southern Arizona. of all colours for mother nature to make a cactus, purple has got to be the best.

Distant Wall
distant wall of sandstone in warm evening light (Utah wilderness)

Arizona wilderness

Evening Walls
south-eastern Utah

Saguaro Blooms
I planned my passage through southern Arizona when the giant saguaros would be in bloom. I always enjoy shooting flowers, but these blooms posed a new problem for me - they were all twenty to thirty feet above ground. As I hiked around exposing film on all sorts of life, I not only came across a good steep hill, but it had a large healthy cactus growing right next to it. Thanking mother nature for making this possible, I set up on the side of the hill and maxed out my largest zoom lens to capture these blooms.

Caverns 1
Below ground caverns in Arizona wilderness, carved out by centuries of flash flood waters from rain many miles away.

Cactus Land
tall Saguaro cactus towering over others in southern Arizona

Wall Mounds
vertical blade-like mounds of sandstone in eastern Utah

Delicate Arch 1
eastern Utah near Moab

Nature's Wall
One of my favorite locations is southeastern Utah. The area has many bizarre rock formations in all shapes and sizes. It is just after dawn and I'm on my way to a planned trailhead as I pass by these absolutely massive walls of rock. A few extra moments for this side trip won't hurt my plans, so I stop and wait for the sun to raise just a little higher. I grab a non-distorting wide angle lens and finish setting up in front of this wonder. The low warm light made this giant formation glow with contrasting shadowed edges, enhancing its texture and rich colour, making for a beautiful image to preserve on film.

Up & Over
Delicate Arch, one of the most photographed natural arches in the country, and is even the state icon appearing on nearly everything throughout Utah. It is quite massive and resides on the edge of a steep canyon wall that quickly slopes more and more, making the hiker uncertain just how far beyond this landmark they can travel before footing will give way.

Desert Pools
hot mineral springs in Wyoming

Desert Rainbow
It was late spring in the Utah desert and I got caught in a light rain shower. It was hot, so the rain felt nice, but I still didn't want to get soaked and be encumbered with wet clothes. I stooped under a tree about the height of a house (tall for the region) and let it shelter me from most of the rain. In about 30 minutes, it turned to a fine mist and I continued up the mountain. Soon the sun started to peek out and turned my surroundings to a steamy sauna. Whenever the sun comes out after a rain, I immediately look for the possibility of a rainbow. Rainbows are so beautiful and last only a moment, that I do everything possible to capture one onto film. Sure enough, one started to emerge right in front of me, but was mostly obscured by the ground, so I started to run up the hill for a better view. The mountainside was steep and seemed to never end. Each time I thought I could see it leveling off, by the time I got there, it continued upward. I was exhausted and time was quickly counting down. I managed to make my way to a partial overlook and captured ¾ of the arch of colour before it faded away.

Walls & Trees
It is slow and tiresome hiking through miles of these steep rows of sandstone walls. it's a very beautiful location, speckled with small trees and interesting formations, but relentless with it's heat and giant maze-like features. most of my time is used climbing up & down (and winding to & fro) than actual forward progress (if forward is even a possible direction).

Arch View
This natural arch was within a large section of land called "Canyonlands" in southeast Utah. Although there are many distant things to see in this vast territory, this photo opportunity was a brief hike from the road. Upon first finding this framed lookout onto the valley below, I just knew it would make a great image. For some time, I moved around, first left and right, then closer and farther, higher and lower, until I ultimately got the rock formations below to frame nicely inside the arch (and had enough space to setup a camera).

All Thorns
I saw this breed of cactus on the high mountains in Perú. Being more familiar with our southwestern cactus, these guys were comparatively scrawny with abnormally long thorns due to the harsh high-elevation climate.

World Below 2
Wind blowing across the desert is dropping in ultra-fine sand like a constant dry rain. It is gently piling up everywhere on us and our equipment, but when the sun reaches its highest point, the light illuminates the raining sand and produces these shafts of light.

Delicate Arch 2
eastern Utah near Moab

Variegated Agave
giant variegated Agave plant in Arizona desert

Yucca Tree
Yucca tree (Yucca brevifolia) in Mojave desert.

Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch in Paria wilderness.

This is the remains of Bristol Lake in the Mojave Desert. After the water evaporated and lake bottom began to dry, the variations in temperature caused the drying surface to crack and the soft elements underneath to ooze out between the cracks, forming little walls. The surface is extremely hard and rock-like and the jagged walls are strong and sharp.

Prickly Poppy
in the deserts of Utah

Standing Tall
Saguaro cactus in southern Arizona

Barrel Cactus
Barrel Cactus in southern Arizona desert

Arizona wilderness

World Below 1
This beautiful moment was captured on Navajo's land in Arizona. With permission from the Native Americans, I visited their sacred and amazing canyons. It's a bit windy topside so there is a constant shower of sand pouring in. In just a few minutes, piles of this ultra-fine sand begin to build up on our shoulders, pockets, and equipment making the day-long adventure quite memorable. When the sun is at its highest, it illuminates some of these sand showers to appear as magnificent beams of light.

Wall Arch
natural arch in wall of sandstone in eastern Utah

Stone Heads
funny-shaped sandstone monuments in Utah wilderness

Wall Spires
very large wall of tightly packed spires in Utah wilderness

The Bryce Bowl
Once you get high enough, you can take in an entire bowl section of Bryce Canyon in one view.

Arizona plantlife

a fun place to roam around with a camera within a remote corner of the Utah wilderness

Giant Dunes
I'm standing in the middle of 39 square miles of giant sand dunes in southern Colorado. These dunes reach heights of 750 feet - the largest in the States. Winds blow across the San Luis Valley and carry the sand to the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where it becomes trapped and piles up into these incredible dunes. The area is quite vast and remote, and maintains a certain silence of desolate peace. I got up at 1am, drove to location hours before sunrise, and hauled my camera gear over countless mounds of sand to capture a variety of early morning images like this one above.

Delicate Arch 3
eastern Utah near Moab

Desert Sculpture
These guys brought a great smile to my face as soon as I saw them. They looked so funny and entertaining, I nearly titled the shot "Abbott & Costello" after the famous comedian pair. They had a certain life about them, as if they were a part of some mythical legend beings that became frozen into these rock formations. The two formations are actually a fair distance apart, making a combined photo more of a challenge. So I did my usual circle the item of interest until you find the best perspective. I tried hiking a ways away and zooming in from a neighboring hill, then up close, then this side or another, until discovering this perspective that worked perfectly for my taste.

Three Sentinels
When my eyes first caught a glimpse of these sentinel-like rock formations, I knew I had to stop. They had a certain presence about them and radiated this character over the surrounding land they watched. For a couple of hours, I circled around these watchmen in search of the best perspective. The surrounding area had a few small hills to assist me with more options until I stopped in the midst of a dried riverbed. Here it was low and close enough to enhance the sentinels' supremacy and the land they guarded.

Desert Bush
Nevada wilderness in early morning.

Vermillion Mounds
I was hiking to the Paria wilderness in Arizona and parked my car in southern Utah, as far as the nearest dirt road would take me. On my way to the Arizona border (located at the "V" on the far left), I passed by a grouping of vermillion striped mounds that reminded me of a dessert of some sort. Perhaps it was just the heat and my desire for something cold to eat.

Along the desert surface, a lengthy crack can be seen. More exploring reveals an entire other world of underground beauty. I have the camera pointed up at about 45° toward these whirls of sandstone carved out by centuries of flash flood waters from rain many miles away.

Lake Powell
northern Arizona (Utah border)

Caverns 2
Below ground caverns in Arizona wilderness, carved out by centuries of flash flood waters from rain many miles away.

Caverns 3
Below ground caverns in Arizona wilderness, carved out by centuries of flash flood waters from rain many miles away.

Waves of Rock
This is truly in the middle of nowhere and reachable only by foot (or perhaps parachute). It's hard to believe that rock could form in such fluid shapes but it sure makes for a great find for those willing to bare the elements of the desert.