About a month ago reached out to my friend Matt Payne to see if he was up for a few nights out at Canyonlands for some freezing temperatures and Grand Vista Photography. BTW Matt owns and hosts an excellent Podcast called "F-Stop Collaborate & Listen” focused on current topics encompassing the Landscape Photography Community. If you have any interest in Landscape Photography whatsoever, you’re going to want to subscribe to his podcast. Matt interviews the very best photographers around the globe and those conversations are always a worthy listen.
Ive known Matt since my mountain climbing days so Ive always been keen on his love for a grand scenics. All those mountains we climbed back in the day always served up huge, expansive views so every once in a while it's nice to revisit those kinds of scenes. Matts a pretty smart dude, so he took me up on the idea. He and his son Quinn would meet me in a few days.
I drove out the day before and enjoyed another beautiful winter evening at Arches. The next morning I met Matt and Quinn at a local Mexican food restaurant. After inhaling some kind of vicious Ghost Pepper sauce and pounding three glasses of ice water, we agreed to spend the next three evenings up on the Canyonlands plateau vs checking out Arches. It was Matt & Quinn’s first visit to Canyonlands so I thought giving them the tour and getting off the beaten path a bit was the right choice. We always lean toward visiting places with less people, and Canyonlands in winter is super quiet and the views off the plateau are always inspiring.
We set up camp at the comfortable Willow Flats campground and built up basecamp for the two nights. We enjoyed good beer & food.. and of course...Matts’s patended HUGE campfires to fend off the below 20 degree temps. I would be remiss if I didn’t mentioned that we laughed ourselves to sleep both nights.
The next few days we hit up all the overlooks, and spent a bit more time exploring the Grand View area. We hiked the rim for a few miles, taking an inventory of future compositions with better light. Matt and I never expect to just show up and get amazing light, so our expectations for the perfect photo will be low, but we love being outdoors in epic places. One day we'll go back at the right time and nail the shot.
Our last day, we stopped by the popular Mesa Arch. Its such a short hike, why not have a look at that epic, glowing bounce-light scene. Matt just had to experience the 40+ photographers all lined up shoulder to shoulder for the sun-star shot. Regardless of its tarnished reputation for being over crowded and beat down by visitation, we came away feeling the crowd was truly impressed. Most remember their first visit to Mesa Arch. It's one of those scenes that inspires people to see more of Mother Natures gems. I say let Mesa Arch be that beacon of light for us to explore more. However, we need to understand that Mesa Arch is just one of thousands of amazing scenes around the world. Collectively we humans will have a never ending impact on the surrounding environment of these locations. We really have no idea what this scene will look like in 20+ years but if we (you & me) continue to create awareness of our impact, maybe we can slow down the erosion process vs accelerating it. We have all heard of "Leave no Trace." Those are critical preservation values that still exist today. "Natures First" is a newer more modern set of conservation values aimed mostly, but not confined to Landscape Photographers. Only 7 steps, check them out and make the right choice to be a steward of of these simple steps.
I love Canyonlands. When I leave from Denver and travel west, I’ll stay at Canyonlands for the night. When I drive back to Denver, I’ll stop be Canyonlands for a night. I feel at home there.