Monday, September 29, 2014

Monument Valley - A Photographer's Paradise

You've seen this place in countless movies and TV commercials... and for good reason. In Monument Valley you are immersed in spectacular vistas, impossible monoliths and mystical sensations. The photographer is tempted at every turn. 

The best time to take photographs is late afternoon and we were lucky to have a sky with interesting clouds. Here are a few examples of the fascinating terrain. It's not hard to get a great picture here. 

Monument Valley is on Navajo land and all of the tourism here is run by the Native Americans. You can take a guided tour in a large open truck (yuck) or pay a fee and drive the 17-mile dirt road in your own car. We opted for the latter to get more peace and solitude. 

This is our fourth visit to Monument Valley and we noticed a big growth in commercialism. There is a new hotel ("The View") and dozens of tour guides. Based on the number of foreign tourists, it seems that the Navajo have figured out how to market to Europe and Asia. Quite a contrast to the old days when you would pay the Navajo a few dollars and they would let you on their land. 

There is one hike available, a 3.8 mile loop around West Mitten. Interestingly we saw only a handful of people on this hike as most of the tourists seem to pile into the motorized guided tours. We really enjoyed the solitude and beautiful views and would heartily recommend taking this hike (bring lots of water - it's hot). 

Denise contemplates West Mitten from the Wild Cat trail
Denise on the trail with East Mitten and Merrick Butte
West Mitten looks much different as you circle it - the views keep changing. Here is a picture from the side.

I liked the clouds in this one - almost like a sail. 
Backlit with a halo around the thumb 

The hike took a bit less than 2 hours. We tried to get into "The View" hotel for dinner but they were booked with tourists so we had dinner at Gouldings Lodge. This was the hotel we had stayed in during our previous 3 visits. It hadn't changed... you don't visit Monument Valley for the food (enough said).

In the evening as the light was running out I took one more photograph. You've seen this one before - it's the "classic photo" taken from the patio of The View hotel and visitor center. 

Monument Valley is located on the Arizona/Utah border in the four corners region. It's a bit out of the way (Cortez CO and Farmington NM are the nearest cities) but it's worth the effort to get here.

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