The Coalmine Canyon Album

Coalmine Canyon #1

Yes, there was once a coal mine here in the late 1800s. But the seam was small, the coal was poor quality, and so the pioneers moved on from Coalmine Canyon and left the land to its owners, the Navajo and Hopi tribes of Native Americans. Good thing, because this gem of the Southwest is as lonely as it is gorgeous. The coal deposits at the top levels of the canyon are a key to its unique beauty, as they add black and blue colors to the usual red, orange and yellow tones of the desert, constructing a landscape like no other.

Coalmine Canyon #2
Coalmine Canyon #2

It is a photographer’s paradise on many levels. Most obviously, it is colorful, high relief, and in a climate zone of constantly changing light and seasons. Dawn, mid-day, sunset, bright sun and passing storms all change the character and mood of Coalmine Canyon. You will never see it and photograph it the same way twice.

Coalmine Canyon #4
Coalmine Canyon #4

It is also lonely. Not only will you see few other people exploring its rim, but the Native American stewards minimally manage your explorations. The Navajo tribe requests you get a permit to visit from any Navajo Tribal Parks office, but it is managed as wilderness and you are on your own to care for the land and respect the privacy of landowners.

Coalmine Canyon #5
Coalmine Canyon #5

One of the fascinating aspects of the canyon that appeals to me is the thin but intense red sandstone layers that occur among thick layers of white mudstone. In the canyon relief they give the strong impression of elevation lines on a topographic map.

Coalmine Canyon #7
Coalmine Canyon #7

Not only do I find these features appealing in horizontal vistas, but when seen in aerials taken directly above, they achieve an abstract quality. It can take a moment to realize what you are looking at.

Coalmine Canyon #8
Coalmine Canyon #8

As with most landscape photography, it is the light that makes or breaks the picture. The warm, angled light of dawn and dusk — broken clouds streaming patches of light across the immense acreage — even bright sun penetrating into impenetrable canyon — every condition presents new possibilities of color and composition.

Coalmine Canyon #6
Coalmine Canyon #6

To get to Coalmine Canyon, go to Tuba City, Arizona, which is on the Navajo Nation an hour north of Flagstaff,an hour south of Page, and an hour southwest of Kayenta. Stop at the Tribal office in town for a visit permit, then take Highway 264 southeast for 20 minutes, and you’re there. Find a few turnoffs on short dirt roads that will take you to overlooks. Most passenger cars can get to the closer vistas; a high-clearance vehicle takes you to some of the more remote spots.

Coalmine Canyon Arizona Map
Coalmine Canyon Arizona Map

The Beauty of Bears’ Ears

Tree of Life, Valley of the Gods

Bears’ Ears National Monument is the poster child for the many national monuments and other wild public lands that the Trump administration would like to turn over to state and private development — this despite every poll showing overwhelming popular support for their protection. Bears’ Ears has the added impetus of being co-created by various southwest native American tribes to protect, both literally and symbolically, thousands of years of heritage and antiquities. To a pitiable few, this is all the more reason to oppose it.

Beauty is but one of many reasons that public lands are a refuge in modern times. Being an artist, my inclination is to seek out and record the natural beauty of these lands, which they possess in abundance. Like many others, I have found a great deal — some of it well-documented and some of it unique to my vision. Presenting it here may or may not make and difference in the outcome of the struggle for preservation, but it is what I can do:

Arroyo at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Arroyo at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Cactus Bloom and Ruins
Cactus Bloom and Ruins
Sentinels at Sunset, Valley of the Gods
Sentinels at Sunset, Valley of the Gods
House on Fire Ruin
House on Fire Ruin
Sentinels at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Sentinels at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Goosenecks of the San Juan River
Goosenecks of the San Juan River
Orion Rising, Valley of the Gods
Sunset From the Moqui Dugway
Sunset From the Moqui Dugway

Dawn on the Rim, Colorado National Monument

Dawn on the Rim (new)

Grand Junction, Colorado, must be the luckiest city in the western USA. On it’s very doorstep — close enough to walk there with coffee before it gets cold — are soaring redrock canyons that others less fortunate drive hours to see. The sandstone towers and cliffs of Colorado National Monument give nothing away to more famous places on the Colorado Plateau such as Zion, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Park. It even has a beautiful stretch of the Colorado River at its feet. But more like Grand Canyon National Park, its main vistas are from the rim, looking down, where one feels expansive — rather than from the bottom, looking up, where diminutive is the word of the day.

The monument’s proximity to Grand Junction — a small city of 60,000 — may work to its disadvantage, too. It is very easy to sleep late in a cozy home or comfortable hotel, have a leisurely breakfast, and visit the park in midday and thus never see it at dawn. That is not my way, however. Few things are more revealing about a landscape than to see it unfold from darkness as the sun comes up and shows an infinite variety of moods. This sunrise photograph, despite the proximity of 60,000 people, is a work of lonely isolation, with virtually nobody around to witness the beauty. At dawn, it might as well be hours away in the wilderness. (Pricing schedule D)

“Wave” at 93rd Spring Salon Exhibit

Wave Monochrome 1 Spring Salon

Our image “Wave Monochrome #1” is in the catalog of the 93rd Spring Salon exhibition at the Springville Museum of Art, staring April 26 and running through July 8, 2017. The image is one of nine monochrome studies of “The Wave,” a geologic site in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, USA. A few other images from the series are shown below. More detail about the image is available here.

The Springville Museum of Art is Utah’s first museum for the visual fine arts. Dedicated as a “Sanctuary of Beauty and a Temple of Contemplation” by David O. McKay, the Museum houses over 2,500 works. Utah art, twentieth-century Soviet Realist art and American art, comprise the Museum’s permanent collection.

With over 15 exhibitions annually, the Museum is a key promoter and contributor to the arts in Utah. Artwork is displayed throughout 29 galleries in this 45,000 square foot facility and a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden.

Wave Monochrome #8
Wave Monochrome #8

Black and white derivations of the Wave images were begun in 2015 and completed in 2016. They are unusual visions because virtually all expressions of southwestern desert “redrock” scene are done in color, reflecting the dramatic hues of the terrain. Further To Fly’s monochrome impressions show them in a new light that emphasizes line and shape.

Wave Monochrome #4
Wave Monochrome #4

The Spring Salon was first held in 1922, and has been held annually since that time, except during World War II when fuel and other goods were rationed nationwide.  The exhibition is a juried competition that showcases the diversity and quality of contemporary Utah art. Over 900 works were proposed for the exhibition in 2017 and less than 10% were selected.

Wave Monochrome #5
Wave Monochrome #5

Grand Staircase at “Red, White and Snow”

Grand Staircase

“The Grand Staircase”, a large canvas print in high-end framing, is available at a major fundraising auction in Park City. The National Ability Center’s “Red, White and Snow” gala is offering this compelling print in its Premium category at a value of $5,001. The work measures 40″ x 57″ and is print #2 in an edition of 10 in the Further to Fly Photography catalog.

Interested collectors can preview this art and bid online at this link. The gala is part of many events on the Red, White and Snow weekend and is Saturday, March 4 at the Montage Deer Valley resort, 5:30 pm. 

“The Grand Staircase” is an excellent example of having to get away from the trees to see the forest. The Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument is the largest national monument in the lower 48 US states and features endless terraced mesas, redrock formations, shady slot canyons, lonely streams, and an immense stratigraphic and paleontologic record book. It is impossible to comprehend the whole of it when you are inside it.

I was at nearby Bryce Canyon National park on a winter afternoon, and the combination of elevation, snow, and the warm, low-angle light of sunset was a sudden, almost accidental revelation. The literal Grand Staircase was in right in front of me, compressed between a bluff in Bryce Canyon and the shoulder of Navajo Mountain, 160 kilometers away — and the lines, shapes and colors made it whole in a way few had noticed before. This rendition is one of my favorites, not only for its beauty, but for the way it simplified its complexity for me. I love it when a shot comes together.

The Subway, Zion National Park

Zion Subway

“Slot” canyons — of which the Subway is one — are the darlings of southwestern US geography. They are narrow defiles carved in layers of sandstone hundreds of feet deep — so narrow that it is difficult to walk through them in places, and so deep that sunlight may reach to the bottom only a few minutes a day when the sun is directly overhead. They are often in remote wilderness locations, and require heroic hiking, climbing and/or swimming skills to navigate. Slot canyons attain their unusually tall and narrow forms due to flash floods that carry tons of fine sand that can grind though the soft sandstone relatively quickly.

One of the finest of these is “The Subway” in Zion National Park, so named because the flume at the bottom has an oval shape reminiscent of a train tunnel. True to its kind, it is very hard to get to, a long distance from trailheads on very rough, sometimes dangerous trails. The photographer is awarded an extra penalty, not only having to pack in heavy gear, but to do part of it in the dark so that the light on scene is just right. Attacking The Subway in the fall is a great choice, not only because the midsummer heat is absent, but because colorful fall leaves adorn the stream and canyon bottom. (Pricing Schedule B)

“Ghosts of the Great Basin” Exhibit Opens Oct. 21

Ghosts of the Great Basin #6

“They seem to be arriving and leaving at the same time, halfway in and halfway out of the world.” That’s my impression of the wild horses I photographed for the exhibition “Ghosts of the Great Basin,” opening October 21st at the Utah Art Festival Gallery in Salt Lake City.

Ghosts of the Great Basin #4
Ghosts of the Great Basin #4

American wild horses (more accurately termed feral horses or mustangs) endure a tenuous existence and uncertain future. People brought these horses to the country’s wilds, yet we saddle them with a love/hate relationship. There are far too many for the land, as we manage it, to support, yet our will to make decisions about them wavers. They are truly in limbo, as pointed out recently in a New York Times story.

Ghosts of the Great Basin #1
Ghosts of the Great Basin #1

Mustangs overpopulate their American ranges by up to 10,000 horses today, and we provide extra water and food for their survival. They are efficient competitors for resources with livestock and wild game, which generates some criticism. But to many, they are simply beautiful, inspirational free spirits.

Ghosts of the Great Basin #3
Ghosts of the Great Basin #3

In addition to the wild herds, there are 40,000 more in captive holding pens in the Midwest. Some are adopted, but that is not a solution because it is much easier to raise a domestic horse.  They depend on humans to exist, yet we don’t know what to do with them.

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Ghosts of the Great Basin #4

The reality is that of about 70,000 feral Mustangs, we are warehousing about 1/3 of them on the range, and 2/3 in captivity, and none of them are truly wild. Another story of  hurting the ones we love.

Gallery stroll and artists’ reception — 6:00-9:00 pm, October 21st, 230 S. 500 W., Salt Lake City. Details at the Utah Art Festival Gallery website.

Once There Were Farmers

Farm Wagon Capitol Reef

This long-abandoned farm wagon sits in a most unlikely place — along a creek bottom in the once-remote desert wilderness of what is now Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. This oasis is in a forbidding landscape that was one of the last districts of the American west to be explored and settled. Pioneer Farmers in this valley date from 1908, a good 40 years after the last of its wagon cousins carried pioneer all the way across the continent. It sounds sentimental, but standing in this spot, photographing this relic, does carry you back in time for a moment.

Many US national parks are based on pristine wilderness….but not all. Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is a good example of the latter. Pioneer farms dotted the habitable places long before anyone ever thought of setting the area aside as a national park. Here, visitors can be surprised a bit as the park incorporates an entire small community — the village of Fruita, where canyon-bottom orchards are still harvested for sweet fruit, and the summer hay is taken in to feed livestock. In virtually all national parks with pre-existing habitations, they have been incorporated into the park history, and operated consistent with the national parks’ historical mission. (Pricing Schedule E)

Gifford Barn, Capitol Reef

Many US national parks are based on pristine wilderness….but not all. Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is a good example of the latter. Pioneer farms dotted the habitable places long before anyone ever thought of setting aside the area as a national park. Here, visitors can be surprised a bit as the park incorporates an entire small community — the village of Fruita, where canyon-bottom orchards are still harvested for sweet fruit, and the summer hay is taken in to feed livestock. In virtually all national parks with pre-existing habitations, they have been incorporated into the park history, and operated consistent with the national parks’ historical mission.

The Gifford Barn and the nearby homestead at Capitol Reef fits like a charm. Its third occupant family since it’s construction in 1908 sold it to the park in 1969, but it continues to host visitors and livestock. It is easy to imagine what must have been an idyllic existence working the land in the shadow of isolated, spectacular cliffs and skies. Photographing the Gifford Barn has the same effect — kind of slow, relaxing, and homey. My intention is that the photograph conveys the same feeling. (Pricing Schedule E)

Photo Series: Wild Horses, Ghosts of the Great Basin

Stallions Duel #1

Many of our so-called domesticated animals are quite happy to call it quits with people and return to wildness if given the chance. So it is with horses. The western US states host as many as 30,000 feral animals making up several hundred herds. All of them are the descendants of domestic horses that escaped their confines as long as 200 years ago. They are so successful roaming remote deserts and rangeland that their population is a problem, outstripping their resources. They would damage environments and starve if not for soft-hearted Americans who prop them up with food and water. We cannot bring ourselves to see them hurt, even though managing them becomes ever more expensive.

The Onaqui Mountain group of perhaps 200 horses lives in western Utah’s Great Basin, within sight of the salt pans of the Great American Desert. Despite our desire to see them romantically as bold, strong, free-spirited masters of nature, their existence is tenuous in every direction. We may run out of time and money to manage them, or just tire of the task. If left on their own, the next drought will mow them down like desert grass. There are too many to adopt. As I looked over these photographs in the light of their uncertain future, they seemed to be ephemeral and ghost-like, and that is why I chose to make them glow. They seem to be arriving and leaving at the same time, halfway in and halfway out of the world.

White Foal Sleeps
White Foal Sleeping
Ghosts of the Great Basin #4
Ghosts of the Great Basin #4
Another Meal on the Range
Another Meal on the Range
Ghosts of the Great Basin #6
Ghosts of the Great Basin #6
Stallions Duel #3
Stallions Duel #3
Ghosts of the Great Basin #3
Ghosts of the Great Basin #3
Stallions Duel #2
Stallions Duel #2
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Ghosts of the Great Basin #7
Wild and Free
Wild and Frees

Burning Land, Burning Sky

Burning Land, Burning Sky

This photograph embodies a common problem with southwestern USA sunsets: The red colors are beyond belief. Literally.

The effect of brilliant scarlet sunset on rock that is striped psychedelically with red, orange and yellow creates scenes right out of the crimson heaven or perhaps the fiery furnace of hell. Either way, the person who has not seen such a scene with his or her own eyes will not believe it really exists. I, and many other photographers, have sometimes been accused of pushing the saturation or emphasizing the reds past nature’s capability into some gaudy realm of poor taste. I plead not guilty, and I find myself sometimes moderating the colors to stay within the realm of limited human perception. In this scene from the Valley of Fire state park near Las Vegas, Nevada, I have toned down the red rock stripes, and emphasized the blue and indigo sky tones with credibility in mind.

The ultimate solution to this problem, and what I urge upon you if you haven’t done this — is to get out in the redrock desert and see it for yourself. Camp among the rocks, eat dinner early, and wander about at sunset to see fire on rock for yourself. (Pricing Schedule B)

Sunset at the Fire Wave

Fire Wave Sunset

Striped rocks are so cool! Everywhere they stick their heads up, people come to see and photograph them. What’s more, we like to name them after waves, apparently seeing something in their undulations that resembles waves in the water. Perhaps the most famous such formation is The Wave, a couple hundred miles from this location in Arizona. It’s so spectacular that it overshadows this some what smaller spectacle at the Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, Nevada, named the Fire Wave.

Both of these natural wonders are managed by governments without photographers in mind. Both require hikes — although the Fire Wave hike is quite a bit shorter than The Wave’s hike – and both require that you leave at sunset and not stay overnight.

These regulations overlook the fact that desert rock formations are always at their visual best at sunrise and sunset. Visiting them in the middle of the day is, for the photographer, underwhelming. To see them at their stunning best requires you to break the rules — so I do. This particular day at the Fire Wave, a spectacular sunset was brewing, and I had no intention of being out of the park by sunset. You have to suffer for your art, they say, and so this day I suffered the irritation of park rangers as I didn’t get back to my car and out of the park until after dark. They could have gotten strict with my lawbreaking, but they didn’t and I like to think they understand the artist’s need to push the envelope for the sake of beauty.

Black on Red, Valley of Fire

Black on Red, Valley of Fire

Look down to your feet! It is incredible what you will see. This scene is one of those that I would have missed if I had not been in the habit of looking at my feet — a practice that comes from years of hiking and backpacking.

It is a rather ordinary scene without the small black stones that have weathered away and come to rest on the red and white striped sandstone. I first noticed it in the afternoon, when the overhead sun made the rock brownish and the sky gray, but it was a good enough photo that I did a bunch of exposures, then went on my way. Returning this way later, after sunset, the low-angle red light transformed it entirely, and I made more shots. This is my favorite — the heightened drama from the low, red light sets it on fire.

Valley of Fire is a smallish and dramatic redrock state park near Las Vegas, Nevada, that is under-appreciated. With the exotic lure of Vegas so close, millions pass by this desert masterpiece on their way to buy a piece of the glitter. I’m not a huge fan of the Las Vegas resort scene, however, and so you’re more likely to find me nearby, at the Valley of Fire, eyes down at my feet.

Point Imperial, Grand Canyon

Imperial Point, Grand Canyon

Most people would tell you there is only one Grand Canyon. In reality, there are two; the South Rim, which everybody visits, and the North Rim, which sees much less attention. And while the Grand Canyon landscapes offered by both are classics, everything else about the two sites is dissimilar. The north is a completely different environment – high, colder, wetter, and more forested. The photography is different, too. In the north, morning light brings out the amazing textures structure, while evening light works best in the south. “Point Imperial” is the striking feature highlighted here by the sunrise.

Photo Series: Get the Red Out.

Wave Monochrome 1 Spring Salon

Are the famed red rocks of the southwest USA always better in red? It depends on what you want to see. Here is my study of the The Wave, rendered in monochrome. Tell me how it succeeds — or not.

Wave Monochrome #11
Wave Monochrome #11
Wave Monochrome #10
Wave Monochrome #10
Wave Monochrome #9
Wave Monochrome #9
Wave Monochrome #8
Wave Monochrome #8
Wave Monochrome #7
Wave Monochrome #7
Wave Monochrome #6
Wave Monochrome #6
Wave Monochrome #5
Wave Monochrome #5
Wave Monochrome #4
Wave Monochrome #4
Wave Monochrome #3
Wave Monochrome #3
Wave Monochrome #2
Wave Monochrome #2

Breaking Wave, Monochrome

Wave Monochrome 1 Spring Salon

“The Wave” is a sandstone rock formation in northern Arizona that is a frequent photographic subject. It is in the backcountry, several hours’ hike from the nearest road, and the government stewards do not permit camping. For that reason most of the photos from here are taken at midday and are rather ordinary because light is harsh and blue when the sun is high.

For the sake of art, I broke the rules and stayed overnight because I wanted to explore this site in the warm, dim, flat light of dusk and dawn. The results justified my wanton lawbreaking, I think, producing a hue and flatness that highlights these formations’ abstract qualities. Later I explored black and white versions of these images and found them compelling in the way they translate the compressed layers of sand into movement and energy. Enjoy the sublime and improbable wildness of “The Wave!” (Price Schedule A)

Vermillion Cliffs

Vermilliion Cliffs

The sublime Vermillion Cliffs are at a nexus of the classic Old West, witness to Spanish explorers, Navajo and Hopi tribes, and immigrant settlers, not to mention a geologic wonderland carved by the Colorado River. They also have the misfortune of being surrounded by some of the most famous national parks in the western US — Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon. This is explains why their great beauty is unknown to many – everyone is driving past as fast as they can to other places. I have been coming back for years, however, entranced by their unpredictable light and changing moods.

This time I found them at exactly the right moment, backlit by the warm light of late afternoon, and crowned with beautiful cumulus clouds, and I had enough composure and adequate skill to not make a hash of it. A few more flips of the coin, and now you are part of this amazing sequence of chance events. What luck! (Price Schedule B)

Needles at Dawn, Canyonlands

Needles Sunrise 1, Canyonlands

It should come as no surprise that in photography, as any other profession, you have to go the extra mile to get the better shot. Or in this case, about sixty extra miles.

The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is right there on the map, as are plenty of descriptions of the dramatic rock formations to be seen, and the facilities to make you comfortable as you visit. BUT…it’s a sixty-mile drive, one way, from a main highway that’s already a lonely track in the desert. That’s apparently too much time for most people. And at the end of the road, there’s more: backpacking into the wilderness, getting up before dawn, dodging the heat and the scorpions.

No wonder few recognize this gorgeous scene. No wonder beautiful photography of the Needles is a rarity. But if you are in the rarity business, as I am, you eagerly do these things, with a smile, and with faith that the result will startle someone, or perhaps everyone. (Price Schedule B)

The Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase

Sometimes you have to get away from the trees to see the forest. The Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument offers a classic example. It is the largest national monument in the lower 48 US states and features endless terraced mesas, redrock formations, shady slot canyons, lonely streams, and an immense stratigraphic and paleontologic record book. It is impossible to comprehend when you are inside it.

I was at nearby Bryce Canyon National park on a winter afternoon, and the combination of elevation, snow, and the warm, low-angle light of sunset was a sudden, almost accidental revelation. The literal Grand Staircase was in right in front of me, its terraces compressed between a bluff in Bryce Canyon and the shoulder of Navajo Mountain, 160 kilometers away — and the lines, shapes and colors made it beautiful in a way few had noticed before. This rendition is one of my favorites, not only for its beauty, but for the way it simplified its complexity for me. I love it when a shot comes together. (Price Schedule A)

Bryce Winter Sunset

Bryce Winter Sunset 1

Winter in the wildlands is transformative — but that’s hard to fathom unless you turn off the TV and get out in it. That doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. Well, maybe just a little. Take Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s quite accessible all but the deepest snows — just dress warm and wear winter boots, and it is easy to see everything that summer affords, but in a whole different light.

Even so, when the afternoon sun hits the horizon it gets very cold very fast, and most people will dash for their supper and their shelter. I have been the fortunate recipient of many good photographs, however, just by lingering a little longer to see what happens to the colors and the shapes. This is one of those scenes, when the last rays break through the only gap in the ridge to throw a dying beam of red light on red rock, and set it on fire. Must have been fire, for sure, because I could feel the heat. (Price Schedule B)