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Cedar Mesa Spring 2023

Please enjoy the slideshow above and if interested, continue reading for more insight into the trip and the photographs I took.

It has been a long and really wonderful winter. Like other parts of the west we had an abundance of snow, 190", which is a lot more than the 80" of the past few years. The skiing was great, when I could get over the pass to Telluride, and was still able to get in 40+ days. The rest of our time was spent doing snow removal and staying warm in our cozy home. As I began to surrender to the coming spring I felt the pull to go to the desert with a camera.

One of my CRMS classmates, David Tanner, loves to keep our classmates and friends, of going on 50 years, in touch with each other. As part of this effort he invites us all to join him and his wife Carol in Cedar Mesa, Utah every spring to hike and explore, hang out and eat good food. This mimics the spring and fall trips that the school has for students where groups of 8 - 10 students head out with a faculty member to backpack. Many of these trips take place in and around Cedar Mesa. I have many fond memories of these trips and ever since have felt totally at home with my feet in the sand and climbing the sandstone ledges.

The photos in the slideshow above are from two trips to the Utah desert, the first was a two day trip to Bluff where I did a hike through Monument Valley with our 11 month old Kiki and then met up with my son James the following day for another day of hiking along Butler's wash. I knew going into these trips that it wouldn't be the same as the photography trips I have taken in the past. Being led by an enthusiastic chocolate lab and hiking with others isn't conducive to landscape photography. Nonetheless I had some form of camera with me on all the hikes and the challenge to compose is always with me, good light or bad, tripod or not. So while some of the images were properly taken in good light with my GFX on a tripod, some were taken with my smaller Fuji XT4 freehand in harsh light and some were taken with my iPhone 14 Pro, but I was always doing my best to find a good composition, which is a good exercise and in my view the most important aspect of creating a compelling photograph. It is surprising to me how good the images are out of the iPhone 14 pro. I do use the Lightroom app and shoot in raw so that I have full ability to process them. I threw them up on a 60" 4k TV and was pleased that the resolution was as good as it was. It is by no means a substitute for the pleasure of using a real camera but it serves a purpose.

Most of the hikes I took with my good friends were with a destination in mind. The Cedar Mesa of Utah, the Bears Ears, was an area where the Ancient Pueblo people lived after migrating from Chaco and then SW Colorado. The canyons are filled with ruins and artwork panels and visiting these was our destination most days. It is fascinating to see and walk about these structures, many of which are highly intact after twelve to thirteen hundred years. I could feel a presence many times. The structures are in most cases very small and I kept thinking that these people must have been pretty small to live in these tiny spaces. Most of the artifacts have either been archived or looted over the years so it was unlike when we visited while attending CRMS, when we would see pottery shards, corn husks and other artifacts undisturbed all over the ground.

Other hikes were in canyons with no objective other then to enjoy the budding spring in the desert, with the vibrance of new leaves on the cottonwoods in the canyon bottoms and desert flowers everywhere. I find sandstone itself such a beautiful thing with the varied texture and colors that are exposed through the different layers as erosion has done its thing, and it is fun to scramble around on it with the trusty vibrate soles of my boots sticking like glue.

When I did finally have the space to explore and discover subjects after Lisa took the dogs back home, I had some familiar solo hikes in unnamed canyons when the light was gentle and with my eyes wide open enjoying the discovery and capture of whatever looked interesting to me. Most of all, I enjoyed the absolute quiet of the desert while taking advantage of the moments to not only capture an image but to connect with the silence.

The Bear's Ears area is vast and includes a wealth of uncrowded opportunities for exploration. There are countless ruins and wall art panels within day hike distance, even more if you are into backpacking. There are countless canyons, large and small, that offer typical desert scenes, textures and colors. In the spring, the red of the sandstone is offset by the vibrant new growth on the cottonwoods and blooms of a multitude of desert flowers. When the moisture is plentiful during the winter, as it was this year, the runoff creates many pools of water in the canyons that offer opportunities for reflections and watering holes for the dogs.

I will continue to meet up with friends in the spring and hopefully fit a few solo trips for exploration and photography. I hope you enjoy the images in the slideshow. Please let me know what your think by sending a comment below. Thank you for taking the time to read this!

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