Southwest Excellent Adventure

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Welcome to my newly resurrected photography blog.  I’ve decided to expand my journaling efforts to include a photo specific website in addition to The AVATAR Logs. My last photography post was nearly three years ago! A lot of digital film has passed through my camera in that time, so the first posts will play catch up – casually perusing past images before moving on to current events.

I considered posting straight into The AVATAR Logs blog but decided instead to publish both in parallel with each linking to the other.  Hopefully it will be easy to navigate back and forth between the two seamlessly.  When we are cruising, posting to The AVATAR Logs will take priority. When land-based, CBParkerPhoto will take the lead.

If you are on my notification list for The AVATAR Logs, you will also be sent notices when I post to CBParkerPhoto.  Feel free to contact me if you wish to opt out.  Mostly I use these blogs to stay in touch with friends and share adventures in  a visual way, so I hope you will continue to enjoy the expanded content.

For starters I’ll reminisce about a wonderful week in early April in the Four Corners area of the desert southwest. I joined Laurie Excell again for one of her Excellent Adventures – this time a tour of Monument Valley in Utah and the Slot Canyons in Arizona. Laurie asked me to write a post for her own blog, so I’m republishing the content here along with a few favorite photos from the trip.

You can read the original post on Laurie’s website here, but it is reproduced in full below:

I’ve lived in Tucson for decades and true to the cliché that one never explores one’s own backyard, I had never spent time in the spectacular surroundings of the Four Corners area of the southwest. Having already enjoyed previous Excellent Adventures with Laurie (Bosque, Katmai) I was feeling the need for a photo workshop “fix” – a chance to chase pixels with like-minded enthusiasts. During a workshop we are all in pursuit of the same goal. The nit-picky details have already been prearranged, enabling us to focus strictly on our photography. The itinerary has been fine-tuned to take best advantage of the allotted time; the ho-hum details of car, lodging and meals have already been handled; knowledgable local guides have been booked in advance to take us off the beaten track and open the doors to a more unique experience.

In college my art instructor once commented that the creation of a painting becomes a souvenir of time and place for the artist. That thought struck a chord that has stayed with me through the years and applies equally to the images we are making. Why am I doing this, anyway? Does the world really need another photograph of The Mittens in Monument Valley or the rays of light in Upper Antelope Canyon? Surely images of these subjects have been recorded in the tens of thousands over the years and by better photographers than I. Why not just purchase a postcard or a coffee table book at the gift shop to remember my visit to the desert southwest?

But the photograph that I take myself has an entirely different significance to me than those commercial images. In the process of pursuing another worthy photo to add to my collection, the entire experience of its creation is imprinted on my brain. It is not just the snapping of the shutter – it is the process of working the subject that makes it my own. Months later one glance at the finished image and the adventure leaps to life.

– Camaraderie in the back seat of a rented Suburban with new acquaintances sharing the same passion…

– And the same frustration of arriving in Monument Valley during a sandstorm that obliterates sky and light…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm VR

– Followed by the revelation a day or two later that this same sandstorm has refreshed the dunes and made them pristine for our lenses!

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm VR

– Friendly Navajo ponies with their eyes squinted shut against the blowing grit…

Nikon D3S, AF-S 28-300mm VR

– Lurching in four-wheel drive through the rough back country to access remote locations…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm VR

– Photographing the Milky Way from the hotel balcony while asleep in a comfortable bed…

Nikon D3, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

– Trudging through the desert on a moonlit night lugging 30 pounds of equipment on my back because I’m afraid of leaving behind that one essential bit of equipment needed to shoot the night sky…

Nikon D3, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

– Cold fingertips on a brisk morning waiting to capture a starburst of the sun rising over The Mittens…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm VR

– Our Navajo guide Lionel (a photographer in his own right) opening locked gates to ‘the Rez’ after hours to shoot Upper Antelope by starlight with not a single tourist in the vicinity…

Nikon D4, AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR

– Gingerly setting up my tripod at the edge of a precipice to capture the curve of Horseshoe Bend in its entirety…

Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

– Climbing up (and down) Home Depot ladders and squeezing our gear (and ourselves) through the narrow passages of Rattlesnake Canyon and the satisfaction of zeroing in on rhythm and pattern encapsulated in the overwhelming maze of the slot canyons…

Nikon D3S, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

– And the sweeping vistas and play of light and shadow as the sun set on the last day of our most excellent adventure…

Nikon D4, AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR

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