Utah in Infrared
I’ve now driven pretty much from one end of Utah to the other, heading toward the Nevada border to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in northern Utah. It was then onto the national parks. I visited Arches National Park to see the arch formations, Bryce Canyon for a look at the hoodoos in the famous amphitheater, and Zion to look upward at the massive rock formations. Along the way, I stopped in Canyonlands National Park, which is a few miles to the west of Arches, and Capitol Reef, which is midway between Bryce Canyon and Zion. Regrettably, I did not make it to Monument Valley, where all those John Ford Westerns were made. Over the six days, I had more than my fair share of time in the car, so I was not in the mood for another 250-mile drive.
I did have a cinematic experience, however. Outside of Zion is Grafton, now a small ghost town. Over the years, it has been the backdrop for a number of films, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’ve now walked on the dirt road where Paul Newman and Katharine Ross cycled across the screen.
In terms of ranking, Bryce Canyon clearly is at the top of the list when it comes to the parks that I visited. It is both impressive and spiritual. My least favorite was Arches. The park was overrun with selfie-taking fools who brazenly violated the posted prohibitions—“Stay on the path; don’t climb on the arches and rock formations; and this is not a pathway.” As is the case throughout the world, their mantra is, “I am the exception because I am special.” Setting aside the environmental damage, these fools destroy the tranquil majesty of the formations. “Now get off my lawn.” While the guidebooks indicate that there are over 5,000 arches in the park, I counted five or six from the main roadways. And you can see at least one impressive arch without the crowds by heading to Canyonlands, which is far less manicured than Arches.
Zion is impressive in terms of the rock formations and valleys. It also outwardly has the most water running through it, which for me is critical. I give the park officials a lot of credit: Cars are banned in the main sections of the park, and the park runs frequent busses to all the major pathways. Arches would have been a far better experience had there been a similar ban.
Travel Tip: Unless you happen to be passing through to Nevada, you can skip the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is a pull-off on the highway, with a sign. It certainly isn’t worth the 300-mile roundtrip journey starting in Salt Lake City.
[Click on an image to enlarge it]
Bonneville Salt Flats: A Strip of Land Off the Highway
Rio Tinto Copper Smelting Plant Outside of Saltair, Utah
Arches: Park Avenue Valley
Arches: The Burgher of Calais
Bryce Canyon: The Amphitheater
Zion: A River Runs Through It
Zion: Early Evening Light
Zion: Weeping Rock Mid-Afternoon I
Zion: Weeping Rock Mid-Afternoon II
Zion: Peace in the Valley
Zion: Golden Sun Flakes Settling on the Meadow’s Floor
Grafton: The Site of the Bicycle Scene in Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid
Grafton: An Abandoned Church
Grafton: Alonzo H. Russell House
Photographer’s Notes: With one exception, all the images were created using an infrared camera. The photograph of the Rio Tinto plant is an infrared conversion using software. I actually have images of that plant that I made with an infrared screw-on filter, but they are much too soft for my taste.
I wanted to do some infrared photography on this trip, but the West is not the best location for infrared. While the skies are blue, in many areas, there is very little green foliage, which is often what gives infrared images their punch.
As I have noted before, I am not a landscape photographer, but I’ll give it a try when I am surrounded by nature. I find much of the landscape photography I encounter technically brilliant, but nevertheless devoid of any meaning, which is why I experimented with infrared photography.