Cottonwood, Fallen Monolith, and Cliff. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 29, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Sunlight reflected from nearby canyon walls illuminates an autumn cottonwood tree in front of a fallen sandstone monolith and vertical cliff face.
I may be repeating a story I’ve previously told, but here goes. Earlier during my late-October visit to Utah we had wandered into this area, only to be largely stymied by clouds, cold, absurdly strong winds, and even a bit of rain. It was a bit disappointing, in that we had really looked forward to visiting this portion of the Escalante River, and when we started out in the early morning and saw a lot of beautiful fall color we thought we were in for a good day of shooting. Although that day was not a complete loss, it wasn’t what we hoped for – and by the end of the day we were struggling against very strong winds and cold.
Fortunately, nearly a week later we found ourselves back in roughly the same area of Utah, and as we considered the next day’s possible shooting locations the idea of giving this spot a second try came up. After considering that alternatives of trying a new location or going back, we decided to go back. It was a good decision! Where the first visit had been cold, cloudy, windy and even a bit damp, the second visit brought warmer conditions, almost completely clear skies… and most important, nearly windless conditions. (At one point we were cautiously admitting to one another that we had made exposures of foliage that lasted as long as a couple of seconds!) Near one large bend in the canyon there was a spectacular abundance of “targets” – brilliant cottonwood and box elder trees, beautiful canyon walls of various colors, fallen leaves, and more. On the previous visit we had all looked at this little scene of a large fallen section of the canyon wall with golden cottonwoods growing all around, and then pretty much continued on since the trees where being whipped around by the wind. But on this second visit the wind was calm, and light was reflected into the scene from sunlit sandstone walls to our left.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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