Photography and commentary from John Fujimagari

Posts tagged “Navajo Nation

Soaring Raven

Soaring Raven

 

While I was perched high on the canyon rim, looking down 600’ to the bottom, the ravens ride the thermals and updrafts. Whirling and wheeling along the cliffs, they seemed joyous fluttering in the wind.

In the best light…


Canyon deChelly

Canyon deChelly

 

The dust storm rages overhead while the sun burns through the haze to light the bottom of the canyon. The green foliage marks the course of the water, when the rain does fall.

In the best light…


Spider Rock

Spider Rock

 

Looking down into Canyon deChelly, Spider Rock is an amazing spire. It looks to be the inspiration for some of the old Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons. Another of the sights that make Arizona a treat for photographers.

In the best light…


Hazy Sunrise, Monument Valley

Hazy Sunrise, Monument Valley

 

One of my favourite locations, there is a wealth of photo opportunities around here. I could have spent weeks here and not exhausted my fascination with the place.

In the best light…


Elephant Butte From North Window

Elephant Butte from North Window

 

Most of Elephant Butte is still shadow by the rock formation to my right. The sun is just touching the top of the butte, while the structures in the open are fully lit.

In the best light…


The Mittens

The Mittens

 

This week I’m revisiting a place that I’m yearning to actually revisit, Monument Valley. It straddles the Utah-Arizona border within the Navajo Indian reservation. The Navajo Nation operates the Monument Valley Tribal Park and regulates entry to the area.

This scene is one of the most photographed locations. It features both the East and West Mitten as well as Merrick Butte. What you can’t see are the dozens of other photographers on either side of me. Farther into the park and later into the day as well as very early the next day, the crowds thinned dramatically. Shooting the dawn the next day, I practically had the place to myself.

In the best light…


Road To Monument Valley

Road To Monument Valley

 

In such an iconic place, you know that there will be shots that are similar to others that have been taken at the location. Sometimes that is a good thing. This particular location is very well known to anyone who has seen the movie Forrest Gump. The view from this vantage point was so striking that upon topping the last rise and seeing it for the first time, I just had to stop to take pictures.

In the best light…


Shiprock Memories

Shiprock Memories

 

I’ve probably said it before, I have a real attachment to Shiprock. Tsé Bitʼaʼí or Rock With Wings is sacred to the Navajo people and was a frequent destination of young men on vision quests. It’s very high on my list of return destinations, like my own vision quest.

In this image, the haze was very heavy at the time and from twelve miles away, it is just intensified. I put aside my bias towards super-sharp images and wanted to capture the mood. I liked the graphic nature of the composition. It reminds me of Pete Turner in more subdued colours.

In the best light…


Hazy Morning, Monument Valley

Hazy Sunrise, Monument Valley

 

I may have mentioned it before, I love the American Southwest and Monument Valley has a special place in my heart. The majesty of this location is hard to translate to mere pixels, but I’ve made my attempt. There were lots of photographers around the Mittens near sunset, but just after sunrise in the off peak season, I had this spot to myself. For photographers, it means double checking your exposure, focus and composition, while the light is changing very quickly as the sun is rising. At the same time, you try to take some time to drink in the scene, the peace and the tranquility, and be, maybe just a little pleased with yourself.

In the best light…


US 163

US 163

One of the more famous spots in movie lore, Forrest Gump Point is in the bottom of the valley at this end of the straightaway. This is where Forrest Gump gives up his cross-country running and wants to go home.

From this vantage point, in the far distance on the extreme left, the Big Indian, to the left and center, the multi-spired Stagecoach, and Brigham’s Tomb on the right.

In the best light…

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The Stones Themselves

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In Monument Valley, the red coloured rocks are quite prominent and the vivid hues are in your face. I thought that removing the colour and presenting the scene in black and white would show the grain and structure of the giant boulders and cliff face. Hopefully the tuft of grasses included at the bottom of the frame gives the image a sense of scale.

In the best light…


West Mitten

West Mitten

 

The Mittens are one of the most recognisable and easily accessed features of Monument Valley. We recently re-watched John Ford’s The Searchers with John Wayne. Monument Valley was definitely one of the stars of the movie. Back when the film was shot, the location was even more rustic, with no paved roads to the valley, let alone in it.

This location might be in too many photos, but we should each make what we can from each location. I wanted to include the sage and juniper in the foreground to show the terrain near the monolith.

In the best light…


West Mitten And The Big Indian

West Mitten And The Big Indian

 

The Big Indian might not be politically correct these days, but the name lingers on in Monument Valley. I’m shooting this from about a half mile away from the West Mitten. The Big Indian is the monolith to the right and is over a mile away from my vantage point. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend going.

In the best light…


Totem Poles And Yei Bi Chei

Totem Poles and Yei Bi Chei

 

Monument Valley is one of my favourite locations in the American Southwest. Taken during the Blue Hour, the sun had just set. This picture was shot on a Full Moon Photo Tour booked through Goulding’s Lodge. Taking a tour with a licensed Navajo guide allows you access restricted areas not open to the general public.

In the best light…


House Of The Spider Woman

Duststorm over Spider Rock

This is a location that is prominent in Navajo folklore and their creation myth. It is also one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen. The spire rises 750 feet from the canyon floor, and if you enlarge the image, you can see the tents of the campers near the base of the monument.

In the best light…


Elephant Butte From North Window

Elephant Butte From North Window

In my final image this week, we are again at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. This time, it is just after daybreak with the sun rising in the east, with the sun just reaching the valley floor. The rock formations in the distance are lit by the morning rays but Elephant Butte is blocked by Cly Butte at this point and only the top is being lit by the warm dawn light. This image was taken after a short hike off of the publicly accessible Loop Road. I would highly recommend taking a tour with a licensed Navajo Guide. They can take you to places that you can’t get to on your own.

In the best light…


West Mitten

West Mitten

In my last post, Predawn Mittens, we looked at the Mittens in Monument Valley before dawn as a silhouette. This image was taken the previous evening. I was going to say that it was after 5:00 PM but the EXIF info shows the time taken as 4:45 PM. If you’ve never been to Monument Valley and the Four Corners Area time and time zones can be confusing. Most western US states are on Daylight Saving Time, Arizona is not. The Navajo Nation does use Daylight Saving Time even in Arizona. So, if you leave Flagstaff, AZ you are on MST but switch to MDT as soon as you enter the reservation.

The point that I am trying to make is, that the image was taken about 2 hours before sunset. The strong cross lighting creates contrast in the crevasses of the rock face and the contours of the land. As with most landscapes, early or late in the day will give you the more interesting pictures. Speeding through the area and grabbing a few “great” shots in the middle of the day will end in disappointment. If you plan to visit Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, try to plan an overnight stay, so that you might capture a sunset and a sunrise. On my next trip, I’d like to spend at least a few days.

In the best light…


Predawn Mittens

Predawn Mittens

These day in the age of HDR, I find that I’m seeing fewer silhouette images. Sometimes the outline of an object is all that you need. The Mittens are rock formations that are some of the more well known in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Straddling the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley is a landscape photographer’s paradise. Broad vistas and strange geologic formations beckon. Definitely on my list of places to revisit.

In the best light…


Spider Rock

Sand Storm Over Spider Rock

Spider Rock is in the middle of Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, Arizona in the Navajo Nation. The spire stands 750 feet above the floor of the canyon. According to native lore, it is the home of Spider Woman one of the most honoured deities of the Dine (Navajo People).

The day that we were there, a sand storm was blowing through. We were told that it was the remnants of a hurricane that had moved up from Mexico but lost all of it’s moisture on the way. The winds gusted up to 50 miles per hour, making camera stabilization a priority. I braced my tripod against the guard rail for maximum rigidity.

In the best light…


Forms and Textures

Coyote Canyon, Brimhall Nizhoni, NM

It’s been a few years since our trip to the Four Corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

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