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Published: October 13th 2006
The 4:30am wake-up call comes too early for me. But the workshop ends today and we must check out of our motel before leaving for a sunrise photo shoot in Monument Valley.
At the park entrance, the ticket booth is closed and parking lot access is blocked. So, we park at the campground across the road.
Stepping over the barricades, we walk to a flat, red dirt area that overlooks the valley. Joining a crowd of photographers, our group sets up. Staking out positions, cameras on tripods, we wait for the sun to rise.
The purpose is to take a picture of a golden sun peaking over the monument’s buttes and rock formations. The weather is not cooperating. Thick clouds roam the sky giving us a mediocre sunrise.
Navajo workers walk through the crowd. “You must pay the $5.00 entry before you leave the area,” they tell us. So, we stop at the ticket booth that is now open, pay our $5.00 fee, walk to the car and drive back into the visitor center parking lot.
By now, we are starving. Although the park information states that breakfast begins at 8:30; today, the restaurant decides to
open at 9:00am.
The area teems with bus tour passengers. Even the restrooms have long lines. Rather than standing around waiting for a hot meal, we jump in our cars and drive to Goulding’s which proves to be a wise decision. The breakfast burritos with green chile sauce are delicious.
After breakfast, the group returns to Monument Valley. This time, we drive further into the valley before stopping to take pictures.
At the Three Sisters, Jim asks each photographer to set up a shot. Then, the participants take turns going to each camera for a look through the viewfinder. The point? Six perspectives on the same shot prove that we all see things differently.
Continuing the drive, the next stop is a horse corral and then a very short drive to the John Ford overlook. By now, the wind is blowing hard. As we pull into the parking area, a Navajo man on a black horse rides out to a point. With the buttes as a background, he poses; hand on hat to keep it from blowing away. Busloads of tourists pay a $1.00 fee to snap his picture.
The wind whips the dust into
our eyes as we dive into our cars to escape an approaching dust storm. “I doubt we’ll be taking any more pictures,” Alan says, “This will probably end the workshop.”
But, the storm moves on and we are able to continue down the road. Around the next bend, two dogs bark and lunge at a herd of goats as they perform their herding duties. Stopping to take a picture is a must.
Our next shooting location is aptly named Artist’s Point. The sun shines through the clouds, casting shadows on the red rock formations scattered among the buttes and mesas. The photographers are quiet, concentrating on perfect shots. No vendors or tour buses are here to disturb the tranquility. The only sounds are an occasional whoosh of the wind and “Wow, look at the shot I took!”
At North Window, there is more picture taking. Jim directs parking so that his students can click off a shot of rock formations through a v-shaped tree trunk, another famous shot.
We return to John Ford’s Point, this time without the dust storm. Besides photographic opportunities, shopping is available. Tables are set-up beneath white tents where Navajo vendors display
handicrafts, mainly jewelry.
The area is busy with tour buses pulling in and out. As passengers step off, a cacophony of languages, mainly European, drift through the air.
Our group drives back to the visitor’s center. Some participants are going on with Jim to the “goose necks” about 30 miles away. Others need to start the drive back to Phoenix to catch flights home.
We say our goodbyes, exchanging contact information, promising to keep in touch. In a day or two, photos will be whizzing over the internet as the workshop participants share proud shots.
As we start the long drive to Tucson, I say, “Alan, I’m ready for our next adventure.” What will it be? Stay tuned for the answer.
To read more about our photo workshop experience with Jim Altengarten, vist this page
at my blog about baby boomer travel, My Itchy Travel Feet
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