Tuesday, March 11, 2008

titus canyon

One of the fun things about visiting a National Park on my own was being able to set my own schedule. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted. Rather than on a workshop, where locations are dictated by the group or instructor, or with friends where photography is a reasonable last place. On this trip I could take my time, stop when I was interested in the landscape, take some pictures, scout out potential new areas for future shoots. There was time to just slow down and enjoy where I was. Workshops are a hugely creative, energetic experience but there isn't a whole lot of time to think or explore. The mid-day hours are given over the classroom work or critique and the rest of the time is a rush between shoots, sleep and food. On this trip to Death Valley I had a chance to go to some places I hadn't been before, including doing the 26 mile drive down through Titus Canyon. I left the park and made a trip to Rhyolite to shoot around there and had lunch, then set off down the 4WD only access road to the canyon. The sun beat down from a mostly cloudless sky but it was a still a pleasant 80F in the shade. The road wasn't particularly rough going and the scenery was breathtaking. I was amazed how much it changed over the drive, as I twisted and turned towards the small ghost town of Leadfield. Along the way I saw a red tailed hawk of some kind catching and circling above me with a snake in its talons. It soared on the strong breeze and just hung in the air over head for several minutes. I'd had enough of ghost towns with Rhyolite, so didn't stop in Leadfield. There were a few tin shacks and I'm sure some interesting things to explore, but I pressed on. After Leadfield the landscape changed quite quickly as the road dropped down into the real canyon. The walls got steeper and steeper and closer and closer. The early afternoon sun started to dip behind the canyon walls, giving some relief from the constant sun. The bouncing light between the canyon walls softened and picked up the orange glow of the rocks. Still the road wasn't particularly bad - certainly required high clearance in some places but nothing particularly testing, as it was dry. I found some petroglyphs by the roadside and stopped for a look. Unfortunately they are well marked and as a result have been added to by plenty of visitors.
Nearing the end of the canyon it got particularly narrow, finally birthing out onto an alluvial fan on the side of Death Valley. There's a small car park at the start of the two-way access road. I parked and walked back into the canyon a bit. The narrow canyon walls loomed over me and I was listening for cars all the time - there wasn't much room to get out of their way!
Titus Canyon was a really enjoyable drive, easy on the car and easier on the eye. Dramatic mountains, steep cliffs, red earth and black rock really add to the whole experience. I saw a few other people in there but mostly I was on my own and had a great time, traveling at my own pace. As I uploaded the images to Flickr, decked out with the appropriate GPS co-ordinates, I took a couple of screen captures of how the images appear in Google Earth and also on the Flickr mapping tool. Still exploring what is possible with the geotagged images. Being able to find them in Google Earth is interesting, seeing what other people have shot in the same area is particularly useful.


Paul said...

Great post, Gordon. I'm about to head to Zion and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I'll probably head out on 5/27 and return on 6/1 or 6/2.

Chances are that this will be a solo trip, at least part of it. Kate might join me on Wednesday or Thursday. I am looking forward to this trip for the reasons that you mention. Basically, I get to set my own pace and follow my nose, so to speak.

I think that your getting a 4-wheel drive vehicle is a good idea. I don't know if I'll need it, but it could give me access to places that I've not been.

That's pretty cool what you did with the GPS coordinates. I might have to try that! BTW, you're welcome to join me in Zion. Kate says that you and I would be very compatible photographers. She mentioned that on a number of occasions while we were in New Mexico.

Unknown said...

Hi Paul, thanks for reading and commenting. Zion is a great place, I got a few good shots last time I was out there and really enjoyed the dramatic light and scenery.

For Death Valley the 4WD really helped me get to places I hadn't seen before. Not certain if Zion requires or needs that or not - the park info is usually a good source as are web sites on what trips you can take.

I'd love to go back, but I'm afraid I have to work at some point :) Maybe we can shoot together when you come to Austin.