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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Nature & Landscapes Talk 
Thread started 19 Jan 2012 (Thursday) 18:03
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Utah Parks in Winter

 
bjannsen
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Jan 19, 2012 18:03 |  #1

I'm headed to Utah for 10 days - late Feb into the first few days of March. I've read the books, studied maps and felt great about the trip - then I saw this photo.

Of course I need to get Mesa Arch at sunrise - as well as delicate arch at sunset. suffice it to say that a lot of my shots will require me to be out before dawn and well after dark. What are the chances of running across this friendly cat? I will be by myself and have no experience wrestling cats. I know who normally wins.

In addition to Arches and Canyonlands, I was planning to get to Monument Valley.

This exercise also got me thinking about weather, dangers etc. I spend a good deal of time by myself climbing and hiking - looking for the best shots, but never in the Southwest Parks. I was hoping to hear from some of the more experienced Southwest Parks photogs...

Am I nuts? Do winter storms close those areas very often?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Brian


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Geonerd
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Jan 19, 2012 18:31 |  #2

Killer Kitty? Pffft! :razz:
I suspect you are many thousands of times more likely to die in a flaming car wreck on the way there.

Winter storms, on the other hand, can and will kill you if you're silly enough to be out and about in the middle of a blizzard. Suggest you keep an eye on the forecast and be happy to hole up in a motel for a day, maybe two, if an intense storm looms. On the other hand, the weather between systems is often glorious - crisp but bright and sunny. High, wispy clouds often flavor the sky for one or two days before a system arrives.

No, it's not Crazy!
Bring warm clothes, display a smidgen of caution, and you'll be fine!




  
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sparker1
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Jan 19, 2012 20:21 |  #3

I am often in the wilds by myself. With two artificial joints, I exercise more caution than when I have someone along. Same common sense applies: Don't take unnecessary chances. Even so, crap happens, so make sure someone knows where you are going and when to expect you back. Can be a Ranger or whomever. As far as a mountain lion, I've seen tracks...old tracks in mud. Experts have told me the cats will see me, so I won't see them. On the other hand, I met a young girl with three photos on her phone of lions near her house in the Flaming Gorge area.

I've been in those parks in winter and enjoyed the snow on red rock scenes, not to mention smaller crowds. Weather is really unpredictable, so you take your chances. I once holed up for four days, then saw Zion like most people never do. Twice I turned back after thinking the storm was over when it wasn't. I am cautious about that, too, as I've heard about people trapped by weather and don't want to add my own story.


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bps
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Jan 19, 2012 23:31 |  #4

The chances of you having an encounter with a mountain lion are near zero. I've spent no less than 150-175 days in the Moab area over the last 12 years and have never seen a mountain lion. Don't get me wrong, they exist....but they are more scared of you than you are of them.

I also find that picture hard to believe. For starters, on any given day, you'll find no less than about 15 photographers there at that time of the day. And, if that picture were true, the cat would be less than 3 feet from everyone. Wild cats do not casually stroll amongst crowds like that...

It can certainly snow in Moab that time of the year, but most of the heavier snows occur in December. If you get a little snow that time of the year, it will be back in the 50 degree range within a day or so. It's also very easy to watch the forecast and make any safety decisions on the go.

Moab is a great place to photograph, and personally, I think you're going at one of the best times of the year.

Hope you have fun!
Bryan


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MCAsan
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Jan 20, 2012 08:18 as a reply to  @ bps's post |  #5

Been to that spot many times. Very hard to believe the cat shot is for real. If I saw a cougar at the edge of Mesa Arch....the scat on the ground would be mine. ;)

We love going to Moab area in late October or early November. You can have anything from Tshirt weather....to snow on the ground. If you go from Moab up onto the plateau that has Dead Horse SP and Canyonlands Island in the Sky, there is a turn off on the plateau to the left to Gemini Bridges. That can be a good location to spot sheep, at least during fall rut. I would NOT, repeat NOT, try to drive south on that dirt "road" from Gemini Bridges towards Moab. When you are finished shooting at the Bridges, go back up the hill the towards the Parks. I drove that lower section of road once back to Moab...and will not do that again. It is much worst than any part of Potash Road.

Needless to say, read up on good shooting locations in the book series Photographing the Southwest by Laurent Martres. Volume 1 is Southern Utah.




  
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5Dmaniac
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Jan 20, 2012 09:18 |  #6

There is very little chance that the picture you posted is real. The area in front of Mesa Arch is not big and there is no way that cat would hang around in a quasi confined area to wait until the photographer got that shot. I am convinced this is photo shopped.
I have been to Mesa Arch in the midst of winter and there are always other photographers - I have never seen any animals hanging around that place.




  
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bjannsen
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Jan 20, 2012 18:23 |  #7

Thanks so much everyone - really appreciate your thoughts. The cat was probably shopped - tho it looks pretty convincing.

I'm really looking forward to the trip - my first to these great parks. I have Martres 3 volume set and have made tons of notes in them. I also plan to stay off the most remote roads.

I figured I wouldn't be alone in these areas - I think winter is probably a great time to be there.

I know I'd like to shoot delicate arch at sunset and after. Is it hard to find the trail back to the parking lot after dark?

Thanks again for sharing your wisdom!


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MCAsan
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Jan 20, 2012 20:57 as a reply to  @ bjannsen's post |  #8

Is it hard to find the trail back to the parking lot after dark?

Not with a good flashlight and headlight. Besides, not likely you are alone shooting there at sunset. ;)

Also don't underestimate shooting Delicate from below down at Wolfe Ranch.




  
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bjannsen
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Jan 21, 2012 09:31 |  #9

MCAsan wrote in post #13740741 (external link)
Besides, not likely you are alone shooting there at sunset. ;)

Yup - I thought there was a good chance I'd be with a lot of company... thanks also for the Wolfe Ranch suggestion - I'll look into it.

Thanks again,

Brian


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ejenner
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Jan 21, 2012 14:46 as a reply to  @ bjannsen's post |  #10

Winter is my favorite time, I hope you get snow. Personally I've never been shut out by a snowstorm, but I would advise caution on the slickrock, especially near cliffs, if it is snowy and icy. What can be easily doable on dry, grippy rock can quickly become absolutely treacherous on snow - just becasue the trail looks like it goes that way may not mean it is safe in those conditions. Of course it totally depends what trails you are on (I'm thinking outside of the super-popular spots). Also, nothing to be overly scared about for someone with hiking experience, just common sense really.


Roads - stay on the main roads/tracks unless you really know what you are doing. 4WD out there is not 'anyone can get through if they have a 4WD', even in the summer. I don't know what it is like now, but 10 years ago winter could be quite empty outside of the hotspots (like the ones you mentioned). If you want you should be able to find yourself quite alone.

My experience has been that like Denver, most storms move through fairly quickly, so even if you are shut out for a day or two, the scenery as the storm clears and just after will more than make up for it. More than make up for it!

Actually, although the chances of seeing a mountain lion are next to nil, if you do have fresh snow, the chances of seeing tracks is not so small (if you get out into the back county a bit) and you get an appreciation for just how much wildlife is really out there. I have actually seen a mountain lion in Canyonlands NP , but in 15 years of going I have not even talked to a ranger who had. I've seen numerous tracks in the winter (in fresh snow) and the Rangers in Canyonlands see lots of evidence (animal parts, tracks, scat etc..) so they are really, really good at avoiding humans.

Red rocks, fresh white snow and deep blue skies - OMG, it's just about perfect. My favorite place in the winter. My kids are still a bit young to go in the depths of winter, but I'll be taking them camping over future Christmas holidays for sure.

lastly some personal thoughts on trying to photograph the area:

I would advise getting away from the usual spots. There are great shots to be had all over and they will be much more original and I think in the end, more personal. Sure do the icons if you wish, but then (IMO) you just end up comparing them with others that you have seen where the photog spent years going to the spot to get that shot. Personally I've never photographed those spots and don't intend to, but that's just me. I guess what I'm saying is get out and explore as well as going to some of the spots you have read about - I think it will be worth your time. I guess it's also a very personal thing, but I figure if you've done quite a bit of hiking and climbing alone, you may be like me and will enjoy the off-the-beat places more.


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MCAsan
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Jan 21, 2012 20:27 as a reply to  @ ejenner's post |  #11

At Moab you can't swing a cat without hitting something good to shoot. You have all the local stuff like Fisher Towers, Castel Valley into the mountains, the nearby state and national parks, and more. And if you can do long day trips, from Moab you can do Mesa Verde, Natural Bridges, Goosenecks of the San Juan,....etc. It would be a long day, but you also do Monument Valley as a day trip. But I think that is when you move to closer hotel.




  
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pudgy_groundhog
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Jan 21, 2012 20:34 |  #12

I think it's a great time to visit. Last February we visited the Grand Canyon and we loved it, even though we had to hightail it out of there under the threat of an impending snow storm.

We're going back to northern Arizona/southern Utah the first two weeks of March and we have our main itinerary and a contingency plan in case the weather or road conditions aren't great. I think if you are flexible and keep track of the weather, you'll be fine. Enjoy your trip!!


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5Dmaniac
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Jan 22, 2012 10:44 |  #13

Actually, now that I am thinking of it - the mountain lion might be real, but it is a tame one. I remember when we booked a Canyon X tour in Page, I saw lots of pictures on their walls with mountain lions in them - when I inquired, I was told that they were all taken with a tame lion.

I thought it was very cheesy and totally unnecessary.

And btw, save the money for the Canyon X tour - it really was not worth what they were charging!




  
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bjannsen
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Jan 22, 2012 22:56 |  #14

Thanks so much everyone - I really appreciate the input!!

MCAsan; I've just added about 20 stops to my itinerary from your suggestions... :)

Since nearly all my photography is outdoors, I watch the weather like a hawk - hopefully we'll have some nice days out there.

Thanks everyone!


Brian www.brianjannsen.com (external link)
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