Shooting in Sedona

Last week I returned from a trip to the US South West. I spent over two weeks there visiting: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, Grand Canyon and Sedona. The first four locations are without the doubt on the “A-List” of photo-destinations. Sedona, on the other hand, is more known as the New Age mecca for all things related to: vortexes, cosmic powers, natural healing, etc., despite the fact that visually it is very interesting.

Afternoon in Verde Valley

So, if you are in Sedona, what are the prime spots for landscape photography ? I found three locations that, I believe, have a very good potential for interesting images. The key word is: potential. As usual, everything depends on a happy coincidence of several factors, weather conditions being the most important. During my trip, most of the time I had to deal with bald, cloudless skies, the situation that strikes fear in the hearts of even seasoned landscape photographers.

SOOO, getting back to the locations in and around Sedona, here are my thoughts.

  • If you want to capture a grand vista of rocks towering over Sedona then my favourite spot would be Yavapai Point (a.k.a. Yavapai Vista). It is located a little bit south of town. The trail-head is situated just off Road 179. It is well marked so you will not have any problems finding it. From the parking lot it is just a short hike (5 min) to the vista point. There are a lot of landscape elements there that can be used in the foreground of your images: rocks, yuccas, trees, cacti, etc. What is more important, you can shoot there during both sunrise and sunset since you have a 270 degree view of the area (there will be some rock formations in the west quadrant).
  • For shooting in the middle of the day, I would recommend West Fork Canyon. To get there you need to follow Highway 89A north (towards Flagstaff). The West Fork trail will be approximately 4 miles north of Slide Rock State Park on the west side of the road. I was there early in January when the scenery wasn’t at its the best but I can imagine that in the fall there will be many excellent opportunities for “small landscape” images: red rocks, reflections on the water surface, colorful leaves. You get the picture.
  • The third interesting area is actually a little bit outside of Sedona. It is called Verde Canyon or Verde River Valley. I took a scenic train trip from Cottonwood (20 miles from Sedona) one afternoon and really enjoyed the ride along Mogollon Rim. There were many fantastic vistas to be enjoyed, especially in late afternoon. It was one of those rare occasions when there were actually some thin clouds, so the light was very soft and pleasant. I was shooting from the moving train (albeit slowly moving) so I switched to manual exposure metering, increased the ISO and tried to pick some interesting angles to show the beauty of that area. I definitely wouldn’t mind to explore Verde Valley “on foot”. Just 3-4 miles outside of Cottonwood there is a town of Jerome with some interesting galleries and also nice view of Mogollon Rim and Humphreys Peak way back on the horizon.

The photograph that illustrates today’s post was taken in the Verde Valley from the train I just mentioned above. At that point the train actually stopped and the engine was being moved to the back so we could start our trek back to Cottonwood. I had a little bit of time to find this scene. It was shot handheld (obviously) with polarizing filter on, at 45mm.

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