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Red Rock Road Trip

 Friday, 9/12/97 

Monument Valley: Shadow & Light

"To say nothing is out here is incorrect; to say the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth is closer to the truth. " ---William Least Heat Moon

morning silouette (10kb)

To me, this place is a photographer's paradise. Red rock formations, thrusting hundreds of feet into a perfectly picturesque western sky, providing an ever changing palette for the shadows and light. Each day I would travel the 17 mile loop road at least a dozen times, and each loop I'd find something new to shoot, or something old in a new light.

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Totem Pole and Yei-Bi-Chei (9kb)

For example, these first two images are of the formations called Yei-Bi-Chei and the Totem Pole (on top of which you may remember seeing Clint Eastwood in "The Eiger Sanction"). On my first trip through, I got the silhouette above. The next time around, some low clouds had entered the picture. And lower on this page, you'll see how they appear in afternoon light. One is not allowed to say, "OK, I've got that shot." You'll likely be proven wrong.

"The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking." ---Brooks Atkinson

tree and rock wall (12kb) morning in the valley (12kb)

Monument Valley is a place of contrasts, the green of a tree against a red rock wall, or the lives of those depicted on those walls, versus those who still live here today.

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The Window (12kb)

While modern Navajos certainly enjoy the same technological advances the rest of us do (Monument Valley High School, just outside the park, even has a web page), many of them also have hogans, and some still herd sheep on this land as their ancestors did. While it must be difficult to mix old and new yet maintain cultural identity, it is to be envied.

"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." --- Dorothea Lange

Totem Pole & Yei-Bi-Chei (11kb)

If you visit, you'll likely hear some folks grumbling about the commercial aspects of the park, like the entry fee, and the price of taking a tour escorted by a native guide. It's almost funny, but not quite. Our European ancestors came to this continent, stole the land and committed genocide against the Native Americans, "gave" them back what few reservations they have only after many broken treaties and long legal battles.....and then we complain because they charge us $2.50 to get in to a tribal park, or $20 for a guided tour? It is the definition of irony.

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Mitten view (12kb)

It's one of the misunderstandings about this place. When my parents returned from their whirlwind western tour, I asked them if they'd driven the loop road. "What loop road?" The one that starts at the visitors center. "What visitor's center?" It's easy to see many formations from the highway, especially at Monument Pass, and think that's all there is. Even Chief Broom had not descended into the valley before our meeting.

"The painter constructs, the photographer discloses." ---Susan Sontag

East Mitten, West Mitten, & Merrick Butte (13kb)

At right is the "classic" view that most people consider to *be* Monument Valley. Three formations, a thousand feet tall, a mile apart on a big flat plain. But as you may have noticed on these pages, there is *sooooooo* much more.

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East and West Mittens (10kb) West Mitten's shadow on East Mitten (10kb)

Did I mention the shadows and light here? They're really cool ....

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