Posted by: kerryl29 | August 14, 2012

Day 12: Finale – Pink Canyon

The final day of shooting would be a brief one.  I was up at about 4 AM, ready to make the drive to Valley of Fire, with the intention of photographing Pink Canyon until direct sunlight became an impediment; I figured that, with sunrise at about 5:30, I’d have until roughly 7 before conditions became unshootable.  Then it was back to the hotel in Overton, NV, shower and pack up and make the roughly hour-long drive back to Las Vegas for my early afternoon flight back to Chicago.

It was a typical southern Nevada morning in mid-May–about 70 degrees, dry and a cloudless sky when I set out in the pitch dark at approximately 4:30.  It was around 5, and becoming light, when I got to Valley of Fire.  I had spoken with a park ranger the previous afternoon and she said that, given the time of the day, there was no problem with my parking along the roadside at the dry wash that becomes Pink Canyon on the eastern side of the Scenic Drive.  She said that as long as I was able to move the car by 9:30 or 10 AM, when the bus tours start moving through the park, I would be fine.  I told her I’d be long gone by 9:30.

When I reached my destination, I decided to set up for a quick shot of Striped Hill–just to the western side of the road–before venturing into Pink Canyon.  I had shot at Striped Hill briefly the previous afternoon, but under less than ideal conditions, so I wanted to capture the formation in the softer light of dawn.  I had no clouds in the sky, but the light was excellent.

Striped Hill at Dawn, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Then, it was into Pink Canyon, which had been so enticing even in the harsh mid-afternoon light that had enveloped me during the previous day’s scouting session.  There were shots to be had just about everywhere, beginning with the mouth of the canyon itself, no more than a couple of hundred feet from the Scenic Drive.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The most interesting areas of Pink Canyon extend no more than a few hundred yards, culminating with a narrow, sandy slot that opens up into a wide, dry wash.  My goal was to shoot the canyon from beginning to end, before the sun became an issue, but I was determined not to rush myself through it.  If I didn’t get all the way to the far end, I thought, so be it.  Better to be deliberate and get some good images than to move very quickly and get a lot of shots but be disappointed in most or all of them.

The first part of the canyon–before you reach the slot–is a fascinating area of sculpted sandstone, full of shallow pits, bowls and crevices.  Like much of Valley of Fire, the area is an abstract shooter’s paradise, and it can be approached in a variety of ways, from wide-normal to very tight.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The sculpted sandstone patterns and pastel colors of this area of Pink Canyon could be breathtakingly beautiful.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

I kept finding myself rendered momentarily frozen–physically and intellectually–by what I was seeing before eventually shaking it off and recovering my faculties.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

I had nearly reached the entrance to the slot canyon itself and I pressed on, resolved to come back and shoot at least one or two tighter shots in the sculpted “sandstone garden” before leaving for good.

The slot canyon didn’t disappoint either, filled with fascinating colors and shapes, all of which was now becoming accentuated by the reflected light of the sun, which had been up for some time now.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The slot was very, very narrow in some places and I made sure to turn around and examine compositions in both directions all along the way.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

With some of the images you see accompanying this entry, I used a focus stacking approach to shooting.  Rather than attempt to stop down and gain critical sharpness from front to back of the image (which in many cases was functionally impossible), I shot images identically framed but with overlapping areas of focus (using a relatively shallow depth of field for each), with the intention of combining them in post-processing into a single, front-to-back sharp, shot.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

When I had traversed the slot, in both directions, I returned to the “sculpted garden.”  Direct sunlight was penetrating the walls of the canyon on the northwest side, but the areas at my feet were still in shade and I hastened to capture some of the shots I had seen on the way in–and a few I hadn’t noticed until the return trip.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon Abstract, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon Abstract, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

By the time I took the last couple of images you see here, direct sun was encroaching on the canyon floor.  It was time to call it a morning’s shoot.  (It was somewhere around 7:15 AM.)  I moved out of Pink Canyon, into the eye-blinking brightness of the dry wash that buttressed the Scenic Drive nearly two hours after sunrise.  The shoot had been a brief one that day, but it had been highly satisfying, punctuating the time–parts of 12 days–that I had spent in Utah and Nevada.

I hope you enjoyed taking the visual journey with me as much as I enjoyed sharing it.

*                    *                    *

If you’re interested, but missed the earlier entries in this series, they’re linked below:

Zion National Park, Utah

Day 1:  The Watchman

Day 2:  Towers of the Virgin, Court of the Patriarchs and the Plateau

Day 3:  Canyon Overlook, Temple of Sinawava and the Riverside Walk

Day 4:  The Narrows

Day 5:  Angel’s Landing, West Rim Trail and Lower Emerald Pool

Day 6:  Refrigerator Canyon and on to Bryce

Bryce Canyon National Park and Red Canyon, Utah

Day 7:  Shivering on the Rim

Day 8:  The Overlooks, Fairyland and Red Canyon

Day 9:  Red Canyon Morning, Cedar Breaks and an Introduction to Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Day 10:  White Domes Trail, an Extensive Scouting Excursion and Fire Canyon

Day 11:  Crazy Hill, Arches Galore and the Fire Wave

Day 12:  Finale – Pink Canyon



  1. It’s been brilliant Kerry, thank you.

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Kerry,
    I can think of only word to describe your last day and that is Glorious!

    Really so beautiful and quite calming too. I’m keeping your entry because one day I would love to experience this place with my own eyes – which you have opened and inspired.

    Thanks for sharing – you captured an amazing trip.


    • Thanks very much for the kind words, Kathy. I’m sure you’d love Valley of Fire.

  3. Numbers 1, 7, 11, 14 and 15 especially got my attention and I couldn’t help but imagine what this looks like after a rainfall. I can understand you being momentarily frozen-it is awe-inspiring.Thank you so much for taking us on the journey with you.Wonderful work.

    • My pleasure, Jane. And thanks for the kind remarks.

  4. This has been a fantastic voyage Kerry. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos and narratives.

    • Thanks very much, David.

  5. These photos are absolutely striking, and what a great way to end your photo journey. I can see how this can create a sense of serenity during your visit. Thank you for sharing your experience and fabulous photos with us.

    • My pleasure, and thanks very much for following along.

  6. Incredibly stunning series. Thanks for sharing these and your commentary.

    • Thanks very much, Brandon.

  7. I would love to see an overall exhibit of your photos all in one place – AMAZING!

    • Thanks. I did have an exhibition, including about two dozen of my images, in suburban Chicago in the spring of 2011…but that’s a long way away for you and it’s water under the bridge in any event. 🙂

      But again, thanks very much for the kind words.

  8. Really gorgeous photos! Wow, so glad I happened upon this post!

    • Thanks very much–much appreciated.

  9. I have thoroughly enjoyed this entire trip! All of your photos are always outstanding as well as your ability to relate each days events! Just makes me wanna go out there that much more!

    • Thanks, Michael. Remember, if you decide to head out there, the guide offer is still good. 🙂

  10. Kerry, what an extraordinary set of photos! The striped hill is so striking but then everything else is so beautifully subtle. Oh, I could live in that pink canyon 🙂 I’m just catching up on your series and can’t wait until I get through all of the posts – thanks for putting the links back from this post.

    • Thanks very much, Lynn.

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed every entry Kerry! Beautiful photographs and well written accompaniments. Glad you had a safe and productive trip. The areas you visited have been on my list of destinations and you’ve certainly added even more inspiritation.

    • Thanks very much, Derek; I greatly appreciate it.

      No question in my mind, you’d love these locations.

  12. These are gorgeous images. Thank you for taking me on a lovely little vacation!

    • Thanks very much, Kate.

  13. Crazy beautiful, Kerry…wonderful stuff. Thank you. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Scott.

      • It’s always a pleasure….

  14. This is absolutely on my bucket list! It’s just stunning! Every shot of those curvy rocks makes me want to be there with my camera! Thanks so much for all your posts, Kerry! I can’t wait to see where you go next! 😉

    • Thanks very much, Judy. If you do see yourself heading to Valley of Fire, give me a heads up and I’ll steer you to a photographic e-guide of the park (put together by a pair of German photographers who have been there numerous times). It’s very inexpensive ($5, I think) and extremely thorough, with lots of information to help find features that you otherwise would never see.

      As for what’s next…well, on Saturday I’m off to northern Arizona for about six days. My wife signed me up for a photo tour that includes Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I never would have pulled the trigger on this myself, but now that it’s happening I’m pretty excited. These were all places on my “definitely must do someday” list and I’ve never seen any of them before. If nothing else, this will serve as a preview for a future trip I can make to the area on my own…but hopefully it will be a lot more fruitful than that.

  15. Beautiful! I’ve been once before, but didn’t venture off the main roads & paths much. I will be visiting again this summer & will be bringing friends who have never been west of the Mississippi. I’d love to see the “pink canyon”. I don’t see this on any of the maps. Can you tell me what area it is in & maybe GPS coordinates? Thanks !

    • Thanks very much.

      You’re very brave planning a trip to Valley of Fire in the summer. 🙂

      Pink Canyon is located directly off a dry wash along the Scenic Drive in VoF–on the right-hand side of the road as you drive in. I don’t have the GPS coordinates handy, but my recommendation would be to go to the following link:

      There you can purchase an e-book to Valley of Fire (for 4 euros–roughly $4.50 US at today’s exchange rates) and it will give you a very thorough description of how to get to Pink Canyon as well as the GPS coordinates. It will also give you similar descriptions/coordinates for a lot of other locations in Valley of Fire, many of which you’d never find on your own. I purchased and used this guide myself, to great effect, when I visited the park three years ago. FWIW, I don’t benefit in any way from sales of the above linked guide, but it’s so thorough and well-implemented that I can’t help but recommend it. For the price, the guide is an absolute steal.

      Hope this helps.

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