Posted by: kerryl29 | July 6, 2021

The Desert Southwest: First Evening, First Morning

As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, Jason and I drove from Colorado Springs to Page, Arizona on the first day of the trip. We ended up departing two full hours later than we had intended, due to circumstances beyond our control. As a result, we arrived in Page less than an hour before sunset.

On the drive, we had batted around possible locations to visit for sunset that day, but due to our late arrival our choices were limited. We decided to visit a location, just across the border in Utah–part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area–known as Stud Horse Point. The spot includes several large hoodoos and impressive views in multiple directions and is accessed by a somewhat sketchy unpaved road.

The turnoff to Stud Horse Point is unmarked, but Jason had been to the location once before and, fortunately, remembered the turn. We also had some written directions because, even after finding the initial access road, there are a number of turns on additional unmarked roads that need to be followed. We made our way to the Point in the steadily improving light and, after about 15 minutes of driving on the various dirt roads, reached a gate. The road on the other side of the gate–which was unlocked–was even sketchier than those we’d already traversed, so we parked the vehicle and got out and walked the remainder of the way, which was mostly uphill and moderately sandy. It was only another quarter mile or so when we crested a hill and found ourselves looking down on the Point.

We had perhaps 10 minutes until the sun went down, so what scouting there was to be would have to be very quick. Looking out to the north, I saw dabs of sunlight on rocky formations in the distance. In the foreground was one of the aforementioned hoodoos and other, less distinct, rocks. All of this was underneath a clear blue sky, with a gradient forming on the horizon.

Stud Horse Point, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
Stud Horse Point, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Eschewing the hoodoos momentarily, I quickly focused my attention on one of the foreground boulders.

Stud Horse Point, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

As the sun descended below the horizon, the earthshadow impact in the eastern sky grew stronger on this clear evening. I hastened to move several hundred feet to my right, where the Point provides views to the east, in the direction of the ever-shrinking Lake Powell.

Earthshadow, Stud Horse Point, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
Earthshadow, Stud Horse Point, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
Earthshadow, Stud Horse Point, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

The light disappeared quickly and we returned to our vehicle in the gloom. That’s when we discovered that we were stuck in the sand. It was pitch dark at this point, but we had a shovel and I did some digging, using my headlamp to illuminate the area. Jason engaged the four-wheel drive feature and we got out of the predicament with a minimum of hassle. We then descended to the main highway without further incident and made the relatively short drive to a dispersed camping area near the trailhead to Wahweap Hoodoos. We–mostly Jason, since he knew what he was doing–then assembled the tent in the pitch dark. This was a foreshadowing of sorts as we set up the tent in the dark every night but one.

We awoke well before sunrise the next morning. The plan was to visit a spot known as Little Cut–another overlook, back across the border in Arizona–for sunrise. The only problem was that neither of us had ever been there and the directions we had for the location were imprecise. But we found it nevertheless–a “cut” in the rock, right off the roadside, 10-odd miles south of Page.

We left the vehicle at a pull-off, and walked out to the overlook. The light was just beginning to come up, allowing for a quick scout. I rapidly found a composition I liked, fine-tuned it and waited for the light.

Little Cut, Coconino County, Arizona

I then backed up about 30 feet, for a slight modification of the same scene.

Little Cut, Coconino County, Arizona

I descended with care below this particular shooting platform as the sun breached the horizon, to focus on the tent-shaped rocks in the mid=ground, which were positively glowing orange-red in the low-angled sunlight.

Little Cut Sunrise Glow, Coconino County, Arizona

While down at this lower shooting position I glanced behind me and saw the setting moon, above a lone conifer.

Lone Tree Moonset, Little Cut, Coconino County, Arizona

The quality of light fades quickly in this desert environment and the morning’s shoot came to a rapid conclusion. We went back to our campsite, broke down the tent and began the long slow drive to White Pocket…



  1. Quite an interesting landscape !!

    Great images and interesting notes…

    Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

  2. Kerry, I enjoyed seeing your shots at Stud Horse Point. Always fascinating how everyone sees different compositional opportunities. My wife and I also visited Stud Horse Point this spring. Really nice location — both for sunrise and sunset — although it is a bit tricky to find, as you say. The road beyond the gate isn’t a problem with 4WD; I drove it three times, being very careful to close the gate properly behind me. Very quiet spot — two young fellows showed up a bit late for sunset (they parked at the gate, almost blocking the road), but I was alone at sunrise the following morning. Fortunately, we arrived in Page early enough so we could scout the route mid-day — I would not have wanted to try it the first time in the dark! I also enjoyed your shots at Little Cut — not a location I’d heard of. I’ll have to check it out next time we’re in the area. Thanks for your posts.

    • Steve, I’ve put this together by reading the details of your comment, but the “two young fellows” who showed up…that was us! (Thanks for the “young” part. πŸ™‚ ) We definitely did show up a bit late, as I laid out in the narrative. When we showed up and saw your vehicle down there (I did note the Massachusetts tags), we decided that we’d been unnecessarily cautious about the condition of the road beyond the gate). And when it was clear that you were leaving I said to Jason “I hope we didn’t block the gate” given where we left our vehicle. Since you didn’t come back, we figured you’d been able to squeeze by (it wasn’t that much longer before we were down there anyway, but that’s where we briefly got caught in the sand, so…). We honestly didn’t expect anyone to be out there.

      But, no doubt, that was a chance meeting in the field, even though no one knew it at the time. You and I did speak briefly, you may recall–I think I said something about you’re being a long way from home (based on your license plates), but sorry I wasn’t chattier. Given the changing light and the fact that I was really having to do a scout in real time, I was somewhat preoccupied.

      I really dislike not being able to scout locations in advance, but there really was nothing we could do about that in this instance; same goes for Little Cut the following morning.

      Speaking of which, I’m not even 100% sure that “Little Cut” is an official name of the location; it’s a spot Jason found based on some Web searching, I believe. But it’s a nice overlook. It doesn’t have the same set of dramatic features at the site as Stud Horse and the views aren’t quite as expansive, but it’s still quite good and I’m glad we checked it out.

      • Kerry, I can’t believe we came so close to meeting! (I’m also glad I didn’t say anything too snarky about your vehicle .) When I read your narrative, I had a fleeting thought that it might have been you I saw, but the probability seemed too remote.

        I didn’t want to interfere with your shooting, so didn’t try to chat. I couldn’t figure out where you two had come from until I got to the gate and saw your vehicle. As far as the “young” part, it’s all relative, right? Glad you got out of the sand; if I’d still been around I could have offered a quick tow.

        Hopefully we’ll actually get to chat face-to-face sometime.

        • I hope it wasn’t too difficult clearing that gate area, Steve. And, yes on the relative thing; Jason actually is fairly young, about 12 years younger than I am.

          Indeed, hopefully there will be an actual in-the-flesh meeting at some point.

  3. Other than being stuck in the sand, looks like a wonderful start to the trip. The quality of the light is dreamy, and your eye for composition makes for truly remarkable images.

  4. At the beginning the rock formation looks turquoise. Then you got the blue of the sky and orange of the earth-my favourite complimentary colours. beautiful colours and light. How fascinating that you ran into people you know from the blog!

    • Thanks, Jane.

      The irony of the meeting of people from the blog is…well, we didn’t realize that we knew one another! πŸ™‚

  5. Hello old friend. πŸ™‚ I’m glad to see that you’ve still got your creative side going. I’m way, way behind you in the photography department but I’m hoping to get to eastern Utah in the fall and take a ton of photos. Maybe our paths will cross on one of these adventures.

    • Hey, John, great to hear from you! (What’s it been, something like 25 years?) I’ll drop you an email; maybe we can catch up a bit on the last 2 1/2 decades. πŸ™‚

  6. So unusual – would make a good exhibition

    • Thanks very much!

      And as for unusual….wait until you get a look at the images from White Pocket.

  7. Beautiful pictures of the Desert.

    • Thanks very much!

  8. Beautiful images. It makes me proud to be an AZ native when I see these beautiful captures.

    • Thanks very much!

      More Arizona images to come in the next post, which should be up on Monday.

  9. […] we were done at Little Cut, early on the morning of the first day of the trip, we returned to our campsite, broke everything […]

  10. […] at White Pocket, suffice to say, isn’t anything like photographing at an overlook (like Little Cut), even an overlook with an extensive array of directional options (like Stud Horse Point). At White […]

  11. […] the first morning of the desert Southwest trip, while photographing sunrise at Little Cut, I was in the process of packing up to leave when I noticed a composition with elements that […]

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