Bishop California, located in the Eastern Sierra is one of those places you normally pass through on your way to some of the spectacular scenery of the Eastern Sierra. Visitors passing through are likely to stop for breakfast at one of the higher profile eateries that have a prominent presence on Main Street. Less visible, but favored by locals is the Pupfish Cafe at 124 S. Main Street. If you like waffles the Leige waffles are a must. Simply delicious. Crisp and buttery with a pillow soft inside. Also a delicious assortment of avocado toasts and great coffee.
On July 3 I found myself touring Antelope Canyon with camera and tripod in hand.
The slot canyons of the Southwest provide some remarkable photo opportunities. These canyons are often deep and narrow with red sandstone walls eroded into fantastic shapes by wind and water. Antelope Canyon is one of the more famous canyons and you need to book a tour with one of the tour operators that provide Navajo guides. We booked our tour several months ago through Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tour. The cost for the tour was $195 for a tour of two canyons; well worth the money. You can book a regular tour in which case you are limited to a hand-held camera or you can book a photo tour which requires a camera and tripod. Joann booked a regular tour for herself and a photo tour for me.
My photo tour started at 9:00 AM, and we were instructed to be at the tour headquarters 45 minutes early. For the regular tour no bags or backpacks are allowed, likewise for the photo tour you can take a camera and tripod, again no bags or backpacks. Some of the canyons are quite narrow and having a backpack would hinder movement. There is also a concern of scratching the canyon walls and leaving marks if you are carrying a backpack with a tripod. I arrived at the headquarters with my backpack, Nikon D800, and two lenses, a 14-24 and a 28-300, and a water bottle. I opted to shoot with the 14-24 on the advice that wider is better. I also had my little Sony RX100 in a holster on my belt. At 8:45 we climbed into an Hummer for a 15 minute ride up a sandy wash. A rather bumpy ride. Our first stop was Rattlesnake Canyon. I left my pack and water bottle in the car and grabbed my camera and tripod. Even if I had taken my second lens, changing lenses in the canyon is not advisable. There is a tremendous amount of dust, and the risk of getting dust on the sensor is quite high.
In the canyon the guides were very efficient at helping us get into position, a challenge with multiple photographers in the tight confines of the canyon. They broke us into groups and placed us in different rooms, while making sure we had time to capture a few images while they controlled the visitors on other tours.
It wasn’t far into the first canyon when I dropped my remote cable in the sand, and at that point it stopped working properly. I was able to get it to work off and on, but it was a bit frustrating. With the tour operating as it does, you have a limited time to capture images. Be advised to make sure you know your camera well and that your equipment is in good order with fully charged batteries. You will have little time to fiddle with camera once you are in the canyon.
Once we had traversed Rattlesnake Canyon we hiked over the canyon rim back to the Hummer and headed for Upper Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a very busy place with many tourists traversing the canyon with their guides. Even so, the tour operators all seem to cooperate to give the photo tour access to some of the more interesting rooms. They will put the photographers in position, halt traffic through a room and give you a couple of minutes to shoot. As noon approached the shafts of light beaming down into the canyon became the focus of the tour. The guides would throw sand in the air to help accentuate the shafts of light. A very dusty experience. Several of the photographers had wrapped their cameras in plastic bags to protect them from dusk. Probably a good idea. Next time I might take my camera raincoat for that purpose. This tour is best done close to the summer solstice when the sun is high in the sky, creating vertical shafts of light deep in the canyon.
Following two family reunions, back to back, one a small event with seven people, the second a huge event with 95 people, I found myself reflecting on family.
Our road trip started out three weeks ago with a visit to our son and daughter-in-law in Big Pine, California. They will soon be adding another member to the family. Then on to Salt Lake City where we participated in a shower to honor our daughter and her husband, expecting their first baby. Two grandchildren to be joining the family in the next two months. Then on to Rancho Jacoma near Santa Fe where we joined my brothers for a reunion with spouses and a great aunt. We spent five days, eating together, hiking, and reminiscing about family. We stayed in the Butterfly House, with four bedrooms, enough to accommodate our group. My brother Arlen proved his culinary skills, creating gourmet meals for dinner. Our first evening together he cooked salmon which was exquisite. What was missing from our gathering was the younger generation, nieces and nephews. We’ll just have to hope we can get them all together at a future event.
Then on to Phoenix where we joined the Sundt Family reunion. With 95 people the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass resort was an appropriate venue. Dinner was catered at the nearby Rawhide facility. Duke Sundt, the family story teller took to the stage to tell stories and to serenade us.
The next day following breakfast, my wife Joann presented a tribute to her mother who was part of the Sundt clan and who had passed away recently. Joann also took on the job of maintaining the scrap book for her tribe. No small task. The scrap book is huge, and this is only one of the scrap books representing one of the 12 tribes of Sundts.
My experience of the Sundts is big hats, big belt buckles and big hearts. I always feel like I belong when we gather.
Our travels took us to Taliesin West today. We had purchased tickets ahead of time since we were planning on being in Phoenix today for a family reunion. We booked the “Details Tour,” which was a two hour tour covering some of the details of the architecture. Photos are permitted on this tour, so it as a treat to capture photos with my little Sony RX100.
Frank Lloyd Wright established Taliesin West in 1937 as his winter home and school in the desert. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. I was surprised to find that the buildings seem to be a bit rough hewn, which seems appropriate since the location was a laboratory for design and experimentation and much of the facilities were built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s students. The location was very remote at the time it was built and the design reflects Wright’s love of nature and philosophy about how design should interact with nature.
For anybody interested in architecture, design and nature this tour is a must.
We were driving down this dirt road on El Malpais National Monument, I was struck by the contrast of the bright white road catching the sun, with the dark clouds overhead. I just had to stop the car, step out into the middle of the road and snap a picture. I saw this in my minds eye as a black and white. Here’s the color version above and the black and white version below. Which to you prefer?
On June 28 we decided to make the drive from our casita at Rancho Jacona to Abiquiu to see Georgia O’Keeffe’s house. The drive was about 45 minutes (from Santa Fe it’s about 50 miles). We were able to get tickets with two days notice. Be aware that tours fill up quickly, so plan ahead if you wish to visit. The tour starts at the the O’Keeffe Welcome Center next to Abiquiú Inn. Here you board a shuttle bus for the short ride up the hill to the house. Photography is permitted on the grounds, but not in house. When we arrived at the house, thunder clouds were gathering and we were greeted by wind and light rain. Welcome relief from the hot sun and harsh light. I often prefer the soft light of overcast clouds for photography.
O’Keeffe purchased this property from Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 1945. She had been interested in the property for some time, but it wasn’t for sale. Eventually she convinced the church to sell the property. Over the next few years she remodeled the house to suit her needs and took up residence in 1945. She spent winters in Abiquiu and summers at Ghost Ranch.
The tour provides some interesting insight into O’Keeffe’s art work and her way of life.
Our outing yesterday took us to Kasha-Katuwe Ten Rocks National Monument some 35 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Part of our motivation to come to Santa Fe was the opportunities to hike. With a high fire danger though the National Forests were closed so we decided to head to the Tent Rocks for a short hike.
After a short hike through the desert Junipers we entered a slot canyon which provided a cool respite from the hot sun. We meandered through the slot canyon and then climbed up to a view point on the rim, hiking through fantastic towers and spires. These spires were formed by erosion of the volcanic ash left behind by local volcanoes millions of years ago.
Our hike covered 3.7 miles and we were happy to be done with our hike before noon, since the temperature was approaching 90 F when we returned to the car.