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Old Mar 27, 12, 2:44 pm   #1
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Monument Valley Photography Guide

I am taking a week long photography trip to the Four Corners region in late April. Planning 2-3 days in the Monument Valley area. I understand that to go anywhere off the main road in the Valley requires an accompanying guide (and a permit). Any recommendations and experiences would be appreciated.

Also suggestions for locales starting in Albuquerque, then to Farmington (Ghost Ranch on the way), and then MV. Not sure about the return to ALQ. Perhaps Acoma, although I know that photography is limited there.

Thanks.

S.
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Old Mar 27, 12, 4:03 pm   #2
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Can't help with the guide question (stayed on the allowed roads) but do NOT miss Canyon de Chelly while you're in the area. See the rim as well as the valley floor, e.g. :

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Old Mar 27, 12, 4:29 pm   #3
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Would you like a response to all your questions and proposed 700 mile round-trip in one of the most scenic regions of the world in 50 words or less?

I lived in ABQ for a couple of years and didn't get to do everything I wanted to so the idea of a one-week whirlwind trip makes my head spin.

I suppose it starts with your planned route.

I could lay out several routes that get you to MV and back in a week but none of them would hit all of the major points let alone all of the points that are less well known but just as interesting.

If I had to nail it down to a single, coherent route I suppose that it would look something like [1] take the "back road" [14] around the Sandias [through Madrid, etc.] to Santa Fe, then [2] take 285/502 through Los Alamos, the [3] west to Chaco Canyon, then from there to the Farmington area, then [4] to MV and then [5] to Antelope Canyon.

From there it depends on whether or not you plan on returning to ABQ.

Of course there are many things to see along this route so maybe if you have a more firm idea of what routing you might take I could be more specific.

In general, heading west/northwest from ABQ I would consider things like Santa Fe, the Los Alamos caldera, Chaco Canyon [public], and Antelope Canyon [guide required] to be "must sees".

Whether or not you hit places like Walnut Canyon and Acoma depend on how/if you circle back to ABQ.
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Old Mar 27, 12, 6:28 pm   #4
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I haven't made that trip yet, though seeing Monument Valley in several films is what sent me on trips to Arches, Bryce, Zion, and several other fantastic locations in the red rock deserts of that part of the southwest. From those trips, I'd recommend Laurent Martres' Photographing the Southwest vol 2 -- Arizona. His advice was absolutely spot-on for just about every place I've traveled in the southwest--and yes, he does indicate that you need a Navajo guide for the best parts of Monument Valley.

If you travel at all from ABQ up toward SAF,
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
is worth a stop along I-25. In addition to the eponymous tent rocks, it has a few sections of slot canyon which are an easy hike and make for interesting photography if you've not visited any of the southwest's more famous slot canyons--and which are more accessible than places like Zebra or Spooky and don't require a guide like Antelope Canyon.
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Old Mar 28, 12, 2:25 pm   #5
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Thanks for all of the great suggestions. I have been to this area several times but this is the first one solely for photography (and alone). Places I have already done are Santa Fe and Taos Pueblo (the Turtle Dance celebration, which did not allow photography, and then later when photography was allowed with a permit). Also, Rancho de Taos, of course. Went to Ghost Ranch quite a few years ago, and took photos (film) but the camera was stolen before I got to develop them. Major bummer. GR is already on my list.

I have also been to Acoma Sky City and Canyon de Chelly but prior to doing any serious photography. Took two trips to the canyon floor, once by horseback and the other by 4WD. Simply spectacular, with a very interesting guides. On horseback, the guide was very quiet. I managed to engage him a bit and he became comfortable with conversation. We talked about many issues - BIA, alcoholism and poverty on the reservation, his religion. I will never forget that experience.

Will check out Antelope and Walnut Canyons and Kasha-Katuwe. I have already purchased all three of Laurent Martres' books, exerda. Just need to find the time to do some serious reading and planning, although I like to be as spontaneous as possible.

Thanks again. Will keep you posted.
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Old Mar 28, 12, 10:57 pm   #6
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Thanks for all of the great suggestions. I have been to this area several times but this is the first one solely for photography (and alone). Places I have already done are Santa Fe and Taos Pueblo (the Turtle Dance celebration, which did not allow photography, and then later when photography was allowed with a permit). Also, Rancho de Taos, of course. Went to Ghost Ranch quite a few years ago, and took photos (film) but the camera was stolen before I got to develop them. Major bummer. GR is already on my list.

I have also been to Acoma Sky City and Canyon de Chelly but prior to doing any serious photography. Took two trips to the canyon floor, once by horseback and the other by 4WD. Simply spectacular, with a very interesting guides. On horseback, the guide was very quiet. I managed to engage him a bit and he became comfortable with conversation. We talked about many issues - BIA, alcoholism and poverty on the reservation, his religion. I will never forget that experience.

Will check out Antelope and Walnut Canyons and Kasha-Katuwe. I have already purchased all three of Laurent Martres' books, exerda. Just need to find the time to do some serious reading and planning, although I like to be as spontaneous as possible.

Thanks again. Will keep you posted.
Antelope Canyon is a truly amazing place.

Yes, it has been photographed to death - almost to the point of being a cliche - but even just as an experience it is well worth the effort. Also make sure to time your visit so you get the best light.

I would also make an effort to visit Chaco Canyon and Pueblo Bonito if you haven't already, another truly amazing place and it is also "on the way" from ABQ to Farmington [make sure to climb the slot/crevice steps so you can see Pueblo Bonito from the plateau above [just don't think about the movie 127 Hours ].
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Old Mar 29, 12, 5:21 pm   #7
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Antelope Canyon appears to be at least a 2 hour drive from Monument Valley (will be staying at the View Hotel for 3 nights). The Antelope tour that seems the most appropriate is 11:30am-2pm. I could devote one of those days to Monument Valley and the other to Antelope Valley. The latter would be quite a lot of driving but I prefer to spend the nights at the View.

Does this make sense?
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Old Mar 29, 12, 9:35 pm   #8
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Antelope Canyon appears to be at least a 2 hour drive from Monument Valley (will be staying at the View Hotel for 3 nights). The Antelope tour that seems the most appropriate is 11:30am-2pm. I could devote one of those days to Monument Valley and the other to Antelope Valley. The latter would be quite a lot of driving but I prefer to spend the nights at the View.

Does this make sense?
That sounds very doable.

I was last at Antelope Canyon in '96. As I remember you drive to the entrance, park [just an informal dirt area] and then wait for a truck and pay the driver to take you to the canyons. It appeared to me that the trucks were being driven just by random members of the Navajo Nation in their own vehicles, by which I mean there weren't any organized tour vans, etc. but I seem to remember a friend telling me a few years ago that the process had changed somewhat, was somehow more formal now.

Late morning to mid-afternoon is best for the light; too early or too late and the sun will be too low in the sky to reach into the canyons.

As for Monument Valley, you can have a meaningful experience in three hours or three days. You just sort of drive around and take it in.

I also don't think that one necessarily has a lesser experience by just paying the access fee to drive around yourself as opposed to paying the much higher guided tour fee and seeing Hunts Mesa - then again I have done both so...
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Old Mar 30, 12, 12:46 pm   #9
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They have tours of Antelope at 6 times per day. The 11:30 is limited to 12, spends more time in the canyon, and is intended for experienced photographers.
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Old Mar 30, 12, 1:35 pm   #10
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They have tours of Antelope at 6 times per day. The 11:30 is limited to 12, spends more time in the canyon, and is intended for experienced photographers.


A website, reservations, brochures, tour operators...

Things appear to have changed a lot - in the last 15 years [feeling old][/feeling old]
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Old Mar 30, 12, 3:33 pm   #11
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A website, reservations, brochures, tour operators...

Things appear to have changed a lot - in the last 15 years [feeling old][/feeling old]
It happens. I suspect I have a "few" years on you.

I have dreamed of taking photos of a canyon like this. Thanks for making me aware of it.
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Old Apr 4, 12, 2:22 pm   #12
 
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It never hurts to look behind you now and then as well. You might be surprised...





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Old Apr 4, 12, 5:39 pm   #13
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Very nice! I will keep an eye on the mirrors.

Signed up for Tom Phillips' photo guide tour today. 4+ hours starting before sunrise, a 2-3 hour break, then 4 hours ending after sunset. All very informal. His nephew called him to confirm he was available on one of two days I am available, took down my name and that was it. No deposit. Cancellation policy - just call us a day in advance.

2A, what time of the year were your shots taken?

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Old Apr 4, 12, 8:37 pm   #14
 
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I will third (or fourth, or fifth?) the recommendation for Antelope. An amazing place! I am 99% positive I did that same exact extended tour linked to a few posts above, in 2008. Highly recommended!



Upper Antelope Canyon by penner42, on Flickr
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Old Apr 4, 12, 9:28 pm   #15
 
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Polarizer really helps bring out the color of the rocks in the bright light.
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