As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the Arizona photography workshop in which I participated in March incorporated three of my “dream” photographic locations: The incredible grand Grand Canyon, the outrageous Upper Antelope Canyon, and the subject of this blog, the mind-blowing, over-the-top Horseshoe Bend.
First a little geology and petrology. “Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River near Page, Arizona, is an entrenched meander located just below the Glen Canyon Dam. While most meanders are found “meandering” back and forth across loose, unconsolidated soil (not cemented together into a solid rock), or sediments of a river’s flood plain, an entrenched meander is cut into bedrock. This type of meander forms when land under a meandering river is uplifted by tectonic forces thereby rejuvenating the river, giving it additional power to erode downward into its bed. If prolonged over hundreds of thousands of years, such erosion may form a gorge. At Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River has cut through the eolian Jurassic sandstones creating scenic Glen Canyon, as well as, Horseshoe Bend.” (Adapted from NASA’s Earth Science Division 12/27/2011)
When I stand on the banks of a small creek or river listening to it winding its way through quiet woodlands and over rocks and forest debris, I find it peaceful and relaxing. Meditative. When I thought about standing high over the mighty Colorado River, never did a quiet, peaceful and relaxing tableau enter my mind.
Looking down on the Colorado River, I tried to visualize the incredible force and the millenniums it took to carve through the bedrock and form the contour that is known as Horseshoe Bend. I wondered how something so forceful and mighty could instill a sense of quiet and peace in me. Yet it did. I couldn’t hear the river flowing a thousand feet below me nor see any pleasure boats floating past or campers on its shores. The Colorado River looked more like colored glass instead of a prodigious river. Even though I was one of probably 25 photographers along the rim, I blocked them out and let my mind wander as I watched the glass-like ribbon circle around the mighty rocks a thousand feet below.
Getting to Horseshoe Bend is easier than you might think. Just outside of Page, Arizona, there is a small parking lot along side Highway 89. Arriving at the parking lot, excitement started building deep in my stomach. I could almost taste the fear bubbling up in my throat. Would I be able to walk out to the edge of the cliff in order to see and photograph the entire horseshoe? I had my doubts. After gathering up my equipment, I headed toward the sandy path that led away from the parking lot. Trudging up a football-field length of loose beach-like sand, I reached a pinnacle where I thought I would be able to see the canyon. Nada – I faced a rocky trail, which appeared to lead straight into the desert. Off I went. I didn’t see any signs of the canyon until I was almost there. After only a quarter of mile or so, I saw my first glimpse of famous Horseshoe Bend.
After setting my camera bag and tripod down, I cautiously crept up to within 3 or 4 yards of the edge. Whew – that’s a l-o-o-o-n-g way down there! Of course, I couldn’t see what I came to see. Calling on all my courage buried somewhere deep inside, I inched my way a little closer. After a few minutes, I knew what I had to do. I backed down, picked up my camera gear and tripod and headed toward another ledge with a less obstructed view. I laid my gear down about 10 feet from the edge. Took a deep breath. Picked up my tripod, opened it up and crept up to within a few inches of the edge and set it down. After a few minutes, I began to breathe again, but still couldn’t seem to move. I stood there with my tripod open and all my camera gear still in the backpack several feet behind me. Well, this wasn’t getting me anywhere. I finally turned my back on the sheer drop off, walked over and opened my bag, took out my camera and the paraphernalia I required. Turning back I was slightly surprise to find my tripod still set up exactly where I had left it and not a thousand feet below in multiple, twisted pieces. From that moment on, my fear dissipated. Not sure why, but seeing the tripod standing there seemingly saying, “If I can do this, so can you,” chased away my fearful butterflies. I settled down and began to concentrate on doing what I had come to do – capture the incredible scene before me. I relaxed and began to absorb the beauty and majesty around me.
After taking a gazillion images, I found myself walking along the edge scouting for a different view, encouraging others to edge a little closer and felt so thankful that I live in this wonderful land called America!
The next morning, we returned to Horseshoe Bend before heading down to Sedona. I took this opportunity to wander away from the edge and to capture different scenes and angles including this image of a fellow photographer standing where I had stood the evening before.
Two takeaways from this blog: 1) Be smart and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable doing, but don’t be afraid to look fear in its face. 2) Get out and visit the wonders of America and be amazed by its beauty. Always remembering to See the Extraordinary in the Ordinary – as well as in the Extraordinary!
A very special Thank You to Don Smith and Gary Hart for an unbelievably amazing Photography Workshop. Interested in taking a photography workshop? Be sure to check out their websites. http://www.donsmithphotography.com http://www.garyhartphotography.com