Cliffs and Monoliths

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Rock Dragon. A weathered rock formation splits a canyon in Colorado National Monument, Colorado.
Nikon D800 with AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED at 1/2 sec, f/9.5, ISO 100.

About a year after our trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we drove through western Colorado after dropping our daughter off at the University of Wyoming for her freshman year. One of places we explored was Colorado National Monument next to Grand Junction, Colorado. The pictures above and below give a good indication of the terrain—lots of canyons and cliffs and towers of rock. All of these images were made along Rimrock Drive, the main road through the monument that for the most part winds along the tops of the canyons.

Burrowing. A rock formation disappears below ground in Colorado National Monument, Colorado.
Nikon D800 with AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED at 0.7 sec, f/9.5, ISO 100.

Both of the wide-angle views above were taken just after sunset, which is why there aren’t any deep shadows present. A little earlier, as the sun was beginning to set, I had used a longer lens to isolate interesting sections of the cliffs. There are innumerable potential compositions when using this strategy, and the setting sun raking across the cliffs emphasizes the textures in the rock. The trees also add scale—these are big cliffs—something that these crops further emphasize by not including their bottom or top.

Sunset Fracture. A cliff shows a fresh-looking scar from a long-ago rockfall in Colorado National Monument, Colorado.
Nikon D800 with AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR at 175mm, 1/180 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200.
Orphan. A single tree inhabits a ledge under a cliff in Colorado National Monument, Colorado.
Nikon D800 with AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR at 200mm, 1/20 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200.

This next image isolates a particular rock formation; I really like its shape, but I can’t quite figure out what it reminds me of.

Temple Gates. The setting sun highlights a rock formation in relief in Colorado National Monument, Colorado.
Nikon D800 with AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR at 200mm, 1/45 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200.

This final image was taken at the last place we stopped along the road. It was about half an hour after the sun had set, so the warm light of the setting sun had been replaced by the softer bluish light of twilight. The result is a very different feel from the images above:

Twilight Monolith. The early evening lights of Grand Junction shine behind Independence Monument in Colorado National Monument, Colorado.
Nikon D800 with AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR at 120mm, 15 sec, f/9.5, ISO 100.

This image is one of my all-time favorites, actually, and I have used it as a background on my computer for years. I really like the composition, the purplish color palette, and the few streaks of headlights and taillights on the highway in the distance from the long exposure. I have also used this image cropped square, just keeping the left side; it works, but I prefer to have the rock on the right side because I like the swooping curve that it makes.

Colorado National Monument is definitely a place worth visiting and deserves a lot more time than I gave it passing through.

Next week I plan to start showing images from my recent trip to Vancouver Island, Canada. There’s a lot to cover there!

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