Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter Golden Hour 2, Granite Dells, Arizona

[Photo: Granite Dells and water tank, late afternoon]

On this hike into the Granite Dells north of Prescott, Arizona, I approached the Dells from the east, using the Iron King Trail. It was about three miles across the flats of the Antelope Hills area, skirting the northern base of Glassford Hill. 

It's four miles from the trailhead at Glassford Hill Road to the junction with the Peavine Trail. Both trails use abandoned railroad grades that were originally built in the late 1800s. They were the first rail service to Prescott from the Santa Fe mainline north, and to the rich copper mines south in the Bradshaw Mountains.

About three miles in, you finally get to the edge of the Granite Dells. There are a few of the historic little railroad cars along the way, but no other interpretive signs until you get to the Peavine Trail. A sign or two as to how the railroad cars were powered, and what they carried, would be a nice addition. 

Sunlit grasses in the Granite Dells at evening

Once into the Dells, the landscape is infinitely more interesting. The slowly eroding granite rocks make for endless shapes and patterns. There are even still mountain lions in this area, along with coyotes and javelina. The Dells are surrounded by open ranch land and developed subdivisions, but the ruggedness of this relatively small area of rocks provides enough sanctuary for at least a few mountain lions. 

Water tank reflection, Granite Dells
At this point there was a "tank" or pond that had plenty of water, even in this dry winter. A lone mallard duck made some ripples on the otherwise mirror surface as I approached, but seemed too used to people visitors that it didn't bother to fly away. The surface of the water intensified the saturation of the blue sky reflection, and the rocks framing the tank.

Railroad car, Iron King Trail, Granite Dells
It was also near this point that there was another old railroad car. The granite rocks, clear blue Arizona sky, and the low sunlight provided a very nice composition.

It was the evening golden hour, and the color temperature was getting ever warmer as the sun approached the western horizon. 

Sunlit grasses, Granite Dells
Besides the obvious artistic attraction of all the rock formations, the dead golden grasses were lit up by the sunlight. Where there was a convenient area of shadow behind the grasses, the contrast made for some striking photos. Dead grasses continue to provide beauty long after their season-short life cycle is over. 

Granite spires, Point Of Rocks, Granite Dells, Prescott, Arizona

Finally I was to Point of Rocks. Besides the fantastic vertical granite spires and boulders, this was where the two railroads joined. There was even a train depot here. All that remains is a cement slab. 

One of the most photogenic stone formations is right near the Peavine Trail here. It is a twin monolith of granite, like two stone tablets set in the bedrock. One can't help but think the Ten Commandments would go well on them. Though I'm glad that they are unaltered. 

"Stone Tablets", Granite Dells, Prescott, Arizona

At this time of the year, the almost-set sun lit up the Tablets while their base was in shadow, as if a spotlight was on them. The deep blue sky and the tree in the middle background were very nice additions.

Granite rock spires, Granite Dells, Yavapai County, Arizona

Zooming in on some of the other vertical stone formations set against the blue sky. The shadows help to provide detail and a feeling of depth.

Point Of Rocks at sunset, Granite Dells, Prescott, Arizona
Alternately, going wide with the zoom lens reveals a composition of twin arcs provided by the golden-lit rocks, and the shadows of some other rocks formations off to the left. 
Sunset on Point Of Rocks, Granite Dells, Prescott, Arizona

One more look at the pointiest rock formation before the sun slid beneath the horizon. Then it was time for the four mile walk back to the trailhead. The first couple were in twilight, but the last couple were total darkness.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter Golden Hour, Granite Dells, Arizona

This is why photographers call it the golden hour, the first hour of daylight and the last hour in the evening.

I was walking part of the Peavine Trail, an historic railroad grade converted to a nonmotorized trail. This portion went south, into the north end of the fascinating Granite Dells area. As I walked south, the distant bulk of Granite Mountain stood light blue on the horizon to the west. The foreground prairie was yellow in the late afternoon winter light. The jagged outlines of some of the dells formed the middle horizon.

A patch of dead yellow weeds along the edge of the railroad grade stopped me in my tracks. The low angle of the sunlight lit up the paper thin leaves, especially against the deep shade in the background. I love having some of the most common things brought to my attention by the light. 

After a couple of miles of walking, the upright rock formations of the Dells approached. This granite layer is said to have formed two or three miles beneath the Earth's surface. Whatever layers were above it have been eroded away. Continuing erosion shapes the fantastic spires and boulders, eventually reducing them to gravel and sand. Things falling apart create the most amazing shapes and patterns.

This area was named Point of Rocks by the railroad people. To the north is mostly open prairie. 

I had arrived at the perfect time of day. The sun was near the western horizon, warming the color on the rocks. I made a number of photos of different composition. But the light changes by the minute at this time, so it was going to be over quickly. 

And it was. Then I retraced my steps, walking back to the trailhead in the deepening dusk.

Yavapai County, Arizona, north of Prescott.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mountain Ranch in January, Northern Arizona

[Photo: Morning, Pittman Valley and Sitgreaves Mountain, Coconino County, Arizona.
Click on image for larger version.]
Snowy scenery on a still, frozen winter morning in the Pittman Valley of northern Arizona. Coyote tracks are the first visible sign on the snow's surface after a winter storm passed through.

In the distance is the long, lumpy form of Sitgreaves Mountain, an extinct lava dome volcano.

Between Parks and Williams, Coconino County, Arizona.

Frozen Tracks, Winter Sunrise, Pittman Valley, Arizona

[Photo: Sunrise snowscape and Sitgreaves Mountain, Arizona.
Click on image for larger version.]

Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a winter landscape and never need a house, clothing, or money? Everything is available to the coyote and the other residents of wildlife. 

A frozen January sunrise brings blue shadows, bright snow shapes, and ethereal ground fog to a mountain meadow traversed by a few tracks during the night.
Pittman Valley, Coconino Plateau, west of Flagstaff, Arizona. At upper right is Sitgreaves Mountain.