Southern Utah with Gordon and Cathy Illg

A unique tour that gets you into the backcountry for some special images. We’ll spend time in some of the best locations in Grand Staircase Escalante and Capitol Reef. We’ll be there for fall color too!

Grand Staircase-Escalante with David Kingdom

Imagine a landscape that includes miles of endless desert punctuated by large sandstone outcroppings and remote deep slot canyons. This sentence describes one of Utah’s most beautiful gems; Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is truly a wild place, one that photographers have endless and diverse scenes to shoot. We will be leading you through this landscape, exploring sandstone arches, desert, and narrow walls of sandstone slot canyons. We will teach you how to photograph and chase the light through the canyons, and follow it as it paints the bright red sandstone outcroppings. From small abstracts to grand scenes, we will photograph this dynamic environment by day, and if weather permits, spend a night or two capturing the newly fully emerged milky way over the rocks and desert. The bright, new spring greens of the cottonwoods contrasted with the red sandstone walls that we will be hiking among creates stunning scenes. We will spend some time going over post processing techniques that bring out the detail and glow in the canyons and landscape. Join us in late spring for this chance to explore and photograph this special place in Utah!

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

As I have mentioned a time or two, Grand Staircase-Escalante in central Utah is my favorite national monument. This is the case primarily for one reason; variety. This sprawling tract covers close to two million acres, almost as big as immense Yellowstone National Park.  The monument was established in 1996 with the former Escalante Wilderness as its core, primarily as a means of protecting this chunk of central Utah from the prospective strip mining of its extensive coal deposits. At the same time, whether by accident or design, it has the simultaneous effect of protecting some of the most spectacular rock formations in all of the Southwest. Lucky us!

There are several wonderful areas within the boundaries of “The Escalante” so it can be a challenge to decide where to begin. Whether or not you have researched the monument online in advance of any trip here, it’s a good idea to make an initial stop at one of the BLM / multi-agency ranger stations serving the Escalante. They are located in the towns of Kanab and Escalante, Utah. Stopping to speak with a ranger can help to put some of the photo opportunities here in some degree of logical order.

In brief and in no particular order, the prime ‘Do Not Miss’ areas here are:

Curvy red sandstone in Devil’s Garden, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah. © Jerry Ginsberg

Devil’s Garden A tightly packed and surreal playground filed with outrageously eroded hoodoos and arches. My wife, at a willowy 5’9″ is accustomed to her high vantage point. Even in light of that, she is quite struck to be “feeling like Alice in Wonderland” among these remarkable geologic forms. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: How do national monuments differ?

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

President Theodore Roosevelt was the original maverick. When he saw a problem, he found a solution, even if he had to bend the rules a bit to create one.

As far back as 1906, this activist president was faced with a need to protect the immense volcanic plug called Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming. Characteristically forging his own path, he applied the new Antiquities Act in an unorthodox fashion to create America’s very first national monument. Before he was done, Roosevelt signed 18 national monuments into existence.

Congress had intended the Antiquities Act to protect “objects of historic and scientific interest.” In essence, it was meant to prohibit pot hunters from stripping ancient Native American sites of their treasures. Still, after over a century of precedent, Roosevelt’s creative application of the act has now become settled law, and its continued use is unlikely to be altered going forward.

Certainly not all such monuments come into being in this dramatic fashion. Many wind their way through a bureaucratic process that can take years.

Once a monument is established, it becomes a unit of the National Park Service. Some monuments are administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). No matter how they come into being or who administers them, national monuments do not have national park status, facilities or the number of visitors that frequent national parks.

Of the approximately 130 national monuments presently in existence, 30 have been established in this young century alone. Continue reading