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!

Page and Lake Powell Slot Canyons with David Kingham

Slot canyons are Mother Nature’s natural mazes. The sinuous curves and the high sandstone walls call out to photographers to capture the essence that makes slot canyons magical. Join us on a tour of some of the more popular slot canyons, and on some personal favorites that are less crowded, and lesser known. We will photograph the intricate curves, details, and larger canyon scenes. We will also have an adventure on Lake Powell to explore an exceptional slot canyon that few have seen, and rivals Antelope Canyon. This canyon can only be accessed via boat and kayaking a short distance (no experience required). This canyon is a truly unique experience you will not find anywhere else. We will also photograph Canyon X at night for another unique experience. During our down time, you will learn post processing to make your photographs shine. Chase the light through the narrow passages and walls with us for this unique photography workshop experience.

“Bosque Wildlife” at Bosque del Apache NWR with Sandy Zelasko and Irene Hinke-Sacilotto

Situated along the Rio Grande River, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 57,000 acres and is a major wintering ground for cranes and waterfowl. Refuge personnel manage the water levels of its wetlands and impoundments to simulate what was once the seasonal flow of water from the Rio Grande before the river was damned and the flow altered. To feed the huge number of birds visiting the refuge each year, nearby fields are planted with corn, winter wheat, millet, and other grains. Loop roads transect the refuge marshes and fields and provide prime sites for wildlife viewing and photography. Species that may be seen include shovelers, buffleheads, pintails, teal and other ducks; bald and golden eagles; kestrels and other hawks; turkey; meadowlarks; quail; roadrunners; coyotes; mule deer; and more. In November, large flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes will be present. At night to escape predators, the birds flock to the marshes and shallow pools. With dawn, the snow geese and other waterfowl rise in mass from the wetlands and sweep overhead on their way to nearby fields to feed. Each day we will spend the early morning and late afternoon hours at the refuge photographing birds and many other species of wildlife which are present at the sanctuary.

Mesa Verde National Park

Story and Photography by Jerry Ginsberg

 

Spectacular Cliff Palace, largest of all ancient dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, CO. Cliff Palace was home to an advanced civilization until about the 13th century. Even now, no one is certain as to why they left. © Jerry Ginsberg

 

Nestled in the southwestern corner of Colorado sits the first and (almost) the only national park established to protect the works of man, rather than Nature, the fascinating Mesa Verde.

Hidden for centuries and unknown to Europeans until a couple of cowboys looking for strays stumbled upon it in 1888, this treasure trove of Native American history includes several thousand structures, both simple and complex, that were built here spanning a period that is estimated to have lasted from perhaps 600 to about 1300 C.E.

The Anasazi, more recently dubbed Ancestral Puebloans, the people who lived here, managed to create a society that was quite complex and advanced for its time.

The majority of the structures and their remains are on the mesa tops, but the most fascinating and certainly photogenic are the 500-600 cliff dwellings carved into the bare rock in many natural alcoves just below the surface. Even after a good deal of scholarly investigation, no one today can be certain why these people left or where they went.

Mesa Verde is located right along Rt. 160 between Cortez and the wonderfully preserved town of Durango, CO. Just inside the park entrance is the new visitor center where you will need to get your tour tickets for several of the best cliff dwellings. The sites you will want to visit are in two distinct areas: Chapin Mesa and the less visited Wetherill Mesa. The road to the latter is open only from May thru September.

 

Spruce Tree House is perhaps the most accessible of all the ancient dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, CO. Visit in the afternoon for the best light. Try descending the ladder in the kiva. © Jerry Ginsberg

 

For a good introduction, start with easily accessed Spruce Tree Ruin, located just below the Chapin Mesa Museum. Walk the short self-guiding trail, talk to a ranger, descend the ladder into the subterranean kiva.

On the Chapin Mesa tabletop, drive the Cliff Palace Loop and the rim drive for long distance views of many cliff dwellings built just below the mesa top. In this area, the major “do not miss” sites include Cliff Palace and Balcony House tours (advance tickets required) and external views of these two as well as Square Tower House and Sun Point.

 

Historic Balcony House, a dwelling of the ancient and long vanished Anasazi people, is well-preserved and somewhat stabilized in Mesa Verde NP, CO.  It is accessible only via open-rung ladder. © Jerry Ginsberg

 

Balcony House and Sun Point are best at first light, while Cliff Palace will look its best in late light and Square Tower House Overlook around sunset. Limited access into Square Tower House may be offered as well. Inquire at the visitor center.  If time permits, also walk the Petroglyph Point trail.

A special word about famed Cliff Palace. This was the very first and certainly the grandest structure sighted and explored by the Wetherill brothers back in 1888. It remains so and is by far the pre-eminent feature of Mesa Verde National Park. It is well worth setting aside a little extra time to explore Cliff Palace.

If you visit Mesa Verde during the busy summer season, drive the short road out to Wetherill Mesa. This special area has a somewhat different feel to it and offers several photo opportunities. Take the self-guided trail through Step House and the ranger-guided tour through Long House (advance ticket required).  The tram tour of Wetherill Mesa is not for serious photography, but can be fun.
A somewhat rough trail to the Nordenskiold Site may be open to visitors. Ask at the visitor center. While at Mesa Verde, just a short drive away you will find Hovenweep National Monument with its many varied Puebloan towers. A very worthwhile stop.

While Durango has a small commuter airport, the closest major airport is Denver.  Durango is a fun
and very charming town with ample lodging. Its nineteenth century train station is the departure point for the great Durango-Silverton train ride through the Animas River Gorge. Take this train ride if you can spare the time. Cortez, CO is a little closer to both Mesa Verde and Hovenweep and offers a wider choice of motels, but without the Old West ambiance.

Wherever you roam in this special area of the great Southwest, almost all roads are well paved and smooth, so renting a standard passenger car will be just fine.

Jerry Ginsberg is a freelance photographer whose landscape and travel images have graced the pages and covers of hundreds of books, magazines and travel catalogs. He is the only person to have photographed each and every one of America’s National Parks with medium format cameras and has been awarded Artist Residencies in several national parks. Jerry’s photographic archive spans virtually all of both North and South America.

More of Jerry’s images are on display at www.JerryGinsberg.com 
Or email him at jerry@jerryginsberg.com