Broken Cloud Mesa @ Monument Valley

Colorful morning light and clouds scattered across the buttes of Monument valley in mid October. 20 minutes earlier the sky was completely grey. Nature turns to it’s own clock and is always ready to surprise. I spent the previous day traveling through a snow storm in Navajo lands and a day later it was 80 degrees on top of cedar mesa. Lol. The Southwest is so impulsive in mid Fall showing off one moment and still the next. What a classic place full of mysterious silence.



Monument Valley is a well known rock formation in the Colorado Plateau characterized by large sandstone buttes and broken plains, the largest butte reaching some 1,000′ above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona–Utah border near the Four Corners area within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation. The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 m) above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone of the Cutler Group, or sand derived from it, deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The valley’s vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide.

The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers. The lowest layer is the Organ Rock Shale, the middle is de Chelly Sandstone, and the top layer is the Moenkopi Formation capped by Shinarump Conglomerate. The valley includes large stone structures including the famed “Eye of the Sun”. Between 1945 and 1967, the southern extent of the Monument Upwarp was mined for uranium, which occurs in scattered areas of the Shinarump Conglomerate; vanadium and copper are associated with uranium in some deposits.


Wetland Mornings

Diffused morning light on a healthy Great Blue Heron I spotted motionless in the reeds in early March. A few moments later while I crunched into a trail bar he snatched a big fish and gobbled it down. Perfect timing. Lol Regardless what a great wetland resident in it’s environment. Not sure if this is a male or female as Herons don’t have a great deal of sexual dimorphism but it appears to be a young adult. I’m always amazed at how well Heron’s blend into specific elements of their landscape through tonality and form.
The most visible factors that distinguish wetlands from other land forms or water bodies are the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. The animal life that inhabit these environs have beautiful adaptions allowing them to be successful in these settings. I find imagery that focuses on these relationships very compelling artistically and sometimes offering a unique glimpse into evolutionary process. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. They are critical to the overall health of our watersheds and local ecology so please tread lightly when visiting.

Your local wetland should provide a wide variety of wildlife filming and photographic opportunities. Look around. More likely than not, there is a wetland, teaming with life other than mosquitos, near where you live, work, or play. If your looking to add to your wildlife portfolio I strongly suggest finding one, exploring it and tracking some places that offer good photographic opportunities. Don’t go at 10… set your alarm prior to sunrise so you can get onsite at the very first light. This will keep you from battling for the warm shower water at home and keep you from startling wildlife when they become more active through the best hours of morning light. If your lucky you may get some thin morning clouds and the water surface will magically steam giving your scenes a mystic feel and elongating the hours of prime light.

Great Blue Herons are obviously great subjects. If you find some move slowly and be respectful and they will often reciprocate by hanging out with you. If you not from this part of the globe Great Blue Herons are a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands from Alaska to Central America. Often seen standing silently along inland rivers or lakeshores, or flying high overhead, with slow wingbeats, its head hunched back onto its shoulders. Highly adaptable, it thrives around all kinds of waters from subtropical mangrove swamps to desert rivers to the coastline of southern Alaska. With its variable diet it is able to spend the winter farther north than most herons, even in areas where most waters freeze.Jeff_McGraw_Photography_Wetland_Heron