For me one of the eternally striking aspects of the Page area, and of the Four Corners region, is how openly the bedrock of the planet is revealed. Erosional features are everywhere, arches, slot canyons, sheer cliffs and balanced rocks, the bones of the land on naked display. For photographers these graphic elements are invaluable, needing only light and cloud and a fine composition to bring them to life. This month we venture to the whimsically named Toadstools, in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
About 20 miles west of Page, on the north side of Highway 89, and 1.5 miles east of the Paria Contact Station, is an open trailhead at the base of tan cliffs striped with ochre. You’ll find plenty of parking here before the fence, and the trail leads you due north along a normally dry wash to even higher cliffs. Below these heights lie the smoothly rounded pedestals and crazily balanced pancakes of stone known as the Toadstools.The hike is about 1.5 mile round-trip and rated Easy.
You can shoot here from sunrise into starlight without restriction or fee, but midday light is flat and harsh, so come early morning or late afternoon. Try to pick a day with clouds to enliven the sapphire Utah sky, and later in processing your digital favorites, consider going monochrome to accentuate the shapes and lines and textures. Wide to medium focal length lenses work best here, say 15-150mm.
Finally, if you’re gifted with a day with drifting clouds, take the time to set up a timelapse sequence of images, perhaps shooting one photo every 20 seconds or so. Use a tripod of course, and know that for a finished clip of ten seconds, (making your mini-movie at say 24 fps), you’ll need 240 image captures. If you take one image every 20 seconds the math says you’ll be shooting for 80 minutes. Many newer DSLR’s have built in intervalometers, and some even assemble the image captures into a movie playable in the camera. My Pentax K3II does this and in 4K, as you can see here in the timelapse clip. Take the time and play with making pictures that surprise and please you. I think you’ll enjoy the Toadstools as much as I always do.