Across America: The Return West

After a memorable Thanksgiving with family, Michelle, Yuba, and I loaded up our vehicle and embarked on what would end up being a 4,000 mile return trip across America.  Our goal was to avoid snow storms and pass through the middle of the country as quickly as possible in order to, maximize our time in Colorado and Southern Utah.  As anticipated, though, avoiding storms was challenging.  We ended up staying put in a few locales we wouldn’t have otherwise chosen for a lengthy visit.  But, adjusting to weather and shifting the itinerary are all part of the road trip experience, and I took advantage of the extra down time to work on the launch of my online storefront: http://dnbwallart.com

Opportunities for landscape photography were limited until we reached the Rockies, but I did manage to shoot a dramatic sunset across a large, frozen field in Kansas and photograph the world’s tallest rocking chair in Illinois. 


Largest Rocking Chair in the World.  Casey, Illinois. 
     

Frozen Plains Sunset.  Somewhere in Kansas.

It was amazing to bring Yuba with us on this adventure.  Everywhere we stopped, he was treated like a celebrity.  There has  always been something about him that immediately attracts attention.  It was a role that he embraced as he entertained everyone with his ability to "talk," but at times I think he wondered if we were ever going home.   


Yuba Relaxing at Camp.  Southern Nevada.

As we neared the Front Range,  I remembered what it felt like to first hit the Colorado border 11 years ago when I moved to Lake Tahoe, driving from New Hampshire.  It is surreal to think back on how different my life was at that time and how little I knew about the American West, or the journey I was about to embark on.  This time, we didn’t have quite the grand entrance as we inched slowly through a major storm on I-70.  To recharge, we decided to stay in Silvethorne.  It felt good to be in the Rockies again.

While en route to Grand Junction, we spotted a herd of Big Horn sheep just outside of Glenwood Springs.  Using a 70 - 300 telephoto lens, I was able to capture two males colliding at full speed.  I have photographed big horn sheep many times, but this was the first time I captured a moment like this. 

Late Afternoon Big Horn Collision.  Glenwood Springs, Colorado. 

Faced with yet another winter storm, we decided to extend our stay in Grand Junction and explore Colorado National Monument, the “Heart of the World.”

Entering the park, we were immediately impressed by the sheer size and steepness of the canyons.  With a short window in the morning to shoot under calm but overcast skies, we explored and photographed a number of vista points along the loop road.  Before long, the next wave of snow moved in and for a while, I was able to shoot the storm entering the canyons and incorporate the snow flakes into the landscape.   I knew right away that these grey and stormy images would lend themselves to a black and white conversion.  But I had caught the moment just in time -- We soon found ourselves in whiteout conditions and decided to head back to our hotel room.

Snow Converging on Ute Canyon.  Colorado National Monument.

 

Golden Light on Turret Arch.  Arches NP.  Utah.

The cold storm came and went and we woke up early to head to Moab, Utah for the final leg of our adventure.  As we crossed over the Utah border, it soon became apparent that it had snowed at all elevations.   Red rock country is awe inspiring in all seasons, but I was especially excited for the rare opportunity to capture it during stormy weather, with a fresh coat of snow on the ground.  It seems few other visitors were around to appreciate this, though; when we reached Moab, it was a ghost town.  I had only been there previously in the spring,  once with First Tracks Productions to shoot a segment from “Off the Beaten Path” (https://vimeo.com/242412115) and once just to camp and hike.  For good reason, Moab is a huge destination for tourism and the little town can get crowded, but we were happy to experience the true off-season there.  

With frigid temperatures and snow, the nearby National Parks were nearly empty.  We hiked on a number of trails in Arches NP and shot both the sunrise and sunset there.  With the low angle of the December sun, various types of clouds moving in and out of the park, and snow plastered to the red rock, I couldn’t have asked for more dramatic scenes to shoot over a 48-hour period.    


Surreal and Delicate Landscape.  Arches NP.  Utah.

Our next stop was Canyonlands NP, where I shot one of the most memorable sunsets I have ever witnessed  Before leaving, we also explored the La Sal Mountains, which were equally impressive.  Everything lined up perfectly.   I couldn’t have been happier with our experience in Southern Utah and the images I took with me. 

 

Vibrant Light Emerging From the Henry Mountains.  Canyonlands NP.  Utah. 

At this point, we had been on the road for a long time, camping and staying in hotel rooms.  We had an amazing journey, but felt ready to head back to Lake Tahoe.   We stayed with friends in Salt Lake City, then drove across Nevada in one day.  The last time I took my camera out on the trip was to photograph a crystal clear reflection and inversion on the Bonneville Salt Flats, which I later converted into an eight image panorama.   

 

Bonneville Inversion Panorama. Utah.

In total, we drove an all-electric vehicle 8,000 miles through 16 states over the course of one month.  By camping whenever possible, finding the best rates on hotels, and eating mostly our own food, we managed to do all of this for far less money than one would expect.   


It takes a long time to drive across the country without feeling rushed, but with the right outlook, it can truly be a worthwhile experience.   


Late November/Early December 2018 Gallery Additions

Colorado: https://store.davidnbraun.com/colorado-landscape-photography
Utah: https://store.davidnbraun.com/utah-landscape-photography