My First Major Photography Trip Since 2019 – Part IV On The Way Home

Two and one-half weeks had gone by and it was time for us to drive home to Sedona. Our journey had been enjoyable, and it had been healing to be away and among different people again after a Covid driven isolation. From the perspective of producing great new images, the trip had been a wash. I didn’t get the wildlife images I hoped and planned for, though I was happy to capture some good landscapes, most from a fresh point of view. 

If you are a Silver or Gold member, please click on any image to see it larger.

We saw nice fall color east of Glacier NP where thousands of acres of young Aspen trees emerged from fire-scarred soil and turned yellow and orange early. However, it was pure color with little compositional interest. The color was late in developing elsewhere in Montana, most likely because of lingering higher temperatures. So, my planning did not work out the way I expected. I accepted that and was ready to move on. Though good photo opportunities would be developing in Idaho and Utah, limited time would force us to stay close to the highways ruling out the likelihood of capturing meaningful images.

Thankfully, that assessment wasn’t correct either, for the foliage in southern Idaho and northern Utah burst forth in a display not seen in years. In Idaho, I never had to leave Interstate 15! About 20 miles south of Pocatello we started seeing swaths of reds and oranges on the hills. We pulled over at a rest stop in another five miles and were amazed that we could walk half a mile or so without encountering fences. My wife and I captured four vibrant scenes starting with a beautiful yellow tree behind the service building.

The tree was next to a meandering walkway that went about 50 yards to nowhere. My instinct was to photograph the canopy leaving the sidewalk out as shown below. My first reaction was that it didn’t belong there, as it didn’t lead to anything, and people weren’t using it.
Peak color, Interstate 15 rest area, Idaho
Peak color, Interstate 15 rest area, Idaho
But, the more I studied the scene, the better it looked with the walkway in the composition.
Yellow tree along a path to nowhere, Idaho
Yellow tree along a path to nowhere, Idaho

Of interest is that the same type of tree is planted on the other side of the sidewalk and had already lost its leaves. I have no idea why; but credit the maintenance crew for maintaining the grass and the restroom facility. Still during a Covid pandemic it was great to once more find clean facilities when needed, and in a lovely environment to boot.

We then walked through the tall grasses for at least 500 yards to where we could photograph the surrounding hillsides. Once again, I found a stitched panorama to be the best format to do justice to this type of scene.

 

Oaks & Maples make the hills come alive, Idaho
Oaks & Maples make the hills come alive, Idaho
I continued to walk through the grasses and uphill away from the highway when I spotted an old partially collapsed log cabin next to a barbed-wire fence. Again, I took a series of overlapping vertical images with my Zeiss Loxia 85mm lens. Though a single image also captured a lovely and lonely scene, the panorama more effectively conveys the feeling of emptiness made appealing by intermittent splashes of color.
Lonely ranch dressed up for Fall, Idaho
Lonely ranch dressed up for Fall, Idaho
Before leaving the rest area, I took a photograph of the hills on the other side of the freeway.
More Oaks & Maples, Interstate 15 rest area, Idaho
More Oaks & Maples, Interstate 15 rest area, Idaho

The splashes of color continued along I-15 to the southern Idaho border. To my surprise, the Oaks and Maples were even more concentrated in the Utah hills all the way to Park City. I have traveled this route many times over the years, more than a few during Autumn. I never noticed the Oak and Maple trees before. Perhaps the hotel manager in Park City was right when he said that they had never been as brilliant as they were this year.

The next morning, we got up early to take a few shots of local color. The image that I like the most was taken from a golf course fairway with ski slopes in the background. Here the yellow Aspen complimented the muted orange vegetation and occasional red Oak and Maple trees.

 

Park City golf course & ski slopes
Park City golf course & ski slopes

To avoid Salt Lake City traffic, we usually take Utah state route 189 south through Heber City and pick up I-15 south again at Provo. There was a lot of color in the hills along this route as well. I decided to get off the highway north of Heber City to check out the middle Provo River reclamation project. By “middle” they refer to the stretch of river between the Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs. When these reservoirs were constructed, the state thought it would be smart to straighten out the Provo River channel connecting them. That proved to be an ecological disaster as vegetation and wildlife along the river could not adjust to fast moving water and frequent flooding. So, the riverbed was restored to its original serpentine path.

The reclamation has been a huge success. The river and surrounding land are left completely natural, and activity in this area is controlled and monitored. Photographing the river and woodlands in Autumn proved as satisfying as anything I envisioned for this trip. The following three images demonstrate why you can never have enough great landscape images.

Wild Provo River – View #1, Heber Valley, UT
Wild Provo River – View #1, Heber Valley, UT
Wild Provo River – View #2, Heber Valley, UT
Wild Provo River – View #2, Heber Valley, UT
Wild Provo River – View #3, Heber Valley, UT)
Wild Provo River – View #3, Heber Valley, UT)

If you look closely slightly left of center in View #3, you will see a lone fisherman enjoying Nature and the solitude. Even if he didn’t catch any fish that day, I doubt that he would have felt that he wasted his time.

We stopped one more time for a photo-op along SR 189 before we left Utah. Winding through a narrow canyon with steep hills, I pulled off onto a private access road to park. I barely saw it in time and am so glad that I did. I was able to take shots of both sides of the canyon. The first of the following four images was a view toward the west from where I parked. It was nice enough, particularly with the mountains in the background. 

 

Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #1
Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #1
However, the lighting on the opposite side of the Canyon grabbed my attention, and I had to run through cow pasture to take the next three images before the light shifted. These three images made up for the Fall color images I didn’t get in Montana.
Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #1
Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #1
Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #2
Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #2
Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #3
Fall Color, Provo, UT, View #3

Technically, these were the last images from my trip. However, this magnificent Autumn color season didn’t end in Utah. Neither did I stop photographing it when I got back to Sedona. I think it is appropriate to include some of those images in this last part of this article series.

Following are three images taken at Crescent Moon Ranch, also known as Red Rock Crossing. Cathedral Rock appears in part or wholly in each image, though nearby Oak Creek is only visible in one. All three images were taken with my Sony 14mm f1.8 GM lens. 

 

Oak Creek at Crescent Moon Ranch, Sedona, AZ
Oak Creek at Crescent Moon Ranch, Sedona, AZ
Cathedral Rock from Crescent Moon Ranch, Sedona, AZ
Cathedral Rock from Crescent Moon Ranch, Sedona, AZ
Cathedral Rock from a red rock bank of Oak Creek
Cathedral Rock from a red rock bank of Oak Creek
The color change in the above three locations is subtle. But Autumn came to Westfork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon in a big way this year. The next day, I took the following four images. That was the day when the Maples reached peak color.
Color & Light along the West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, AZ
Color & Light along the West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, AZ
Brilliant Dogtooth Maple in Westfork, Sedona, AZ)
Brilliant Dogtooth Maple in Westfork, Sedona, AZ)
Autumn reflections in the West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, AZ
Autumn reflections in the West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, AZ
Fall foliage & fallen leaves, West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, AZ
Fall foliage & fallen leaves, West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, AZ

It has been a great Autumn after alI, despite early disappointments. And I relearned some important guidelines on this trip:

  1. Plans & contingency plans are better than no plans.
  2. It’s better to have more than one back-up plan.
  3. When nothing turns out as expected, take advantage of what is there.
  4. Never get too attached to short term objectives. Be ready to switch to whatever is available that serves your purpose.
  5. Don’t brood over disappointments. There are always alternative opportunities for those who think positively.
  6. It isn’t possible to run out of great subjects to photograph.
Happy Hunting!

Harvey Stearn
December 2021
Harvey Stearn
Sedona, AZ

To see the scope and essence of Harvey Stearn's photographic art please visit www.CameraStops.com. Mr. Stearn began photographing Western landscapes and wildlife at the age of 13, spent 50 years pursuing his passion in the field and in the darkroom before fully converting to digital photography in 2002. He developed color prints as well as monochrome, but switched over to digital capture and editing in 2002. Though he was a top executive for two large scale land development and home building corporations, he always found time for his fine art photography which won many awards. His work was exhibited in art museums in Southern California and Arizona, and was also featured in billboard advertisements and published in magazines. Mr. Stearn served on the California Arts Council for nine years, including two years as Chairman and another two as Vice Chairman. In addition, he was the founding Chairman of the John Wayne Airport Arts Commission in Orange County, California. Mr. Stearn’s work was sold through Arizona galleries for 15 years. In recent years he wrote 33 illustrated articles for PhotoPXL.com and 14 articles for Luminous-Landscape.com. In 2013 he published a book entitled “In Search of the Old West” which has been widely acclaimed. He was a guest lecturer on photography on a cruise ship visiting Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and the Falkland Islands. His work was among the top 100 images printed in NANPA's Showcase publications in 2019 and 2020. Images have been edited and selected for two new books on Landscape photography which will be published in late 2024 and early 2025.

Article Type: Columns, MISC

Become A Supporter Of PhotoPXL

Become a member and gain access to our new features including high-resolution images, privacy options, higher photo upload limits, multi-photo uploads, night mode, and more!

PhotoPXL is an idea to create a place of community where those with a passion for photography can come to learn and share. We hope you enjoy your experience on our site and find a home here.

Your support is critical to the success and future of photoPXL. To bring you great content we depend on your support. Please consider helping us grow and broaden all aspects of what we do here.

Support PhotoPXL for as little as a $1. It takes only a minute. Thank You.

Be the first to know

Sign up for newsletter
  • Please check your spam and forum folders if you do not see our verification email.

Recent Posts

Categories