Arizona Strip/Southern Utah Thanksgiving Photography

Hello Readers. This will be the first installment in a series about the American Southwest. I have lived in Las Vegas the last four years and it is an ideal location to reach many sites within a days drive.  I spent Thanksgiving this year driving and hiking Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. The majority of the time was spent between highway 89 and highway 89a along House Rock Valley Road in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. I have outlined my route in red in the below graphic.


You could spend a week here or use it as a base to visit Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon. I have been a few times already but I am already planning my next trip back. I mostly use the M43 format with a Panasonic GF3 and and Olympus EM1 Mark 1. This was a recent change from the Sony A6000 (still use this for night photography, none worth sharing from this trip). But I will also my phone, an in expensive Motorola,  on occasion. I keep a 14mm pancake on the GF3 and a 70-300 with a 1.4 teleconverter on the EM1.


This is House Rock Valley road. It runs about 30 miles north-south. You can see the washboards in the photo. It is generally passable in a sedan but i would recommend good tires. I helped a person out from the WirePass trailhead who had gotten two flats and was limping out on a spare and slow leak. From this road, you can view California Condors soaring above and roosting on the cliffs.


My plan for this trip was to explore Coyote Buttes South, Toroweap, Buckskin Gulch, attempt some astrophotography and some Condor photographs. I entered House Rock Valley Road from the south. There is a condor viewing area a few miles up the road (they release them on the cliffs making it a reliable spot for viewing). What I found was even with my cropped sensor and a 1.4tc on a 300mm lens that I still could have used about 3 times as much reach. In future trips I plan to find a different location. Either the rim of the grand canyon or Navajo Bridge nearby on the Colorado River.

I had acquired a permit for Coyotes Buttes South and took some advice I had found online to drive up Cottonwood Cove and then leave by way of Pawhole (there are areas of deep sand that are easier to be going downhill for on Pawhole). I plan on returning to this area to explore White Pockets, another popular area I have yet to visit.  This area is much less popular than the Coyote Buttes north but still very impressive.

I camped off of 5 Mile Mountain road as the Stateline campground was full. What I found later in the trip was that this was a very popular weekend to be in the area. The next morning I had a long day of driving ahead of me. I had to stop at the Escalante Visitor Center in Kanab to pick up my permit for hiking Bucksin Gulch and then I was on my way to Toroweap. I timed the visit with the Coyote Buttes north lottery. I enter the online lottery each month but competing with over 300 people each day has not led to any success. This day however they set an in person record with 319 people. I however had luck on my side and won a spot for Sunday.

The drive to Toroweap, an overlook on the northwest side of the Grand Canyon involves 60 miles of dirt/gravel roads. The first five miles pass through a reservation and then you reach the Grand Canyon Monument boundary. There are about ten campsites at the overlook and the scenery along the way makes it well worth it. I chose campsite 5 and found about four others were taken that day. This area of the canyon is narrower than the more popular rims. I could have chosen a better time to view with the late day shadows but that just gives me a reason to make a return trip. I attempted some photos of the Andromeda galaxy and Orion that night but will share more details of my astrophotography setup when I hopefully have some better success.

View from Campsite 5 at Toroweap

I initially planned to spend the remainder of the weekend hiking in Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in the country. There are a few backpacking trips found in the area. You can connect up with Pariah canyon for a multiday trip. I planned to wander around for a couple days and take some interesting pictures. Once I won the Coyotes Buttes north permit I changed my plans and only visited for a short time with plans to come back (this is an easier permit to get). On the drive back from Toroweap I detoured to the North rim of the Grand Canyon. I have been here previously and enjoy the drive. I recommend this rim to the South because it is at higher elevation and less crowded. I didnt actually go to the rim as I wanted to avoid the crowds but couldn’t pass up the drive because it would be closing for the winter seasons in a few days. People were collecting their Christmas trees from the forest and the montane meadows were empty.

I drove back to House Rock Valley Road and hiked from WirePass to Bucksin Gulch. It is conveniently the same trailhead as Coyote Buttes north that I would hike the next day.

I started my hike in Coyote Buttes North at first light. It was an overcast morning. I had previously won a permit here a couple summers ago and was looking forward to exploring more of the area as the first time I took a direct route to see the main attraction, the Wave. I wandered around more to the East. I generally take most of my photos on the hike in as I find it easier to then hike out faster but with the overcast skies I ended up taking the same photos twice because conditions improved by late morning. I recommend spending the day here and seeing as many sites as time allows. The majority of people just see the Wave and what is on the route to it but there are detailed resources online that show other sites and even the best times to visit for the best light.


I look forward to future posts and discussions and would be happy to give any recommendations if people are planning trips out here.



November Vegetation in New England

Here are some photos I took in the last week or two.  Already all the more colorful leaves are now completely gone.  The hard frost last week took care of that.  The days are short and I’m looking forward to the Holidays to distract me until January.  Then I can remind myself the days are getting longer, as I shovel that February snow.

November Wild Cherry and Bokeh
November Leaves
November Forest Spot
November Leaves
November Leaves
November Leaves
November Weeds
November Weeds
November Leaves
Mushroom in November

Make Yourself at Home – What’s Coming Up This Week and Stuff About the Site

I’ve been neglecting the photography side of things and the reviews this week and I’ll be getting back to that soon.  I took some photos in November that I want to post and I have a sci-fi movie review I want to do.  I might do a Trump vs … post on his trip to Asia.  I haven’t thought it all out but there must be comedy gold somewhere in a trip that includes Trump calling the president of a country short and fat.

I’m watching the slow returns on the Who Are We poll.  I wasn’t surprised to see a libertarian and an Ayn Randian among us but it was very interesting to see a Bernie Bro among my readers.  Look at that.  I’m a unifier and I didn’t even know it!  Well anyway welcome to you all, even you hard core Alinskyites and Stalinists.  If ping-pong could bring Mao and Nixon together then maybe photography and science fiction can heal the world’s divisions.  Or at least get more comments on my website.

By putting up polls and installing a forum section I’d like to encourage my readers to engage with each other and me.  I basically started this thing for two reasons:

  1. To have a place to say what I wanted about politics and social stuff without having SJWs tell me I was not allowed to talk.
  2. To find other people who wanted to talk about this stuff in a place where we were free to speak our minds. If I was discussing cameras and the conversation veered into laws on photographing public building I was sick and tired of reading a thousand-word rant about how the government was repressing Arabs and then when I objected having my comment deleted due to left-wing censorship.  Or if a Muslim guy shoots up a gay bar have to endure fifty diatribes against gun ownership but not be allowed to disagree.  I’ll bet there are plenty of photographers, sf&f fans and all kinds other folks who have had similar experiences.

So, be my guest.  Participate in the poll, leave comments and feedback on the posts and leave your own content on the forums, whether it be a political topic that you have an opinion on or some photo that you want to share or some movie or book idea that you want to share.

Since my readers don’t always stop by every day I figured I’d paste this poll on each post for a while to see what folks call themselves.  This is the post the poll came from  Who Are We?

… And that got me thinking. Who are the people who read my blog?  I thought it might be fun to see what the cross-section looked like.  If you feel like saying what you believe in, feel free to leave a comment and/or pick a label from the poll below.  I think it might be interesting.


Total Votes : 51




A Question for Photographers Among OCF Readers – What Software Can Replace Adobe Lightroom?

I have been using Lightroom for my raw photo cataloguing and adjustment for a number of years.  The good people at Adobe in their infinite wisdom have decided that Lightroom needs to be a cloud based, subscription only software product.  Very good then.  I am not a cloud based kinda guy.  So, I’m looking for an alternative.  An initial search has identified the following products:

  • Alien Skin Exposure X2
  • Phase One’s Capture One Pro
  • Corel AfterShot Pro 3

I’m currently leaning toward Phase One’s Capture One Pro but would very much like to get some feedback from people who have experience with these products (especially as they compare to Lightroom).  So, here’s your chance to speak your mind.  I’m all ears.  You can leave your thoughts in the comments here or in the forum (I’m setting up a topic here, so if you want to attach photos to explain something there’ll be more room).

SonyAlphaRumors (Almost) Got it Right

So, even though it wasn’t the A7 III or the A7S III it was an A7 series camera that came out yesterday.  And even though I really don’t need 42 megapixels for my file size I must say I am sorely tempted to buy this sucker.  It’s coming out at the end of November so I’ll pay attention to the reviews (and maybe rent it first to make sure I’m a good fit for it).  Basically, they’ve taken the A7R II and added a lot of the good stuff from the A9 to it.  It doesn’t have the enormous AF coverage that the A9 has but the AF capability is said to be close to the A9 performance.  It’s got a 10 fps mechanical shutter, dual card slots, enhanced high ISO capability, enhanced auto-focus modes, larger buffer, improved video options, a joystick, touchscreen AF placement and a lot of other fantabulous stuff.  It sounds pretty compelling.  Well, I was hoping for the 24 megapixel sensor of the A9 in a slightly less capable package for a lot smaller price tag but this A7R III checks every other box.  Could this be photog’s next camera?  I wouldn’t bet against it.  Stay tuned friends.  I’ll share my thoughts as the reviews come in but it sounds really interesting.

Sony A7S III rumor

Sony Alpha Rumors has an SR4 rumor for the A7SIII arriving next week.


(SR4) Sony A7sIII (or A9s) to be announced on October 18. It is a Full Frame GH5 killer?


Now that’s a camera I’m definitely interested in. They say it will have the auto focus of the A9. If that’s the case and it isn’t $5grand I have a feeling I’ll be getting it before Christmas (but let’s call it a Christmas gift). Now, SAR has been wrong before (oh brother have they) but I think they have it right this time. For you Sony fans Christmas may be coming early after all.

Forums on Orion’s Cold Fire

I’ve been meaning to set up forums but the technical aspects seemed problematic to a cyberphobe such as myself. But problems with trying to embed photos in the comments gave me the push to start up the forums. Currently the biggest problem is that the edit button for the posts doesn’t work right. So take your time and check twice before publishing posts because otherwise the work around is deleting the post and starting over. I’ve posted some instructions I found on a bbpress site on embedding photos. Hopefully they’re helpful but think of this right now as a work in progress. Your patience is appreciated by management during this difficult transition.