Nerve Endings Firing Away

As we drove from Salt Lake City to Torrey, the landscape changed to a starker look with distinctly shaped cliffs and mountainsides. The redder hues notwithstanding, I knew instantly that this would be an incredible landscape to shoot in black and white. I decided to shoot solely in BW with my iPhone except for some family photos and keep the color ones for my DSLR.

Usually, shooting in black and white requires a keener eye to visualize the world around you in monochromatic tones, but thanks to the iPhone, you can now literally see in black & white before you click the photo1. I am not sure if the results justify this strategy, but I’m presenting them below (click to view in full) in their raw format, i.e., little to no editing even on the phone.

We were lucky to get a full moon during our trip, but these were the best photos I could get of the moonrise over the Utah landscape without a tripod.

I’ve always marveled at how they shoot the commercials for cars. Contrasting modern technology against the world’s natural wonders always makes for a great visual. It also gives scale to the mountains that loom over the winding roads.

Driving and stopping by the wayside or just hiking in the late evening, you get plenty of visuals that stop you in your tracks if you take a moment to catch your breath.

On a glorious day, the bright blue sky lets you paint the sky black to balance the brightly lit rocks of the mountains, especially so with balancing rock formations. Even the recently-paved asphalt roads gleam black in the sunlight.

The reward for a long hike is usually a grand vista that opens up the breathtaking expanse of these National Parks, including the one with a sordid history (I’m looking at your Dead Horse Point - last photo). The dirt roads lie out like ribbons reminding you of the impact of man that nature will eventually erase. The sight of snow-capped mountains beyond the red rocks of the desert is enough to confuse your brain into thinking you’ve landed on an alien planet. Canyons carved out of the flat land like it was ice cream scooped out for the gods.

Aside from the expansive vistas you see from a vantage point; you can even hike through narrow fins that can be anxiety-inducing for the claustrophobic. At some points, you need to breathe in to tuck your tummy in to squeeze past.

Even the places we stopped by the roadside for lunch are beautiful. These are not part of any National Park, but they had to select the best features to preserve, and even spots like these didn’t make the cut.

My son asked if we were in Monument Valley. I wouldn’t blame him. We even got to name our rock formations. We called the one on the extreme left in the second photo - the Nefertiti. Tell me we were wrong.

No photo essay of Utah is complete without the ubiquitous arch formations. Pretty cool in terms of geology but visually very arresting as well. There are long arches, double arches, and any other arch you can think of. Most have a particular time of the day you should visit them, but even if you miss that window, it’s still pretty remarkable to stand underneath these gigantic doorways. The little ant things you see in the foreground of some of them are people.

And of course, how could I forget the most iconic of them all - the Delicate Arch. At the end of a moderate hike of 1.5 miles, it may keep most people who see National Parks through parking lots, but for this one, old and the young take the trouble of walking to it and patiently standing in line at the base to get their picture taken.

Not everything is sharp and jagged. You can see some goblins too.

  1. I used Argentum, a photo app that exclusively shoots in black and white with the help of some filters. ↩︎

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