Photo Journal: Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona - April 2019

Some of the most beautiful and unusual landscape I've seen in the world. So beautiful, in fact, most of it was kept a secret from everyone except local ranchers for decades. I fear for the future of this incredible area as its popularity has already required limiting access with a lottery permit system.

Utah, Landscape, Canyon, Reflection, White Pocket, photo

The Swirl

Looking more like a dollop of whipped cream than ancient sandstone this "swirl" of rock is reflected in a rare desert rainwater pool.

Utah, Landscape, Canyon, Reflection, photo

Cottonwood Cove

Only 20 permits per day are given to people wanting to risk twisted ankles, heat exhaustion and $1,000 towing fees in the South Coyote Buttes. Those lucky enough to "win" lottery slots are usually first discouraged from going at all. High clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicles, gallons of water, GPS with emergency messaging; all suggested for even a brief visit to the area in summer months.

Reflecting pools are most likely during Winter (like this one) when snow creates melt water ponds and cool daytime temperatures keep them from evaporating. Still, finding water in the desert - always a win.

Utah, Landscape, Canyon, Black and White, photo

Bubble and Squeak

This might be how the traditional English breakfast of "Bubble and Squeak" looks from an insect's perspective.  Boiled potatoes and cabbage or brussel sprouts.  Anyway, it doesn't look like anything else I've ever seen.

Cloudless skies are a landscape photographer's nightmare but not today. This clear, warm, March sky took a break and let the sandstone of the Coyote Buttes be the star.

Arizona, Landscape, Canyon, Reflection, white pocket, vermillion cliffs, sunrise, photo

Sentinel

The Bureau of Land Management manages one-eighth of the land in the contiguous 48 United States. Much of it is inhospitable and represents the challenges that faced America's pioneer settlers. Difficult ground, fickle weather, dangerous animals, lack of or too much water, sun, wind and shade. And some of the most beautiful landscape on the planet.

This rare image was captured during a cold winter sunrise. Terrain to the east created a hard shadow allowing the peaks of the rocks to glow reflective light into the dark valley and small pool of melt water. A magical payoff after car camping in sub-freezing temperatures and hiking through the early dark of the "blue hour".

Coyote Butte, landscape, Arizona, Winter, black and white, panoramic, photo

CBS News

Some places on the Earth are describable by comparison. Chicago is like a small New York. Mountain ranges are similar but different. Oceans, lakes and rivers are characteristically watery.

It's difficult to describe places like the Coyote Buttes even in photographs. I suspect photographing the Moon authentically would be equally challenging (I've never been). Ethereal. Desolate. Soundless. If there are words describing a more-than version of those words, I would use them. The most striking sense of taking this photo was not the view but the sound. I've never experienced a level of soundless-ness like this outdoors. Standing still I could clearly hear myself breathe.