Utah’s slot canyons are high-contrast places. Cold, rough sandstone appears warm and flowing; noon sun is intensely hot while deep in the perma-shade of canyons the temperature is 40 degrees colder; cameras have a rough time metering where murky shadows are split by high-watt beams of sunshine. And then there’s impracticality of keeping delicate, expensive cameras dry in a wet, sandy environment.
Rather than acting as deterrants, I suspect the high-contrast qualities of southwest Utah prompted photographer Steve Lloyd to propose a photo-centric trip to Escalante National Monument. Steve had a vision for a complex shot and set about finding a reliable group to help bring the image to fruition. Kevin Brower, Steve and I drove south, stopping for a quick sunset bike ride before meeting with Nick, Joe and Jordan later that night.
Escalante is, by desert standards, incredibly green this fall. Everything is blooming and the fine red sand is a storyboard of foot and tail prints from chipmunks, mice, lizards, toads, spiders, snakes and scorpions. And ants. After a very snowy winter followed by a rainy summer, the ants are having a banner year. We chose to camp in the middle of a sprawling ant metropolis. Pulling my gear out of my pack this morning I discovered dozens of ants that had hitchhiked in the folds of my sleeping bag, the corners of my wetsuit and others that had insinuated themselves inside sealed ziplock bags. Yes, it’s been a wet summer in the desert.
With huge flash floods freshly recorded by stickjams high in the trees, the slots canyons are full of water. This means that canyons potholes, which can sometimes be difficult to climb out of, are brimming full and easy to escape from right now. It also means that long sections of the canyon we descended were flooded. We doggy paddled thought the funky water for long sections, fingers crossed that submerged cameras were staying dry.
Steve shot the location he had envisioned and came away with bunch of beautiful images. I got to watch a real-deal photog setup and manage the scene of a difficult shot. Plus, we all got to slither and swim down a beautiful little canyon. Mission accomplished.