Friday, October 16, 2015

Monument Valley's Moving Shadows.

One of many annoying questions I get about San Juan County is, "What time of day is best for a perfect picture of....?" No matter what time of day a park, historical site, canyons, valleys, yada, yada, yada, is visited is a perfect time of day...period. If you need a "perfect" photo, then be a professional, go online and do your research. 'Nuff said.

This September, we were in Monument Valley, three times, visiting with our school teacher friend, Amy.  On two occasions, the main purpose was to photograph the shadow of the West Mitten upon the East Mitten which only occurs on the Spring and Fall Solstices.  Our timing of the Fall Solstice sucked big time as no one could agree on exactly what day it fell on for 2015.  I always knew it to be on September 21st, but this year is was "moved" to September 23rd; how do you move a Solstice?  Anyway, due to our work schedules, we went when possible, and missed the actual day itself down in Monument Valley; but we were close!

So, did we miss out on the "perfect" photo?  NO!  You see, the perfect photo is to the eye of the beholder.  Perhaps many folks believe my photography is horrible; while others go completely gaga over it. 

September 6th; heading down to Monument Valley to have dinner with Amy and see her new apartment she just moved into.  We try and stop at the Mexican Hat formation when the weather is different; the background of the Great Serpent changes colors.  When we finally left to return home, the sun was beginning to set; I was able to catch the wonderful colors of the sky (pink, blue, yellow, orange and purple) over Monument Valley.

Mexican Hat on a Sunny Afternoon.

Monument Valley at Sunset.

September 13th - Amy called us and said, "Get down here, I've been told the movement of the shadow is today?"; and down we went to the Valley once again.  At the MV Visitors Center, there is the spectacular, classic view of the two Mittens and Merrick Butte.  I also noticed that the 17 mile loop road through the Valley had been totally repaired; still all dirt, but now fully graded and ruts filled in.  RVs, motorcycles, passenger cars and 4 wheel drive vehicles could maneuver the road without problems. 

Alas, the shadow movement of the West Mitten onto the East was not to be.  We waited in anticipation, only to see the entire Valley go into shadow.  We were meeting our friend, Cody, at Goulding's Stagecoach Dining Room to enjoy a delicious meal of Navajo specialties.

Elephant and Camel Buttes

Elephant and Camel Buttes

Mary and Amy

Mitchell Butte

The Mittens and Merrick Butte

Monument Valley Panorama

The Mittens and Merrick Butte

The Mittens through, what the children call, the "Butt Crack".

September 19th - We return, hoping beyond hope, that we will get the much sort after shot of the Mitten Shadow.  We were at the Visitors Center at 5:00pm to browse the gift shop, but at 5:30pm we made sure to get a spot along the wall outside.  As the time progressed, more and more visitors began setting up camera equipment; the balcony at The View restaurant was packed.  I managed to take photos at 4 to 5 minute intervals to document the entire travel of the West Mitten's shadow as it crept towards the East Mitten.

At 6:31, the shadow was almost completely onto the East Mitten when suddenly the entire Valley became shadowed.  There were many shouts of, "Where did it go!?!", "What happened!?!, "What the...!?!"; not just from Amy, Roy and myself, but most of the people who were photographing the event.  Looking westward, we could just make out the very top of the sun as it peeked from behind a mesa; within 15 minutes it was gone and darkness had fallen over Monument Valley. 

Well, there is always the Spring Solstice to look forward to; and, of course, our delicious dinners at Goulding's Stagecoach Dining Room.

Mexican Hat, a Sunny Late Afternoon.

Monument Valley around 5pm.

Castle Butte

Castle Butte

Elephant Butte

Merrick Butte

Monument Valley Panorama

The Classic Shot - The Mittens and Merrick Butte

The Story of how Monument Valley was Named.

My husband, Roy.

..and now the show, "The Creeping of the Shadow".

As the sun begins its descent into the Western sky, the West Mitten will begin casting a shadow that will slowly creep towards, and onto, the East Mitten.

West Mitten

East Mitten




Suddenly, as we waited for the shadow to center itself, it disappeared, and Monument Valley was in full shadow.

...and the moon began to shine brightly in the night sky.

It was an incredible experience watching the shadow creep upon the Valley floor; the sky changing colors from blue to pink and purple; then suddenly night.

So, when's the best time to take a perfect photo in Monument Valley...anytime!

Mary Cokenour

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