Monument Valley – A Monumental Landscape

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Evening at Monument Valley – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Rokinon 12mm

I just got back from Monument Valley, which sits on the border between Arizona and Utah on Navajo land near Four Corners. Situated on the Colorado Plateau, Monument Valley features large rock formations and red desert sand. It’s a lonely place; there are only a few very small towns scattered nearby. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, it attracts many tourists from across the world. Monument Valley is the iconic American West landscape, and it is nothing short of stunning!

You’ve seen Monument Valley before, even if you didn’t know what you were looking at. Certainly you’ve seen pictures of it in calendars and magazines and on social media. Many different movies have had scenes filmed in Monument Valley. Forest Gump concluded his cross country run there. Marty McFly went back in time to the old west in Monument Valley. Clark Griswold drove his car off the road at this place. Many “westerns” were filmed in Monument Valley, including a few starring John Wayne. In many ways Monument Valley still looks and feels like the rugged and wild American West, so it’s easy to understand Hollywood’s draw to this location.

Monument Valley was on my photographic bucket list for a long time. I’ve wanted to visit and capture the iconic landscape for many years. I’d seen the black-and-white prints by Ansel Adams and the color pictures in Arizona Highways magazine that showcased this incredible landscape, which made me want to experience it for myself. I had to make my own images. I needed to get to Monument Valley. Honestly, though, I didn’t realize its exact location until recently. I knew it was in northern Arizona somewhere. Or maybe southern Utah. As it turns out, most of it is in far northeastern Arizona, and a little of it sits in far southeastern Utah, but all of it belongs to the Navajo Nation.

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Butte Between two Boulders – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

I was only able to stay in Monument Valley for one day. I had one day to capture the pictures that I wanted, or at least as many of them as I could. I planned the trip carefully, doing much research ahead of time so that I would know what to expect. It paid off because I believe I made the most of my short time there. I didn’t come away with every picture that I had hoped for, but I came away with a good group, and that means I had a good day. I’ll have to return, hopefully soon, for the rest.

Something that struck me about Monument Valley is how quiet and peaceful it was. You can set your own pace and take things slow. The wide open spaces allowed for moments of true serenity. You can find yourself alone. Monument Valley is sacred land to the Navajo, and you can feel that while there, permeating from the stone and sand. My visit was during the off season, and I’m sure the atmosphere during the summer months can be quite different.

All of the Navajo people that I met and spoke with were exceedingly friendly and helpful. They seemed quite proud of this place, eager to share its beauty with the world. One lady, who was selling jewelry along a dirt road, was happy to tell me about her favorite photograph, which had been on the cover of Arizona Highways, that featured a nearby tree, which has since died because it was struck by lightning. I felt like I was an invited guest, and the Navajo people were happy to have me there.

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Mitchell Mesa – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm

But I could sense another side. This is private land. Among the rock formations are little houses. There are ranches scattered throughout Monument Valley. Visitors are allowed in only very specific places, which are clearly marked, unless you have an official guide. At one stop I overheard a guide telling his group that he was not allowed to take people to one particular spot because the occupant of a nearby house “doesn’t like white people.” I can certainly understand that past hurts might still sting. The Navajo haven’t always been treated well by America. This is their home. This is their sacred land where their ancestors lived and died. They don’t have to allow anyone in. They could keep Monument Valley to themselves, and not welcome visitors. I’m sure there are some who would prefer that. I was a stranger in a strange land. I was the outsider. Gratefully, I was welcomed in and treated kindly.

From what I could tell from my short visit, the Navajo way of life is slower, simpler, quieter, and more free than my own. There are no Walmarts or McDonalds or Starbucks within 100 miles, probably further than that. I didn’t see any signs of commercialism and consumerism. I’m sure life in the dry desert can be difficult, but to the Navajo it is worth dealing with those difficulties in order to live life their way; to be who they are. Their culture is preserved by living out their traditions.

The photographs in this article were captured with a Fujifilm X-T30 and Fujifilm X-T1. The lenses I used were a Fujinon 35mm f/2Fujinon 100-400mm and Rokinon 12mm f/2. On the X-T30 I used my Velvia (except color +4), Kodachrome 64, Dramatic Monochrome and Agfa Scala film simulation recipes, and on the X-T1 I used Velvia and Monochrome. The challenge when visiting a place like Monument Valley is creating something unique when it’s been photographed from every angle imaginable. That’s an extraordinarily difficult task, but not completely impossible. While most of my pictures have been done before by others, I think a few of them are fairly unique; at least I’ve never seen one identical. I hope that you enjoy them!

B&W:

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Monument Valley – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

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Mittens in Monochrome – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm

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Mitchell Mesa in Monochrome – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

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Reflection on a Dirt Road – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

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Navajo Flag – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Rokinon 12mm

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Four Flags – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 100-400mm

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Shrub on the Edge of the Wash – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Rokinon 12mm

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Rocks & Mitten – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

Color:

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Forest Gump Was Here – Monument Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 100-400mm

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Highway Through The Hole – Monument Valley, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 100-400mm

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Dying Tree in the Red Desert – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

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Yucca – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

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Red Ripples – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm

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Puddle In The Sand – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Evening Mittens – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm

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Last Light on the Mittens – Monument Valley, AZ – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm

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Photoessay: November Arizona, Part 1: Color

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River & Rays – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

I love Arizona! It is perhaps the most beautiful state in America. Some might disagree with that sentiment, thinking that the desert is dull and brown, but I find it to be a colorful and diverse landscape. Others might consider California, Colorado or my current home state of Utah, or perhaps another state like Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, etc., to be more majestic, and they are each certainly majestic, but to me Arizona is at the top of the list, and my heart belongs there.

My family and I like to travel to Arizona whenever we can, which is usually once or twice each year. A few weeks ago we visited some family of ours in Phoenix, and of course I brought my Fujifilm X-T30 along, with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 attached to the front. I appreciate this setup for travel because it’s small and lightweight enough to not get in the way, yet can produce some stunning pictures. The film simulations I used were Velvia, Kodachrome 64, and “Classic Negative” (for Quit My Job). This wasn’t a photography trip, but as always I captured a number of pictures. I hope you enjoy!

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In It Together – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Gravel Road Above The City – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Desert Above, City Below – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Desert City – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Saguaro Above Phoenix – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Desert Neighborhood – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Lookout Mountain From North Mountain – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Phoenix From North Mountain – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Above The City – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Two Palms – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Palm Tree Bees – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Desert Hill – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Red Barrel Cactus – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Foothills Saguaro – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Desert Warmth – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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The Desert – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Bright Spikes – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Palo Verde Sun – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Quit My Job – Lake Mead Nat’l Rec. Area, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Lucy – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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New River Trail – Peoria, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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New River – Peoria, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Water Under The Bridge – Peoria, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Falls & Foam – Peoria, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Pigeons Over A Roof – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

Part 2: Monochrome

See also:
Willow Beach, Arizona
McCormick Stillman Railroad Park, Scottsdale, Arizona

Photoessay: An Arizona Spring in Color

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Colorful Cactus Blooms – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

When most people think of Arizona, they picture dry dusty deserts and sprawling cities. It’s hot. It’s brown. It’s inhospitable. There are endless rows of look-alike stucco homes. Many people might be unaware that the desert bursts with color in the spring. Arizona isn’t just brown, there are vibrant greens, blues, reds, yellows, purples and other colors, especially in the spring, which is my favorite season in the state.

Arizona isn’t all desert, either. While it may be best known for the Grand Canyon, you might be surprised to learn that the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world is in Arizona. There are tall mountains and even winter skiing. The state is full of surprises. It’s one reason why I love Arizona and appreciate visiting whenever I can.

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Yellow Palo Verde – Black Canyon, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

I used to live in Arizona. Back when I was barely an adult, the Air Force sent me to live in Arizona. I met my wife there. My first two kids were born there. I have a deep fondness for the state. I would love to live there again someday. It’s a wonderful place for photography. I highly recommend grabbing a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine to see many wonderful pictures of the state. A fact that you might be surprised to learn is that Ansel Adams was frequently published in that magazine back in the day. Many great photographers were, and still are.

The photographs in this article were captured a few weeks ago. I used my Fujifilm X-T30 camera with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens and a Fujinon 90mm f/2 lens, which are both excellent examples of Fujifilm’s great glass that they’ve become renown for. I hope that you enjoy this variety of photographs that demonstrate there’s more color in Arizona than one might initially think.

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Pine In The Sky – Flagstaff, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Green Leaves – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Agave Green – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Cactus & Blue Sky – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Palo Verde In The Windy Blue – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Palm – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Vultures In A Tree – Wickenburg, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Wildflowers & Stone – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Impatient? Stop & Smell – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Yellow Rose of Arizona – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Little Bloom Design – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Yellow Blossom Flowers – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Splash of Red Among Green – Surprise, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm

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Bougainvillea Bloom – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Bloom In The Rocks – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Blooming Cactus Landscape – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Red Prickly Pears – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Beginning To Blossom Red – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Desert Landscape – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Spring Saguaro – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Yucca Bloom – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Cactus Blooming Red – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Red Ball Fruit – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Barrel Cactus – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Cactiscape – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Prickled – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Pops of Yellow – Black Canyon, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Yellow Desert – Black Canyon, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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One Barrel Cactus Bloom – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Red Spiky Blooms – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm

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Red & Purple Desert Blossoms – Phoenix, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm