Starring Queen Anne YouTube Video Announcement

As you all know by now, Queen Anne and I spent August last year so that I could photograph along Utah’s State Route 12 (wrote a book about it—wan’ a see it—here goes). What you didn’t know is that one morning we drive to Torrey for lunch, and we filmed a time-lapse video with a GoPro stuck to Archie’s roof. It took a while, but I finally assembled all the clips into a 14-minute video that I posted on YouTube this morning.

Thor's Hammer And Sunset Point
Thor’s Hammer And Sunset Point – Bryce Canyon is the reason most visitors ever drive SR 12, but the video shows what to see before and after Bryce Canyon.

The video shows all of SR12’s 122 miles, and I spliced in spots along the route that are waiting for you to see and photograph. Queen Anne stars in her YouTube debut that will most likely break the Internet. Finally let me say that although it looks like a mad man was driving, I can assure you that the cruise control was set to the speed limit—of course, that may not absolve me from being a crazy person.

You can see Utah’s State Route 12 on YouTube by clicking here. I hope you enjoy watching it and please share your comments or at least give it a thumb up or thumb down.

Until next time — jw

State Route 12 Project New Publication Announcement

Utah SR 12 Magazine
Utah SR 12 Magazine-84 pages of color photos and stories printed on premium paper and you can buy on its Blurb Page.

There’s exciting news this morning coming from the international headquarters of Jim Witkowski Photography, located in beautiful downtown Congress. You may have wondered why things have been quiet around here for the last six months, or that I didn’t post many photos from our Utah trip last summer. Well, I was busy using that time to compile years of photographs into my new 84-page magazine—Utah State Route 12, and I’m pleased to announce that it’s ready for début.

The project’s theme is about the beautiful places in the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. The monument is so vast that it has three management areas: the western Grand Staircase Region, Kaiparowits Region, and Escalante Canyon Region on the east flank. There is only one paved highway that spans them all—Utah’s State Route 12. In this project, I wanted to show that there are beautiful marvels to see along its length, and the road is more than just a gateway to Bryce Canyon.

I plan to release my work in four versions: PDF, Magazine, Book, and eBook. I have completed the first two, which—I believe—should get the most attention, and I’m still working on the second half. It looks like they will be ready by Valentines. (Are you in the dog house and need a gift?)

PDF—this version is best for viewing on your computer, and except for bandwidth, it’s free. It’s ideal for those of you that don’t need more clutter. You can open the file and begin browsing right away or save it to your hard drive for later.

Magazine—this is a 84-page hard copy of photos and text printed on premium stock paper. I’m delighted with how well the images reproduced. The magazine’s cost is $ 22.99 (plus shipping) is admittedly pricy for a periodical, but compared to the book, it’s a bargain. Blurb handles the sales on their secure Website because they print them to demand. That means that there won’t be surplus versions lining birdcage bottoms.

Book—the large (13 x 11) coffee table book is still in progress which sounds simple, but it’s in landscape orientation, so the layouts have to be adjusted. The photos are larger than the magazine’s, and I had more space to embellish the stories. It will be available in softcover, hardback image wrap, and hardback with dust jacket. The price of the book is expected to be under $ 200.00 at most, so I think there will only ever be one edition—my own if Her Highness lets me.

EBook—this will be the last version and will be easy to do because it’s the book reformatted to fit your Kindle. That’s all handled by the computers. I don’t know what it will cost, but it will be ready next month, so keep watching my Books sections. The downside is that with this version, you won’t get the privilege of collecting dust with it.

I’m planning on releasing a new project each year as Queen Anne, and I travel. For this first project, I had to learn the software and build the templates; something that took up development time. Future projects should go from camera to print quicker. Plans for next year’s project are in progress.

You can get your free PDF version and preview the magazine by visiting their Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing them and please leave your comments here and/or on their Blurb page.

Until next time — jw

Well Turned Ankle Utah Photo Shoot

The suffering that I must go through to please you people. As I sit here on the couch and looking at my right leg propped up by a pillow, I see that my ankle is thicker than my calf muscle. I had a friend in high school—a girl—who’s legs looked like this. She always lamented that they installed her legs upside-down. That’s how my right leg looks now.

I managed to injure my ankle by twisting it on the hike back from Coyote Gulch in Utah. My pain worse because I didn’t get the shot I wanted. I was this … close. I allowed four hours to trek out, get a shot, and then hike back before the sun went down. The two-mile trail alternated between fine red-powder sand and slick rock which I preferred because I made better time while I walked it. As I neared the canyon, I was concerned because I couldn’t see it. It’s the same as Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, so you have to walk to the edge to look into the chasm. The photo shows just how close I got and when I took it, I was not on the trail. What you can’t see in the picture is that beyond the cairn the trail descends like walking down a ball. To get back up, I would have needed to crawl on my hands and knees. Incidentally, that’s a very narrow ridge to be carrying a camera pack and tripod, so yes, I was a-scared. (BTW—here’s a link to what’s down there. It’s copyrighted so I can’t post it, but I can send you for a look.)

The Top of Hamblin Arch
The Top of Hamblin Arch-This is how close I got to my subject. You’re looking at the top of Hamblin Arch, like looking at an elephant’s trunk from its brow. The cairn on the ridge marks the real trail. Behind the cairn, you can make out the arch underside.

I twisted my ankle a third of the way back, and it’s the third time I’ve injured the same ankle. Each time I was carrying a load and my foot rolled-over 90º so that my entire weight was on that pointy ankle bone. Like the other times, I didn’t have a choice but to keep walking and the two-mile trail turned into four miles, then six. I became concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get back to the truck before dark. I began having thoughts about my demise. I wondered if I’d have to eat the dead, except I was alone. I questioned when my camera and tripod would become so much of a burden that I’d discard them along the trail. In case you’re worried, I didn’t die. I got to the truck at sunset and spent the night alone under the stars. I drove back to town the next morning and called my caring wife to tell her I had to come home early—she would need time to get rid of her boyfriends—the Chippendale Dancers.

I think that after the first injury, my ankle is susceptible to re-injury. I wear good hiking boots, and because of their high tops, they have more support. With all the walking, hiking, and biking I’ve done in the past couple of years, I thought my ankle would be stronger. If I want to get back out there and get those out-of-the-way shots, I’m going to have to do strength training exercises and tape my foot up before a hike.

Instead—I’m buying a drone. The one I’ve settled on has a four-kilometer range, and I could fly it out there and get my shots from the parking lot. I’ve pondered how to get more height in my photos anyway, and a drone is a perfect answer. A drone is a medical necessity—no less than an Iron Lung. The challenge I have is that I want a quality camera equal to my current gear. That camera is $21K, and lenses start at $10K. A drone stout enough to fly it is another $7K, and the controller is another couple of grand. Sure, fifty-thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, but that’s the cost of an emergency room visit and a couple of nights in intensive care. I wonder if my health insurance will cover it if my doctor writes a prescription.

Until next time—jw

Teasdale Cock’s Comb Picture of the Week

The geological roller coaster ride that is Utah State Route 12 ends on its east side in Torrey, Utah, and as the road descends Boulder Mountain’s north slope into town, there is a jagged uplift called the Cock’s Comb (Google Earth spelling) that you can get to via the side road to Teasdale. From Highway 12, it looks like a miter—a bishop’s hat, but when viewed from the south it’s a quarter-mile long section of crust ripped from the earth’s surface and stood on end. When I did some research for this post, I found that there’s something interesting about the Cock’s Comb besides being a big old hunk of rock. There are a road and trail—Fish Creek Cove—that lead to a very large panel of Fremont Era Rock Art. I wish I knew about that while we were shooting, but now I have a reason to go back.

Teasdale Cock's Comb
Teasdale Cock’s Comb-A quarter-mile uplift found outside of Teasdale, Utah is threatened by afternoon thunderstorms.

Of all the shots I took at the site, I selected this one to be this week’s featured image because of the layers. The thunderstorm was moving north from Boulder Mountain rapidly and the main part of the rift is in shade, but the smaller ridge is still in the sun. I also thought the clump of juniper trees in the foreground added to the sense of depth. I call this image Teasdale Cock’s Comb.

You can see a larger version of Teasdale Cock’s Comb on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we show more of the dramatic landscapes along Utah’s State Route 12.

Until next time — jw

Bryce Canyon 2018 Utah Photo Shoot

Thor's Hammer And Sunset Point
Thor’s Hammer And Sunset Point – As the Navajo Trail descends, it passes by Thor’s Hammer, Bryce Canyon’s most iconic hoodoo.

Of all the sights to see along Utah’s State Route 12, Bryce Canyon is the crown jewel. All of the other stops along the way are sideshows. The park draws people worldwide and they have to use SR 12 to get to it. I, however, am a weirdo that stops at Bryce because it’s part of the highway. Interestingly, Route 12 cuts through Bryce’s north-east corner, so you get a taste of the Bryce Canyon without leaving your car.

We’ve been to Bryce a handful of times and it’s one of our favorite national parks. With elevations exceeding 9,000 ft, it’s always cooler than home. It has alpine meadows and forests of spruce, fir, and aspen, which are a definite change from cacti. There are great views from the overlooks dotting its 38-mile road and you get an understanding of the Escalante Grand Staircase when you look down from the top. Finally, there’s wildlife—if you don’t see at least one deer while in the park, well … you’re just asleep at the wheel.

Leaning Tree
Leaning Tree – At the canyon’s bottom are amazingly tall fir trees growing between formations like they were stretching to reach the light.

Like most visitors, Anne and I stopped at the overlooks on our previous visits, but I wanted to do something different this time. While we were in the visitor’s center, I asked the ranger about the trails and she recommended the Navajo Trail to get the photographs that I was looking for. It’s a loop trail that’s less than a mile and a half long. On their chart, it was a moderate hike because of its 500 ft elevation change. I thought to myself, “Piece of cake, sign me up.”

Before tackling the Navajo, Anne and I drove to the road’s end—Rainbow Point. That’s the park’s highest elevation, and in addition to the great view, there’s a flat trail—for Bryce Canyon—that loops through a grove of bristlecone pines. After completing the loop, we concluded that the bristlecone grove at Cedar Breaks was healthier, larger, and a better experience if you like walking among these ancient trees.

Wall Street
Wall Street – The Navajo Trail passes through a section called Wall Street where you’re dwarfed by the cliffs like a ‘Lord of the Rings’ setting.

As we drove back to Sunset Point where the Navajo Trail is, Anne called our insurance agent and demanded that he increase my life insurance policy—she of so little faith. When we arrived, we couldn’t find a parking space and I questioned if anyone was still at home in Europe. All of the spaces were full and a queue of three cars waited for each potential empty spot. We decided that I should go and Anne would circle the parking lot—like you do at the airport—until she found an open parking spot. With a kiss for good luck, I grabbed my camera and backpack—with water—which burst open and emptied before I made it to the rim—and set off on my great adventure.

Let me describe the Navajo Trail. On the map, it’s a 1.3-mile loop with a 500 ft elevation change. I hiked down 500 ft on switchbacks for three-quarters of a mile. At the bottom was a log-bench that felt good to sit on. Then I walked around a column and began the trek up another set of switchbacks climbing 2,000 ft in under three miles. If I went in the other direction, the numbers would have been the same. It was one of the most exhilarating things I have done in my life. I didn’t understand Bryce Canyon until it swallowed me.

Navajo Emerging
Navajo Emerging – As the trail begins to emerge, it feels like breaking the water surface after a dive.

I made my journey in 1½ hours, but I was taking photos as I plodded along the trail. I resented the kids and a young man who ran up the hill wearing flip-flops. George Bernard Shaw was right when he observed, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I’m glad that I made the effort because I got a different perspective of Bryce Canyon in a mental sense and in my work, which I hope you enjoy viewing.

Until next time — jw

Hoodoo Windows Picture of the Week

I photographed the second featured image in our Utah series on the west rim of the Paunsaugunt Plateau north of Utah SR 12. This is the plateau where Bryce Canyon is located, but this is on the opposite side. Before entering Red Canyon, there’s a dirt road that heads north to Losee Canyon (not misspelled) and the trailhead located there. In the parking lot, with a little searching, you’ll see a sign for the Arch Trail—it’s a short loop that climbs up and around the plateau’s edge. Like most trails in Utah, the Arch Trail goes up or comes down. It’s anything but level.

The Arch Trail wanders among interesting rock formations including a couple sets of hoodoos—like the ones in this week’s photo. If you’re lucky enough to wander off the trail at the right spot, you’ll find the arch that the trail is named for. At the summit, you’ll enjoy a great view of the Panguitch Valley and the Markagunt Plateau in the west. It’s not a well-maintained trail like you find in national parks, but it’s easy to follow once you’ve found it, and rangers built several flights of stairs in the difficult spots.

Hoodoo Windows
There are places outside of the Utah Parks where you can hike among the hoodoos and arches. Arch Trail near Red Canyon is one of the easier ones.

I chose this image because hoodoos always seem distant things. In this case, the trail goes right up to them. You can touch them, pose your kids in them, walk through them, and unfortunately, you can deface them with “Kilroy was here – 2018” as some people have. In this shot named Hoodoo Windows, I tried to show a feeling of intimacy with the structures. I was lucky that the light was good when I arrived at the scene—it was dinner time and the sun was on its way down.

You can see a larger version of Hoodoo Windows on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we present another image from a different Utah site.

Until next time — jw

Red Canyon 2018 Utah Photo Shoot

Mother Nature is ruthless. It’s not that she has a vendetta against humans, after all, we’re natural too. We have a place in her scheme of things, but to her, we’re just ants on her sidewalk and stepping—or not stepping—on us doesn’t cross her mind. She has more important things to worry about. It’s our job to stay out of her way.

Gnome Garden
Gnome Garden – Red Canyon has spires, hoodoos, and ridges like Bryce Canyon, but the sandstone is redder and the site is not as extensive. It’s the first and a worthy stop when traveling Utah’s SR 12.

For the last couple of days we’ve hiked in Red Canyon—the first natural feature you pass when traveling east on Utah’s State Route 12. Red Canyon isn’t an official national or state park, but because it’s in the Dixie National Forest, the Department of Agriculture maintains a visitor center there. It’s Bryce Canyon’s foyer. The rocks are slightly redder and tourists traveling to Bryce stop to gawk and take pictures. When they built the road, the crews drilled two tunnels through the sandstone cliffs and that’s another cool thing about the canyon.

The Forest Service also maintains trails that wander through the pinnacles, and on our visit, Anne and I stopped at the center to select a trail that was suitable for a couple of old codgers. “Oh the trails have all been wiped out by the big thunderstorm we had last week,” the ranger told us. Well … she wasn’t really a ranger, but she had a yellow uniform on and sat behind the information counter. The storm that she referred to dumped 1.75 inches in 20 minutes resulting in flash floods that ripped up the parking lot, bike path, and some of the road. The rushing water threatened to damage the visitor center and restrooms but didn’t. When we drove in, the parking lot was stained red from the mud that a Bobcat scraped off, so we knew we missed the big mess.

Flood Path and Debris Field
Flood Path and Debris Field – With a rain rate of three inches an hour, rainwater rushes through the canyons with a vengeance.

With persistence, we asked what options we had to hike among the rocks and take some photographs before she finally relented and provided us with a trail map. “This is the Pink Cliffs trail. It’s mostly intact on the east side, but people are getting lost on the west section of the loop. If you have trouble finding the trail, turn around and retrace your steps.” With that Anne and I set off for a short half-mile hike among the hoodoos.

Following the trail wasn’t our problem. We had trouble finding the trail’s beginning. We walked across the parking lot to where the trailhead was and found the flood’s debris field. We made a couple of attempted starts. We walked up paths that could have been a trail including the debris field—which was fun because the field was one-inch sandstone chips. They were triangular and gave way as you stepped on them—like walking on a sand dune. I fell once when the loose rock gave way but as I fell I managed to grab a dead tree branch to stop my slide.

Anne found the trail and she called for me to come down and showed another group of lost hikers where it was. When I met up with her, we started along the real trail. There were places where water interrupted the trail, but you could pick out the other side once you understood what to look for. We spent an hour hiking with me happily snapping pictures and Anne grumbling the whole time. We even managed to navigate the dreaded west side although Anne fell on her butt once. It was when we got back to the parking lot that I realized that my lens hood fell off, and I knew where. This time Anne waited in the truck while I returned to the site where I fell on the talus slope. I managed to find my hood and while I was there, I gave the tree a hug.

Salt and Pepper
Salt and Pepper – The two most iconic hoodoos in Red Canyon. They’re visible from the highway and cause congestion when tourists stop to photograph the pair. They’re named for the dinnerware they resemble.

Did I mention that I did the hike twice? I had to because when we got back to camp, there was nothing on my memory card. No photos at all. I was upset but decided to go back for a re-shoot. I did that yesterday and had no problem finding or following the trail at all. I finished the hike in 45 minutes and that’s stopping to shoot everything again. I even took a picture of the spot where Anne fell and dented the ground. After I got back to the truck, I put the memory card in place for safekeeping. And that’s how the dog ate my homework and this blog is late.

Until next time — jw