Valley Of Fire & Zion, Nevada and Utah, March 2013: Night Sky, Long Exposure, and Landscape Photos of the Parks
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I'll start off with a little preview of some of the night sky photos from this trip to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada and Zion National Park in Utah. Lisa, George the stuffed monkey, and I went on a road trip there.

Title: Temple Tree Star Trails
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm lens at 11mm.  This is a combination of 100 individual photos, with each one 30 seconds, f/4.5 ISO 400, all stacked together for a total of 50 minutes.  Tree illuminated by the infernally bright moon and headlights of a car. Taken around 11:00 pm 22 March 2013.
Photographer: Ken Lee 
Location: Zion National Park, Utah U.S.A.

Tuesday 19 March 2013:
A few days off? Road trip! Lisa and I - and George the stuffed monkey, of course - took off Tuesday for Valley of Fire State Park, driving on I-15. And we all know that no trip going toward Las Vegas or beyond is complete unless we stop by Baker, home of the World's Tallest Thermometer, to eat at the Mad Greek Cafe. I like their gyros and strawberry shakes quite a bit, although their falafel are okay, and the over-the-top Greek statues add a beautiful flare. George, too, is crazy about the gyros, although he doesn't eat 'em because, after all, he is a stuffed monkey and his mouth doesn't open. How he talks, I'm not sure, but he doesn't eat.

We left Los Angeles around 2:45 or so and finally arrived in Overton, near Valley of Fire, around 9 pm, happy to get out of the car and go to sleep but anxious to check out the Park.

Wednesday 20 March 2013:
The next morning, we woke up and explored the Valley of Fire State Park, about an hour's drive past Las Vegas in Nevada. The park is relatively small, so if one wanted to blow through it by car and hit a few of the highlights, it could easily be done in a day. On the other hand, avid hikers or photographers like me could easily stay here for a week or three.

This photo is of Elephant Rock, although from the angle that I'm taking it, it's more challenging to see the shape of the elephant because we're going for a more dramatic view from down below. The day was extremely overcast, the light rather blah. George suggested that rendering the photo in black and white might capture the beauty and drama of the rock formations better. And as usual, George was right.

Petroglyphs at Valley of Fire State Park, the oldest state Park in Nevada.

You're wondering, "Hey, I wonder who left the petroglyphs there?" And because I'm absolutely a sweetheart of a guy, I'll tell you. They were left by the Anasazi, or Ancient Pueblo Peoples, who farmed nearby Moapa Valley. The petroglyphs can be seen in several places around the Park, but are easily visible at Atlatl Rock. Or here on my website, on this very photo, and again, that's very sweet of me.

Valley of Fire is a geologist's dream. And a rock lover's dream. The red sandstone has been sculpted by Mother Nature throughout the millennia into beautiful wind holes like this.

Valley of Fire even has a small slot canyon, a thing of beauty caused by erosion and careful sculpting by the Anasazi (just kidding, wanted to see if you were paying attention) along the White Domes Loop Trail.

Amazing rock formations in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, located 50 miles (80km) east of Las Vegas.

Near White Domes in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

Pointing the way to the famous Fire Wave in Valley of Fire.

The amazing Fire Wave in Valley of Fire. This has apparently been a "secret" location, appearing on brochures but without a clear cut path. At least, until recently. There's a fairly clear path from a parking area near White Domes now.

As I mentioned before, the sky was extremely grey and overcast, and the lighting rather blah, but I've done the best I could nonetheless to impart the wonder of the Fire Wave nonetheless. George for some reason felt that the Fire Wave reminded him of soft serve ice cream.

Balancing Rock, Valley of Fire State Park. This looks precarious, and it seems like only a matter of time before it is no more. I asked George to stand on the top of it, but he felt nervous and ultimately refused.

Valley of Fire State Park has specific opening and closing times although allowances are made for campers.

So we camped.

Here, George, my trusty companion, fills up on low calorie lemonade ("Gotta keep hydrated, respect the desert, hmmmm..." he says) is ready for an active night of light painting. We ate, we drank, we talked to campers, and we prepared our trusty camera gear for the evening. Both George and I have a passion for night sky and long exposure photos, and the sun couldn't set quickly enough.

One of the rock features that was just a couple of minutes' walk from our campsite was the amazing Piano Rock. And whether the ancient Anasazi named it that because they came upon it and exclaimed, "Fwhooaaa, that rock looks so totally like a Steinway!" I don't know.

Title: Nocturne
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm lens. 30-second exposure, ISO 100, f/6.3. Light painted with flashlight on 20 March 2013 during the twilight's "blue hour" around 7:43 pm. Red sandstone rocks "light painted". I was actually practicing my "light painting" and ended up liking this enough to share.
Photographer: Ken Lee
Location: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada U.S.A.

And this is what I was practicing for, a front view of Piano Rock. I waged war with the moon all evening. It had a mind of its own, seemingly wanting to appear in every photo I was taking, forcing me to sometimes alter my angles. This would continue throughout the trip. You know, I photograph the night sky when I can, not necessarily when it's ideal. That said, I'm very pleased with how many of these photos, including this one, turned out.

Title: Alien Piano
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm lens, 95 second exposure at f/8 ISO 100, around 8:08 pm 20 March 2013.
Photographer: Ken Lee
Location: Valley of Fire State Park, NV USA

Half moon, seemed really bright with a mind of its own. Red sandstone rocks "light painted".

Go to Page 2 by clicking on the Stone People at the top or bottom of the page.


Ken's photos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as photos of Peru, Burma, India, Morocco, China, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and elsewhere, have appeared in many books, magazines, websites, and galleries.  Visit the Ken Lee Photography Website. Some of Ken's select photos may be purchased through his Imagekind Store.

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Valley of Fire State Park, Zion National Park, Nevada and Utah, March 2013

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