Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sedona, AZ ~ An Unexpected View


Nothing prepared me for this experience a couple of months ago. It was one of those majestic moments where no matter how much you’ve read about it or the number of photos you’ve seen…you can’t compare it to the actual experience. Knowing this, I made every effort to capture a piece of that moment. In this instance, it was the exhilaration of standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking Sedona. My camera sitting on the tripod with a near half mile drop two feet away in three directions from where I stood.  Was I nervous? No. I should’ve been but I was hell bent on getting my photos.

Backtracking now; a few weeks ago my buddy Jason left California for better opportunities here in Arizona. Within a couple of days of his arrival, I introduced him to some of my favorite local areas including the Superstition Mountains, Canyon Lake, Granite Reef Dam and more. He’s an aspiring photographer and promptly took to the landscape with his camera and snapped hundreds of shots. He was impressed with the Sonoran Desert and I knew introducing him to Sedona would flip his lid. So I sent him a few Sedona photos I had taken in the past and we made plans to head out there the following weekend.

The evening before the trip, like any trip, I prepped my camera gear. Sitting at my desk I cleaned the lenses, formatted my SD cards, and ensured all the batteries were charged. During this ritual my buddy Trent sent me a text asking me if I had plans for the weekend. He’s a photographer as well so I happily invited him to join us for the trip.

Saturday morning I spent time with my family, got my haircut, and made sure the car was ready for the trip. I picked up Jason at noon and proceeded to Trent’s. When I arrived at Trent’s, he was sitting in his Nissan Titan with the door open. I popped the trunk to my Civic and told him to load up. Per usual, he placed a couple firearms along with his camera (this is Arizona!). We were ready to hit the road.

We made our way out of the valley heading north on Interstate 17. Little to Jason’s knowledge, Trent and I knew knew to stop  at Big Rock Cafe for pie. Now, the pie there is absolutely amazing. So amazing in fact that they have a website where you can order pies for FedEx delivery. So while Jason thought this was an odd stop at first, he quickly understood after having a slice of blueberry pie. Fun fact for you…Big Rock Cafe has been known to sell up to 50,000 pies in any given year. That’s over 4,000 pies a day. So after stuffing our faces, we continued on.

Nearing the town of Campe Verde and starting to get low on fuel, I decided I would gas up in Sedona since it was only thirty miles away. But after passing Campe Verde, Trent asked if I wanted to see an amazing view of Sedona. I took him up on the offer and we continued along I-17. I started questioning Trent’s destination when he told me to keep going as I passed Sedona to the west of us. We went so far north I was nearly thirty miles from Flagstaff before he told me to take the Schnebly Hill Road exit. Finally I thought, we’re nearly there. But I was ill prepared for the road ahead…the dirt road.

Schnebly Hill road is only paved for 400ft. After that, it’s a dirt road through the Coconino National Forest. At first the Civic was fine as I trucked along. Further down, the road became riddled with large rocks half buried in the ground. I found myself white knuckled, concerned about the dwindling gas, and veering left/right as needed to avoid the large rocks that would surely immobilize the vehicle. Why didn’t we take Trent’s truck!?!? Trent and Jason cracked jokes about my driving and concerns. I was only hoping our efforts would be greatly rewarded and Trent assured me they would. Still, I was questioning his judgment.

Through the forest I traveled uphill, came around a bend and there it was. The mountains of Sedona. It was an amazing sight and I immediately thankful for Trent’s suggestion. It was worth it. He smiled at me smugly. I stopped the car and we took a few photos before Trent suggested we continue onward for the next area which was our true destination.

We pulled off the road into a dirt area where a Pink Jeep was parked. For those unaware, the Pink Jeeps are for tour guides located in Sedona and charge $59 a head. I took a few photos of the jeep and headed on over to the cliffs edge. This is where the experience became unreal. The view of the red mountains with Sedona itself off in the distance left me breathless. Clouds were slowly heading north with the sun randomly peeking through. How do I capture a photo that truly represents this I thought to myself? I snapped photos immediately and climbed down the cliff a little. This isn’t an easy feat with a 20lb backpack and a tripod, but I managed it carefully and with perseverance. You see, there is always that one shot you have to get. The one shot that makes it all worth it. Even if that means taking on calculated risk.

I found an area where the cliffside was protruding further and further out onto the edge. This was my ticket for the must have shot composed in my head. I wanted the cliff to the right with the tree near the top right of my frame. The canyon bottom frame and the clouds top frame. In the distance I knew Sedona would be captured. But I had to get to the furthest edge. I slowly worked my way out to the spot with little room to setup the tripod, let alone stand. I remained mindful of what little room I had knowing it was a half mile drop to the bottom. I snapped my photos. There was this moment where I just stood there…attempting to take it all in before I made my way back. Surreal.

On my way back to the car, Trent and I heard people wondering how the hell a Civic made it up there. We were going to drop down into Sedona the way the Pink Jeeps came, but if they were impressed I made it up here in a Civic, I thought better to go back the way I came. So back to the dirt road it was. Timing was fortunate since it started snowing on our way out. I dodged the buried rocks again and made it to the freeway…and a gas station.

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