Valley of the Gods Thunderstorm

Rain and thunderstorms drop plenty of rain to a much needed desert in Valley of the Gods northeast of Mexican Hat, Utah (Mike Cavaroc)
A thunderstorm looms over Sugarloaf Mountain in Valley of the Gods, Utah.

Every now and then I like to clean out my archives, which either means removing images that aren’t up to my standards, or redoing an image that just never seemed to pop like it should.

Such was the case with this image of a thunderstorm over Sugarloaf Mountain in Valley of the Gods in southern Utah. I had always liked this image, but it never really had much going for it. Well turns out when I originally uploaded it I did a minimal amount of processing to it. In the last couple of days I noticed it again and gave it the proper attention it needed and now am really happy seeing this image in the way I remember it looking when I took it back in 2008. It’s images like these that have me yearning to get back down to the desert soon.
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How To Create a Dramatic Black and White Photo

Stars fill the night sky as moonlight lights up the top of Coyote Gulch in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah (Mike Cavaroc)
A black and white photo of moonlight lighting up a section of Coyote Gulch in southern Utah.

Finding a good black and white photo isn’t always as easy as many people might think at first. The most important thing to remember is that color photos will always convert to a better black and white image than a photo shot as a black and white in the camera. Why is that? Because the camera is simply making an arbitrary conversion and once it’s saved, that’s what you get. On the other hand, if you start with a color image and proceed to make the black and white conversion in a program such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, you have full control over the intensity of each color. Using these tools you can decide if you want an intense, bold look, much like Ansel Adams, or scale it all back for a more subtle and softer tonal shift.
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Appreciating the Weather in Zion National Park

Light breaks through the clouds onto Zion Canyon as a waterfall from recent rains pours in the foreground in Zion National Park, Utah. (Mike Cavaroc)
A waterfall from a recent storm pours over a cliff in Zion Canyon in Zion National Park, Utah.

On the first leg of my trip, I hit an unexpected cold front. Since I was only a couple of hours away from Zion National Park, I decided that that would be the best place to wait it out for a couple of nights since it was much lower in elevation than where I was, and thus, warmer. The next day I made the best of it and spent the entire day hiking around Zion Canyon, warming up at Weeping Rock, where this photo was taken, then moving on to Hidden Canyon, The Emerald Pools and finally, after a nice lunch and break, heading up Angel’s Landing.

To put it simply, don’t let the weather ruin your day, or especially your entire trip.
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Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Evening light casts long shadows over the Squaw Flats in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park outside of Moab, Utah. (Mike Cavaroc)
Sunset light hits a log overlooking Squaw Flats in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Having never been to The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park prior to my most recent road trip, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or which hikes I should ever do. I was told to hike The Joint, but by the time I got there it was a little late to start a hike of that length. I eventually settled on the Big Spring Canyon/Squaw Flats Loop and I neared the end of the hike as the day was beginning to wind down. I sat here for probably an hour or so basking in absolute silence and gazing at such incredible scenery surrounding me in 360 degrees. This is definitely a place I’ll be getting back to in the near future.
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Overcoming Fear at Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park

The Angel's Landing Trail ascends up Angel's Landing in Zion Canyon, the last half-mile of the hike in Zion National Park, Utah. (Mike Cavaroc)
Hikers pause before ascending Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah

First off, if you don’t see the hikers in the photo, they’re at the very bottom-right. I was glad I got them in there since they provide such a great sense of scale. The trail itself to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah starts off not too different from any other moderate-to-strenuous hike. You’re climbing up the western wall of Zion Canyon before reaching a narrow canyon that will take you up to Scout’s Lookout where you get a good view of the last half-mile: an ascent straight up Angel’s Landing. The rock formation known as Angel’s Landing, which is what the hike is named for, shoots out of the canyon walls and goes seemingly straight up into Zion Canyon. The trail narrows in some places to no wider than about ten feet (with a chain to hold on to) and on either side is roughly a 1,000 foot drop.
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Freeing Up Your Mind Through Solo Travel

A small waterfall pours over an eroded ledge in Coyote Gulch in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah (Mike Cavaroc)
Small Waterfall and Cottonwood Trees in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

During the course of my trip, I had plenty of time to myself which, looking back in hindsight, isn’t something I’m particularly used to. In most of my earlier life I yearned for the company of others. Before moving to Jackson Hole I was living with my girlfriend at the time. Currently, even if it’s just a few, I interact with people on a daily basis. Even if I’m working at the computer, I still occasionally connect with other people via email, Twitter and Facebook. While it’s great to have camaraderie among friends and family, whether in person or digitally, we’re still inundated with other peoples’ thoughts, even if we share our own opinion of them in agreement of disagreement.

On my recent road trip, spending roughly two weeks by myself in the southern Utah desert, I noticed that I seemed to have a better flow of thoughts, ideas or personal revelations that I was greatly inspired to write down.
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