Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sycamore Canyon

Sycamore Point

South of Williams, AZ is this stunning overlook of Sycamore Canyon. Sycamore Point is some 27 odd miles down the road past Whitehorse Lake. I'd spent the day on the other side of this vista looking for another overlook situation like the one I'd found last summer from Harding Point. 

West Fork of Oak Creek

My secret overlook of the West Fork of Oak Creek was my favorite find from last summer. So, I stopped here on the first day to camp. I didn't really have a plan in mind when I got in the truck that day. I drove through Sedona and just had to see the West Fork from high above one more time. It was just as stunning as I remembered.

I was curious if a technique I usually reserve for my real estate photography would produce the same kind of drama. As I was shooting I was thinking, "it's too damn dark out. These are going to be crap." But I know when the "blue light" hits shortly after sunset and what it does to my camera's sensor...  it produces this etherial electric-blue glow. Any surface exposed to the sky also turns blue. It always feels like magic when I finish the post-processing and look at the finished product.

Rainbow over Sycamore Canyon

After a great night, I explored the rest of Harding Point. I bounced around on a series of forest service roads most of the day. It was grueling. Some of the roads were crazy rough. I should know better by now. By the middle of the day, I was physically sore and worn out. I had to do something else. So, I decided to try to find Sycamore Point. It was in the neighborhood, sort of. I wasn't really sure how far it was... somewhere south of Williams. 

I'd seen some photos of the canyon, but didn't think it would be as great as it was. But it was great. I guess low expectations aren't a bad thing. And as an added bonus, the weather in the area was just like I like it. Storm clouds were all around dropping rain in the distance. I even managed to capture the most fleeting of rainbows. It surprised the heck out of me and fortunately I was ready. One more minute later it was gone.

Falling Rain at Sycamore Point

The storm across the canyon was fantastic. The rain was sporadic and put on quite a show the entire time I was there. The place was so quiet, peaceful and powerful all at the same time. It was hard to put into words. The light was slowing moving across the ridges on the other side of the canyon as the sun ducked in and out of the clouds behind me.

Last Light over the Canyon

It seemed right for a great sunset, but was pretty much a fizzler. The sun's last rays did manage to light up the falling rain in the distance. Like the rainbow, it was incredibly fleeting lasting maybe only 60 seconds.

On my way out, I drove by a small herd of pronghorn standing in a field just off the road. It added to all the wildlife I'd seen that day... I'd seen four mule deer and three elk cows. I'd heard a turkey gobbling from my campsite while still laying in my tent. There were eagles and ravens, robins and gnatcatchers. Swifts and swallows flew around on all the cliffs. A squadron of turkey vultures had buzzed my campsite that morning... None of this is ever lost on me. I always feel so fortunate to see whatever is around.

The blue light was hitting so I stopped one last time to shoot a juniper I'd seen as I was driving to the point earlier that afternoon. There was something perfect about this tree and I made a special point to find it again in the dwindling light. It was the final zen moment in an almost perfect day.

I only spent a couple hours at Sycamore Point, but it filled my soul and left me totally satisfied. So, instead of camping somewhere else for the night and continuing my journey the next day, I drove straight back to Phoenix. I didn't get home until after midnight. I quickly unloaded the truck and promptly downloaded my camera to the computer. I had to see if the photos I'd taken even came close to the spectacle I had witnessed a few hours before. I wasn't disappointed in the least.

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© 2013 G. Reid Helms / Arizona Panorama
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