To me, the canyon country of southern Utah is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Grand, expansive, spectacular, and colorful in the most amazing ways. I traveled there years ago when I took a four week photo trip across the country.
After many years, I had the good fortune to make a trip back to Utah this month, thanks to Spider Holster and my good friend, Shai Eynav. Shai is the inventor of Spider Holster and if you have never experienced it, it’s the ultimate camera carrying system. No straps, camera is carried on a waist belt and the weight is on your hips, not on your neck and back. Check it out at Spiderholster.com.
Spider Holster with medium format Pentax
We left from Elmira, New York to go to Salt Lake City for the new Outdoor Photography trade show in conjunction with the Outdoor Retailers Expo at the Salt Palace. This is the largest convention/trade show that takes place all year in Utah. So big that the Salt Palace can’t hold it all. We were there to represent Spider Holster and hopefully sell a bunch of them to the outdoor photo enthusiasts, but alas, the photo show was not well attended. Certainly nothing like PPE in New York or WPPI in Las Vegas, where we’ve done so well. But it’s the first year for this show, so maybe it will improve in the future. Shai and I were traveling with our good bud, photographer Bob Kaussner and Spider Holster engineer, Joe Crum. It was my first time doing more than passing through Salt Lake City, so we got to explore a bit in the off hours.
I was impressed with the city, very clean, well kept, lots of flowers and landscaping. Downtown seemed to have a lack of night life, a major contrast to NYC or Las Vegas. Perhaps it’s the Mormon influence. We did take a tour through Temple Square, the heart of the Mormon Church in Utah. Temple Square is a large walled compound surrounding the Mormon Temple (not open to tourists evidently), the Morman Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, the Tourist Center, and some other buildings.
We entered the Tabernacle to see where the choir performed and there were met by two young ladies, missionaries for the church, who took us under wing to show us around and explain much about the buildings in the square and the history of the Mormon Church. They took us across the street to the new (built in 2000) Comfort Center, the new conference center that now is the setting for performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The auditorium is spectacular, huge, sprawling, with an enormous organ and choir loft and seating, with the main floor and the huge balcony, for 22,000 people. And not a column, support, post, or obstruction of any kind to block the view from anywhere in this enormous space. It’s truly awesome.
View from the balcony of the Comfort Center
Almost as amazing is the rooftop, a few floors up, with waterfalls, and pools, trees and plantings, and a spectacular view of the Salt Lake City skyline. We went back on Thursday evening to shoot the sunset from the roof and hear the choir rehearsing.
Approaching storm at sunset over Salt Lake City
Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsing
We took our rental car for a drive one evening up to Park City to walk the downtown streets and had a great meal at Chimayo, an upscale restaurant on the main drag. We were about to leave after looking at the menu and feeling it too expensive, when the owner offered us a two for one special and convinced us to stay. Glad we did. The meal was amazing including the local Utah brew pub beers. As we were heading back to the car, we stopped in Michael Fatali’s photo gallery to talk with Michael and his wife. The conversations went on for quite a while as we visited and viewed his impressive gallery of large format landscape images of the canyons and red rock country. Michael seemed to take great pleasure in showing us his work as well as a couple of his unusual collectables. A giant camera lens from the U2 spy plane that weighed in at over 300 pounds, and the original HAL computer from the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey”. What a serendipitous day.
The following day we drove west of Salt Lake city, past the Great Salt Lake, and then south into the Stansbury mountains, taking a road that lead up to a camping area in the Wasatch National Forest. A nice afternoon drive with some great scenery, then back to town.
We happened upon the Red Iguana, another fabulous discovery we had made a couple of days earlier. Amazing Mexican fare, authentic and delicious, with a selection of the most incredible molés you could ever experience. You’d never know how amazing this place is to look at the outside of the building, except for the lines that form as the evening progresses. We ate there twice and would probably have again had we been in town longer. Highly recommended.
The trade show only ran two days and on Friday we packed everything and transported it over to Fedex for shipment back. Joe caught the redeye flight back that night leaving Shai, Bob and me in Utah. We caught some early rest and got up at midnight, piled into the rental car with camera gear and headed south to try and catch sunrise at Dead Horse Point overlooking Canyonlands and the Colorado River, north of Moab. It was supposed to be about a four plus hour trip. What we didn’t anticipate was the repaving of I-15 going on during the night. We were caught in a massive traffic jam for almost an hour. This was followed by getting off at the wrong exit which had us traveling for miles through parts of the suburbs with continuous traffic lights, slowing us at least another half hour. I was thinking we’re not likely to make sunrise, but we pressed on. As it turned out, we arrived with about 45 minutes to spare and were there by ourselves to await the sunrise under an amazing star filled Utah sky. Standing there in the dark, we did not know what to expect to see when the morning light finally arrived. But we were blessed with beautiful light, a scattering of clouds, and a spectacular view.
We spent quite a while climbing about, shooting the canyons and incredible view as the sun rose higher in the sky. Eventually we left Dead Horse Point and drove further down the highway out onto Island In The Sky. This is a huge plateau that was used through history as a place to herd cattle and horses because a very narrow place, called “the neck”, could be fenced easily and isolate the entire plateau.
We left Island In The Sky and headed down to Moab to get some breakfast, then drove back north to Arches National Park. We explored here into the early afternoon, shooting, despite the bright sunlight of mid-day.
To fill the afternoon and wait for the late day light at Arches, we drove south about 60 miles to the lower entrance of Canyonlands National Park where Church Rock sits beside the highway. A brief stay there with more pictures, then back to Arches.
Newspaper Rock in Canyonlands National Park
We stopped once more on the road back at Wilson’s Arch, a huge stone arch along side the highway. Bob and I climbed up to the arch to let Shai shoot us from the base, then he climbed up as well. I should do more of this kind of hiking. It reminded me of my childhood days climbing about on the back of Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta.
Once back at Arches, we shot for about another hour, then back in the car to head back to Salt Lake City. We got back near midnight after battling another paving traffic jam making it a 24 hour whirlwind tour with great pictures and well worth the effort.
My thanks to Shai and Spider Holster for giving us all this incredible experience. I love Utah’s spectacular landscape. I need to get back to the desert and the canyons again, it lifts my soul and helps me to realize how miniscule I am in the midst of nature and the open sky.
All photographs are Copyright © George Cannon, All Rights Reserved.