The Four Corners area of the Southwest United States, includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona and is full of locations that offer lessons in composition, light, and the challenge of “getting there”. We have a plethora (gee I’ve always wanted to say that!) of grand landscapes. Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Zion National Parks, and Cedar Mesa, the Slot Canyons of Arizona and Utah, the hoodoos near Lake Powell, Wire Pass Trail and Paria Canyons, to name a few. And hidden in and around all of these locations are pockets of some of the most interesting land forms in the world. Great distances separate many of these locations, and a good plan is to pick an area and stay there for a few nights to watch the light and scout locations for the “right time” to be there for the best photographic experience. I like to camp so that I’m very close to the locations for the first light. I usually map out a route for a photo adventure, pick a central location to set up camp, or get a motel close to the site. BLM and Forest Service land in the West offers free camping in some amazing locations.
Once I’ve chosen a location for my adventure, I pour over topographic maps using my iPad app, GAIA GPS. This application is great for downloading topo maps for use offline (and most of the cool locations in the Southwest do NOT have cell service). I “drop” pins in the locations that look right to me for selecting camp. Before heading out, I let friends know where I plan to be; I email the topo to them. I have experienced lots of times driving down a 20 mile backcountry road when I was very glad my “go to” person knew where I was. Plans alter but keeping someone informed is the safest way to go when traveling solo. It’s big country out there, and that’s why I love to explore it.