Listen to descriptions of these locations on an interview I did for NIK Radio ( see NIK SOFTWARE DISCOUNT on the blog-right hand column) CLICK HERE for the interview:
Every professional photographer I know has a few “secret” locations that they like to go back to as often as possible. Many times these spots are very close to ones that are well known and visited by hoards of photographers, often photographing the icons of that well know location. I too shoot the icons, always I always look for a different vision ( o we need more postcards?) but more often then not, take that turn, away from the popular spots and head off to the roads less traveled.
Here I’ll discuss just a few of my spots, not as well known, but one I’s like to get back to more often. Some of these are becoming a bit more visited than years ago but are still in many instances close to areas that are much more photographed. I am not going to get into how to get to these locations, the internet can do that for you, but here are some tips when you get there.
If you have any specific questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. MYSTERY VALLEY, ARIZONA
Every year, thousands of photographers from all over the world come to Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border in the remote northwestern part of the Navajo Nation for the ultimate American western experience. Navajo guides accompany photographers by 4 wheel drive trucks or horseback through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park past the famous Mittens and other monoliths. The Navajo people have lived in this area for at least 500 years.
Mystery Valley is a relatively unknown destination that features ancient ruins, rock art and many box canyons along with breathtaking views of the wide open spaces within Monument Valley. Mystery Valley is actually located right next to Monument Valley but unlike the valley itself Mystery Valley has little or no tourist traffic and provides a myriad of photographic opportunities. Areas I like to photograph include: Mitchell Butte, Gray Whiskers and Sentinel Mesa.
There are many dwellings that are still in good condition. There are many theories on why the natives left so quickly, which is another story that I’ll discuss sometime, but much of the stone and mud construction still remains intact and the cliff dwellings remain as they were. While there, be sure to visit Square house Ruins (GPS coordinates 36o 53.491’N, 110o 11.416’W),… Baby House Ruins (GPS coordinates 36o 53.277’N, 110o 11.133’W),…. Honeymoon House Ruins GPS coordinates 36o 53.318’N, 110o 10.487’W….. and the House of Many Hands GPS coordinates 36o 54.144’N, 110o 10.160’W.
A Navajo guide is required.
2. THE PALOSE, SOUTHEASTERN WASHINTON
Located in southeastern Washington, the Palouse region is well know to photographers for its patterns of green wheat fields and never ending images of old barns, rolling wheat covered hills in unending shades of green. In August during the harvest season the same hills turn brown and then black after the harvest and burning. Because of its location, perfect rainfall and soil content, the Palouse is the richest wheat producing area in the world. Virtually no irrigation exists. This are, like Monument Valley is a Mecca for photographers from late May through August. Towns like Colfax, Palouse, Dusty, Steptoe, St John, and Rosalia are caught in a time warp. These areas offer great photographic opportunities and are throwbacks of 20-50 years ago.
There are endless opportunities in this are. Here are just a few of my favorite spots to travel through and look for great views and patterns in the fields. Barns, grain elevators and old buildings are everywhere.
While most folks are up at Steptoe Butte, why not check out some of these locations:
Washington State Route 27 out of Pullman—good afternoon spot
SR 272 out of Colfax heading east towards the town of Palouse
Baird Road off Hwy 195 (unpaved) at milepost 60.
Marvin Wells Road and Abbot Road—near Kamiak Butte County Park
File Road west of the town of McCoy between Rosalia and Oakesdale
Kelso Road—same area
Waverley Road—same area
Prairie View Road—same area
The bottom line is to try and stay on the unpaved roads. Some are marked “primitive” and some “summer road”. Get stuck in the deep mud o the “summer road” and you’ll quickly figure out why they are called summer roads. Be careful if there is any rain at all.
3. STRAWBERRY HILL STATE PARK, CENTRAL OREGON COAST
Just south of Yachats (pronounced yahots) on the central Oregon Coast many small State Parks such as Neptune SP and Stonefield Beach are quite popular with visitors and photographers alike. A small state park between Neptune SP and Carl S. Washburne SP is Strawberry Hill State Park… Don’t drive fast, you’ll miss it. Wonderful rock formations, tide pools and crashing waves at high tide make this a hidden gem. Low tide in the evening usually provides for great sunset opportunities.
4. CUYAHOGA NATIONAL PARK, OHIO
Why is a National Park on a list of secret locations? Frankly it’s because while living in the area for a few years, I rarely found photographers from outside the area and western Pennsylvania photographing there. Within this park are waterfalls, rolling hills, lakes and marshes with both landscape and wildlife photographic opportunities.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1)The Beaver Marsh and Boardwalk area ( great sunrises off the road looking the marsh when its fogs I the spring & summer)
2)Blue Hen, Bridleveil and Brandywine Falls —great in the spring and for fall color
4)Hale Farm area
5_Bath Blue Heron Rookery (on Bath Road in the park)—hundreds of herons nesting
… And more—-if you run into a local … say hi for me.
5. SNOW CANYON STATE PARK, SOUTHERN UTAH
Not long ago some good friends and fellow photographers moved to St George Utah. When I visited them they raved about a close area that offered. Snow Canyon SP is everything and more than they promised. I’ve been back a few times.
I was amazed at the lack of other photographers in an area close to Zion NP and other wonders of southern Utah. Striations and patterns in the rocks, along with some interesting plant life make for wonderful images. Is it “The Wave”? Well not really, but in my opinion, pretty close!
Snow Canyon SP is 11 miles west of St. George. Next time you get to Zion put this on your must see list. Get there in good light.
6. PANGUITCH LAKE , UTAH
I always love sunsets here. This good size lake is off HWY 143 ½ way between Cedar Breaks and the small town of Panguitch, Utah. Looking east across the lake at sunset can be great. The area also offers a lot photographically.
7. HOOD CANAL, WASHINGTON
Hood Canal flows for 65 miles at the base of the Olympic Mountains. The canl is kind between Puget Sound and the mountains. This area offers some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere. There are nine state parks along the canal. US 101 parallels the canal on the west side with easy access to the shoreline. At low tide oysters are plentiful on the mud flats. My favorite areas are the Toandos Peninsula, Quilecene Bay, Black Point, and Triton Head. Take your time and enjoy!
8. GRIZZLY ISLAND WILDLIFE REFUGE AND SUISUN MARSH, NO. CALIFORNIA
If you enjoy photographing birds, you’ll love this spot. Grizzly Island Wildlife Area is located in the heart if the great Suisun Marsh, approximately ten miles southeast of the City of Fairfield in Solano County, California The Suisun Marsh is the largest remaining contiguous area of coastal wetland in California. (It contains 54,000 acres of marsh and upland areas plus an additional 30,000 acres of waterways). In winter, it is an important feeding and resting area for waterfowl traveling the Pacific Flyway, at times with as many as 1,500,000 ducks and geese.
Within the Grizzly Island and Suisun Marsh it is common to be able to photograph hawks, great herons, egrets, Blue Herons and more right from your car (your car makes a great blind… bring a long lens and a beanbag. I use a window mount by Kirk Enterprises) Driving deeper into marsh the wildlife becomes more concentrated and varied. In the winter it’s common to see herds of Tule Elk feeding in the mornings.
The road into the marsh is paved until you reach Grizzly Island ( crossing a bridge). There the road quickly becomes unpaved. Be careful of fisherman driving fast as well as the dust. The canals and marshes offer some of the best waterfowl and wading bird photography anywhere.
From Interstate 80 in Solano County, exit CA 12 east (exit 43). Drive about 4 miles east on 12, then turn right onto Grizzly Island Road. Drive about 9 miles on Grizzly Island Road, to the park office on the left side of the road. Stop and register, then continue on Grizzly Island
9. LITTLE FINLAND (or HOBGLOBINS), NEVADA DESERT
Little Finland, ( has nothing to do with the country) also known as “Hobgoblin’s”, is located in a very, (and I mean very) remote area of Nevada, off a backcountry road named then Gold Butte Byway.
A high clearance 4WD vehicle, a GPS and topographic map are mandatory to get there. However, I guarantee that it’s worth the effort as you will get to photograph some of the most extraordinarily sandstone formations, with amazing and unusual and shapes reminding one of animals or other creatures Late afternoon or early morning( that means camping! Provide the warm light necessary to bring out the deep sandstone colors.
Over time, the sand cements into rock and is totally shaped, looking like fins ( thus the name Finland) by the wind, leaving some incredible formations. Some of the shapes look like dragons or beasts, other like faces.
Tread lightly as the formations are very fragile.=
Getting there is a tough trip, this isn’t a state park and there are NO facilities or water. Be prepared. This can be a dangerous trip. I suggest not going alone, and if possible take 2 vehicles. There is neither cell phone availability nor a way of communicating with the outside world…
DIRECTIONS: About five miles from Mesquite, take I-15 exit 112 towards Riverside/Bunkerville (about 1 hr from LAS VEGAS). Follow directions for Gold Butte Backcountry Byway and take a right onto the road. After a few miles the pavement ends and the road urns to dirt.
Follow signs for “Devil’s Throat” – a sinkhole. Where the road forks, bear right and follow it until it turns into Mud Wash, the river bed you will drive on. Follow it for a few miles and take the right branch again where it forks. This should lead you to Little Finland.
I would strongly suggest purchasing issue 113 of the PHOTOGRAPHIC AMERICA NEWSLETTER (Secrets of the Nevada Desert) and read it carefully before attempting this trip.( for that matter I’d buy all of these newsletters—if you do, tell Bob Hitchman I sent you) www.photographamerica.com
10. HIGHWAY 19 from the PAINTED HILLS north TO INTERSTATE 84, OREGON
Lots of photographers go to the beautiful John Day Fossil Beds and the Painted Hills of north central Oregon to make images of these beautiful formations. If you go (and you should) take a little extra time and follow the meandering state highway19 from the Painted Hills in Mitchell, OR north to Interstate 84 and the Columbia River. You’ll drive through towns like Fossil (yes you can dig them there) Condon, Mayville and others. These towns are similar to those in the Palouse as far as being about 30 years behind the times. The canyons, old barns offer lots of photographic opportunities. It’s about a 2 hour drive (so add time to photograph) up to the interstate.