With Northern Arizona temperatures expected to be over 100 degrees for the next week, the four of us started our Saturday morning hike early. Hitting the trail at 6am we headed into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, a special area within the Coconino National Forest, not far from Sedona.
It was a bumpy ride getting to the trailhead taking a 4×4 Jeep trail for several miles. We crossed a dry creek bed near the beginning of the hike. Then the trail wandered among tall trees. Cool shade kept us comfortable as we explored deeper into this hidden canyon country.
Early morning light created beautiful colors on the canyon walls as we picked our way through river cobbles following the trail. Wild flowers still bloomed even with the heat wave in full force. We saw red penstemons inviting hummingbirds, and purple-blue bergamot growing in clusters with orange and black butterflies all around.
Rounding a corner where the canyon walls begin to close in we found a scene waiting for our eyes. Orange light glowed from behind a lone tree. Its fresh leaves shimmered with bright spring green. The vibrant contrast of cool and warm colors struck us with its beauty. Massive canyon walls and delicate young tree branches. Old, primal geology. Young, jubilant plant life. Shadow and light. And the tugging mystery of what lies around the corner.
Before I put my camera away I had shot a dozen compositions, each a variation on a theme. I’m learning to trust my instincts more these days. Lately I’ve been noticing that my first or second composition is often the keeper. Of course I try all the angles since I have taken the time and effort to hike deep into this wilderness area.
In art school you could never rest on your first choice. The instructors demanded that you work through several approaches to any design problem. It was good practice, and I still keep that philosophy close to my heart. With maturity comes wisdom and maybe, just maybe, I am narrowing in on the strongest, most appealing composition sooner these days, simply because practice does pay off, eventually.
Within fifteen minutes of finding this scene, the first direct rays of sunlight began appearing on the canyon wall in the background, and soon enough the moment was over. Work fast, work efficient, but explore all possibilities. Good light never lasts for long!