The Highlight of the Journey (So Far)

by | Oct 31, 2023 | Musings

I’ve just returned from the biggest photo journey I’ve taken so far: a 4,500 mile (7,000 km) loop that took me from the US Pacific Northwest down through the desert(s) of the American Southwest and back. My ultimate destination: the ancient Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

I’d been planning this trip for over a year, with an image in my head of how I wanted to capture the annular (ring) eclipse that would pass directly over Chaco Canyon (and other parts of the country) on October 14, 2023. The challenges were many: just getting campsite reservations was difficult, given how many people also wanted to be in this locale for the solar eclipse. But after days at the computer trying to grab available sites, long hours poring over maps to determine optimal travel routes (and alternate “Plan B”s), and a careful review of requisite photo gear, I set out on this grand voyage in my motorhome on October 2.

Although the solar eclipse in Chaco Canyon was the pinnacle event, it wasn’t my sole interest. As I researched the route to take, many other photo destinations popped into view: Lake Powell, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Mono Lake, Valley of Fire, and others.

Now that I’m back from this trip, I’m happy to report that the main objective—photographing the eclipse—was a success. The photo of the eclipse taken through the window of the ruins of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon is shown at the header on this blog post. You can also see the image in its entirely and appropriate aspect ratio if you visit my Deserts gallery.

But this trip was much more than the eclipse. So many other photographic opportunities presented themselves, giving me a wide spectrum of subjects to capture. And while several of these photos were planned shots just as the eclipse was, I think I felt more rewarded by discovering the unexpected situations that resulted in good photos.

I think that’s my single biggest mantra from this major undertaking: while some projects simply cannot be achieved without good planning (like determining exactly where to photograph the eclipse), it’s equally important to keep your creative eye open to all possibilities. Some of the best photos you capture might be from completely unexpected moments and places. And that’s what keeps my interest in this art form constantly renewed. Balancing your planned shoots while also allowing yourself the freedom to try new compositions as they arise makes every photographic venture something new.