Colors of the Southwest

From November to December 2023, I had the chance to travel the southwest of the USA for four weeks. The route took me from San Fransico via Sacramento and Lake Tahoe to various national parks in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. With me I took my workhorse (the Sony A7R II, which unfortunately didn’t survive the trip), the beautiful analog Canon F-1 and the medium format Mamiya RB67 (quite a heavy thing actually). The A7 IV joined the family as a new member in the middle of the journey, after the A7R II had passed away.

Arch Rock | Joshua Tree National Park | 2023

Joshua Tree was the last stop on my road trip across the southwest of the country. This park is not only famous for its distinctive Joshua Trees but also its prominent rock formations – one of which is Arch Rock. The long exposure of 25 seconds above pictures this twist of nature using an ultrawide 16 mm lens. The image below shows the impressive scale of the rock with me lying directly under it.

Arch Rock | Joshua Tree | 2023

Tunnel View at Yosemite National Park is certainly one of the most photographed motives at Californian National Parks. This special view picturing “El Capitan” and the famous halfdome is nowadays well known from the Mac OS X wallpapers. Nevertheless was I keen to experience this spectacular view for myself and try my best photographing it. I had to wait about one hour until the orange sun finally had a little glimpse through the clouds and covered “El Capitan” partially in beautiful golden light.

Tunnel View | Yosemite National Park | 2023

While exploring the Grand Canyon, I was lucky to encounter a similar situation. It had been a very dull and grey day, so most of the pictures turned out flat and boring. But although it was very windy and freezing cold, I decided to stay a bit longer, hoping for a little miracle. And indeed, right before sunset, the sun broke through the clouds and created beautiful rays of light over the hazy canyon. This situation showed me again that patience is key when picturing landscapes – and that warm gloves and a beanie are an essential part of the equipment.

Grand Canyon | 2023

Originally I never planned a stop at Lake Tahoe, but a friend I met at a local bar in Sacramento strongly suggested I should go there. Now, I am very happy that I followed his advice and stayed at this beautiful lake for two nights. That day I woke up early and decided to grab a coffee and leave the hotel to take a little tour around the lake.

Sunrise at Lake Tahoe | 2023

Lake Tahoe is one of the clearest lakes in the US, so the water seems turquoise in some places. This photo was taken close to Chimney Beach – a place with a small fireplace right at the beach.

Lake Tahoe | Chimney Beach | 2023

Right across the laken on the other side of the lake lays Crystal Bay, a beautiful little bay with a small island. I pictured it after a little hike under purple clouds right after sunset.

All photos from this series until now were shot digitally using the Sony A7R II and the Sony A7 IV. The next image however was shot on the classic Mamiya RB67 on Kodak Ektar, developed by Khrome Labs in Hamburg and scanned on an Epson V850 flatbed scanner. The vibrant colors and the dynamic range of this film stock are quite astonishing. This example shows well that “film is not dead” and both analog and digital photos do work well together. Would you have noticed that this is not a digital photo? Maybe the different aspect ratio of 6:7 instead of 3:2 would have been a clue.

Monument Valley on Kodak Ektar | 2023

This is another one of my favorite shots from the Grand Canyon. It is taken about 45 minutes after sunset and to the naked eye, the canyon already fell into pure darkness. Only the long exposure shows the deep furrows and scars on the earth’s surface that the river has dug.

Grand Canyon | 2023

In addition to the Grand Canyon, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are also one of the highlights of my trip. The imposing dunes, which stretch far across the Death Valley desert, contrast with the striking rough and rocky mountains in the background with their smooth lines and soft shapes. I tried to capture this contrast through the optic compression caused by the long focal length. The low sun creates a strong contrast in the dunes and emphasizes their beautifully curved natural lines.

Mesquite flat sand dunes | Death Valley | 2023

Sunrise at Kings View (Joshua Tree National Park) featuring one of the famous Joshua trees. I was lucky enough to be alone in this beautiful place at that time and right after taking this photo, I installed my little camping stove, made a coffee, and enjoyed the beautiful morning with a cup of coffee and a bowl of muesli.

Kings View | Joshua Tree National Park | 2023

This picture was taken somewhere along the way on the trip to Death Valley. I was in a bit of a rush to get there before darkness, but when I saw the double rainbow above this interesting desert-like landscape I parked next to the road, grabbed the camera, jumped out of the car, and took this photo.

Somwhere | California | 2023

Antelope Canyon | 2023
Grand Canyon | 2023