Roadtrip to Monument Valley

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The Mittens in Monument Valley

Roadtrip to Monument Valley

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”
Ansel Adams

Like most people, I’ve been a fan of Ansel Adams since I first saw one of his photographs. So, on a recent trip to Monument Valley I decided to see if I could mimic his style. While I’m happy with these images I don’t know if I stayed true to myself or Ansel Adams.

I’ve been wanting to go to Monument Valley since before we moved to Durango in 2001. I even had a National Geographic Magazine foldout of the Mittens tacked to my wall back in Maryland 20 years ago. My expectations were high. The image I had was of a quiet, secluded, beautiful, peaceful, rustic setting in which I could reflect on life and just “be” for an hour or two before driving home.

As you probably guessed the reality was quite different. We spent the morning drive poking behind RVs and dogging on-coming cars trying to pass on the road from Mexican Hat to Monument Valley. Once there, after paying our $20, we parked among the RVs, tour buses, motorcycles, and commercial tour jeeps. My picture of the Mittens was taken from the patio outside the gift shop and restaurant standing next to 10 other tourists doing the same thing. The loop drive around the formations was bumpy, at times crowded, and the very opposite of relaxing. My expectations were dashed, ruined.

Now I wonder two things. First, what was the experience really like for Ansel Adams? Was it as peaceful as it looks in his images? Second, did I miss an opportunity to capture the real Monument Valley? If my photographs are supposed to express what I am feeling at the time then I must have failed.


About Author


I'm currently the Interim Director of Web Services at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. I enjoy traveling, hiking, camping, gardening, reading and more.