When it comes to diverse landscapes, I think many people forget how much the U.S. has to offer. America has everything, from Florida's beaches to the Grand Canyon to California's deserts. And let's not forget all the national parks. There are nearly 60 of them designated with the purpose of protecting some of the most stunning landscapes in the United States.
Some of my favorite landscapes can be found in the American Southwest. There's just something about the mesas, red clay, and big skies in states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah that I find especially beautiful.
Here are three places in the Southwest that photographers especially will love.
You can find Monument Valley along the Utah-Arizona border. A rough 17-mile track winds through land owned by the Navajo Nation, snaking in between sandstone buttes and rust-red plateaus rising hundreds of feet from the desert floor. If you want to get a feel for the American West, this is the place to go. There's a reason why filmmakers like John Ford and Clint Eastwood have used Monument Valley as a backdrop for films; it IS the West.
Photo tip: You'll either want to rent a car (I highly recommend 4-wheel-drive for this road) so you can explore and photograph Monument Valley at your own pace. If you're looking for something more social, hire a local Navajo guide to take you around and share the stories of all the sandstone formations.
Antelope Canyon is actually two nearly conjoined slot canyons not far from the town of Page in Arizona. Both are great for photography, and both are (again) located on Navajo land. Upper Antelope Canyon (The Crack) is often more popular with photographers because of the light beams that pierce down into the canyon around midday during the summer. But Lower antelope Canyon (The Corkscrew) is just as photogenic.
Photo tip: You will need to pay to enter both slot canyons and will require a local guide. And, if you plan to sell any of your photos, you may be also required to pay for a special photography permit.
Also located near Page, Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is said to be one of the most-photographed places in the United States. Here, the Colorado River makes a severe, horseshoe-shaped bend at the bottom of a canyon. A conveniently placed overlook gives a great view out over the whole scene, and it isn't unusual to see dozens of photographers setting up tripods here each evening before sunset.
Photo tip: Note that if you plan to take sunset shots here, the sun sets behind Horseshoe Bend. You'll want to arrive well before sunset to get a prime location to set up your tripod.
You of course don't have to be a photographer to visit or appreciate these places. You can certainly enjoy them without tripods or expensive lenses.
Where are some of your favorite places for great photos?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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