Monument Valley is probably best known for the iconic site of the two rock monuments that appear to have “thumbs”, and thus look like a pair of “mittens”.  We had planned a couple of days here for shoots of the Mittens, a tour of the valley, and then a camping trip up to Hunt’s Mesa – a photographic gem.

We stayed at “The View Hotel,”  the only hotel in the valley that provides a view of the Mittens from every room – hence, the name “The View”. For a photographer, life could not be better than shooting a sunrise or sunset from the balcony of The View Hotel. You have the perfect viewpoint all to yourself, the wind is blocked, the coffee pot and bathroom are steps away, and there is no need for early morning travel to the shooting site…. Just fall out of bed and you are there. One can stay in bed right up to the shooting moment and then step out on the balcony to shoot the view. It doesn’t get any better than this.

The only kink in the plan is the weather. Shortly after our arrival, there was a terrific wind storm and the Mittens (and all of the valley) disappeared in the dust. We didn’t trust our cameras with all this dust so we used an iPhone:

Monument Valley - Sans Mittens

Monument Valley – Sans Mittens

We hunkered down and hoped the wind would abate and the skies would clear before sunset.

Awaiting the magic hour, we perused the gift shop assessing the postcards for other potential shoot locations during our visit. In doing so, we encountered a group of photographers waiting inside for the storm to subside. After an interesting dialog and introduction (see Jeff’s blog on A Chance Meeting.), we learned that this sunset was unique as only 2 times a year  does the shadow of one mitten overlay on the second mitten (end of March and end of September). These photographers were waiting for that magical moment. Armed with that tidbit, Jeff and I returned to our room to await sunset – hoping to capture this unique phenomenon.  The winds let up just enough:


Mtten on Mitten – sand still hanging heavily in the air


Monument Vally – with Left Mitten shadow on Right Mitten

Later that evening, after sunset, we applied our star shooting lessons and tried to capture the night sky. Unfortunately, the hotel and the surrounding area offer a bit too much ambient light but we still had fun.


Night Sky Over the Mittens

We rolled out of bed with just enough time for a cup of coffee before setting up for our morning shoot. Sunrise over the Mittens did not disappoint, the view had returned.


Mittens at Sunrise, from The View hotel