We’ve been to Monument Valley many times, taken some very nice photos, even doing well in a contest or two. Never was there great atmospheric conditions. Either there was no clouds, too many clouds, or even a sandstorm, but nothing spectacular to complement the monuments. This time the photo gods were looking fondly upon us. In just 24 hours, from sunset to the following late afternoon, we had amazing conditions, enough to blow our minds.

During these 24 hours there were six distinct shooting opportunities, each with a completely different look and result. Each wonderful in its own right. I’ll be taking you on a journey through these six. Let me know which one you like the most.


Although not the classic mitten shot, you have to chase the light, which was better on these monuments, at least for the moment. Soon after the colors shifted to the mittens.

The clouds look like funnels over the monument. [photo by Kathryn]
The clouds look like they are leaping from the left.

Blue Hour (After Sunset)

The blue hour is typically our favorite time to shoot, the skies are a rich, deep blue and the rocks typically glow. We were not disappointed.

If you look carefully, you can see a couple of cars on a dirt road. This should give you an idea of how big these monuments are. [photo by Kathryn]

Blue Hour (Before Dawn)

This morning we did a guided tour through the valley (it’s the only way to see the valley). We arrived well before sunrise and well before blue hour. Trying to keep warm in the truck we almost missed the explosion of colors during the beginning of blue hour.

Silhouetted Totem Poles with an amazing sky behind. In our experience it is not typical to get these types of colors during blue hour.

Golden Hour (Sunrise)

We certainly did not expect a second explosion of colors just moments after the end of blue hour. As you can see from these two photos, I barely moved.

Golden hour was certainly golden.

After Sunrise

One of the shots that I wanted most on our visit is sand ripples leading to the totem poles. I was disappointed to hear from our guide that most of the sand ripples were overrun due to vegetation growth. Why can’t the plants leave the sand alone? We were lucky to find a few patches of sand that ended up exceeding my expectations. The best time to shoot this scene is just after sunrise when the sun light kisses the totem poles. Unfortunately the clouds were increasing so there was limited direct light on the poles themselves. At least the clouds were beautiful!

Snow in October? Yes, and it really enhances the shot.

Late Afternoon

A daytime photo shoot? Not during the sweet light? Is this possible? It was later in the afternoon, well before the golden hour, we arrived back at our cabin, which has the view you see below. We were amazed to see the mittens look so good, a rich blue sky, and nice looking clouds. I quickly put on my polarizer to enhance the clouds and sky, stood on our deck, and snapped a few shots. Not a bad way to finish  a magical 24 hours in Monument Valley!

What an amazing 24 hours it has been, some of the best landscape photography I have been blessed to see.

Remember, it’s all about the light, Monument Valley style!