At the Cathedral

Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona, USA

Cathedral Rock stands proud in the background, over Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona, USA.
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I am at peace. I think. We are in Sedona, Arizona — home of lay lines, spirituality, peace and light, inspiration, energy vortices, and other things “new age.” I think I’m supposed to be at peace. Anyway, I am definitely relaxed and having fun. Nancy and I have paused here for a couple days on our cross-country driving trip. (Actually, it is the day after we visited the Grand Canyon, just a few hours’ drive away.) We have stayed at a great bed and breakfast and over breakfast we perused Nancy’s guidebook to find an easy walk. We found Oak Creek, drove a few minutes to the parking lot, and here we are. Typically for us, we had a little confusion at the start: The path goes down to Oak Creek and then … well … Where? Eventually, inspiration strikes. (So OK, maybe one of us actually read the guidebook or asked for directions or something. But I’ll never admit it. I was never lost — Not me.) It turns out, maybe that row of flat stones exactly one step away from each other and leading directly from the end of the paved path to cross the creek isn’t completely coincidental. After our usual directional dissonance starting out, we had a lovely stroll for a mile or so along the well-marked path to the shadow of Cathedral Rock (that promontory over there to the right of center in the frame) and back. The weather is clear and bright and not too hot, and the air is crystal clear. It really IS peaceful and beautiful. And clean…pure. “Pure” is a good word.

Half way across the creek, with each foot on a different stepping-stone, inspiration strikes: I need this shot. Actually, I need BOTH of these shots — there is one in each direction.* It is time for my daily demonstration of physical serendipity. (Have you ever tried to balance on two rocks while digging a camera from a photo bag, changing lenses, and then swiveling around to take pictures in two different directions? Oh, I know: YOU probably would have gone to shore to get your gear together, then come back. Not me. What can I say? Sometimes, in the moment, the obvious escapes me.) Somehow I stayed dry. I’m going with serendipity. Dexterity is much less likely.

In this case, the composition takes care of itself. The textbook composition rules do not enter into it: I want certain features in the shot and there is only one way to fit them all into the shot. At some point, physics takes over. I want the clear creek running from background to dominate the foreground (bringing depth to the image), the cottonwood trees framing one side but still a part of the image (for no good reason except that I like them), and Cathedral Rock at one of the four textbook-correct 1/3-frame image focus positions. I see only one way those elements fit into the frame. With a polarizing filter to cut reflections and bring out the colors, the photo ends up being about the clarity of the air and scene rather than the objects in the frame. Looking at the image now, I can see how cottonwood got its name and why Sedona establishments boast “red rock views.”

Just for the record, Sedona really is peaceful, calming, and lovely. Really. You should go there. Everybody should go there.

(Nikon D70s, Nikkor wide-zoom at 17mm, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/160 sec. exposure.)

* Look for the matching image looking the other direction down Oak Creek in another post sometime in the indefinite future. (Note: “Indefinite” = “no promises.” But you can always ask nicely. It’s encouraged: We do take requests.)