Trip to Utah – Part 2

This is the second part of my trip log to Utah.

As we wrapped up Arches, we headed up to Canyonlands National Park while the weather was still OK. Afternoon at Canyonlands turned out to be rather productive and the sky got filled up with some gorgeous multi-layered clouds:

Canyonlands #3

Love those clouds! We snapped a few pictures with the clouds on the way up:

Canyonlands #1

Canyonlands #2

Canyonlands #4

Canyonlands #5

Then, the clouds completely filled up the sky and we decided to check out the Dead Horse Point:

Canyonlands #6

As always, it was beautiful, but we knew that we should come back at a later time to get some nice colors with the sun rays hitting the rocks and the river. So, we jumped back into the car and went up higher. Our next place to see was Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. As we got closer to the arch, the sky cleared up just a little bit for us to snatch a few pictures:

Canyonlands #7

Canyonlands #8

The clouds behind us were very thick, giving us an indication that it would rain. As those clouds got closer and closer to us, we decided to hike back to the car and see a little more, since we only had an hour before sunset. Our next destination was the Green River overlook, which was not that far away from the Mesa Arch.

As I pointed out in Part 1, even after seeing the “sign” from Arches (scroll all the way down in the previous link and see the last image :)), we had no idea what was awaiting us at Canyonlands. The weather report said that it would rain and snow at night, so I was just expecting some light rain. As we got to the Green River outlook platform, Sergey spotted some lightning strikes far away and suggested that we try to take some pictures. We set up our tripods and neutral density filters on our cameras, pointed at the storm from a distance and started taking pictures:

Green River Storm

Since the storm was happening far away, we did not get any nice shots of the lightning, so we decided to stick around and see if we can get anything closer. I don’t know what a heck we were thinking, but I guess we were up for an adventure. It was quiet and pleasant for a while, but we realized that the storm was actually moving towards us and it was moving really fast. Then, all of a sudden a really nasty wind hit us with such a strong gust, that it pushed us forward and lifted all sand around us in the air. I knew it was not a good sign and I told Sergey that we’d better leave fast. When everything is nice and quiet and all of a sudden it gets really nasty, you know something is wrong. Sergey did not listen and he insisted on sticking around for a little more till he gets a good shot of the lightning.

Then, it started raining. The rain was no ordinary rain – some drops were very small and some were rather big. We got hit with a few of those and that’s when Sergey decided to call it a day. As we were taking our cameras down, the rain transformed into hail and wind was blowing so bad that we did not even bother packing the gear and ran towards the car. The hail storm was one of the worst I have ever seen! I opened the driver door and by the time I put away my camera and tripod, in less than 60 seconds or so, my seat got filled with hailstones.

Here is the last picture that I took right before we left:

Canyonlands #10

Driving through the hail was worse than driving through a snow storm, because the hail was actually mixed with the snow. Have you ever seen lightning strikes while it was snowing? That was the first time in my life when I experienced hail mixed with snow, while being right under a lightning storm, at 6 thousand feet above sea level. It was also the first time when I witnessed red lightning bolts. And it was the first time when I saw someone almost getting hit with one. That someone was driving in a truck in front of us:

Canyonlands #11

One of the thick red lightning bolts hit the ground about 5-6 feet away from him while I was following him. The bolt was so powerful, that both Sergey and I got hit with a wave coming from the bolt and we jumped out of our seats as it happened. It was damn scary! I had no idea what happened to the guy in front of me, but his car stood there for a long time, while he was probably trying to recover. Getting out of the car was a suicide and I just waited to see what would happen next. The lightning was hitting the ground around us every 30 seconds or so. Then the car in front of us started moving again and I thanked God that everything was OK.

I then took my phone and started recording some video. Here is a quick video of one of the lightnings:

Obviously, it is nothing compared to what we saw before, because we were already way below 5 thousand feet and much away from the danger. As we descended more and more, the storm transformed into a light snow and eventually into rain when we finally got back to Moab.

That was the adventure that Sergey and I will remember for a long time :)

The next day was very cloudy and although we took some good pictures later in the day, I lost all of them because of my own stupidity. I only have a small portion of pictures from the last day that we spent at Canyonlands:

Canyonlands #14

Canyonlands #15

Canyonlands #12

Canyonlands #13

Canyonlands #16

And this last one is from the “Grand View” at the very end of the park:

Canyonlands #17

The weather on our way back was great (duh) and we got home without any major delays right through I-70 East.

All of the above shots were captured with Nikon D700 and Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR lens.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Kerry
    March 29, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Fascinating account of your trip. Living two fields back from the sea with nothing to stop the wind coming from the Atlantic, I can certainly appreciate the vagaries of the weather but fortunately have not experienced anything as bad as you describe. I got shivers down my spine just watching the video so I can well imagine how you felt actually being amidst it.

    Great images as well, that show the vastness of the landscape and its prehistoric atmosphere. Makes me feel as though I am looking to the edge of the world.

    • March 29, 2010 at 10:06 am

      Kerry, thank you! What state do you live in? Your bird and animal pictures are amazing!

      • 8
        ) kerry
        March 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

        I live in the UK rather than the USA. I am in North Wales. Thanks for the comment on my photos.

        • March 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

          That’s what I thought after seeing your European Goldfinshes, but I have seen some reports that some of them actually migrate to Eastern US and Canada every once in a while :)

          Do you photograph those birds in your backyard? I really love the bokeh and composition on those images.

          • 9
            ) kerry
            March 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm

            Yes I take the photos from my bedroom window. The birds in our area, a very rural area, are very shy of people and only having a 70-300mm lens I have trouble getting close enough any other way. I use feeders to attract them – you can see my set up here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kerry-n-b/3623992899 I hope at some stage in the future to be able to buy a longer lens and therefore have wider choices when doing bird photography.

            • March 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm

              Oh wow, your setup definitely works!

              I’m hoping that Nikon will release an update to the excellent Nikon 300mm f/4.0 or the Nikon 80-400mm later this year. It would be nice to get a low-cost 400mm f/5.6 prime as well…

  2. 2
    ) Dennis
    March 29, 2010 at 5:54 am

    I felt so tiny by just looking at this mother nature. Nice capture, i really like those with clouds. Quite a beauty to have a feel.

  3. March 29, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Those pics got me sold on the Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR lens. I especially love the multi-layered clouds over the canyon shot. And the hailstorm sounded downright scary! (I’d love to see one though…just because I’ve never seen one before hehe)

    • March 29, 2010 at 10:52 am

      Mimi, thank you! Yes, the 16-35mm is excellent!

      I don’t know if you want to see this kind of hailstorm, but we have normal hail happen several times a year in Denver :)

  4. 11
    ) Tom
    March 30, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Great cloud shots, sorry about the lost images and that lightning was crazy. An eventful trip!

    • March 30, 2010 at 10:32 pm

      Thank you Tom! Let’s plan on going together next time!

  5. 13
    ) Ryan
    March 31, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Hey Nasim! i really love your shots! great photos! And we have the same taste listening in Dream Theater. what model of Nikon you are using now?

    • April 1, 2010 at 11:15 pm

      Ryan, thank you! Oh yes, Dream Theater rocks! Have you ever been to their concert?

      I’m using Nikon D700 and D3s now…

      • 17
        ) Mike
        August 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

        Hey Nasim!
        What would be the name of the song in that V1 time lapse video?
        Please let me know.

        Thx!

  6. April 6, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Beautiful images. I’ve read some mixed reviews but after reading yours I went out and purchased one. Thanks for sharing.

    • April 7, 2010 at 2:43 am

      Thank you Rob! Let me know what you think of it once you get it :) Everybody that has gotten it so far loves it!

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