View Full Version : Advice on Monument Valley

eric black
20-Mar-2007, 06:32
I am going to have a limited amount of time near the end of this week to do some shooting around/near Monument Valley, AZ. I plan on getting there mid afternoon Thursday and will have to leave mid afternoon Friday. I know, not much time, but I cant really do anything about that. Any advice on ideal locations for a sunrise and sunset shooting location.....if you could do only a single setup of each? Any advice is appreciated.

20-Mar-2007, 09:17
Somewhere between monument valley and Kayenta is this awesome formation which looks great at sunset:


If I'm ever in the area again I'll definitely shoot this critter with my view camera.

Jack Flesher
20-Mar-2007, 09:28
I would look into doing Teardrop Arch at sunset. It's across the highway a few miles from the park itself, but gives a pretty nice framing.

Monument Valley via Teardrop Arch:



John Brady
20-Mar-2007, 09:34
Jack, Fantastic image!!! Thanks for sharing it...

Eric Leppanen
20-Mar-2007, 09:56
Great photograph Jack, that's the first time I've seen the rabbit ears and nearby formations featured this way in the Teardrop Arch shot. When I photographed Teardrop Arch that "nose" (the small rock outcrop protruding from the right edge of the arch) got in the way, so I passed on that particular composition, but now I see it actually photographed I think it looks fine. You obviously had excellent clouds and a great air quality to work with, there's nothing like coming in after a storm. Bravo!

Eric, the formation Walter photographed is called Agathla Peak. It can be easily photographed from Highway 163, preferably with a long lens.

Another classical sunset (and also sunrise) spot is from the Visitor Center parking lot at Monument Valley Tribal Park. This gets you the classic grand landscape of the entire valley (left mitten, right mitten, etc.).

If you are willing to pay money for a Navajo guide, you can gain access to a variety of additional classical shots (guides are required to access most of the park). The Totem Pole at sunrise and Teardrop Arch at sunset are among the best known. If you already have a 4WD vehicle, you might be able to pick up a guide at the visitor center (a number of them are always hanging around waiting for customers), although you'll obviously have no references for these folks. In the past, I've used Tom Phillips (http://www.monumentvalley.com/Pages/english_homepage.html), who supplies both guides and 4WD vehicles, but this is the off season and I'm not sure if anything can be arranged on such short notice. Alternatively, Gouldings Lodge (http://www.gouldings.com/english/index.htm) gives tours of the area throughout the day; these are for tourists and not appropriate for LF shooters, but it may be possible to pay a driver to take you out to Teardrop at the end of the day.

Here are a couple short photography essays for you:


Eric Brody
20-Mar-2007, 10:04
I can recommend Vaughn and Marcia Hadenfeldt of "Far Out Expeditions" in Bluf, Utah. When John Sexton and Ray McSavany were doing their Southwest workshop, which I attended last year, Vaughn and Marcia were our guides in Monument Valley. They are knowledgeable, friendly and generally terrific folks. They can get you to some wonderful places.


eric black
20-Mar-2007, 10:38
Thanks for the insights and kkep them coming if you have more- still could use some sunrise advice- as for guides- how much do they cost- is it a standard amount or do I have to lose my normal shyness and haggle a bit

20-Mar-2007, 10:48
YES, get a GUIDE...as you won't be able to get to the places you want at the times you want without one...and since you may not be back for a while...get one....a $125 on up? It's been awhile.

Eric Leppanen
20-Mar-2007, 13:26
For an ad-hoc end-of-the-day visit to Teardrop Arch I vaguely remember Tom Phillips proposing $40, but that was several years ago and I can't swear to it. His web site lists his photo tour rate at $20 per hour.

You are going to have some active weather during your visit (partly cloudy on Thursday, occasional showers on Friday), and this can result in real feast or famine as far as Monument Valley photography is concerned. Teardrop Arch is superb at sunset if you have stormclouds (a la Jack Flesher's shot), but I have been out there where an overcast set in at the very end of the day, causing my Teardrop photograph to look very dreary. A sunset photograph from the visitors parking lot might be safer in this respect, as with a broader scene you'll have a greater chance of light occasionally breaking through the clouds.

If it were me, I would try to get a guide to set me up at the Totem Pole sand dunes for a sunrise shot (dunes in foreground, pole in background), but if the weather is going to be socked in then this will not work. You'd probably be better off trying to get a sunrise shot through the cloud cover from the visitor's parking lot again.

I'd suggest discussing the weather and options with a guide, so that you can devise a plan which maximizes your chances for success. I think it will be money well spent.

If the weather permits on Friday, you could take a photo tour of Mystery Valley, which makes for a good morning photo tour and is a lot of fun.

Eric James
20-Mar-2007, 13:44
Monument Valley via Teardrop Arch:


Jeff Drewitz
20-Mar-2007, 14:24
Not to state the obvious, but if you are pressed for time, this view is only a few minutes drive down the road from the visitor center--just be sure to arrange some clouds in the afternoon

Brian Ellis
20-Mar-2007, 22:57
A guide is a big help. It would be nice if someone here could recommend a guide to you. I've used two, the first was hired from one of the booths outside the visitor center and he was terrible - we hired him for half a day and paid in advance. The half day was supposed to begin at noon but he ran on Navajo time and didn't show up until about 4:00. We had time for Teardrop Rock before dark and that was about it. The second one was great, the friend I was with knew of him and we booked him in advance. I wish I could give you his name but I don't have the information. Perhaps somebody else here could recommend someone to you. But unless you just want to photograph from the (very dusty) road, a guide is a necessity in my limited (two visits) experience so you might just take your chances with the booths outside the visitors center.

Alan Rabe
21-Mar-2007, 04:52
The "Back Door" of Monument valley is one of the best morning shots. It is at the farthest point east in the park and looks across the valley from the back. Problem with sunrise is they don't let people in early enough to catch it unless you pay for a ride. But if you get up early enough there is a side road on the left that bypasses the visitor center and connects up with the park road. I've used it a couple of times without problems. And if you stay at the primitive campgrounds it is the only way to get to them when the gates are closed. These campgrounds are to the left of the center and park road and has no gate. Also there is a nice view of the totems at sunset or sunrise.