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Thread: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

  1. #1

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    Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    I was on my way home from Arizona last week and stopped for a couple of nights at Goulding's across the highway from Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. I had read online that the Park had just reopened from the Covid shutdown, so I was eager to drive the 17 mile loop through the valley and perhaps photograph some familiar scenes. I was disappointed to learn at the entrance booth that the 17 mile self-driving tour is still closed, and visitors are limited to the parking lot on the valley rim (unless on a paid tour), but I thought I would at least be able to shoot sunrise the next morning.

    The next morning there was only one other photographer (digital of course) there for sunrise. I had just gotten my composition and focus dialed in with my 8x10 and placed a two stop GND in front of my lens when a security guard came out of the Visitor Center and asked us both for our paid receipts. The other guy did not have one and had to leave. I had mine from the day before (good for two days) but the guard told me "no tripods are allowed."

    I couldn't believe this. I've been visiting MV for 15 years and have never had anyone tell me I couldn't photograph there. I packed up without getting my shot, but stopped at the entrance booth on my way out. The Parks official at the booth (she had a badge) told me big cameras (the kind that require viewing hoods/dark cloths) are not allowed ("they are too big"), and tripods are not allowed because they "chew up the ground." I had soft rubber feet on my 'pod, no spikes.

    I just relate this in case anyone else is planning to visit Monument Valley in the near future. Beware.

  2. #2
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    The more that the populous is forced into 'cellphone photography only,' the more valuable large format photography becomes.

  3. #3
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    The power of positive thinking...I like it!

    But, MV...I can believe it. Some reservations request no photos at all on their land. I respect such requests.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  4. #4
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    The power of positive thinking...I like it!

    But, MV...I can believe it. Some reservations request no photos at all on their land. I respect such requests.

  5. #5

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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    The power of positive thinking...I like it!

    But, MV...I can believe it. Some reservations request no photos at all on their land. I respect such requests.
    Hey, I respect it, too. That's why I packed up and left. I'm just pointing out this is a big change from pre-covid rules and customs. Hell, I've seen 50 or more photographers with tripods lined up on that rim at sunset plenty of times. It's also truly ironic that MV would not be on anyone's list of places to visit if not for Josef Muench and his large format photographs that Harry Goulding used to bring Hollywood to the valley.

  6. #6
    Foamer
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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Roberts View Post

    I just relate this in case anyone else is planning to visit Monument Valley in the near future. Beware.


    Have just scratched this place off my November trip list.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  7. #7

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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    Have just scratched this place off my November trip list.
    Instead, go a bit north to Valley of the Gods and Muley Point.

  8. #8

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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    Be sure to write the Navajo Tribal Council and let them know of your experience.
    Their not posting the information so one and all can easily see it stinks - almost as much as the policy itself.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

  9. #9
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Roberts View Post
    Hey, I respect it, too...
    I am sorry -- I did not mean to suggest that you did not, just that such rules extend to other tribal lands.

    This not directed at you either, but in my mind, respecting such requests includes respecting the tribes and their reasons behind their requests/rules/laws concerning photography. I respected the temples and shrines rules on photography in Japan. And in the the same way I respect the house rules of friends when I am visiting and I do not tell them that their rules stink.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  10. #10
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Experience in Monument Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    I am sorry -- I did not mean to suggest that you did not, just that such rules extend to other tribal lands.

    This not directed at you either, but in my mind, respecting such requests includes respecting the tribes and their reasons behind their requests/rules/laws concerning photography. I respected the temples and shrines rules on photography in Japan. And in the the same way I respect the house rules of friends when I am visiting and I do not tell them that their rules stink.
    The Najaho are in business to satisfy their paying customers. Just because they're native Americans doesn't change the way economics and business works. They can make whatever rules they want. But if it restricts visitors so they don't come, the loss of business might change their minds.

    My wife and I stayed there three years ago in their Najaho owned hotel, The View Hotel, right in the valley and spent good money eating and sleeping there. We also spent over two hundred dollars on a Navajo vase. We had a great time and I strongly recommend people stay in their motel as it overlooks the valley and the terraces are a great platform for getting terrific shots. See pix below. The hotel in Goulding is OK but it is a few miles outside the valley. If I wanted to visit now, I would call the manager of the Navajo motel and complain about the restrictions and get a clarification. The motel is owned by the tribe and I'm sure they don't want to lose customers. You could also call one of the Navajo tour guide outfits and ask them. They're in the business to take photographers to the best sites to get great photos. So they would know how to handle the tripod issue and maybe in a position to get it changed.

    When I went the only rule I was aware of was that you couldn't go into their back lands on your own without a tour guide from their tribe other than the 17 miles valley drive. That seems reasonable and it behooves visitors to pay their reasonable guide rates as they know where to go for the best shots. Otherwise, you can take the guideless car drive for 17 miles, which is what we did, and still get wonderful shots, with or without a tripod.

    One other rule that was in effect then. No alcoholic beverages are sold in the valley or on Navajo land.

    Taken from The View Hotel room balcony. All balconies face out into the valley.


    Monument Valley 5
    by Alan Klein, on Flickr

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