It was our 15th wedding anniversary and we were headed out west. I never really cared much about it. The Grand Canyon…yea, yea, yea. But my mother, a romantic like me who has a way with words, painted a picture I had to see for myself.
My husband and I set out to explore the mighty West with a stop at The Bellagio in Las Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil’s “O”. We stayed only 24 hours, 22 of which felt like I spent photographing the Chihuly ceiling and the wondrous botanical garden in the atrium.
This is about the time I started to feel like a photographer—one who created new art from what was on view. They call it, “having an eye,” and I am grateful for what mine shows me.
We picked up our rental car the next morning, turned on Dire Straits and pointed to the desert on a journey that included Lake Powell, Sedona, The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.
If you ever have a chance to go to Lake Powell, go to Lake Powell. It looks like Mars. Otherworldly.
If you ever have a chance to visit Sedona, visit Sedona. My fondest memory there, beyond the empowering energy of the vortex and the red rocks in contrast to the brilliant sky, was wandering around Tlaquepaque—an enchanted village of galleries, shops and restaurants featuring breathtaking (and I don’t use that term lightly) architecture, sculptures, and landscaping.
It felt like I became one with my camera there.
I fell head over heels in love with the Grand Canyon. It started with meeting a deer in the parking lot. That giant hole in the ground is a marvel of diversity. The shapes, the lines and angles, the wind and the changing light are magic. It would be a good place to get in touch with your spirit animal.
I focused on a tree. And took my favorite photograph of all time (up to that point) from the rim of The Grand Canyon at 10a.m. The title: Canyon Tree.
I can go on and on and on about this trip, describing the Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, the raven on a fence that I made friends with, the uprooted tree trunks that were the most beautiful pieces of art to me, the freezing sunrise we endured for the sake of beauty. I could tell you about the majesty of Zion National Park and about the prairie dog towns there. I could introduce you to the friendly gopher that kept popping up so I named him Nathaniel. I can tell you about all the pictures I took along the way on this glorious expedition and what it felt like to capture them. I can reminisce about the joy I experienced upon reaching Zion Mountain Ranch—a place nestled in my heart for all time…
…despite the shear, horror of what happened when I got there and accidentally erased my camera’s memory card.
It happened in a flash. I couldn’t believe it.
That memory card contained Canyon Tree, and my shots from Antelope Canyon, Tlaquepaque, and everything I else I created along the way. Memories included.
I epically freaked out. Somehow I had the good sense to do nothing but remove the memory card from the camera. Thank goodness I didn’t even take a single shot. I called my father frantically. I called my bff/tech guru, pleading insanely for help. I felt like I had destroyed the trip and erased the memories that came with it.
I must recover these photos I thought feverishly while looking for the nearest paper bag to breathe or throw up in.
Fast forward past the meltdown and I was prepared to pay $1,000 and send the memory card to a clean room in California where they would perform “surgery” to recover whatever they could. Instead, I rolled the dice at Ritz Camera. There was only one shot at recovering the images. If it failed, the surgical option was no more.
I paced the mall for 45 minutes when the call came.
“We have your pictures,” boomed the voice on the other end. “That’ll be $35 please.”
Someone must have been smiling down on me. And on Canyon Tree.