Photographing two great locations in SW Utah and SE Nevada
Little Finland (or Hobgoblins or even Devil's playground) in SW Utah has been photogrphed by some well know nature photographers, but not many. Most folks know the area called the Valley of Fire State Park; not far out of Las Vegas, but this little known area can offer something special. Beware though, this area is not for the casual photographer, let alone driver, it’s far off the beaten path in the South Eastern part of Clark County, NV. You will drive about 80 miles from Las Vegas on Interstate 15. After exiting you have another 40 miles (about a 2 hr drive AFTER exiting the interstate) of some really tough driving even when it’s dry. I would not attempt this location when it's raining.
I'll make a few points here:
You don’t necessarily need 4 wheel drive, but it would be very helpful. High clearance vehicles would work. Make sure you have good tires, all terrain if possible.
The unpaved part of the trip can be very bumpy. Since this area is so remote…traveling with another vehicle is recommended incase you break down. There is no fuel service, food or drink and few road signs (remember your portable GPS) so you know the drill.
We arrived with about 1 hr of decent light left. Unfortunatly, we had almost cloudless skies, making for not so hot photography, but this was really more of of an expedition and fact finding excursion. Boy, we were pleased we went. I plan to go back there and camp overnight, and be there for early AM and sunset. Midday light is tough.
Why is this called Little Finland? This has nothing to do with Finland, it’s called this way because of the rock formations that can seem to look like fins. You’ll love seeing the mysterious faces of people and wild animals that have been formed by the eroding sandstone, making for endless photographic possibilities. You can really let your mind wander in this remote and mysterious place.
Well that’s enough…. Get a hold of this issue of PHOTOGRAPH AMERICA (and all the others for that matter). This is certainly not the easiest place to get to, but well worth it. Make plans to visit the Little Finland Area in the SE Nevada desert.
Though we were there in tough light for much rewarding photography, you’ll get the idea of what’s out there. I suggest camping ( DO NOT ATTEMPT DRIVING THERE IN THE DARK!) out there to get the sunrise and sunset light that makes me look forward to getting back there soon. Imagine some of these rock creatures silhouetted against an orange sunset!
While the crowds of photographers are invading Zion, Bryce Canyon and other natural wonders of the southwestern part of Utah, reasonably close by Snow Canyon State Park offers some simply amazing photographic opportunities, which dwarfed by some of the the icons and National Parks in the area. To me, it is every bit as wonderful, and certainly less crowded!
Located about 11 miles from the center of St. George Utah (about 2 hours NE of Las Vegas) is Snow Canyon State Park. I’ve visited there a few times with my friends and fellow photographers Bob Kulon (www.bobkulonphoto.com) and Gerry Emery (ex- pats if Ohio). Every time has been a real pleasure resulting in some interesting images, this gem of a state park is easily accessible via the many paths that offer some diverse landscape and flora. The landscape photography is as good and productive as anywhere I’ve been to on the south-west, including all the iconic areas.
Within a short and easy hike of your vehicle, a paved two-lane road (formerly UTAH SR 300) enters the park from the town of Ivins on the south. Winds up the canyon a ways, then climbs up the eastern edge to the bench above Snow Canyon where the road joins UTAH SR 18. Ancient lava flows spill over the eastern edges of Snow Canyon from above, where the road climbs out of the canyon valley. Facilities include a 35-unit campground, modern rest rooms, hot showers, electric hookups, sewage disposal station, and a covered group-use pavilion and overflow campground.
The highest point in the park, according to a topo map is a peak of 5024 feet nearly due west of the southern cinder cone, standing above the eastern edge of the east fork of Snow Canyon. Park elevation is just over 3000’.
I suggest trying to explore Snow Canyon during the winter, spring or fall. Summer can be very hot. However, the monsoon storms in July and August can produce dramatic light. As always in the canyon/slick rock areas of the American Southwest, always be alert to weather as flash floods can put you in peril. Early spring and fall use of the park is especially appealing due to southern Utah’s moderate winter climate. Don’t forget to bring some water and snacks.
Though the images you are viewing here are representative of the area, I’ve never been there with really dramatic light that storms and unusual Utah weather can produce. Both Bob & Gerry have some great images shot here under those conditions.
This park, like many other Southwestern Locations is what I call a “Sweet Light” park, meaning pre sunset through an hour or 2 after. There are red rock walls facing west and allow the early morning sunlight to shed its warm sweet light upon them. These red and white stunning towering sandstone cliffs and peaks also encircle many valleys of jumbled black lava rock interspersed with serpentine sandy washes. Macro photography of the many lichens is most interesting.
I would suggest doing a bit of scouting before arriving at Snow Canyon to photograph. This will insure you are somewhat familiar with the area before arriving in the dark and looking for a spot to set up. Both the east and west sides of the road have been productive for me during the few visits I’ve been lucky to have been taken there by Bob and Gerry who both know the area and shoot there often.
FYI—there isn’t a lot of snow there. The canyon is named after 2 settlers named Snow.