Cheyenne Rouse’s Photoguides

Rouse Utah GuideThere are a relatively limited number of traditional (i.e., printed) photography guides. For many years Laurent Martres’ guides to the Southwest have been the most popular general guidebooks. Anyone planning a photo trip to the Southwest would be well-served by his books.

However, there are two other resources that I want to bring to photographers’ attention, both written by photographer Cheyenne L Rouse. Cheyenne is one of the best-known photographers in the Southwest and she knows the area intimately from her own work and from the tours and workshops she conducts. She has distilled some of her favorite locations in New Mexico and Utah into two e-books available only from her web site.

I have used both guides and have frequently consulted them before trips to the Four Corners area. If a PDF could be dog-eared, mine would be well-worn.

Martres’ books are very useful; however they tend to offer very brief descriptions of many sites. It can be difficult to know whether a lesser-known location is really worth the time and trouble.
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Photographing the House on Fire in Mule Canyon, Utah

House on Fire, Mule Canyon, UT
House on Fire, Mule Canyon, UT

The House on Fire ruin is another “must-shoot” site in Utah. The ruin is about 25 miles from Blanding. To find it, if you’re driving from the east on Highway 95 it’s the next right after mile marker 102; or N37° 32′ 38”, W109° 44′ 41”.

After paying your fee and parking in the small lot, you’ll hike west about 30 minutes down a wash. It was dry in December; I assume it runs during the wetter seasons. The pathway is marked with cairns and footprints. As long as you stay in the wash, it’s impossible to get lost. You can even hear traffic on the highway.

The ruin will be on your right and is best shot mid-morning or later. When I was there in December it was overcast; however there was enough light reflected off the base rock that I was able to capture the image above (with a little help from Lightroom).

I chose not to enter the ruins, but rather enjoyed them while seated on the slickrock base, and I encourage you to do the same to preserve their physical and spiritual integrity.

Photographing Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT

For landscape photographers Mesa Arch is a bit of a cliché, and yet we all want our opportunity to photograph it. For me, it wasn’t just a chance to make my own capture, but also an occasion to actually experience it. Even the best photographs don’t do it justice; you have to let the magic of the place soak in. And usually you have to share that with tripod-to-tripod photographers. One more reason to visit in December.

I scouted Mesa Arch the day before I shot it, after photographing nearby Dead Horse SP. There was no one there; it was mid-morning and the light wasn’t the best, but I got an idea of what I would see the next day.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT

Mesa Arch is surprisingly small, maybe 40′ from end-to-end, which explains why it can get crowded. Generally, photographers are recommended to arrive an hour before sunrise. I recommend two hours during good weather, because there will likely be others shooting. I arrived at 5:30 AM for a 7:30 sunrise in December. I walked to the Arch, which takes only 10 minutes, set up my tripod and camera, and started finding vantage points. By the time the sun appeared I was pretty certain where the best spots were. Amazingly, there was nobody in sight. There was snow in the area, but not enough to discourage visitors and certainly not enough to dissuade a photographer. I kept expecting others to appear and I was surprised that no one showed up as dawn approached.

The challenge for shooting Mesa in the morning is waiting for the sun’s glow to light the underside of the arch and then, at just the right moment, to capture the sunburst. I shot with an ultra-wide (12-24mm DX) lens and that also produces lens flare. I scooted back and forth with my tripod, focusing and triggering. Within a few minutes the best shots were taken and it was time to move on. With the sun was fully up I was still alone and I walked back to my car to thaw. The next morning I tried again–this time there was a half-dozen vehicles there when I arrived, so I drove on, satisfied with what I had captured.