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Nigel Turner Wilderness Workkshop

Travels in the Utah & Arizona Wilderness



In June 2011 I attended a Utah & Arizona Wilderness Workshop run by my friend Nigel Turner of Nigel Turner Landscape Photography whom I have known for more than 15 years. This was by no means a ‘normal’ workshop in that we were not based in motels, nor did we travel for the most part down recognised highways to the shooting locations; it was far more than that – it was a great adventure and a total experience and, of course, there are no motels in the wilderness!!

Note : As of February 2016 Nigel is no longer running Workshops in the United States


Fifth Wheel & HD 4x4 Truck Polaris RZR ATV's


The Workshop was based on the Utah border just to the west of Page, AZ on an RV park adjacent to the Paria Ranger Station where our accommodation was in Nigel’s 37’ Fifth Wheel, a very comfortable, self contained unit, kitted out like a small apartment which sleeps 4/6 people and has all the facilities one would expect in America – a self contained queen suite with shower & toilet, a bunk bed area with ensuite washing and toilet facilities, in addition to a well equipped kitchen, lounge area, air conditioning, full sound system, etc., etc.!! The RV park is very quiet even though it is used regularly for stopovers by Trek America and Suntrek (remarkably well behaved young people) and has an excellent shower and toilet block too.

The aim of these Workshops, which are limited to 4 people, is to visit some of the most remote yet outstanding landscapes that most photographers can only dream about, where the nearest accommodation can be two hours away from the shooting locations which are impossible to reach without the use of specialised 4x4 vehicles such as the Polaris RZR’s shown above.

The wilderness areas we visited were White Pocket, South Coyote Buttes (not to be confused with North Coyote Buttes which includes ‘The Wave’) and the Wahweap Hoodoos. 

White Pocket & South Coyote Buttes

White Pocket (which was only discovered some 5 years ago) and South Coyote Buttes  are relatively close to one another and some 30 – 40 miles out in the wilderness We visited each area twice camping out overnight to catch both the evening and early morning light. We left our base camp early afternoon in the two Polaris RZR’s – we shared the driving - that in itself was a great experience, along rough dirt roads, a steep rocky mountainside switchback track and along miles of deep sandy tracks on which the Polaris’s ‘surfed’, to eventually arrive at the camp site. Once the tents were pitched we headed off to the target area.


Lollipop Rock, White Pocket Cinnamon Swirl, White Pocket


White Pocket belies it’s name in that there is also plenty of colour around as shown above, but there are also large areas of whitish rocks known as the Brain Rocks on account of their brain like structure. Two visits gave us familiarity with the area and the opportunity to review our images and make amends for missed opportunities, etc.


Brain Rocks & Pine, White Pocket Sandstone Swirls, White pocket


In the evening there was nothing more civilised than sitting out under the stars drinking (several) substantial gin & tonics – with ice and lemon, of course!!

The rocks of South Coyote Buttes are similar in nature to those of North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, but are predominately red rather than red and orange verging to yellow. That said there is one small area with strong magenta and yellow lines in the rocks as shown in the image below. If there was one image I really wanted to capture on the Workshop,


Psychedelic Rock, S Coyote Buttes Red Rock Glow, S Coyote Buttes


South Coyote Buttes is not an area suited to monochrome, but no doubt a few mono images will surface eventually!


Lines of Time, S Coyote Buttes Tepees at Dawn, S Coyote Buttes


The Wahweap Hoodoos

The Wahweap Hoodoos, sometimes called the Ghost Hoodoos, are located to the north of the highway to Page, about 25 miles from the RV park. The first part of the journey is along the highway followed by 10-15 miles of fairly decent dirt road and for this trip the HD 4x4 truck was used and, as it is a morning only location, there was no need to camp out overnight. From the trailhead it is an ~1 ˝ mile hike along a flat wash, fine in the cool of early morning, but sapping on the return journey in the heat of the day at 100 °F. The hoodoos are almost black and white so lend themselves admirably to monochrome photography as seen in one of the images opposite.


Tower of Silence Wahweap Hoodoos


Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon together with Upper Antelope Canyon are well known locations, both accessed directly from the highway. We visited Lower Antelope, which I had visited a couple of times before many years ago, and a pair of images are shown below.


Breaking Waves. Lower Antelope Navajo Pipes

In addition to the locations already mentioned we also visited Stud Horse Point and the Rim Rocks – both locations were described in an article on my Bodie to Bisti 2010 trip in a previous Newsletter.

It was an amazing trip, full of excitement and adventure, which took us to locations to which many photographers aspire, but few manage to get to and it yielded a number of strong images. It was so different from a normal workshop in which one travels from one location to another, staying in motels and never venturing off the highway except on foot. Without doubt it was one of the best, if not the best workshop I have had the pleasure to attend and as a group we all gelled and complimented one another perfectly.

This article was originally written for the Cannock PS Newsletter

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