Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

A Trip through the American Southwest
Arizona, New Mexico, & Utah


In June 1998 I faced the pleasant duty of attending the annual summer Teaching Retreat of the Society of Building Science Educators.  Claudia and I decided it would be fun to load the boys in the van and make a road trip of it.  Thus followed a 3,200 mile, two-week tour of the American Southwest.  The Southwest, a fine place to visit, combines an intriguing and often harsh landscape with an engrossing social history. These arid lands have been inhabited by a succession of cultures and most have left visible and sometimes enigmatic traces of their presence.

This gallery page sketches our trip in outline form with images taken from the ground (can you find the one exception?).  We visited a series of canyons, each with its own scale, texture, and mysteries. They were all delightful in their own way. The gallery pages that follow this page will showcase images from my occasional opportunity to loft a kite during the trip.

June Lake


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Claudia and Charlie in an early morning view of June Lake and the abundant trout that amused us so. (20K jpg left and 27K jpg right, Canon 15-mm, June 1998).

Our first night on the road was spent at June Lake on the eastern flanks of the Sierra Nevada. This is a lovely, clear lake that is quite popular with fisherpersons. During an early morning walk we came across a pristine little marina. What a fine KAP subject this would be. Shipshape and orderly docks floating above the clear shallows of the lake. The dock held dozens of identical aluminum boats and in the water there were hundreds of small hatchery trout. Regrettably the early morning was dead calm and there was no possibility of getting a camera aloft. So I had to add June Lake to my "sometime later" list.

Hot Creek

hotcreek.gif (38730 bytes)Cold boys at Hot Creek (35K jpg, Nikon Ti-35, June 1998).

About an hour from June Lake is a fun hot spring that I've used after skiing over the years. It is located in a stream fresh from the mountains. The stream cuts a 100-foot-deep gorge through the surrounding flat countryside and in this gorge is ample evidence of geothermal activity. To get to the hot springs you first have to swim across the cold creek (there was once a bridge but it was washed out.) Unfortunately, we swam across the very cold current to find that the springs were quiescent for the first time in my memory and that the water near them was luke warm at best. For this I accrued major demerits. The photograph shows the boys after their brisk swim back to our clothes.

The Grand Canyon

From (not so) Hot Creek we drove across the southern tip of the Great Basin to Las Vegas, Nevada and spent 24 hours in that truly bizarre setting. This is about 24 hours too long for me. So it was a relief to hit the road again and head for the Grand Canyon with a stop at Hoover Dam along the way. Through careful planning that actually worked we were able to take the dam tour and still arrive at the Grand Canyon before the sunset and what a fine sunset it was.

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A telephoto view of the Grand Canyon at sunset and a shot of Bentons on the brink just afterward. Nature provided a fine show. (26K jpg left, Canon 80-210-mm and 41K jpg right, Canon 15-mm, June 1998).

Two days later I tried flying a kite from the edge of the Grand Canyon in a stiff, morning breeze. It  was a memorable experience. Rather than finding clean air as the kite gained altitude I encountered a vigorous turbulence. I consider myself lucky to have gotten the Sutton 16 down intact. After this experience I was wondering if I would get any KAP images this trip.

Canyon de Chelly

Our next stop was the intimate, and fascinating, Canyon de Chelly in eastern Arizona. Canyon de Chelly has been occupied for at least two millennia by a succession of cultures: Anasazi, Hopi, and Navaho. Unlike the vast Grand Canyon, this canyon is intimate in scale. It features sheer walls, up to 1,000 feet high, and a fertile canyon floor. There are actually two canyons that join at their western end: Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto. The peoples that have lived in them have left behind a rich presence in architectural ruins, pictographs, and trails.  We spent an entire day inside the canyon on a tour led by Deswood, a Navaho guide. It was a delightful day. Afterwards I was able to drive up the canyon rim roadway and take a few KAP images from the canyon rim near Spider Rock.


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Views of Canyon de Chelly from above the rim near Spider Rock and Antelope House in Canyon del Muerto  (38K jpg left and 43K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, June 1998).

Jump to the Canyon de Chelly KAP pages

Chaco Canyon

From Canyon de Chelly we were off to my meeting at Taos Ski Valley. After a few days at 9,300 feet above sea level we headed with a group of colleagues for the broad and remote expanse of Chaco Canyon. Chaco formed a hub of sorts in ancient Anasazi culture. Within the modest canyon walls at Chaco are a series of remarkable pueblo ruins, each having served 1,000 years ago as a religious center. The pueblos feature distinctive circular rooms called kivas which served civic and religious functions. 

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A ground-level view of pueblo bonito in Chaco canyon near sunset and Claudia and myself on the bluff edge the next morning. (30K jpg left, Canon 24-mm and 41K jpg right, Canon 15-mm, June 1998).

I came to Chaco Canyon with great expectation having read about its great pueblos for much of my life. It did not disappoint. The grand pueblo bonito was impressive as was Casa Rinconada. Happily I had both the time and requisite wind to take several rolls of photographs at Chaco Canyon. It is also on my list for a return visit. There are many more images to take in Chaco Canyon and it is just plain fun to be there.

Jump to the pueblo bonito KAP pages

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon was the next stop on the tour. Bryce is actually a set of amphitheater-shaped erosions in Utah's Paunsaugunt Plateau. Somehow the term erosion doesn't quite do this setting justice. The soft, sedimentary layers of roseate rock have taken on amazing shapes that, combined with colorful reflected light, create a stunning landscape. I was able to get a camera aloft from the Bryce Canyon rim, an achievement that led to the most dramatic moments in my three-year KAP career. 

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A telephoto view of hoodoos from the Bryce Canyon rim and a portrait of the boys in Bryce Canyon red light on the Navaho Loop Trail (44K jpg left and 36K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, June 1998).

Jump to the Bryce Canyon KAP pages



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