"Cathedral Clouds II" - Cloud streamers stretch across the sky above Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona
Stephen Girimont

Stephen Girimont

Owner, The Intimate Landscape, Fine Art Prints

Return to Sedona: Day Two

Who knew that an Atmospheric River hitting California could have such an effect on the skies above Arizona?

Day two of my return to Sedona dawned with clouds to the east that would ensure a lackluster sunrise. However, I took advantage of the twilight period before sunrise to capture an image that I think works extremely well as a black and white:

"Twilight Sedona #1" - Rock formations above Sedona's Yavapai Vista Trail in early morning light

The black and white conversion in this image serves to bring out the very subtle clouds that were present to the west. Those clouds don’t really show up at all in color versions of this scene. I love how the rock cliffs stand in stark contrast to the trees and other vegetation in the foreground, yet share a commonality in their texture. 

I think I’m on to something in the use of black and white imagery for early-morning twilight photography and it’s something I’m going to be exploring more in the future.

While we were waiting to see what the sunrise would do, my friend Trey took the opportunity to fly his drone. I captured a portrait of him in the act with my phone:

Trey Amick flying a drone with Bell Rock in the background
Trey Amick flying a drone with Bell Rock in the background

The real magic on this day would happen in the afternoon. Trey and I made our way to West Sedona where we were hoping to capture the classic image of Cathedral Rock reflected in the waters of Oak Creek. This was not to be, however, as recent rains coupled with snow melt were making the creek run high and fast.

We took the opportunity to hike along the creek and see what compositions we might find that didn’t rely on gently flowing water. We decided to set up our cameras on an expanse of rock along the creek with a good view of Cathedral Rock and settled in to await the sunset. At the time, the sky was clear overhead, with some interesting clouds approaching from the south, so we were hopeful for the sunset which would be in about four hours. Landscape photography is often a waiting game.

But nature had other plans for us. About an hour after we set up our cameras, those interesting clouds we saw to the south began to fill in the sky overhead. Even though the wind was pushing the clouds from south to north, the clouds were strung out in long wavy lines stretched from east to west. They lined up perfectly over my composition of Cathedral Rock:

"Cathedral Clouds II" - Cloud streamers stretch across the sky above Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona

The most amazing thing was that these cloud formations flew overhead for about 2 hours. They were moving quickly from right to left as seen in my image above, and we simply had to stand at our cameras waiting for interesting groups of clouds to position themselves over the rocks and click the shutter. I’ve never seen nature so willing to pose for a photograph in my life! I could not then, and still can’t now, believe my luck at being at the right place at the right time to capture this scene.

The only thing that could have topped this display would have been for these clouds to stick around until sunset and then light up orange and red. But this was not to be as the clouds gradually thickened as the afternoon progressed until the sun was completely obscured by clouds on the horizon. Trey and I packed up our gear and headed off for dinner not at all disappointed with how our afternoon had gone.

It was later that night that I figured out that the clouds we had experienced were the result of the Atmospheric River impacting California that very same day.

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