21st Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Travel
Monument Valley Sunrise, 2022

Over the course of my 19 years being serious about photography all my images are important to me, but there are those few images where the journey and the final result met and exceeded expectation. This is one of those images. In April 2022 for Spring Break 2022, my wife and I traveled to Arizona to visit Monument Valley and Sedona. I had wanted to photograph Monument Valley for at least 18 years. I came close back in 2005 but just didn’t drive far enough. Turns out Monument Valley is way out there. We stayed on the Navajo Reservation at The Views Hotel where every room of the 3-story hotel looks east at the Mittens (West and East) and Merrick Butte; in this image is East Mitten (left) and Merrick Butte (right). Researching on the internet I knew facing east could land me a fantastic sunrise shot if the conditions were right, meaning the location has to be right and the environment needs to cooperate. Location was absolutely perfect! Environment though not so much, because late that afternoon a westerly wind picked up very fiercely and was still blowing hard from west to east in the morning. Waking up to the wild wind I quickly realized that not even the protection of the hotel building could stop the wind swirling onto the balcony, which faced directly east. With the wind swirling so much shooting from the balcony with a slow shutter speed was completely out of the question. I didn’t take 18 years to get here to let some wind ruin the sunrise shot I wanted. Thinking outside the box I set the tripod up inside our room placing it as close as possible to the wall, opened the balcony slider just enough to control the wind and my lens get a clean shot at the buttes. The camera metadata shows that I took my first morning picture at 4:12am. This shot was taken at 5:04am. In the end, it was a magical journey for me to experience and see the sun rising between the mitten and butte of Monument Valley.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 04.2022
Date Uploaded: 11.2023
Photo Location: Monument Valley, Arizona, United States of America
Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Copyright: © Mike Cavanaugh