The Great Gallery | Beebower Productions
Problems and Plagues
Two minor problems plagued Dad on this photo quest: getting there and capturing the image. He ventured to Horseshoe Canyon, a remote location two and a half hours from Moab, Utah, where The Great Gallery tells the story of people who lived there thousands of years ago.
Ancient artists chose well on the location for their masterpiece. Few have the fortitude to travel to Horseshoe Canyon. To see The Great Gallery, visitors must first traverse 34 miles down a hazardous dirt road filled with roving sand dunes and equally wandering cattle.
Dad’s visit in May coincided with a 30-year epic windstorm that pushed whole sand dunes all over the road. Local ranchers rescued car after car full of unwitting tourists stuck in the roving dunes.
Dad came prepared. His 4-wheel drive vehicle and years of practice in Pennsylvania blizzards helped him safely navigate to the parking lot, otherwise known as a plot of desert sand, at the end of the road. No rescues needed.
Next problem on tap, the extreme heat. Even in the early morning, temperatures hovered near 100 degrees. In fact, the National Park Service closes the canyon during certain times of the year due to heat. On this day, it would only get hotter on the trail to the rock art.
Dad, his bags loaded with gear and plenty of water, along with Mom descended almost 750 feet down into the abyss, part of Canyonlands National Park, to view The Great Gallery. Going down was a piece of cake. Getting out would be challenging.
The 7-mile, round-trip trail led them through a dry, sandy creek bed. They quickly began seeing small pieces of rock art along the way. Their anticipation grew as they got closer to the Gallery.
The canyon that holds the Gallery is a steep, narrow space. As he descended into the deep a gargantuan 10-foot tall, evil demon-like figure stared down at Dad from the canyon wall. A closer look revealed an endless array of faces that popped off the stone for at least 200 feet.
His first thought: This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s pretty darn cool.
Many of the figures looked like mummies. Others appeared to be animals like dogs or goats. All were painted in a red pigment.
After admiring the artwork, the photographer in Dad got busy creating a photo plan. The sheer size of the art posed a problem. Some of the figures in The Great Gallery are at least five to ten feet tall and the panel stretches over a long space. It’s a significant piece of history that wouldn’t fit into one camera shot.
The entire panel also was in the shade. It wasn’t necessarily a problem, but it was another factor to consider. After some contemplation Dad photographed the entire scene in chunks and then back in the office merged the panels in Photoshop to create a panoramic image with great detail. Mission accomplished. Now for the fun part.
Getting out of the canyon proved to be the real adventure. The sandy streambed became a hamster wheel for Mom and Dad. There was a lot of walking but little progress upward as the sand tried to suck them back down into the canyon. To make matters worse all of that water they’d packed seemed to have disappeared. By this time the temperature soared well over 106 degrees.
After a grueling workout, Mom and Dad finally made it to the “parking lot”. Dad felt great about the images he’d captured. Mom felt great that an air-conditioned hotel room would be waiting for them. And wouldn’t you know, the bottled water they’d craved on that long hike up had been hiding under some equipment in the camera bag all along.
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