Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky

July 04, 2017

Cynld1260c_19may17 (3)


Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

Rising high above a time-carved Colorado Plateau landscape, Canyonlands National Park’s evocatively named Island in the Sky presents visitors with spectacular views that extend for incredible distances in many directions. At day’s end, declining sunlight, lengthening shadows and capricious clouds can turn the jumbled terrain into an ever-changing palette.

In the evening photo above, taken on May 19, 2017, a visitor looks south from Island in the Sky’s Grand View Point (6080 ft/1853 m in elevation), the last of a series of plateau-top turnouts along Canyonlands’ most accessible touring road, north and west of Moab, Utah. The White Rim, a sandstone shelf, is about 1,300 feet (396 m) below. Popular for daylong and multi-day, four-wheel-drive vehicle and mountain bike adventures, the hard White Rim breaks off into sudden and sinuous tributary canyons of the entrenched and often invisible Colorado River, which is wending its way toward the Grand Canyon in Arizona. In the distance are the huge park’s (337,598 acres/1366 sq km) other rugged districts, The Needles and the Maze, tangles of sculptured sandstone noted for their buttes, spires, arches and grabens.

In a second photo, taken less than 40 minutes later, a distant storm and sunset light peek beneath a dark cloud canopy to the west of Island in the Sky. Curtains of falling rain and virga — precipitation that evaporates before it reaches the ground — are tinted by sunlight's longer wavelengths, the reds, oranges and golds, while the shorter wavelengths on the blue and violet end of the spectrum have been scattered and are thus less visible. The perspective is beyond the drainage of the also entrenched Green River (heading south to its nearby confluence with the Colorado River) and over the western edge of Canyonlands toward the mesa tops and ridges of yet another national park: Capitol Reef and its Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mi long (161 km) monocline

Photo Details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED; Focal Length: 102mm (35mm equivalent: 153mm); Aperture: ƒ/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0050 s (1/200); ISO equiv: 400; Software: Photos 1.5. Bottom - same except: Lens: Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS APO HSM; Focal Length: 500mm (35mm equivalent: 750mm); Aperture: ƒ/6.3; Exposure Time: 0.0008 s (1/1250).