Santa Elena Canyon

One of the highlights of any Big Bend trip is checking out the magnificent Santa Elena Canyon.   The canyon is large enough that you can see it from nearly anywhere on the eastern side of the park.  The bonus for me as a photographer was that I remembered that Ansel Adams had taken a picture of Santa Elena Canyon and I wanted the opportunity to stand at least somewhat in the shoes of the iconic American photographer.


on the way to Ansel's spot


Driving down the park road I was trying to recall in my mind’s eye the composition of Ansel Adam’s iconic image of the canyon.  I hadn’t seen the image in a while and couldn’t remember exactly where he had taken the image.

As I traveled along the park road, everything seemed to line up with what my mind remembered and what my eyes were seeing so I pulled off the road, found a spot out of the way and took the shot.


Ansel's spot


All in all, I’m rather pleased with how it turned out as I think that I was able  to take a picture pretty damn close to where Ansel’s tripod holes once stood.

At the time, I wasn’t sure if I had taken the shot from the right spot.  As I kept hunting along the bank of the Rio Grande for a potential spot, I made what could have been an extremely costly mistake that I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

~ by Derrick Birdsall on February 10, 2011.

6 Responses to “Santa Elena Canyon”

  1. I like your first photograph the best of these. When my father Philip Hyde photographed Santa Elena Canyon he chose to be somewhat in the general area of Ansel’s spot, it appears, but he was quite a bit closer to the canyon and the canyon took up more of the frame. Also he made a much better photograph of a beautiful pool around the mouth of the canyon, which he published in “Drylands.”


    • David, I didn’t know your dad was there too!! It sounds like I may have been close to his spot too, in my next batch of images from Santa Elena. I’ll look around and see if I can find a copy of Drylands!


  2. Just looked at the Adams print. Looks like he was much closer and a couple hundred yards to your left. Knowing Adams, he was on top of his car platform with what looks like a normal lens for an 8X10. He did shoot in the afternoon about the same time of day as you. To me the photo looks like winter, about 3:30 in afternoon. He had light clouds to fill the sky.


  3. Very nice Derek. I really need to get down there myself.


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