horseshoe bend. / by John Benitez

5d3 + 14mm f2.8

5d3 + 14mm f2.8

Magic.

Earlier this week, me and my friends took a side trip to Page, Arizona. This sleepy little town houses two of my most coveted locations to shoot, Antelope Valley and Horseshoe Bend. Ever since I could remember, these two places captivated me. A wonder of nature, exquisitely crafted, and perfected over time. Pictures can't replicated the sheer scale and grandeur of Horseshoe Bend. It can only be felt and experienced.

We found ourselves up at 4am, to make the journey from Las Vegas to Page. Under the cover of buzzing lights against a dark sky, we hoped on I-15 headed north for the next 4.5 hours. The reason for the early wake-up call was that we had guided Navajo tour through the lower Antelope Canyon at 11am (post coming soon). 

As we drove, monolithic shapes seemed to envelop us. Their shapes made barley visible by the gradual lightening of the sky. The sun began to unfurl our landscape and we found ourselves in the vistas of the desert. I-15 cuts thorough Nevada, Arizona, and Utah and you find yourself crossing state lines quite often. The elevation changes just as quickly and there were stretches of fog that were so thick that you could barely see 20ft in front of you. Despite mild confusion and harrowing driving, you see that you are in the most beautiful part of the country. Cutting through mountains gives you a sense of how small you truly are, and reinforces the appreciation you have for where you live.

We arrived at Horseshoe Bend around 5:30pm. It was hard to believe that this location was only 10mins away from our hotel. You drive into an innocuous, gravel parking lot and suddenly, you're there, but not. The guide books never tell you that you have to trek up a steeply graded hill that leaves your thighs and calves burning, only to be faced with an equally steep downward slope to the bend. Nor do they tell you the throngs of tour busses that congregate on this place en masse. Or the host of flies that hover over the bend and are so big that you can literally feel them as you swat them away from your face. But these are only minor inconveniences to what you are about to see.

Once you reach the Bend, the race is on to obtain the most desired spot to shoot, which is the dead center. You will have to fight your way through the masses of photographer and tourists to get ahead, and I was determined to do so. The Bend tests your nerves as well since the edge is unfenced and provides a crystal clear view of the Colorado river, and in order to get the best shot, you have to be right on the edge looking at the 1,000ft drop. 

We stayed until the sun disappeared and the view was mesmerizing. Make sure you take a moment and just view the Bend with your own eyes, before looking through the lens. Take it all in and process your thoughts. Think about your journey getting out there and what you had to endure to get there. Take a moment to realize how blessed you are to be there, knowing that not everyone gets a chance to come there. It's as if the Bend selected you to view its majesty. Horseshoe Bend is best viewed with a drink (Modelo Especial in our case), friends, or your sweetheart. The experience that you will share together will be emblazoned on both of your hearts, with a perpetual call to come back to the Bend to re-live the experience once again.