In October of 1996 I lead a workshop to various photographic locations within the Arizona Strip. One of those locations was Monument Valley, which is entirely within Navajo land and operated by the Navajo Nation. I had learned from previous workshops that one can take an unguided “driving tour” of Monument Valley without a Navajo guide, however, if you truly want to experience the Valley then contracting with a Navajo Guide is essential.
I had the good fortune to contract with Fredrick Cly’s Photo Adventures. We arranged for a 1 pm departure and we included an evening “backcountry” campfire dinner hosted by Mr. Cly, his wife and children. The only way to truly see the wonders of Monument Valley is to hire a Navajo guide who has access to the many incredible rock formations that make up the wonder of the Valley. We saw and photographed a number of incredible landscapes and erosion formations that day. Tear Drop Arch, seen above was the last stop of the day and rightfully so. As a point of reference the top of the Arch’s opening is approximately 15 feet high and 8-10 wide at the bottom, a product of the incredible sandstone erosion in Northern Arizona and Souther Utah. The actual location of the Arch is across highway 163 and looking through the Arch you actually see some of the more prominent pinnacles of Monument Valley itself.
While the photography during the tour was breathtaking, the highlight of the day did not appear until evening time, we just finished a campfire dinner prepared by the Cly family and darkness was setting in, rain was starting to fall and the students had retreated to the van. As I was saying goodbye to Fred Cly, an incredibly soft-spoken man he shared with me as a young boy his father would take him along with some of the most famous landscape photographers to ever go through the Monument. The rain was beginning to come down quite hard by now and whether it was out of respect for Fred or being immersed in conversation about his adventure with Ansel Adams as a youngster I made no effort to get out of the rain and when I finally did get in the van I was soaked head to toe. It is a story that has stayed with me for over 20 years and I have all fond memories for Fred and his family.
During the workshop the guide took us to an actual Navajo Hogan deep in the Navajo land where Susie Yazzi and her daughter Effie live and saw a demonstration of Navajo Rug weaving by the iconic Navajo elder.
Take a visual tour of Monument Valley & meet Susie Yazzi in this 3 minute video Nat Geo video
Tear Drop Arch is exposed with a 5” X 7 “ Deardorff Camera serial # 901, circa 03 / ‘67. A 12″ Goerz Dagor lens with Tri-X 320 ISO film and processed in HC 110 Developer.