Snow and Red Rocks

Cathedral Rock after a snow storm.
Cathedral Rock reflecting in Oak Creek after sunrise following a low elevation snowfall.

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is snow and red rocks. The red and white contrast has to be one of the most striking color combinations in nature. And snow at Sedona’s lower elevations, around 4000 feet, is sufficiently rare (maybe a couple times a winter) that you have to be ready to catch it when it happens. So, I was ready January 27th, the morning after a two day storm brought about 8 inches of fresh snow to Sedona. I had about 35 inches at my home in Flagstaff, So I had been continuously digging out for a couple days straight to get out in time for the clearing skies behind the storm.

I left early Wednesday morning and got to the trailhead for my planned location about 45 minutes before sunrise. It was just starting to get light out when I did the short hike out to Oak Creek at a popular spot where water cascades down the red rocks and a big pool of clear water forms downstream. I love this spot in all seasons; it changes character with the trees and water levels. While I was waiting for sunrise I spotted a river otter playing in the big deep pool–he kept me entertained while I was waiting for sunrise, swimming back and forth and occasionally hopping up onto the snowy banks of the creek. River otters used to live in Arizona but were eradicated by early settlers; they were reintroduced into the Verde River area in the early ’80s. Otters have to be one of the coolest animals to see in the wild…

river otter in Oak Creek, Sedona
River otter playing in Oak Creek, Sedona.

There is only one winter week in the year when the sun rises in between the massive twin buttes of Cathedral Rock, in the middle with the prominent central spire. I was fortunate that this low elevation snowfall coincided with the good sunrise timing. And then, I only had a couple seconds to catch the sunstar appearing as the sun broke the rocky profile of Cathedral. Seconds beforehand, and the trees were all in shadow. Seconds later, and the light was too harsh and bright to photograph. It was a special moment and a joy to witness and capture!

A couple days later, another quick moving storm moved through Arizona and brought a quick shot of mountain snow. It wasn’t quite cold enough to bring snow to Cathedral Rock, but was enough to coat the cliffs of the Mogollon Rim with fesh snow. I caught the clesaring conditions behind this sotrm right from the parking lot of The Hudson Restaurant above my gallery–preoof that my gallery location has to be one of the most scenic in the nation! And, nothing beats red rocks and snow!

Snow above Sedona, January 29, 2021
A clearing snowstorm over Wilson Mountain in Sedona, as seen from my gallery parking lot!

About Stan Rose

I am a full time landscape and nature photographer based out of Flagstaff, Arizona. I opened my first gallery at Hillside, Sedona in May 2019, and am currently concentrating on the unique landscapes of Northern Arizona.
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