Monument Valley Ring of Fire Adventure Recap

After nearly a year of planning, it was finally time to go to Monument Valley to see the Ring of Fire Eclipse. This is by far the furthest I have planned out a composition, and nothing is more satisfying than seeing it all come together in the end like you imagined. This trip I was accompanied by my awesome mom and the best partner ever, Daniel. It had been quite a while since we had all gone on a camping trip together and it was loads of fun.

We left 3 days before the eclipse, stopping in Idaho and traveling through Utah. It was a phenomenal time of year to make this drive, as all the hills and mountains had their fall colors out in full force. Traveling through Utah, we got to see a pretty unique site: a cattle drive happened right along the road which was really cool to see as this herd was massive! I love road tripping across the West, and Monument Valley is one of my favorite places to camp for epic sunrises and sunsets—just right outside the tent. It for sure did not disappoint; as when we started setting up camp, a stunning sunset happened with the beautiful colors of the Belt of Venus stretched across the eastern horizon. For those who might not know yet, the Belt of Venus is a phenomenon where a reddish glowing band appears in the anti-twilight direction, and it is caused by backscattered sunlight bouncing off dust particles high in the atmosphere. The dark blue below the reddish band is the shadow of Earth being cast on its own atmosphere. It’s a rad phenomenon that many see often and don’t know what it is, and I, for one, am always excited to see it. 

The next morning we were gently woken up by the orange glow of the sun coming up between the mittens. This was when we double checked the plan, walked around the area that would still be open to us during the eclipse, and made sure we had everything in place. As many of you know, I always use an app called PhotoPills to plan my shoots and same goes for double checking my plans. When I was choosing when to go, I looked at the path of totality for the eclipse and what areas were in the path while considering the weather in mid October. Obviously, Crater Lake would have been closer to where I live. However, in mid-October the weather was way too risky. On the other hand, the forecast in Monument Valley was perfect for the eclipse. Using the augmented-reality part of the app, we could see where the sun would rise that day and where it would be during totality. We didn’t get to pick our campsite this time around, but the spot we were assigned was epic and I couldn’t have asked for better. 


To fill out the rest of the day we played some board games—a long-term camping tradition in my family. For those who love games that are easy to travel with my suggestions are: Naasii: a push-your-luck style game inspired by traditional indigenous games, Trails: a fun little game about hiking trails and gaining badges, and Illiterati: a super fun co-op word game (rare I know). The funny thing about gaming in the tent was that we didn’t really have room for the table in the tent so Dan and I flipped our air mattress on its side so we could put up the table. It was a tight fit, but we still had fun. That night we also tried a highly suggested restaurant called Linda’s Cafe and OMG! Linda, your food is down right fabulous!!! My mom and I had the Navajo tacos and Dan got a Navajo burrito and it was sooooo much quality food and it really hit the spot. I just wish I could have more of Linda’s amazing food back home. If you go to Monument Valley you have got to either go there or order and have it brought to The View hotel or campground.

The next morning it was time to shoot the eclipse, and it was one of those rare days I woke up before the sun! I started getting set up bright and early at 6am. Trying to utilize my heavy loading kit for my Polarie for the first time was an experience, but with all the manuals we managed to get it working great! It was very chilly before sunrise, so I bundled up in my adventure quilt that my friend Amanda made me and now it follows me on every trip. Once the orange glow of the sunrise graced the valley floor, you slowly saw the surrounding campers rise to get cameras and telescopes alike setup.  

To capture the eclipse I actually used two cameras and stacked all the images together. First, I set up my Nikon D750 with a Nikon 200-500mm 5.6@500mm on my Polarie with the heavy-loading kit to counter that massive lens weight. Next up was my second camera: my good old Nikon D7100 with a Nikon 17-35mm 2.8@22mm on my other Polarie. 

The D750 caught all the close-up shots of the eclipse so I could later use the higher quality eclipse shots in the final image. Where the D7100 was getting wide-field shots so I could catch the right size and arch of the eclipse. Once I finally got home to edit it all together, I stacked the wide-field shots to see where each part of the eclipse happened, and then I added a sunrise picture from that morning on my D750 and chose one where the sun just started to peak over the horizon. After that, I added the higher-quality eclipse shots over where they originally went and that is how this composition came together.

It was nuts to see how empty the campground was after the eclipse. We opted to stay an extra night to avoid the insane eclipse traffic that we expected from the last eclipse we saw back in 2017.

When we came into the campground, we asked the Navajo woman who was checking us in,  what the Navajo regard about solar eclipses. She told us it is a sacred time where everyone stays indoors. Every culture has a different take on natural phenomena and it is important to respect the land you are on and their customs. That is why we made sure it was okay that we could photograph the eclipse from our campsite and what it meant when everything said Monument Valley was closed for the eclipse. The closure referred to the gate into the valley, the restaurant, and other services were going to be closed. Those that had a campsite, cabin, or hotel room could stay in the park. Also, for those who are interested, the Navajo word for eclipse is Jóhonaa’éí daaztsą́. You can read more about the Navajo (Diné) peoples’ thoughts on the eclipses here:,the%20Sun%20and%20the%20moon

I was so proud of the work we were able to capture in Monument Valley and the trip was spectacular. We finally got to use our new sleeping bag duo, sleeping pad (Thank you REI Re-supply), and the heavy-loading kit for the Polarie. Oh! And this was the first time my mom went camping with her CPAP. And, let me tell you, don’t let that hold you back from camping, because she said she got great sleep, and it barely took any battery power from our small portable pack to keep it going through the night. The trip was a total success and I am totally ready to be home for a while in Washington.

Till the next adventure,