Blog | New Mexico Travel Photographer

Follow the adventures of Southwestern photographer Joy Johnson.

Monument Valley, Utah

Feeling a bit self-important lately?  Friends telling you that your ego has reached epic proportions, but you don't believe them?  Well, it might be time for a dose of Monument Valley. As you pull to the side of the road and get out of the car, these stone guardians proclaim loudly that you are small.  Did you hear that?  You're small -- you're not in control here and you couldn't be even if you wanted to be.  You've already surrendered time and distance.  Monument Valley is now ready to teach you about true power and your ego is nowhere to be found. 

From the visitor center, you see the world-famous panorama of the Mitten buttes and Merrick Butte.  You can also purchase guided tours from Navajo tour operators, who will take you down into the valley in jeeps for a narrated cruise through these massive formations. While every scrap of information that you read will tell you that this 17 mile loop road is too treacherous to be driven, is just aint so.  However, to leave the loop road, you must hire a Navajo guide. (I found this out the hard way.)  You may notice a weather-beaten trailer, perhaps neighbored by a rounded earthen mound. These are private homes and traditional hogans, without electricity or running water, that house a handful of Navajo families that date back here for generations. Many of them make their living from tourists, but most don't want a paved road inside the park. Why? Aside from the fact that they would lose an important source of income, the flood of cars driving through the valley would be unbearable.

I stayed two nights in the View Hotel, an earth-toned, low-slung, structure facing the monuments. It was built in 2008 by the Navajo tribe, and every room has a balcony that looks out on a classic panorama. I was able to get some stunning images from my balcony at sunrise while still in my pajamas.

The Art of Travel

I’ve always thought of myself as a photographer. Beginning with my first Polaroid Instamatic camera when I was 8 years old, I’ve amassed tens of thousands of images of my friends, my pets, my family and then later, my travels near and far, my children, landscapes and wildlife. My love of photography is firmly rooted in my desire to capture forever, a moment I never want to forget. 


For me, traveling and photographing along the way, is a way of life. I have traveled extensively, and I can say wholeheartedly that it is the single most rewarding thing I have done in all my years on this earth. There are very few words that can convey the feeling of standing alone in the quietude of the desert, waiting for the light to morph from silver to gold or perched upon a riverbank, watching a grizzly sow and her cubs. That’s exactly where photography takes me. It’s the ideal escapism. Mother Nature, after all, has an imagination far greater than my own - photography is just a way to appreciate it.


In Shanti’s words,

“At the end of the day your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.”