The Dragon's Tail

I recently made my first visit to White Pocket, a remote area in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona. The sheer amount of possible comps are a bit overwhelming for a first time visitor! It was an overnight trip. Unfortunately we had bluebird skies the entire time. I struggled a bit with comps in the harsh light. Here’s one shot at dusk that I liked.

Specific Feedback Requested

All feedback welcome

Technical Details

Nikon Z7ii, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 200, f/11, 0.6 secs. Six images focus stacked in PS. I used some curves and luminosity mask adjustments to bring out the shape of the “dragon tail.”


Whatever you did to emphasize the tail worked. Very dramatic and kind of minimalist in feel. Exactly what to do when there are no clouds. I think I might put this location on my list. I really like the rugged, elegant perspective.

@Kris_Smith , thank you! I signed up for an overnight trip as I had heard the road was bad. The last 12 miles or so are indeed bad. Deep sand in spots, ruts and potholes, and spotty cell coverage. You really need a high clearance 4wd vehicle with some all terrain tires to avoid getting stuck. If you do get stuck, I was told that it was over $1000 to get towed out, as the nearest towtrucks are in Kanab. No facilities at the trailhead, not even a porta potty, just a large flat spot suitable for camping.

Outstanding. Minimizing the clear sky is very well done. Focus stack and PP is excellent.

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Patrick, thesis a sensational extreme wide image. Well done. Nice job with the focus stacking too. An excellent image all around.

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You are certainly correct about getting there. And with poor to no cell phone coverage, if you do get stuck, you have to rely on a passerby to make a call for you. All that aside, Nice take on this. Even with no cloud cover and bluebird skies, you made the most of the sky in this image. Great job Dodging the tail! I have no suggestions for improvement other than possibly adding a small amount of hue to the foreground to balance the purple in the sky. Glad you were able to make it out there for a short trip. I’ll bet it has you wanting to go back? Crazy place.

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@David_Haynes Yes indeed! Next year during monsoon season!

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I love the composition and the focus stack was flawless. Just curious… is the trail any easier in monsoon season?

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Hi Patrick! This is great! The tail is such a good leading line. It really works well.

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@Richard_Duckworth I’m told that the deep sand is a little easier to navigate after some rain.

I like your composition. The dragon’s tail pulls my eye into the scene and leads me back to the distant rock formations. But then my eye comes back to all of the interesting foreground lines and texture. You made the right choice to minimize the sky, but the tonal gradient adds interest even there.

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Nicely done Patrick. I too like the way you’ve emphasized the tail and kept the sky as a perfect subtle backdrop. I like a crop that removes the top just below that white band at the top; not as well as this, mind you, but it’s a nice abstract alternative.

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Great Composition, the colors are spot on. I was there earlier this year for the first time. Indeed you definitely need a high clearance vehicle and have a good understanding of how to get in and out of the area. The place is without a doubt absolutely overwhelming for the first timer. I’ll be there next spring once again and am hoping for some better images myself.

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I think this is simply spectacular!! A wonderful composition and fantastic lighting!