Germans don't celebrate Thanksgiving.
There really is no reason anyway, because all family is halfway around the globe.

However, it's a long weekend off and nobody is on the road. Perfect time for an all-american roadtrip. Went with my friend Sven, CG artist at Digtal Domain and also a photo enthusiast, and his buddy Daniel, an environmentalist on a world trip. We were touring through Nevada, Utah, and Arizona - checking out the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Arches National Park. It's pretty interesting how all these famous landmarks cluster in one area - beautiful and wild landscape on every turn!

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  • collage image title

    Desert Road

    Route 163, Arizona

    The iconic spot where Forrest Gump stopped running. Right on Route 163, heading into Monument Valley. Was actually very sketchy to dodge traffic, shot this pano in two turns...
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    Desert Bushes

    somewhere in Arizona

    Seriously, I can't remember where exactly this was taken. Could be anywhere in this "Wild West Dream" between Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches and Bryce NP...
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    The Wall

    Arches NP

    It's the gateway to a loong loop hike through the magical lands of Arches Nationalpark. Really gets you in the mood. Don't look at this when you're claustrophobic!
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    Sunrise

    Arches NP

    It was the morning when Daniel learned the hard way that you can't heat up a breakfast egg in a microwave. They explode on the first bite. Sounds like "pffFFFFT!!!".
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    Balanced Rock

    Arches NP

    It's a rock. And it's balanced on another rock. Big deal. The shrubby desert bushes are actually far more interesting...
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    Turret & Windows

    Arches NP

    Every rock has a name here. This one is the Turret (for whatever reason), and across are the North Window and South Window.
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    Windows Arches

    Arches NP

    North and South Window from the other side, while walking the Primitive Path. Very pretty hike, actually, and not too long... highly recommended.
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    Delicate Arch

    Arches NP

    Standing there I was really bummed out that the path ends around the next corner. No way to get all the way up to that Delicate Arch. But now I sort of like this low viewpoint...
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    Pine Tree

    Arches NP

    Linked withOne of the few walk-through arches. It has some beautiful texture, and right underneath there is this golden bounce light. Hint: Zoom all the way out and spin the camera!
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    Pine Tree 2

    Arches NP

    Linked withWasn't even sure if I should take this panorama, because the spot felt pretty generic. Glad I did, because it turned out great...
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    Scenic Drive A

    Grand Canyon

    Linked withIt was raining just the other day, and so the opposite rim is still in clouds. Make sure to zoom in all the way to get at least a slight sense of scale. Absolutely otherworldly.
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    Scenic Drive B

    Grand Canyon

    Linked withL i n k e dNever thought you can actually walk this close to the rim, on an entirely unsecured little path. Make sure to drive the Scenic Drive and stop along the way...
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    Grandeur Point

    Grand Canyon

    L i n k e dThis is THE prime overlook over the Grand Canyon, conveniently located right by that tower (and the gift shop, of course). Oh, and there's a poodle hidden in this image...
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    Yuma Point

    Grand Canyon

    L i n k e dWell, this looks just like Scenic Drive A & B, it's just a little further on the same path. Couldn't get enough of this view, I guess... for obvious reasons.
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    Tower

    Grand Canyon

    Linked withL i n k e dYou can get on the gift shop's roof through a wooden door halfway up the tower. Was almost expecting to find a "This is not a photo opportunity" tag up here.
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    Scenic Tower

    Grand Canyon

    Linked withFrom a little distance this spaniard fort looks much better. Or has it alwasy been a gift shop - hard to tell... at least it fits the scenerey perfectly.
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    Serpentine Viewpoint

    Valley of the Gods

    Linked withWe were looking for some special landmarkin the Valley Of Gods, when we disovered that the valley itself is the most magnificent sight.
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    Serpentine

    Valley of the Gods

    Linked withYou'll have to zoom in to really appreciate the sight. Standing on this natural ridge I had the strong feeling of getting hit in the head with "Extreme Geography".
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    Lookout Point

    Monument Valley

    Probably THE most stereotypical cowboy scenery. Technically it's not even US territory, because it belongs to the last of the Navajos. How ironic.
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    Three Sisters

    Monument Valley

    Hard to imagine you could form an indian tribe out here and not worship these mighty rock formations... Especially when they gloom in the morning light like this.
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    Three Sisters 2

    Monument Valley

    Linked withNext to the obvious sister rocks you'll see a souvenir stand. The Navajos seem to be determined to sell all these mischievous glass pearls back to the tourists.
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    Fords Point

    Monument Valley

    Linked withStanding in the exact spot like the Marlboro Cowboy. Not sure if his name was really Ford, of if this relates to some other Ford.
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    Road Closed

    Monument Valley

    Linked with... says the sign. As with many signs like this, it's really just giving me ideas - otherwise I would have never noticed this path. Where is my dirt bike?
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    Desert Rift

    Monument Valley

    Linked withFirst rays of sun deep down in the valley. Doesn't this look just like in Motorstorm on the PS3? Can someone please hand me my dirt bike, finally? How often do I have to ask?
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    Dirt Road

    Monument Valley

    Seriously now, this is a great backdrop for car renders. Actually, not just a backdrop because, you know, these are all HDRIs and you can even light your car just by dropping it in.
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    Sunset Monumentalis

    Monument Valley

    Dusk is a pretty colorful event out here, dominated by red and more red. If you turn around you'll see Sven in star shooter pose.
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    Kachina Overview

    Natural Bridges NP

    Halfway down the climb to Kachina Bridge. It was the best (and most exhausting) hike ever. The path leads along some wooden ladders and pipe railings on bare rock.
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    Kachina Bridge

    Natural Bridges NP

    Down at the bottom is an enchanted forest. While the wind is rattling on top, there absolute silence down here. Not even a whisper. Elves seem to live here.
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    Sipapu Bridge

    Natural Bridges NP

    Daniel chills in the sun (behind). The Sipapu Bridge makes the difference between a "Bridge" and an "Arch" very clear. One is flat on top, the other is round.

Indeed, this is a crazy amount of panoramas.

That's because Bill from Nodal Ninja friendly sponsored me a new NN5 pano head, and this was the first trip I used it extensively on. The Nodal Ninja 5 an amazing piece of equipment, stable as a rock, sturdy as a horse. Suddenly all the images I shot popped right into place. No more misalignments between exposure brackets, every angle hit with perfect precision. Stitching them together was a breeze, and all the sudden I was sitting on this mountain of finished panoramas. Almost doubled my entire panorama library in these 4 days of shooting...

Thanks, Bill, and yes - I would recommend the Nodal Ninja to my friends!