False Kiva is an extraordinary and more or less secret place in Canyonlands National Park. It is nestled in the side of a mesa rim in a just absoluteley amazing setting overlooking the White Rim and Green River. I visited this place last October on Hallow's eve. The next day, I was going to do white rim by bike with a group of friends, so I decided to camp in the one campground in the park the night before and do an evening shoot at False Kiva. The interesting thing about this archeological site is that its location is kept more or less secret by the park service. There are no signs and no designated trail. You can find GPS coordinates on the web, but those are basically useless as they are accurate but are simply lead you to the rim of the island in the sky right above the mesa, but no way of knowing or seeing what's below it, if you don't want to plummet to your death. So ignore the GPS coordinates. There are a few photography books that have instructions but the best way to figure out how to get there is to talk to a photographer that has been there. The hike is short and not very technical but there are some exposed spots. You start at a ditch that is not at all where the GPS coordinates would have you go, after a while, you hit the rim and swing around and go down a rocky path to somewhere below the Kiva and cross over on a bench that looks precarious and then climb up again, all the way not seeing where you are going. You just don't see the kiva from anywhere on the trail. Then you go over a hump and suddenly the Kiva lies before you overseeing a breath taking view. It's smaller than you would expect from some of the famous images taken of it.
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Assembled from 2 sets of 15 images at 35 mm, ISO 200, f/16, 1/50s and 1/10 assembled in hugin and stitched in hugin. Exposure blended using enfuse. This image will print wallsize with exquisite detail.
I shot some other viewpoints too of which I liked this vertical view:
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Assembled from 2 exposure sets of 9 images at 35mm, ISO 200, f/16, 1/10s and 1/80s.
A tighter horizontal framing is here:
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Assembled from 2 exposure sets of 12 shots each at 35 mm, ISO 200, f/16, 1/6s and 1/40s.
At the site is a little log book and a some explanation of what the archeologists think the site was used for. It certainly has some of the features of a kiva (the depression in the middle for the smoke blocker and such) but is quite different from other real kivas in the southwest. Regardless of what it meant to the people that lived here, this is a very worthwhile site to visit and it was quite an experience to be there all alone on Halloween. The contrast with the throng of photographers at Mesa Arch the next morning couldn't be greater. I will certainly go back to False Kiva and try different light conditions. This would be interesting in winter with a sun setting more in the frame and perhaps some snow on the rock formations. The sunset was great but I left a little before to make sure I could see my trail back. In my images below you can see that it is golden hour light though and the glow is lovely. A few more clouds would have been great but hey I am not going to complain. This was an absolutely fantastic experience in itself. I headed back to the campground where I met a few of the friends with whom I would hit the rim the next day that had been able to find the site I put my tent up in which was easy as the campground was virtually deserted. They had already prepared some excellent tortellinis and it was a good but very cold night with frost on the tent in the morning. I headed out to take pictures of Mesa Arch the next morning before hopping on the bike. I'll post about both those trips soon as I got some excellent images out of it that have been chomping at the bit on my hard drive.
See more pictures of False Kiva here.