American Southwest is where the wind, water and passing time carved the most impossible, fantastic shapes in the ancient sandstone. This area is a true geological Wonderland, and Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River is its most precious jewel.
The emerald-green river makes a giant u-turn of 1,000 ft (330 m) under the steep cliff of the Marble Canyon. How deep is 1,000 feet? Imagine standing at the rooftop of 99-storey building. Can you get to the edge? Keep in mind that there are no guardrails at the Horseshoe Bend overlook. There is actually no overlook per say. You just casually walk on the giant plateau until suddenly the abyss opens up under your feet. You breath is taken away, and even the bravest of us feel dizzy and weak for a moment. By the way, this white spot on the river is a speedboat with people, and that tiny speckle near the end of the road is the parking lot for several dozens of cars. I think this will give you a good idea of the picture scale.
Remember the old saying "dripping water wears away a stone"? The Colorado River is the best example. Over the course of billion years a little river, running from Rocky Mountains of Colorado and being filled up by melting mountain snow, has created hundreds and hundreds of miles of colossal canyons down its path. Magnificent Grand Canyon begins a bit south from the Marble Canyon, which you can partially see in this virtual tour; and if you look north, you'll see Lake Powell, which is also created by overflowing waters of the Colorado River. We'll visit these places in our future virtual tours!
Here is a piece of trivia for you: people looking for a "beautiful death" often choose Horseshoe Bend as a place to jump into their "next life". So this place is rightfully considered the suicide capital of Arizona.
It is relatively easy to reach the Horseshoe Bend viewpoint. The Bend is a short hike away from U.S. Route 89, about 2.5 miles (4 km) south of little town called Page (AZ). It's only half of a mile from the parking lot to the cliff. Thanks to its convenient location, Horseshoe Bend became one of my very first places in American Southwest. Places that I visited and fell in love with. Since that time my every trip to the Southwest brings me here. Sometimes I am alone, sometimes — with a group of students (I conduct educational photo tours to American Southwest on a regular basis). I enjoy observing mixed feelings of excitement, curiosity and dismay in people who stepped on the Horseshoe Bend cliff for the first time. Sometimes I come with my camera, sometimes — without it, so I can sit at the edge, dream and think of the essence of our being.
One day we had an idea to photograph this amazing place from above. The only available helicopter was found almost 250 miles (400 km) south, but it didn't stop us! Horseshoe Bend and near-by Lake Powell looked unbelievable from the air, and aerial photographs that we took during that flight still win international photo awards.
During one of those helicopter flights in 2006 Oleg Gaponyuk (future founder of AirPano) has shot his first spherical panorama, which has been digitally assembled later. This sphere became the beginning of aerial spherical panoramas. Click here to view >>>
When I was sitting next to Oleg in the helicopter that day, I was puzzled — what is he doing? — I watched intensely our pilot Maria, who followed Oleg's instructions and held us up on the same level rotating clockwise, nervously wiping sweat off her brow.
Years later, as AirPano project grew bigger I continue taking part in it with great pleasure. Panoramas presented in this virtual photo tour were shot in different seasons: September 2010 and February 2011. I hope that you will find them interesting. Enjoy!