Photography at Crescent Moon Picnic Site

Our favorite spot in Sedona is Crescent Moon Picnic Site. It is a great swimming hole for the kids, but also an awesome place for me to do photography. The only downside is that it is always packed with people. You will definitely want to be prepared to get creative in your framing or be willing to remove people, otherwise every shot will look like the next two below, or worse with crowds.

Crescent Moon Picnic Site is one of our favorite sites in Sedona, Arizona. It is a great little swimming hold with a fantastic view. The site is south of the town. To get there, take the highway, 89A, west of town. Turn south on Upper Red Rock Loop Rd. Turn left on Chavez Ranch Rd. then a quick right on Red Rock Crossing Rd., which will lead you to the entrance. Because the site is managed by the Forest Service, there is an entry fee of $8.00 per vehicle. Unfortunately, the National Parks Pass is not accepted at Crescent Moon Picnic Site.

From the parking lot, it is a short walk through a big field until you reach Oak Creek. The creek runs over red sandstone with trees on either side and the beautiful Cathedral Rock looming above. This spot is great for photography because the creek leads right to Cathedral Rock with a lot of interesting foreground.

As you can see in the image above, it is a great place to work on your reflections. There are many little ponds of water coming off the creek that are still enough to capture the reflection of Cathedral Rock.

The hardest part of photography here is avoiding the crowds of people swimming and playing in the river. I am pretty sure I had to edit at least a couple people out of every image here. The other hard part is crossing the water. The sandstone under water is incredibly slick and very hard to cross without falling. I fell many times, always managing to keep my camera equipment in the air above the water as I broke my fall with my butt, back or side.

Cathedral Rock is actually a bit in the distance so it is tough to capture its looming size using a wide angle lens. Unfortunately, this means you have to cut out the water and zoom in a bit if you want to really feature the size of Cathedral Rock.

Another thing I love about photography at Crescent Moon Picnic Site is that Oak Creek diverts and spills over the great sandstone rocks creating different lines all over that you can use in the foreground. You are not limited to just shooting the creek leading to Cathedral Rock. You can explore up and down the creek and find many different little areas where the water and rock forms change, creating a completely different composition.

If you are lucky, you may find someone really skilled at stacking rocks. They add a little something different and are fun to shoot.

The image below is one of my favorites because it barely shows the creek, but features a ton of red rock and has just enough water coming off the creek to provide a great place for Cathedral Rock’s reflection.

This is a great area to work on your focus stacking or just really featuring a detailed foreground.

Although sunset can certainly be beautiful at Crescent Moon Picnic Site, I actually prefer to shoot a bit before sunset when there is still enough light so the foreground is not in shadows, but you get some warm directional light on Cathedral Rock.

The final reason I love doing photography at Crescent Moon Picnic Site is the great little swimming hole just behind me while I was shooting all these images. It is a great swimming area to bring the family where the creek is plenty deep to jump in and swim or even fish. This keeps the family happy and entertained while I can do some shooting.

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