1 Day, 10 Photos in Zion National Park
An Summer afternoon of Photography in Zion National Park: 93ºF and Sunny
I spent a good portion of the day yesterday exploring and photographing Zion Canyon, the main canyon in Zion National Park. I took a short “warm up” walk along the Parus Trail and shared some live video on Instagram. While LIVE I came across a heron and buck in velvet together, it was a cool Zion surprise moment:)
After a little warm up, I jumped on the shuttle after about a 20 minute line at 2PM. Not bad, but I normally would suggest a little later. I took the shuttle all the way up to the Temple of Sinewava and began my photography day there. After about 30 minutes, the canyon began to start filling with shade against the walls and river, making great light!
A Few Challenges: Tripod or No?
The Virgin River is so beautiful in how it reflects light and colors. The water is also turquoise-blue when clear so it’s an appealing subject and even more with the reflections. Moving water tends to look bet at slower shutter speeds and without a tripod, what are you to do?
I chose not to bring a tripod because it’s heavy, cumbersome on the shuttle and not really needed most of the time. The first image was made resting the camera on a boulder (solid) and the next one was actually handheld (f/11 1/6 ISO 31) with VR on.
“Reverse Flow” further down is an image I made resting the camera on a rock. Exposure times are tricky for moving water so a few frames were made to test different shutter speeds.
Opportunities Around Every Corner
One of the areas I list in my Zion Photo Tour PDF is this area at the Temple of Sinewava. I didn’t know the light was going to be hitting just these trees, but I did know afternoon is interesting in Zion:) I followed a short path to an area with ZERO people and made this image. 5 minutes later this was all in shadow. Again, I didn’t know this ahead of time but I knew the AREA was interesting in AFTERNOON. The rest I can figure out when I’m there.
One of my goals was to make 10 images to share here and on social media. This proved to be more difficult than I expected and it was already going to be challenging enough. Hot, busy, clear, no tripod..all challenges.
Limitations are also EXCELLENT for creative thinking and creating. You get past the “if I only had this lens…If I only had this ____” mentality and start thinking instead about what you do have and can use. This is one of the single most difficult aspects of learning landscape photography to grasp, so we end up bringing EVERYTHING. I assure you from experience and seeing it in practice with so many people, bringing everything will burden you with weight and choices leaving you little room to think creatively.
Free to See
I think it’s important to feel comfortable to create, while creating. Stop to think about this for a moment. Imagine being whatever is uncomfortable to you (hot/cold/bugs) and now try to think about composition and color balance, color harmony and flow. Think about visual elements and design. YOU CAN”T.
I know that’s a bold statement but the point is when you are comfortable, you are free to create without the conditions limiting you too much. You can adapt to weather with gear and such but another type of comfort is more environmental. Some landscapes and environments just feel good to be there. Zion is one such place where, once you step away from the crowds, you start to feel it too.
It Takes Time
There are 2 types of landscape photography going on in these images, one you see and one you don’t. The type you see here is a single day of shooting in an area I’m VERY familiar with under standard conditions. The type you don’t see is that none of these images will go to a portfolio or collection of any sort. They simply don’t meet my full artistic/photographic criteria of attention/refinement that I place on my best work.
I’ll say this again. I’m VERY familiar with Zion yet even having all day I did’t make anything noteworthy. That’s because it takes more than just visiting a landscape to make quality work. It takes time.
It takes time as in more days of doing exactly this approach but in different conditions. It takes time because I may or may not have been emotionally ready for Zion. It takes time to let Zion’s surprises be shown to you. It just takes time to create anything meaningful and it just takes allowing that.