Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Narrows

The Narrows is one of the premier hikes Zion National Park.

At the back of Zion Canyon the canyon becomes very narrow (hence the name) and you follow the Virgin River in a place that is maybe 25 feet wide and probably 1000 feet deep.

It is not a hike in the traditional sense as you are not on a trail but instead you are wading up a river. The river often is wall to wall. In places it can be deep but in mid summer it was mostly knee deep on me.

I had a chance to visit the park and wade some of the river one afternoon but this was going to be the first chance to really photograph it.

I caught an early shuttle bus and made my way to the last stop and started walking the short trail to the waters edge. After trading out shoes for sandals, making sure my camera gear was sealed in Ziplock bags, and getting my trekking poles out, I started up stream.
An advantage of starting early is you can beat some of the crowds of mid-day.

One of the first things you notice is the water is cold. It was July and the temp was going to 105 that day and the river was cold. Some of the outfitters in town rent special dry booties to keep your feet warm and hel
p protect you from the rocks but for summer water a good pair of Keen sandals was all I needed. BTW-the trekking poles are a huge help with keeping your balance. No one like to slip, but with a pack full of camera gear you never want to slip.

It was not that far into the canyon when I found a good sandbar and some nice light bouncing down off the canyon walls. I started setting up the camera and then went to work making images.

The light is everywhere and it is amazing to wade into the river with camera to find the best compositions.
I spent at least half of an hour in that first spot and only pressing time made me go. So I packed back up and started further upstream.

It was then I made a decision that I needed a pocket camera as it seemed every step was a new image and my camera was safely sealed in plastic. I need something handy for moments like this.

The scenery was amazing and it was not long before another sandbar became a place to stop and I got the camera back out.

I continued this for a while but it seemed I was not getting very far. This is someplace to devote time to, not make a quick trip of.


Here are just a few of those images from that short morning. I think my favorite is the last one with the glowing light on the weeping wall and the water running over the stones of the river. That really captures the sense of place what it is like when you are in the Narrows.

You might also notice the small waterfall cascading down into the river in the middle image.

A breathtaking place. Already on my list to get back to.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Watchman

The Watchman is a mountain in Zion National Park.


It is a famous view and one of the most photographed images in the park, maybe the most photographed one. BTW it is the pointy peak over the river in the first image.

As you might guess, I photographed it too. Why? Easy. Look at it. It wants to be photographed. The river, the canyon the mountain-this has it all.



So I went off to make the standard image late in the afternoon, just like most photographer would. Now what the image does not show is WHERE you make the image from. Take a look and you might guess you are on a bridge. That is correct, but it is a two lane bridge with no sidewalk.



That's right, no sidewalk. There is about a two foot striped area on the side of the bridge. Photographers joke that the stripes mark out spots for photographers since it can get busy with photogs. This is a place one needs to have a minimal amount of equipment as if you are wearing a backpack there are times it seems a bus will snag it off your back. Luckily being in the park the speed limit is low, but when a truck goes by at 30-40 mph about a foot from you and your tripod it does start to be "fun".



The first image is that standard afternoon one. I know the photographers are already thinking, the dork left his polarizer on with his 10mm lens. Yes I did. Doh! But at least you can see what the standard view looks like.



I knew the lack of clouds would make the first image pretty bland so when I got up early the next morning and it was still cloudless I went back to photograph the stars over the Watchman.

What you see here was the first image I got. The Watchman was catching some light, the Milky Way hangs in the sky and the river had a little glow to it. As soon as I saw it on the screen, I knew I liked it.

Then late in the trip I had a very cloudy afternoon and I thought I would go back and try one last time for an image. This time I went down into the river and photographed out of it for a different take on this famous view. The clouds really made this one work.



Clouds are awesome!



Now I had two images that I really liked and both were a little different than the standard shot.


I guess the moral of the story is do the classic locations but then try to do it differently. You might just get a much better image.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Angels Landing


I just returned from a trip to Zion National Park.

Zion is one of those great Utah parks in red rock country that really became well known and highly visited in the last 15 years or so.

It really is a spectacular park and I have enjoyed several visits to it.

One of the classic hikes in Zion Canyon is Angels Landing. It, of course, was one I had to do on the trip.

For those who have not been to the park before, let me set the stage. Zion is a fairly narrow canyon of sheer big walls. Some of the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world are right here in the park.
Take a look at the top image.

That is Angels Landing.

It is a giant cliff that sticks out into Zion Canyon proper.
The Angels Landing hike zig zags up these cliffs for over 1000 feet. You start at the very left side of that image and switchback up the canyon wall. The trail ducks into a small canyon at the base of the ridge notch. It emerges at a place called Scouts Lookout. The lookout is 1000' feet above the valley floor.

It is there the trail really gets interesting!

From there the trail follows the spine of the ridge up another few hundred feet to the very top of Angels Landing.



This trail is not for everyone. It is 4th Class climbing-you will want and need to use your hands here. There is exposure to sheer drops. The do have a chain in several places to offer a hand but it is still not for the faint of heart.


Check out the second image. This is one of those spots. The "trail" goes up these rocks and it ain't that wide. And it is a LONG WAY DOWN.


I scampered up the ridge taking in the view. The climb is a fun one. You will need your hands and you make use of the chain in a few spots. Climbers will find it easy, but fun. Non-climbers will find it to be thrilling.

Make it to the top and your reward is a dramatic view in almost a full circle. The valley is now far below.


Take a breather and enjoy the view.
See the view looking down canyon in the third image. This view is south. The Zion lodge is down there and the village of Springdale is farther down canyon.


Then you have to go back down. Be careful as going down is where I would think most people slip.


Take your camera too as you will want to have images and movies of this one!