Sunday, March 15, 2015

Zion Narrows

Just two days after the flash flood the river was almost back to its normal level.  It was not quite the chocolate milk it had been either.  The Narrows reopened and I decided I would go in the next morning and see if I could get some images.

I was on the second bus of the morning.  I knew the light would not happen until later mid morning when the reflected light bounces down the canyon walls.  However the sun needs to be higher in the sky.  I knew the best light would be after 9:30-10AM.  However since I had someone waiting on me I knew I would be pressed for time.  

I got to the last stop on the bus and made the walk to the launching into the river point.  Half a dozen people were there changing into their water gear.  One couple was already disappearing up the canyon.  I quickly changed into my Keen sandals and waded in.  It was cool but nothing like the cold I had experienced the prior November when I also waded in shorts and sandals.  

The river was low but not quite back to clear yet.  I was happy to be there again.

I took off up river with a plan of going to Orderville Canyon without stopping for images.  I have been in the Narrows a couple of times but never got very far, as I always stopped too much to make images.  Now since I had an early start, I decided to really leave the crowd behind.  

I moved upstream with my gear in my pack and a pair of hiking poles for balance.  The poles came in super handy and really gave me stability.

Orderville Canyon Meets the Zion Narrows
Within 15 minutes I caught and passed the first folks into the canyon and I kept going.  The light was still cool.  The water was cool too but I was moving at a good clip and making good time.

I wanted to stop but stayed true to my goal of going way up the canyon.

I made it to Orderville Canyon.  Note, there is no sign.  It's just the first obvious canyon you pass.  It is narrow.  Maybe 12 foot wide.  Looks mysterious.  

I stop and set the tripod and camera up.  Then start making images of both canyons.  The light is still cool, but I have the whole canyon to myself.  I used my phone to get a great panorama of the canyons meeting.  See that above.

The Narrows
I spend an hour there or just farther upstream towards what they call Wall Street.

Finally I notice the time when grabbing some snapshots with my phone.  I have to start down canyon.  I had yet to get the great light but I had to go.

I moved downstream and around the first bend I saw the light.  The sun was reflected off a far canyon wall and spilling golden bounced light through this stretch of the river.

I set up the tripod and made a couple of images.  Soon people appeared.  Then more.

I had a shot.  It was pretty good.  Hiking the Narrows is incredible.  I would easily rank it as one of the 10 best hikes in the entire NPS.  I fully enjoyed the hike and having the whole canyon to myself for a while.  As a photographer, I was extra glad to be able to get a great image too.

I packed back up and kept going downstream.

I soon passed a steady stream of people heading up canyon.  It was now pretty much impossible to get a good image with so many people.  I think the plan for next time will be to plan for the full day there.  Still get the early start and get way ahead of the crowd.  The work my way back down in the afternoon.

I kept going and only made a few snaps with my phone.  I had planned to be back at the trailhead at noon and got there at 12:05pm.  Just about perfect timing.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Photography Roundtable Podcast Interview

I was recently interviewed on the Photography Roundtable Podcast with David Johnston. We talked about photography, cameras, and photographing Texas and the night sky. 

David has had many fantastic photographers on the podcast and I was very ho ored to take part. 

You can check out Photography Roundtable and listen to the full interview here:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Zion by Night

My Zion trip was planned around when we could get away and not around the new moon.  However, that did not deter me from being interested in attempting some night images.  In late September the Milky way is high in the southern facing sky when it gets dark.  In Zion the famous view off the bridge toward the Watchman faces south.  I was hoping to put the two together and get a nice image of the Milky Way over the river and the Watchman.

The sky was fairly clear but the moon was also in the southern sky.  It was around half full and it was bright.  It was not the most ideal conditions for a good nightscape.  Since those were the conditions, I decided to work with them and see what I could get.  I set up both my Canon 5D2 with the 14mm Bower (Samyang) lens and the NEX6 with the Rokinon (samyang) fisheye lens.
Since the Watchman shot is taken standing on a bridge, I knew I would have to be extra careful in the dark standing there as traffic goes past you literally less than two feet from you.  Luckily the road quiets down to only an occasional car after 9pm.  I had my headlamp and it has blinking mode which I always use to alert cars to where I am. Since you want it dark when photographing the Milky Way, I had all lights off when photographing and was good at both timing my images and knowing well ahead of time when cars were approaching.

I made a few images of the view.  The one nice thing about the moon being there was how it lit the scene.  Mountains and trees that normally would have been dark were now well lit.  Of course, the moon was in the scene too.  Work with what you have and the shot was alright.

The next morning I was up and out early and although the best part of the Milky Way-the Galactic Core- was not visible one of the outer spiral arms was.  It is not as bright as the core but since the moon had set it was much darker sky.

I returned to the bridge and did another image of the Watchman.  Now only the Watchman is lit by the lights of the village of Springdale, the rest of the scene is dark.

The view across the bridge to the north also had a view of a spiral arm of the galaxy and so I set up on that side for a few images.  The sky was dark and the canyon walls were dark too.  Since I wanted to pick up some level of detail I used the red LED of my headlamp to get just a little bit of light on a nearby tree to add something to the bottom of the image.

Finally, on my last day in the park I walked up the road to Court of the Patriarchs to try one last image.  I was hoping to get a shot with the well defined peaks in the court with the night sky above it.  Here I went to my fisheye lens on the NEX6 and was able to make an image getting both sides of the canyon walls with the spiral arm stretched across it.

Add in a little light from St. George bouncing off some clouds and I got an image I was really happy to get.

You can see more of these night images in my galleries on my website: