Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fall Colors in Zion National Park

In October of last fall I made a week long trip to Zion National Park in Utah.  Zion, is a fantastic park I have visited several times and really like the hikes and photography opportunities.  I had planned the trip to be a good week for fall color (or so I hoped).  It was going to be the week of the full moon so I did not have a lot of hope for night images with only the last two nights of the trip having much of a chance where I would have just an hour or two between dark and the moonrise. I also hoped to really have a good day in the Narrows.  I even had a plan to do one night up at Bryce at the start of the trip to see what I might get there before spending the rest of the week in Zion. 

So with those ideas in mind I was off to the park.

My flight was supposed to leave DFW at 9am but because of unexpected delays and problems we did not leave Dallas until almost 4pm.  By the time we got to Las Vegas, got my rental car, and I was driving out of Viva Las Vegas the sun was setting.  OK, things are not going as planned.  No way I am making it to Bryce.  So I scratched that off my list and headed for St. George, UT.  I probably could have made Zion but I did not have a reservation and I was afraid of not finding any open tent sites.

The next morning, I was up early but there were no images to tempt me so I made a stop for a weeks worth of groceries and some last minute items and then made the short drive up to Springdale.  It was still early in the day and it was overcast.  I stopped in at Oscar's there in Springdale for breakfast.  Oscar's is my favorite place to eat in town and they do a pretty good Tex-Mex style menu.  That is really saying something too as outside of Texas and New Mexico it is tough to find good Mexican or Tex-Mex food.  After a good filling meal it was off to the park to check out the fall colors and wait until I could get into my tent site.

I decided to go look at the east side of the park.  This way I could be in my own vehicle and not have to take the shuttle.  It was the last day of the shuttle system for the season and I knew I would be able to drive my own vehicle into the canyon the next morning.  I like the shuttle but knew I could run on my schedule and was looking forward to getting an early start on a few mornings.  Little did I know then that Mon and Tues would be so full in the valley they would turn the shuttle back on.  That actually turned out to be a good thing as Tuesday in the Valley was a gridlock mess as every parking spot was taken and cars were stretched out along the road in a vain quest for a spot.

But on Sunday it was time to check the park out.

Go up through the tunnel and the road then goes up through slick rock country.  The road follows Clear Creek up toward Checkerboard Mesa.  There are several turnouts along the road and each offers an easy walk into the creek bed and the chance to explore the rocks and area there.  This is a great way to see fall color and experience Zion as you are rarely more than 100 yards from the road.  Note, if it looks like rain or is raining, this is a place to avoid as it will flash flood.  The slick rock will funnel all the rain and it can be very deadly very quickly.  So be smart about canyons and avoid them with any chance of rain.

The overcast sky began to break up and I got some times with some good backlight on the trees, which had some great color in them.  

After a few hours of exploring the area I was able to go back and get my campsite and then go off to look for sunset images.  I had a few I hoped to get and hoped to see some possibilities for a few more.

Over the course of the week I was able to spend a couple of days in the canyon and a couple of days on the east side of the park.  I caught some great fall color and managed to even get a few nice images.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fall Floods on the Trinity River

We saw some epic rains in 2015.  A very wet spring ended a multi-year drought and filled our lakes.  In fact the lakes and rivers were so full that it was well into October that I was even able to get to several of my favorite photography areas as they were under water.

November brought fall color and I was out casing fall color.  then Thanksgiving brought another 10" of rain and the the rivers went back to flood stage.  I was not able to get to all the scenes I wanted to but I was also not about to give up and not try!  :-)

I kept going out looking to see how far I could go before the water got too deep and what areas it was possible to see.  The waters slowly receded week by week and I went farther and farther each week chasing the high water views and the fall color throughout December.

The water was at first running so deep and the river so full that the couple of waterfalls I know of were under water.  Slowly as the river went down they reappeared and for several weeks they were spectacular as the river had tremendous flow over them.  Of course, they are back to a much more more limited volume and flow of water now.  One of the reasons it pays to know your local area and get out even in adverse conditions as you never know what you might find.  See one of those waterfall images at the top of the post here.

I was out there in full rain gear trying to get the shot and despite the rain, mud, and wading in deep water, I had a blast and even got a few images.  These were very rare events for Texas to see this much rain in a year or even have the river level rise so much.  One of the things the high water did was scour the rocky river clean of all the plants that had taken hold over several years of low flow.  

Several sections of the river we had given up on photographing because there was too much plant growth were now bare rock again.  The cycle will start anew and for a while we can get some entirely different images.

The rains made fall both interesting and different.  No two days or week are ever the same.  There were times I would visit a location for 4-5 times before I was able to get the right conditions for the image.  

Some of the images I was able to make were the right combo of water level, rock, and light that I might have to wait years to see again.  Take this last image as an example.  This was one of the sections of the river that had been overgrown.  For the last three years you could not see any water here.  The May floods cleaned the rock bare.  The fall rains flooded the area. then On a weekend the water had dropped some I was able to get into this location and get this image of very high water flow and see a magic sight that it may be a decade before these conditions exist again.

I was lucky and persistent enough to keep going and caught something special.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fall Color on the West Fork

As the calendar turned to November of last year I turned my attention to the possibilities of chasing the fall colors locally around Fort Worth and north Texas.  We get a hint of color that starts just before Halloween and the color really gets going in November, usually peaking around Thanksgiving and spending a month fading usually right up to winter solstice.

I have several local areas I frequent one of which is the West Fork of the Trinity River.  Here I can find a rocky river, a few waterfalls, and some great fall color.  I make it a point to be here at least one day a week throughout the month of November.

2015 was a year of great rain which had caused heavy floods in the spring and the river had been scoured clean.  That did wonders for some of the little cascades and waterfalls I visit which were now flowing well as the floods had taken the vegetation which had grown thick over the past few years.

I spent more time this fall near these little waterfalls, than I had in several years working them every weekend as I looked for fall color and watched the trees change from gree to yellow to red, and then fade into winter.

I like the rocky river bed I can find here.  We have a lot of limestone here in Texas and when you find rivers crossing it you often have good river features.

The area I visit on the West Fork is a great place to see birds and even a few deer frequent the area.  I am usually far too slow of a photographer to actually photograph them but this last fall I even managed to get a shot of one.  My longest lens is 200mm on a full frame camera so not much in the way of zoom power but I did get this image here with the little buck in the river.

No matter what the weather was, I visited the falls last fall.  As it always is in landscape photography, there were days of overcast, or clear, and just maybe good light.

I kept working the area and over the several weeks of fall managed to make a few nice images.

It is one of the reasons I always encourage people to explore the area where they live.  You might be surprised by what you find.