Return to the Land of Zion

As my friend Jeremy and I made our way around southern Utah on our recent photography tour of the American Southwest, one thing was certain – we would revisit one of our favorite places: Zion National Park.

Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah near the town of Springdale, and about 300 miles (483 km) south of Salt Lake City. Sporting massive Navajo sandstone cliffs, the park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States.

On our trip in 2012, Jeremy and I were able to camp inside the park, enabling us to get some interesting nighttime photographs by moonlight without another soul in sight. I documented those experiences in A Different Land of Zion, as well as our daring nighttime hike to treacherous Angel’s Landing in Angels Landing – Bring Oxygen!

This time we wanted to try something different. Zion NP is known for a very popular hike that is actually in the Virgin River as it passes through Zion Canyon in a section called The Narrows, and we wanted to try to photograph this adventure. We brought our waders and dry bags for our camera gear, and were all ready to go, but alas, we could not. The water flow rate was simply too high for safe travel, by a factor of almost three, so we were forced to go elsewhere.

Of course that didn’t stop us from finding other places to photograph. One of our go-to spots that’s easy to revisit for a sunrise shoot is the area directly behind the Zion Human History Museum. While we weren’t particularly happy with our results in 2012, the lighting seemed better this year, and I think we both came away with something worthwhile.

Morning Walk in Zion, Zion National Park, Utah

Solitude and beauty greet the early morning hiker in Zion National Park, Utah.

After this shoot, we hopped back on the bus (for this is the time of year that automobiles are not typically allowed on the canyon road) and headed for another favorite of ours, the Court of the Patriarchs area. After crossing a bridge, the trail leads into a lush meadow of desert shrubs and live oaks, and from this meadow can be seen a number of towering peaks, ready and willing to catch the first rays of the day. On this particular morning, broken clouds were passing in front of the sun, creating interesting patterns of light across the cliff faces. And this is why we get up so early!

Sunrise at the Court, Zion National Park, Utah

The early morning sun lights up the peaks surrounding the Court of the Patriarchs, in Zion National Park, Utah.

After this we headed back to our motel in the town of Hurricane, a spot that was centrally located for all of our planned shoots in the area. (Again, we were not able to find available campsites nearby, due to the throngs of people who visit the area, but the motel worked out quite well.) Next, we were off to a new area for us, a place called Yant Flat that is known for beautiful wavy sandstone formations much like we saw last week in Sandstone Patterns. The difference is that this new area is much more difficult to reach, but once there, is also a much larger area to photograph. And while we couldn’t wait to get started on that shoot, you’ll have to wait until next week to see how it went!

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