Time to return to my trip to Zion about two weeks ago. Typically I try to avoid “iconic” locations, as not only do you find lots of people there, but it’s much more difficult for me to get into the photographic process when I’ve been blinded by so many previous compositions. Also, many of these iconic places simply do not match up with my style – but a few spots in Zion I simply had to see. Fortunately I was a little late in the season, and saw remarkably few people. After stopping by the Zion Adventure Company to pick up a drysuit and some canyoneering boots, I headed out into the Virgin River Narrows. It’s really quite a remarkable place: towering sandstone walls trap you in the chilly waters, sometimes waist or chest deep (hence the drysuit). Most of the trees had just about lost all their fall colors, in fact, only one retained its full coat of yellow.
One of my favorite moments of the whole trip was about half an hour that I got to spend watching and photographing one of the countless American Dippers I encountered throughout the Narrows. This one was particularly cooperative, and let me get within six feet or so to get this wider angle image. While it certainly isn’t my most dramatic or aesthetically pleasing image from the trip, it is one of my favorites. I think it captures the experience of being there vicariously through the Dipper – I recommend viewing the larger version!
“Dipping in the Narrows” ~ Virgin River Narrows, Zion NP, UT
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 400, f/4, 1/100th sec
Make sure to see the larger version!
Since I had my drysuit on, I decided I might as well take advantage of that, and squeeze into a narrow slot Guy Tal had showed me the day before in Zion’s high country. This seldom visited slot gets so narrow you almost get stuck… while chest deep in water!
The following morning I set out on what must be one of the most coveted places in the park among landscape photographers: the “subway”. This incredible formation is located in the Left Fork of North Creek, about 4 miles or so in – 4 miles of scrambling, wading, and route finding. As I headed out in the morning the temperature read about 15 degrees F, fortunately I still had that drysuit, as I certainly didn’t want to get wet in that kind of weather! Finally seeing this place, which I had seen so many images of before was not disappointing: one of the few places where it truly lived up to the promise of all the pictures I’ve seen. I had the place to myself for the next 4 hours that I spent exploring the pools, scrambling upstream a little ways, and yes, watching yet another American Dipper! Just 15 feet away he was foraging in the crystal clear pools, picking out grubs from the sandy leaf matter at the bottom. Unfortunately it was too dark to get any great images, but it was an inspiring experience to say the least. If you, too, are a fan of Dippers I suggest you read through John Muir’s notes a friend of mine sent me: the Water-Ouzel.
It took quite some time taking in the character of the place, and getting past all the compositions I had seen previously, before I was finally able to frame my own impressions of the place. Every edge and surface in that hall of sandstone is curved, round, and sensual. I wanted to emphasize that using this simple composition. The second image is a little less predictable – I used an underwater housing and hopped into the main pool to get a truly intimate experience with the icy waters. I’m looking forward to trying this half under/half over water experience in the future!
On my way out I noticed the light was dancing beautifully over the red sandstone and the famous “crack” – a section of sandstone where the water has carved a nearly perfect slit. I used a shorter shutter speed to capture the refreshing character of the flowing water. The maple leaf, of course, appeared in just the right spot 😉
That’s all from Zion.. I can’t wait to get back to red rock country though, and I’m sure it will happen next year sometime. A late happy Thanksgiving to all you “Americans” – I hope your dinner was tastier than my can of spicy chili and beans. But I sincerely doubt you had a more inspiring view the following morning than I did!