Zion 2016 trip report

Zion National Park photo workshop, October 26-30, 2016

I may have mentioned this before, but Zion National Park is my second favorite national park. Gotta give my number one spot to Olympic, partly because I live so close, but mostly because I’ve spent time deep in the park.

I couldn’t say how many times I’ve been up the Zion Canyon Drive, either driving myself or on the shuttle. I never get tired of it.

Virgin River in the Temple of Sinewava, Zion National Park, UT

Virgin River in the Temple of Sinewava, Zion National Park, UT

The weather was ok. Got some cloudy days, which is nice for fall color and for photographing the river in the canyon, and some clearing, which is nice for back lighting, sunrises, and sunsets. But we didn’t get a forecast for the clear morning that we would have needed to make the two hour plus trek to Bryce Canyon for a sunrise. It’s a long drive to make without a good chance of a clear morning to back light those hoodoos.

This year the fall color was running a little late in Zion Canyon. The cottonwoods hadn’t quite turned yet, but there was still some great color to be found and it seemed to get better as the week went on.

On the east side of the park, the Box Elders (maples) looked great and we found a scene with nice red leaves leading to some swirly sandstone in the background. The sun would come and go offering different lighting options. This is my new favorite shot from Zion.

Fall color in Zion National Park, UT
Fall color in Zion National Park, UT

We also had some very interesting light. One evening we went to the Kolob Canyons for a sunset. It was an overcast afternoon so chances weren’t that good. But as often happens in the southwest, a sliver of clearing on the horizon let in the last light of the day, making the spires of Kolob Canyon glow.

Other sunsets weren’t so exciting. We tried the Virgin River Bridge a couple of nights. Got rained on the first during the first attempt, but we did get a tiny, tiny glow on the Watchman just before sunset. The second night we tried we were completely skunked. But that’s just how things go with nature and landscape photography!

Towers of the Virgin, Zion National Park.

Towers of the Virgin, Zion National Park.

Our sunrises were interesting too. One morning the Towers of the Virgin started out deep, deep red as the sun rose. That didn’t last long but we continued to wait. We didn’t have to wait long for the light to return, this time as golden band. As the sun continued to rise, the band of gold slowly moved down the Towers. Incredible.

I’ve lost count of the number of sunrises I’ve seen from this location. This rated up there with the best.

Towers of the Virgin, pre-dawn
Towers of the Virgin, pre-dawn
Sunrise on the Towers of the Virgin
Sunrise on the Towers of the Virgin

But the most interesting sunrise came on our last morning. We arrived about forty minutes before sunrise and took up position. The clouds behind us to the east began to glow a deep crimson about twenty minutes before the actual sunrise. This got so intense that the red light reflected off the Towers of the Virgin; a pre-sunrise if you will.

When the sun did rise, we got more traditional light on the towers. The clouds behind added a nice touch.

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