Other photographers assume that great light somehow follows me around. I hear it all the time. I run into other shooters in the field that follow my work and one of the comments that comes up quite often is how great light seems to follow me around. I am here to tell you that it certainly does not! My latest two-week trip to photograph Zion National Park and Valley of Fire this early November was awesome. I made some great images, but was rarely presented with any clouds or awesome light. The first leg of the trip was spent shooting in Zion National Park for ten days. Over that time I was not one single cloud, nada, zip, zilch in the dramatic sky department. No big deal! I just worked the light that was given spending 95% of my time in the canyon bottoms shooting reflected light, fall color and reflections. I didn't get upset about the lack of dramatic skies as I had so many other wonderful photo ops to concentrate on.
The first evening of the workshop greeted us with crystal blue skies. As we made our way in the park, we passed the crowd of shooters lining up on the bridge to capture the iconic view of the Watchman and the Virgin River. With a lack of clouds that location was a bust for me. Instead we headed up to the Temple of Sinawava and hiked along the Virgin River shooting reflected light of the water from the brightly lit cliff tops. The image above is of fallen Cottonwood leaves and iron bacteria that seeps from the rocks. This bacteria that floats as a loose film on the surface of still pools of water is some of the most reflective material in nature. I positioned the camera low to the ground to pick up the reflections of the cliff walls and blue sky above. This turned out to be one of my favorite images from the trip.
Clear weather in canyon country is great for working the slots in the middle of the days. We just so happened to have the worlds deepest and one of the most beautiful slot canyons around in Zion, the Virgin River Narrows. The image above is from the Wall Street section of the canyon. From the Temple of Sinawava to wall street is a 3.5 mile hike through the narrows and this means getting in the water. The water levels this fall were much lower the years past making the hiking quite easy and enjoyable. The water depth were only mid-thigh to waist deep at the deepest. In years past, I have been chest deep in certain areas of the canyon. We started the hike in the morning and spent quite a bit of time working compositions as we hiked up canyon. As noon approached, we hauled ass up canyon to be at Wall Street when the light peaks and the canyon walls glow in warm light. We arrived just in time to shoot for about ten minutes before the light faded and the magic was gone. On the way back down canyon, we shoot the entire way not getting out to the parking lot until sunset. It was an amazing day!!
Twilight time in the desert is another extraordinary time to shoot on clear days. About 20 minutes after sunset on perfectly clear evening, the canyon walls and sky can glow. This is when I concentrate on landscape vistas under clear conditions. The image above perfectly illustrates the point. This was captured 30 minutes after sunset as the sky settled into a deep purplish blue and the cliffs glowed in warm light. A strange phenomenon indeed. The exposure times will run into the minutes in most cases. I was lucky to have completely still conditions allowing me to run a two-minute exposure to capture to full range of tonal values without the leaves of these canyon maples fluttering in the breeze. The resulting image is tact sharp and printable to over 60 inches.
So take this post as a challenge to learn how to work the light and don't pack it in when the coast is clear. Keep shooting and exploring the light.
I'll be back soon with some images from Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada where I was treated to three days of dramatic light and clouds. Stay tuned.
And don't forget, we are having a big sale this weekend.
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