Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Oh Zion!

Made my first visit to Zion National Park this April (2014).  Describing Zion National Park is beyond the scope of a blog.  It changes with the four seasons and with the hour too.  It seems largely about the light, as is all landscape photography.  So, let's begin with a sunrise near the Canyon Junction.

This is on my second day. The sky on the first day was a uniform white; not very good. The rule seemed to be "if you see a good sky, shoot fast before it disappears". 

A key factor in Zion is the play between the sunlit and shaded sides of the canyons.  The rock walls take on quite different colors as the light changes, and I discovered the fine red sand in the air on windy days creates a haze on shaded walls that comes from the light diffraction around the backlit particles.  Just below the Temple of Sinawava, I found a classic example of the sun and shade sides.

To experience Zion National Park (and just about any significant landscape), you have to do some mildly serious hiking and also to slow down enough to really see what you pass on your way to the endpoint.  An early beginning allows for an uncongested trail.  A favorite hike was to Lower Emerald Pool near the Zion Lodge.  Here is my friend Patrice Kerevel standing beneath the wispy waterfall at Lower Emerald Pool.

As I said, the other key to really discovering the park is to slow down and look.  I found freshly blooming Eastwood's Paintbrush along a narrow mountain trail.  Few, hurrying past, even paused to see the brilliant flowers growing at the edge of a massive sheer wall of rock.

The above flowers were at the east end of the tunnel on the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway.  We arrived there to the most delightful surprise.  A band of Mountain Bighorn Sheep ewes and their lambs were feeding on the bushes around the ranger station. (Glad that I took a larger zoom lens!)  They were REALLY close.

They were shifting in and out of sight. At a lull, I was talking with the ranger when pebbles came bouncing down the rock wall.  There, just above us, and in beautiful light was this ewe.

The photo was easily the best part of the trip to Zion.  There was no cropping to this photo.  Very close.

Further up the highway, my photography totally shifted gears.  I just love the simple view of the Pinyon Pine growing out of a crack in bare rock.  Pretty rough place to survive.

One of the biggest draws to Zion National Park is the hike up the Virgin River above the Temple of Sinawava. Called the Zion Narrows, at about a mile it becomes a wet  hike.  There are awesome views.  A wide angle lens is the only way to portray the landscape.

At about a mile, you must enter the stream and enter a section of essentially vertical canyon walls.  I'm saving that experience for a later visit.  I've learned to stop and look behind me, and as I returned downstream I saw that I had missed a nice little falls in the river with beautiful color in the river.

I believe that one of the visually pleasing aspects of Zion is the prevalence of complementary red and green colors - red sandstone in many hues plus (at least in spring) the fresh green leaves on the trees.  And on top of that, there can be such deep and rich blue skies due to the dry climate. I am demanding in this regards; I want some nice puffy clouds among the rich blues.  My final image to share has just that combination, found at the Towers of the Virgin. (This is at the Zion Human History Museum stop on the shuttle bus line.) There was a nice shaded ramada in back of the museum that offers refuge from the strong midday sun. The combination of shade and beautiful landscape was welcome after a strenuous hike in the morning.

With all of this beautiful scenery, the sheep were still the highpoint. After all, all of these other subjects are fixed in place, but I may never find wild sheep so close.  Oh Zion, what a good time you showed me. I will be back.

Paul Schmitt

No comments:

Post a Comment