After my excursions within Zion National Park and the heights of the towering peaks such as Angels landing and the Court of the Patriachs, I drove north through Utah to the Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon. Whilst both National Park’s are canyons, one you drive into (Zion) and the other you drive to the rim of (Bryce). The result is equally breathtaking however. The geology of Bryce has created towering spines of sandstone called “Hoodoo’s” which are also called stacks or chimney’s rise out of a basin in a similar way that the grand canyon has a rim and then a sheer drop to the canyon floor. Now whilst this is not a geology lesson, it’s important to understand what you are photographing before you attempt it. For example, photographing mountains and peaks from below requires timing to control shadows and light as the surfaces are likely to be exposed at different lights. Photographing a canyon from the top of the rim will mean, depending on the time of day that you will not capture the same shot from one hour to another no matter how hard you try.
Given my previous posts of not looking at other people’s photos and the relatively few people in the canyon itself, I decided that the majority of people would be shooting from the top, so given that this would produce the majority of pictures that day, I headed a different way. Down into the canyon and amongst the hoodoos. The physical terrain aside, (as that will become a recurring theme in these series of blogs) the light created by the shadows, the height of the stacks and the colours that change make for a fantastic perspective. Unlike photographing a mountain or peak, these spires are very thin and you can stand next to them and walk amongst them. There are also hundreds of them so a wide angled lens is appropriate for some shots and a long lens for others but shot selection. Someone recently told me that everyone is a great photographer in Bryce. He’s right but the search for the extraordinary is that much more rewarding.
I decided to pick four shots from my visit. The first is called the Cathedral and frames the red hue of the rock against a cloudless blue sky, the second a shot of the drop down into wall street and a reference to the con
crete canyons of New York. The third, is a shot looking through one of the hoodoos and following a pine tree that has grown over many years to beat the
height of the stack to find it’s light. The fourth? That’s really the photo behind the title. I had missed sunset after over exerting myself on the hike and despite staying yards from the rim and the changing colours of the rock against the sunset, I had missed the opportunity. But sometimes out of mistakes comes something good. A lesser known fact about Bryce Canyon is that it is one of the few places on earth with almost zero light pollution. It is a favourite with stargazers and astronomers and during my visit was host to the annual stargazing event. I have never had the opportunity to try star photography before, as light travels long distances and it would be impossible to find ideal conditions in the UK to this quality. The stars that evening however were the brightest I have witnessed in my travels and in such abundance that it was mesmerising. The trick with Star photography as I found out is that you can’t have any light at all. not even to see the camera as this destroys your own night vision and that of those around you. The helmet lamp I had purchased was therefore useless but over the course of the next 90 minutes approaching midnight, I experimented and took 6 shots using a cable release and weighted tripod for the length of exposure typically between 60 and 90 seconds. The rest of the time was spent sat watching the numerous shooting stars and satellites whilst sitting in complete darkness and yards from a sheer drop to the canyon floor without any safety barriers. You can think of a lot of things in 90 seconds and yet nothing whilst looking at the stars and for anyone wanting to clear their mind, I would highly recommend it. My final memory of this evening was watching the canyon as my eyes grew accustomed to the dark and seeing to my amazement, tiny head torches of night hikers in the canyon and hiking amongst the hoodoos. They too had headed into something different for their own unique experience. So after deciding not to take photos from the canyon rim, my last is from that exact same spot but from another perspective. The photo is of the canyon’s looking west towards the Milky Way and illuminated by the night sky.
The full set of images can be seen here on my Flickr page.