Photography locations - Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park — A Special Trail

05.26.13 | 1 Comment

Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is a place that, like the Grand Canyon, draws people from all over the world.  The multi-colored hoodoos covering such a wide area are a fascinating sight.

Just as at the Grand Canyon, a significant number of park visitors who are camping or staying in the lodge like to welcome the sun each day.  About an hour before sunrise, engines of RVs, campers, trucks, and automobiles begin to stir and traffic begins to flow toward the numerous viewpoints along the rim of the canyon:  Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, Bryce, and others.

I drive a Dodge Ram diesel truck, and I really do mutter apologies to my fellow campers as the engine very loudly pulls me up a short hill at about 4:45 a.m. (end of May, DST), and then I breathe a sigh of relief as the truck coasts much more quietly downhill and out of the campground.

Most of these early risers are photographers, and most are going just for the sunrise.  Once the sun has cleared the horizon and lit up the canyon, most leave the viewpoint and either head out on a trail or head back to get some more sleep.  A couple of days ago, prior to sunrise, I had trouble finding an open spot along the railing of Bryce Point , but 10 minutes after the sun had risen, I was the only person left, and I stayed for about an hour.  There were compositions everywhere, small snippets of the entire canyon that had a combination of light and hoodoos that I thought were especially appealing.  I simply enjoy the search, and the captures are added to my disk drive.

I have found a very special spot in Bryce Canyon.  The rocks there at sunrise are like no others that I’ve seen elsewhere.  I found it yesterday.  I’ll share the “secret” with you.

The trail begins at Sunset Point.  It’s the NE portion of the Navajo Loop trail, the portion that passes Thors Hammer on the downhill run.  Shortly after passing Thors Hammer and just before the trail enters a canyon, look at the hoodoos at the bottom of the slope on which you’re standing.  They simply glow.

This happens right at sunrise and for about an hour afterward, assuming the horizon is clear and no clouds are blocking the sun.

From the position you’re standing, Thors Hammer is to the left and looking about like this:

Thors Hammer.  Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

Thors Hammer. Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

 

The hoodoos and rocks below are reflecting light onto each other, and as a fellow photographer said, they look translucent.  Some are white, some have a hint of color to them, but the sunlight just seems to pass clear through them.  Here’s what I mean:

 

Glowing Rocks.  Remember, the sun is on the opposite side of these rocks.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens.

Glowing rocks. Remember, the sun is on the opposite side of these rocks. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens.

 

Glowing Rocks.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens.

Glowing rocks II. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens.

 

Glowing Wall.  Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

Glowing wall. Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

 

From higher up on the trail, these same rocks:

Same rock wall, a different angle (and camera/lens).  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

Same rock wall, a different angle (and camera/lens). Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

 

Further in the distance:

Distant Rock Walls/Columns.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens.

Distant rock walls/columns. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens.

 

More to the north, the hoodoos stay shaded longer, but when the sun is finally high enough to strike them, they reflect a similar light.  Here’s one particular set of hoodoos seen with progressively longer lenses (these hoodoos are also published in the park’s guide):

Distant Glowing Hoodoos.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

Distant glowing hoodoos. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

 

A bit closer (this is very similar to the photo in the park's brochure).  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

A bit closer (this is very similar to the photo in the park’s brochure). Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

 

And closer still.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

And closer still. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

 

Others in that same area (these two photos have three hoodoos in common):

Striking light-colored hoodoos. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

 

Hoodoos in the same area.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

Hoodoos in the same area. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

 

Other rocks and columns in the area reflect their inherent golden copper color, just like Thors Hammer, and they really stand out against a distant background that is a different color and still shaded:

 

Gold columns against a distant, shaded background.  Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

Gold columns against a distant, shaded background. Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

 

Hoodoos in the making.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

Hoodoos in the making. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens.

 

I like to photograph solitary trees, and this one is doing well standing between three different walls of rock; perhaps it’s a natural tanning booth:

Ponderosa getting a golden tan.  Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

Ponderosa getting a golden tan. Canon 1DsMkIII, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

 

Finally, far to the south, just below Bryce Point that by this time of morning has largely emptied of photographers, light-colored hoodoos reflect the morning sun, and the right combination of rock and light can make for a keeper photograph.  This is what I like to hunt for:

 

Distant columns reflecting the sun.  Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

Distant columns reflecting the sun. Canon 1DMkIV, Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens.

 

I consider this portion of the Navajo Loop Trail to be a special place in a special park, well worth spending more than the first 10 minutes of sunrise.

1 Comment

  • On 08.24.13 paula wrote these words:

    I am so incredibly jealous the Grand Canyon is on my list of places I want to see but even then I guarantee my snap shots will be no where near as amazing as these

Leave a comment

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. Subscribe to these comments.

Respect. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

:

:


«
»