Getting the Shot

Zion National Park, Utah

Location

This photo was captured in Zion National Park during a very hot August. The temperature was about 106F and I was set up looking south along the North Fork Virgin River. It was my first trip to Zion and was a long time on bucket list of iconic National Parks to visit. It was well worth the trip.

Time

I captured this photo in the late afternoon as I was waiting for the sun to set off to the right (east). Since Zion has a very deep geographic profile, the sun sets early and bathes the mountains to the left early in the late afternoon, and kisses the tops of the mountains with the setting sun.

Lighting

The lighting tends to change in the late afternoon as the sun drops toward the east, and bathes the mountains to the left with late sun rays. Since the geography is very steep and I was shooting the scene deep in a gorge surrounded by steep mountains, I elected to shoot a triple bracket (1 f-stop) sequence in order to allow the foreground shadows to be seen.

Equipment

I was using my Nikon D-850 with a Nikkor 16-35mm wide angle lens, on a Manfrotto carbon tripod. I also a remote shutter release since my shutter speeds were in the sub-one second range.

Placeholder for Zion photo

My Cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Inspiration

Since Zion National Park is very deep and surrounded by steep mountains, the only way to capture horizontal views is to climb high up to the tops of the mountain ridges. At 106F this would have been very difficult without risking heat-related challenges. This scene is one of the most iconic in the park and is readily accessible by car with a short walk, and features the North Fork Virgin River in the foreground. The mountains on the left are so beautiful that I literally spent the entire afternoon watching the scene unfold in the changing afternoon sunlight. I was also struck by the crisp clouds in the distance, which seemed to merge seamlessly with the horizon.

Editing

Beyond merging the triple bracketed photo sequence before importing it to Adobe Lightroom, the post-processing edits were minimal.

In my camera bag

When shooting landscapes, I bring two camera bodies: my Nikon D-850, with a D-810 as backup. I will bring a wide angle lens, 14-16mm on the wide end, and then also have a Nikkor 28-300mm lens which allows me to zoom in on specific landscape scenes/subjects. I also use a Manfrotto carbon tripod with Sirui ball mount, and have a complete Lee filter system so I can compose freely during daylight hours.

Suggestions for Aspiring Photographers

I always recommend that photographers learn to shoot in manual mode. It takes a little time to master manual composition, but it allows for the greatest amount of control over any scene or subject matter and enables you to control a composition more completely. I also encourage photographers to learn and master bracketing photography as well as learning to shoot with a filtration system of your choice. This enables you to be able to capture beautiful photographs at any time of day.