Along the River, Zion Canyon

Zion National Park, Utah, 2006 View Full Zion Portfolio »

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Notes from the Field (2006)

Along the River is an important moment in my ongoing photographic development. Walking the main canyon road in the heart of Zion National Park, I'd rounded a bend alongside the Virgin River and entered a section that had just slipped into afternoon shadow. Beyond the river and the road, the towering red canyon walls were bathed in direct sunlight which diffused the shadowed section in an enchanting red glow.

Transfixed by this magic light, I halted in my steps. Looking around, my eyes fell on the glowing trunks and dangling dead branches of two closely quartered riverside trees. The recognition of a compositional possibility wholly new to me was instant and emotionally staggering. Nothing before had spoken to me in quite the same way. My immediate reaction was to drop everything and photograph in place. But my training and experience reminded me careful consideration of this new inspiration was warranted.

Placing my gear to the side, I used my hands as a viewing card and explored the scene working hard to find balanced placement of foreground, branches and river that conveyed the elegant power of the scene. Settled, I retrieved my gear, started to set up and realized the enchanting red glow had dissipated. Confounded, I sat down disappointed, but soon realized the image could be made on a subsequent day as long as the weather was clear. I noted the time with a reminder to arrive reasonably earlier to effectively set up and be able to capture the image at the optimum moment of reflected light.

It took two days for the weather to return to sunny skies. I arrived at the scene a good 45 minutes early, mounted my camera into position consistent with the compositional notes I'd made. Shadows encroached and the enchanting red glow returned illuminating the tree trunks and branches, even influencing the blue reflected light in the river. The desired shutter speed balanced nicely with a reasonably sharp aperture. Depressing the cable release was an exceptionally gratifying moment.

About the Zion National Park Portfolio

Over the arc of my adult life and my near 25-year immersion into photography, no place has had greater influence or offered essential sanctuary than Zion National Park. Trying to succinctly describe this influence feels nearly impossible. The love I have for this extraordinary place is akin to the love of a child or partner; you would do anything, including die, if necessary, to ensure your love's life over yours.

Photography seemed the natural vehicle to express my profound awe and wonderment in attempting to convey my initial Zion experiences. And those initial photographs focused on the iconic experiences a new visitor often enjoys: Angel's Landing, The Narrows, Emerald Pools. But, with successive visits (pretty much whenever I could), my focus began a gradual yet persistent evolution towards more specific and subtle subject matter. Photographs that initially merely recorded or looked at the larger, grander landscape began to look into, to ascertain and comprehend the essential details that comprised the whole. And those details, whether water, tree, or stone are so varied and provide me with such joy, I know I could spend lifetimes exploring them and not exhaust their power.

While I do not live here year round, Zion has taught me the profundity of place and the power it has to shape you, offering essential life lessons only a commitment to intimate connection can provide. To this day, I find my struggles in life can be given perspective and insight by a simple sojourn into the park where I walk at once sheltered and exposed, listening to the musings of an old friend, humbled by her display of the lovely, brutal, essential intricacies of life.

Along the River, Zion National Park

Along the River, Zion Canyon

Zion National Park, Utah, 2006

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