Springtime Melody, Kolob Canyons

Zion National Park, Utah, 1997 View Full Zion Portfolio »

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Notes from the Field (1997)

The underside of sunlit leaves produces some of the most beautiful color I’ve ever seen. Photographing them however is not the easiest proposition. You’re usually stuck underneath a tree looking up with the sky as your background or you struggle trying to simplify a crowded scene of overlapping leaves and branches neither of which is ideally suited to a successful photograph. I often visualized the type of image I desired: late afternoon low angled light, a solitary branch of isolated leaves, and an agreeable background to further emphasize the color and form that inspired me.

I came upon Springtime Melody after a long grueling hike up and down a narrow Utah canyon on a day that turned exceedingly hot. Photographically the experience had been very disappointing as well. I’d made what I thought was a final decision not to unpack my gear anymore when I saw the isolated branch of leaves through a stream bed just beyond a thickly shrubbed ridge. Begrudgingly, I made my way up to the point, unstowed my gear, and realized that the image I’d dreamed about was right here before me.

It took 45 minutes to complete 2 good exposures. An afternoon wind had risen up and the delicate branch swayed in the slightest breeze. This was compounded by the fact that I had to use an 80-200mm zoom to get the composition. I’m still extraordinarily pleased with the image though the effort was not without a price. The ridge I’d ascended was spotted with poison oak which dutifully blistered my legs for 2 weeks thereafter.

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.

Springtime Melody, Zion National Park

Springtime Melody, Kolob Canyons

Zion National Park, Utah, 1997

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